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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/17773/35-years-in-prison-for-jstor-downloads-seems-like-a-joke/

35 years in prison for JSTOR downloads? Seems like a joke

July 19, 2011 by

The U.S. government has indicted Aaron Swartz for downloading too many scholarly journals from JSTOR. The penalty could be 35 years in jail. A few points: large numbers of these articles are in public domain, the authors of the ones not in public domain are thrilled for the distribution, they are only in the “possession” of the publisher because of legislation that wouldn’t even exist in a free society, JSTOR’s financial model that involves extracting vast fees from tax-funded universities lives mostly off the taxpayer, and, finally, the articles one downloads are not “stolen” but merely copied and that harms absolutely no one. JSTOR can’t even plausibly claim that such downloads hurt subscriptions.

Such is what is called a crime in the land of the free!

{ 20 comments }

MB July 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Comments on the article are interesting.

Apparently the ‘defendants’ in this case have no interest in prosecuting, just the government. Go figure…

Jim P. July 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Can somebody explain this a little bit more? Aren’t pretty much all non-classified, personal, etc, government documents considered public domain? At least theoretically?

J. Murray July 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm

“Mr. Swartz broke into a restricted area of M.I.T. and entered a computer wiring closet. Mr. Swartz apparently then accessed the M.I.T. computer network and took millions of documents from JSTOR. ”

There was still a crime there, just not one deserving of a prison sentence.

Shay July 20, 2011 at 3:57 pm

“[...] Mr. Swartz apparently then accessed the M.I.T. computer network and took millions of documents from JSTOR. ”

That’s odd, because JSTOR still has available all these documents that were supposedly taken.

El Tonno July 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Well, this _IS_ MIT where breaking and entering is considered a time-honored tradition. Knowledge wants to be free etc.

Go downloaders!

El Tonno July 19, 2011 at 4:41 pm
Tyrone Dell July 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm

The joke here is that JSTOR doesn’t even own many of these publications — the writers and the universities which they teach at own them.

Jonathan M.F. Catalán July 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm

I’m in big trouble… I better clean out my “PDF” folder.

Oklahoma Libertarian July 19, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Lmao, way to give yourself away there!

Walt D. July 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Jeffrey:
Here is another key point. Where does the value of an article in JSTOR come from?
Usually, the person who wrote it was not paid (at least directly) for it.
The people who peer reviewed it were not paid (at least directly) for this service.
What is of value was provided for free.

Tyrone Dell July 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Nothing, including JSTOR articles, have an intrinsic value. This is true regardless of whether or not the authors or the peer reviewers were paid hefty sums of money or nothing at all, indirectly or directly.

Jonathan M.F. Catalán July 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Don’t quote me on this figure, but the average amount of times a scholarly paper is read, I believe, is less than or equal to one. Jeffrey is right, the authors are probably happy that people are even reading what they write.

Walt D. July 19, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I would add the following. Pre 1980, the technical journals did perform a service. They actually proof-read, typeset and printed the article in the journal and then distributed it.. This was an arduous task. However, with the advent of word processing software and the internet, this once valuable function has become obsolete.
… which leads me on to my other pet peeve – school textbooks. This is a racket. If teachers were not State- programmed automatons, they would prepare their own materials using what is available on the internet. This is one reason home-schooled kids have a much better education and also perform better academically.
You can actually learn economics by using the wealth of information on this site. However, state controlled teachers would probably view this site as hard core pornography.

nate-m July 19, 2011 at 11:03 pm

You can actually learn economics by using the wealth of information on this site. However, state controlled teachers would probably view this site as hard core pornography.

Hardly. The teachers of these schools probably considers the ability to read and distribute hard core pornography a civil right.

They see this site as something far far worse and far more dangerous: Dissension.

Erik July 19, 2011 at 7:14 pm

It could be three more years that the man convicted of the beating death of the Honor’s student in Chicago that was video taped.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-us-chicagobeatingdea,0,6285952.story

Ned Netterville July 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

JSTOR provides a valuable research service, but if you don’t have access to it through a university or library, foggettabotit. Perhaps Google Scholar will someday copy the scholarly journals and make them easier to access and cheaper. Up with competition.

nate-m July 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm

In the USA the punishment the justice system dishes out has nothing to do with compensation or even revenge. It is all based on the political clout of the party most interested in seeing the punishment dealt.

Realize that our glorious leaders see nothing wrong with ruining a man’s life to protect the profits of a privileged fat cat. For the sake of a couple of tens of thousands of dollars they would be happy to see YOU rot in jail for the rest of your life.

It is sickening.

billwald July 20, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Other sources claim he downloaded millions of files. An attempt to crash their system?

Sasha Shepherd July 21, 2011 at 4:32 am

To sum it up:

He broke into an MIT closet, and through a few devious means set about downloading a massive cache of academic papers.

It’s likely he was doing so to release them on bittorrent, and break the ridiculous monopoly these ‘public’ institutions have on this data.

You know, making the ‘publicly’ funded information (assuming most papers are from state unis) available to the public.

He was caught. JSTOR and MIT came to a deal, said there was no crime, and asked not to prosecute.

The frothmouted insane federal prosecutors said “Fuck you, MIT/JSTOR – we’re prosecuting.” Evidently they want to make an example of him, because even if information wants to be free, THESE assholes don’t want it to be.

So there it stands – he faces a sentence greater than many murders for breaking into a closet.

Prison Rideshare October 11, 2011 at 7:43 pm

It seems to me that they are trying to set some type of precedence with this case. When you think about it, no crime has been committed. If it’s a problem to download so many articles, they should come up with a way to block users after so many downloads. That would take care of the problem. Jail is not the answer in this case.

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