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