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JSTOR drops charges against Swartz; US government will pursue

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The US Department of Justice intends to pursue criminal charges against Aaron Swartz who was charged with illegally downloading millions of articles from scientific journals.

In July, Aaron Swartz, an internet freedom activist and former Harvard Ethics fellow, was arrested and charged with data theft for downloading millions of academic journal articles from MIT’s computer network that were behind a paywall belonging to JSTOR. JSTOR, short for Journal Storage, digitizes academic journals and sells subscriptions to  libraries and other institutions.

JSTOR has dropped its data theft charges against Swartz but the U.S. Department of Justice is pursuing wire and computer fraud charges against him. If convicted, he could face up to 35 years and prison and $1 million in fines.

JSTOR announced September 7 that it was giving the public free access to some of its earliest journals, and that it plans to do more to make content accessible or affordable to individuals.

Related article: Selling Secrets

JSTOR also stated that the content taken by Swartz was returned and that it received “confirmation that the content was not and would not be used, copied, transferred, or distributed.”

Swartz is the founder of Demand Progress, an internet freedom advocacy group, which he currently serves as an advisory board director. He also co-founded Reddit.com, watchdog.net, Open Library, Jottit, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and co-authored the RSS 1.0 specification and helped launch Creative Commons.

Demand Progress is raising support for Swartz. The organization states on its website, “We stand with Aaron Swartz and his lifetime of work on ethics in government and academics.”

Swartz isn't the only one critical of intellectual property laws that prevent or severely curtail access to published journal articles, patents and metadata that are necessary to analyze and advance ideas.

His supporters include Greg Maxwell who, in protest of Swartz' prosecution, uploaded (on The Pirate Bay) 18,592 historical academic papers he’d legally obtained from JSTOR's Royal Society collection.

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