Seems like a good time for a reminder. (This content is from our “Setting the Record Straight” page that has been up since October 2014.)
FACT: Aaron implemented a piece of software that downloaded articles from the JSTOR website faster than JSTOR originally intended. Aaron’s software downloaded articles from the JSTOR website to Aaron’s laptop, just like a live person would have downloaded them, but without his having to sit there and click through each of the steps manually. Source: Alex Stamos, http://unhandled.com/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/
FACT: Aaron did not hack into any of MIT’s computers. The CFAA requires that a person gain access to a computer that they weren’t authorized to access. Aaron was obviously authorized to access his own laptop.
FACT: Aaron did not hack into MIT’s network. Aaron connected his laptop to MIT’s open network by walking into an open computer closet on MITs open campus and simply plugging into an unused ethernet port. Source: Alex Stamos, http://unhandled.com/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/
FACT: Aaron was a “Fellow” at the Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at the time. Aaron was exactly the type of academic researcher that MIT meant to have downloading articles from the JSTOR database over its open network. Aaron’s past research in this regard was the basis of a Stanford Law Review Article where he found troubling connections between corporations and their funding of legal research. Source: Stanford Law Review
FACT: Aaron wasn’t even violating JSTOR’s Terms of Service at the time. JSTOR and MIT had contractual agreements allowing unlimited downloads to any computers on MITs network.
Source: Alex Stamos, http://unhandled.com/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/
FACT: Downloading JSTOR articles was one minor footnote among the many amazing projects Aaron was working on at the time. From the fall of 2010 until his death in 2013, Aaron’s projects included, but were not limited to: SecureDrop, the leak-protecting technology for journalists now implemented by outlets ranging from The New Yorker to Forbes to The Guardian; the SOPA/PIPA fight, The Flaming Sword of Justice (now The Good Fight), a podcast about activism which went on to reach the top of the iTunes charts; VictoryKit, an online campaigning toolset still mobilizing activists around the world; and co-founding Demand Progress.
by April Glaser for the EFF.
April will be presenting Saturday night on the Freedom to Innovate Summit, a collaboration between EFF and the Center for Civic Media at MIT that calls upon Universities to protect students who innovate at the boundaries of the law.
From the article:
Perhaps more than anything, Aaron Swartz believed that everyone should be able to participate in the political processes that determine the laws we have to live under everyday…
But one thing that sets the Aaron Swartz Day hackathons off from the rest is that all of the projects being hacked on further Aaron’s dream of a free and open Internet and a more just world…
If you’re inspired, we encourage you to host your own hackathon or host a screening of the Internet’s Own Boy, the deeply informative film on Aaron’s work and the movement for a free and open Internet.
Together, we will continue for fight to ensure our rights go with us when we go online. We invite you, in Aaron’s honor, to join us this weekend. Hope to see you there.
This article sets out a straight forward plan for how universities can support student innovation and protect their students from unnecessary prosecution (see very bottom of this post).
Students Who Push Tech Boundaries Should Be Encouraged, Not Punished
By April Glaser for Wired
From the article:
Notably, after faculty members and students circulated an open letter, MIT President Rafael Reif announced plans to support the Tidbit innovators, and MIT sent a formal letter to New Jersey’s Attorney General, asking it to withdraw the subpoena. The open letter stated that the subpoena from the New Jersey Attorney General will have, “a chilling effect on MIT teaching and research.” Soon after, MIT faculty and MIT students wrote additional letters of support, asking New Jersey to withdraw the subpoena. Over 800 members of the MIT community signed onto these letters.
President Reif appears to get it. In response to the outcry over the Tidbit controversy, Reif announced that MIT plans to create a new legal resource for students threatened by legal challenges as a result of their innovative work and entrepreneurial pursuits. “In the case of someone creating an innovative new product and then getting into legal trouble doing something that was a part of their classwork — then, MIT absolutely does have a legal interest to be involved,” Ethan Zuckerman, director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media, told the press.
Also from the article:
Now is the time for students and campus communities that want to vitalize innovation to speak up and demand university support. There are some simple steps that universities can take to foster inventiveness in their campus communities:
1. Create a legal intake mechanism or program for students who receive subpoenas and are threatened by computer crime laws. Student innovators need to know where to go to receive help.
2. Publish a guide on CFAA and in-state computer crime laws so that students and researchers can better understand the contours of the laws that may be leveraged against them.
3. Universities should be pushing for computer crime legal reform and come out with strong institutional support for reform efforts on the federal and state level.
Just as laws are frequently outdated by the accelerated pace of technology, campus policies often lag behind in addressing the potential legal needs of their most innovative students exploring the frontiers of digital invention. Yet universities don’t have to move at the slothful pace of legal change.