Today Molly, Giz, Sarah, Joy, Lauren C., and I got together over lunch to discuss the recent Aaron Swartz JSTOR controversy. Not much is known yet about the case, but we got together to share what we knew, talk about potential implications for our field, and related issues. We kicked off with a bio of Swartz, a really bright guy who is a hacker in the sense of “I’ll hack at this to make it better” rather than in the sense of “I’ll hack this system to steal credit card numbers.” I can’t emphasize this enough: he’s really smart. He helped author the RSS specification. He also contributed to the creation of the extremely popular and influential Reddit, co-founded Demand Progress, and has a host of other credits to his name (all this and he’s just 24).
All that being said, he has a history of behavior poking at the edges of copyright some questionable behavior. It’s all so muddy and so complicated at this point, I personally feel hesitant to write out details. Instead, here are some links of interest:
One of the more interesting things about this case is that MIT and JSTOR didn’t press charges. They came from theUnited States Attorney’s Office. He’s not actually being charged regarding copyright or intellectual freedom.
As you might guess, interesting discussion ensued. We also planned to meet again, in September, after there’s been some court activity. Hopefully we’ll have more information at that point in time.