Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time

Aaron Schwartz

Aaron Schwartz

There have been a lot of twisted knickers over this story:

Did Holder’s Department Drive an Internet Pioneer to His Death?

In January 2011, Reddit co-founder, RSS creator, and Internet-freedom activist Aaron Swartz was arrested for downloading millions of academic articles from JSTOR in protest of the weighty fees charged for accessing articles, and those dollars going to publishers instead of writers.

“We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world,” Swartz wrote in 2008. “We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks.”

JSTOR declined to pursue any civil action against Swartz, and even eventually made millions of its articles accessible to the public free of charge. MIT, whose archive was hacked while Swartz was a fellow at Harvard (which gave him access to JSTOR), was less forgiving.

The Justice Department, though, slapped Swartz with charges including wire fraud and computer fraud, altogether carrying the possibility of 35 years behind bars and up to a $1 million fine. Prosecutors eventually offered Swartz a deal to avoid trial in which he’d have to plead guilty to all 13 charges and spend six months behind bars.

Two days later, on Jan. 11, 2013, Swartz hung himself in his Brooklyn apartment. He was 26 years old.

His grieving father, Bob Swartz, told the Los Angeles Times that people should know “the evidence showed clearly that Aaron did not break the law, that the network was open, that access was not unauthorized by MIT, and that he was not guilty of any crime.”

“He was killed by the government,” he declared at his son’s funeral.

The death of Aaron Schwartz is tragic, but there is no one to blame but Aaron Schwartz.

Schwartz didn’t like the law, so he knowingly and intentionally broke it in protest. Then he got arrested. Rather than pay the price for his actions he committed suicide.

I believe in the rule of law. That means we all have a duty to either obey the law or face the consequences. Presidents are supposed to obey the law. So are reporters. There is no special dispensation for law-breaking by protestors. Calling your law-breaking “speech” does not give you a get out of jail free card.

I realize it’s not a perfect system, but just because the president gets away with breaking the law doesn’t mean we don’t have to obey the law anymore. If you disagree with a law, get it changed. But if you break it, be ready to pay the price.

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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56 Responses to Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time

  1. votermom says:

    I find it dubious to say one particular thing causes a person to commit suicide.

    It’s a mental state looking for a trigger, imo.

    Very sad, though. 😦

  2. votermom says:


  3. Constance says:

    Aaron’s suicide was a terrible waste. He knowingly broke the law and I don’t think a six months sentence was excessive. They probably would have let him out early like all the other criminals. Holding someone responsible for their behavior and choices doesn’t equal causing their death.

  4. swanspirit says:

    I wish he had stayed around to fight the good fight , in principle , he was right .

    • Kim says:

      Yes, he was right. Just because something is against the law doesn’t make it wrong. Many laws are flat out wrong.

      It used to be illegal for a black person and a white person to ride on the same bus together in some states. Thank goodness that some brave people chose to break that law in order to expose its wrongness.

      If the copyright nazis had their way, you’d have to throw Sony a dime every time you played a song from your iTunes library.

  5. votermom says:

    OT does anyone have a recipe for MILD chili?

    My kid had some at some event and now won’t quit bugging me to make some.
    I’ve never made chili before, but anything the crockpot can do I’m open to.

    • piper says:

      This is one that I’ve made – yummy. You need to experiment a little with the spices (chili-powder) and hot pepper sauce (a little goes a long way).
      Bon Appetit

    • leslie says:

      got one: I’m looking for it now…..My daughter hates spicy and loves this one. She makes it with ground turkey – I don’t, but I could. (I usually add more meat because I like it meatier.)

      2 1lb cans red kidney beans
      1 large onion, chopped
      1# ground beef
      1 1lb can tomatoes
      1 8oz can tomato sauce
      1-1 1/2 Tbl chili powder (that is 1 to 1 and one half Tablespoons)
      1- 1 1/2 tsp salt (1 to 1and one half tsp)
      1 bay leaf
      dash paprika
      dash cayenne

      Brown first 3 ingredients. Drain beans, reserve liquid. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, salt, bay leaf, cayenne, paprika.
      Cover. Simmer a minimum of 1.5 hours adding reserved bean liquid if needed. (6 servings)

      And yes, I used canned stuff as I’m not a person with great cooking skills and/or much time. But you can do what you are comfortable doing. the chili is really good. I’ve been making it for decades. Even my DIL loves it and she is a really really good cook. Her family is a family of social workers (yes!) and several working chefs.
      Hope it works for you.

  6. foxyladi14 says:

    Chili Cumin get it. :lol;

  7. Glad to see you cover this. It’s been driving me crazy all week, especially the likes of Lessig calling the prosecutor a bully and suggesting she had professional motives. The vile progs came out in force over this one. The same vile progs who rail against the racist justice system, and whom you hardly ever see take a stand like this for some poor black or Latino person accused of a low-level crime, or even falsely accused. They are pissed because someone in their group was held accountable, and they are amping up their noise machine to preserve their own privilege. That’s THEM bullying. They think his “genius” made it so he deserved to be treated to a different standard than other people. FTS.

    I also disagree that he was right. JSTOR is a business operating within the law. What Schwarz was doing would have killed their business model and left people unemployed. Not all information should be free. As a creator of intellectual property, I resent the implication coming from him that my work (and others) should be freely available just because it occurs in a medium with endless resources (webspace). It takes work to create content, and some information should be priced in the market.

    I am sorry he chose to take his own life over it, but no one is to blame for that but him.

    My 2 cents. YMMV.

  8. HELENK says:


    GAO says VA needs major updating or veterans will wait even longer for services

  9. A little off topic, but hey, there’s already a chili-hijack in progress. 🙂

    I want to thank you for posting that bread recipe the other day. I tried it and it turned out DELICIOUS!. I made a version with guyere-rosemary-lemon zest and it is so freakin’ marvelous. Picked a new gourmet soup I’d never made before to go with it. My husband and neighbors (with whom I shared) are mind boggled and sedate (gotta love carbs, heh). Here’s a pic of my stages:


    And here are the recipes I used to get here.

  10. myiq2xu says:

    NBC Poll: Absentee Parents and Hollywood to Blame for Gun Crime

    For the first time in a long time–perhaps ever–Americans are pointing the finger of blame at absentee parents and Hollywood productions instead of law-abiding gun owners.

    As a new poll conducted by NBC/Wall Street Journal reveals, 83 percent of Americans say that parents who “don’t pay enough attention to what’s going on in their kids lives” share “a great deal” of responsibility for shootings like those at the Aurora theater, Sandy Hook Elementary, and Tuscon, AZ.

    Moreover, the same poll shows that 62 percent of Americans believe that movies and television programs that portray violence in an appealing way share a large portion of the blame as well.

    Don’t tell Danny Glover.

    • Constance says:

      And an easy way to fix this violence in media problem is to make it illegal to only sell bundled channels. That way the violence pervs can make their garbage and the rest of us can refuse to buy it or be forced to subsidize it with our basic cable payment and no one will be sneaking it in to our homes as some “absolutely free” violent bonus we don’t want. There is so much violent crap being force fed over our cable connection that no one can keep up with parentally controlling it.

      • DeniseVB says:

        I have Verizon Fios so I can block by rating. I still hate that a few cents of my bill goes to Oprah and now Al Jazeera.

        • Constance says:

          The ratings are useless. My TV tries to block some shows on Disney because they are old and have no rating and some of the crap on the networks is rated for all ages and there is no way I would let kids see it. It’s like they have a bunch of skeezy old men who don’t give a rats ass about anything but money sitting around deciding what is appropriate for kids to see. I want a setting on my TV where no one sends any shows to my home unless I specifically order them. As it is you never know what load of violent sexist crap they have sent in on some random channel. There is no way for even the most diligent parent to control the vast quantities of crap bundled to your home.

    • DeniseVB says:

      Nice overview of the entertainment ratings system and why Hollywood hates them. It just kills them at the box office (pun intended)

      I’m surprised there wasn’t a move to make it even tougher for our little darlings to see such movies that glorify violence in Obama’s laundry list of gun fodder.

      • HELENK says:

        backtrack can not come out against hollywood. he would no longer be the cool guy. and they give him bundles of money and try to make him look good. they are only ones where he does not bite the hand that feeds him

      • Constance says:

        Kids can get into any movie at the multiplex. They pay for a pg movie and switch theaters once they are inside. The ultimate authority figure in the multiplex is usually a 19 year old kid who doesn’t care what the kids do so long as they don’t riot or destroy the property.

  11. HELENK says:

    congressional term limits sound good to me. No more than two terms per person. Maybe then they could represent the American people and not be worrying about raising money to campaign

    • Constance says:

      No, they would just be lining up their eventual jobs in private industry and doubling down on their graft and corruption activities since their time is limited. But I do like term limits.

  12. DandyTiger says:

    This case is very sad. And the kid had a good protest on his hands. And yes, the prosecutor and MIT were very, very aggressive. But such things always involve consequences when running up against the law. If he could have handled it with a little jail time, he could have made his points and probably eventually helped changed thinks. Clearly he was not up to the consequences of his ideals.

    This is kind of indicative to the younger generation it seems to me. They’ve never been taught about consequences of their actions, inactions or skills. The world is there to serve them, they get a gold star for showing up, etc. When harsh reality hits them, they are completely unprepared for it. Hopefully for most kids, that just means no luck in finding a job, or loosing a job they were unprepared for. And they slowly learn. For this kid, his first interaction with reality was a bigger dose of medicine all at once than most get.

    The lesson learned from all this shouldn’t be that the system needs to change to make it easier for these kids that have never leaned about reality and how the world works. Instead the lesson should be someone fucked up with these kids and we better fucking get them turned around fast.

    Life’s rough out there people. It’s a hell of a lot of fun and will blow your mind as well. But it ain’t a cake walk.

    • swanspirit says:

      Evidently , Aaron had a history of depression that predated his attempts to ensure the free flow of information on the internet . I completely understand his desire to see the actual authors and copyright holders be reimbursed , rather than the publishers , who could feasibly have a stranglehold over information and publications that should be readily available , in this information age . Thank Goddess SOPA was defeated.
      I lived through this with the music industry , ( am still living it with my indie radio station ) am a veteran of the old , and remember far too well children being sued for inordinate amounts of money for downloading songs .
      Perhaps he bit off more than he could chew emotionally with this latest effort ,and that is truly tragic , he had a great deal to offer to the future .
      Honestly , the idea of Swartz hooking into the MIT computer network through an open closet is hilarious to geeks and geekettes everywhere and no wonder they were embarrassed . I hope he derived some satisfaction from that , anyway .
      Did you know that you can use the pictures from NASA on APOD for whatever you choose , because they are obtained with taxpayer funded technology? There are pics on APOD from private contributors , those are copyrighted , and those you must obtain permission to use .

    • myiq2xu says:

      Some people can’t seem to grasp the idea that just because you support a cause you still can’t do anything you want in support of that cause. OWSers are a classic example.

  13. DeniseVB says:

    Chucky T just figured this out ? {{{headdesk}}}

  14. HELENK says:

    this guy really needs to get a life

    cnn (journalist)?????? stalkes backtrack

  15. foxyladi14 says:

    Must be Love. 😆

  16. foxyladi14 says:

    Great news. 🙂

  17. yttik says:

    This kid’s suicide is tragic. It sounds like he was an idealist and likely had some problems with depression.

    One of our state lawmakers has tried to pass a duty to retreat/limits on self defense law, but has now withdrawn it because of…death threats. She’s another idealist that just can’t understand why her attempts to deny people the right to defend themselves has been met with so much hostility and yet here she is in the position of fearing for her own safety and it doesn’t even occur to her how pissed off she’d be if her options to protect herself were taken away from her.

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