Internet activist Aaron Swartz was facing up to 13 felony counts and 50 years in prison at the time of his death. His alleged crime? Pulling millions of academic articles from JSTOR. Swartz’s downloads were criminalized under the federal CFAA, an act designed to prosecute hackers. But as his case demonstrates, you don’t necessarily have to be a hacker to be viewed as one by federal law.
A lawyer for Aaron Swartz—the 26-year-old programmer and open-Internet activist who reportedly committed suicide Friday under pressure from threat of prosecution—says MIT refused to endorse a deal that would have granted Swartz probation or deferred prosecution.
In its tribute to Internet activist Aaron Swartz posted on MIT’s website, the hacktivist collective said it wanted to use “this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.”