The U.S. government today indicted computer activist Aaron Swartz on charges of wire fraud, computer fraud, data theft and property damage.
25-year-old Swartz, who is best known as co-author of the initial RSS specification, allegedly broke into a computer closet at MIT, accessed MIT's network connected to JSTOR and downloaded "a major portion of JSTOR's archive" without authorization, and distributed the acquired content through file sharing networks.
Demand Progress, a website for which Swartz previously served as Executive Director, set up a web page and petition in support of Swartz, indicating that the indictment came with surprise and questioning a legal strategy that makes downloading "so many journal articles" a felony that should be punished with jail time. Demand Progress also noted that "the alleged victim has settles any claims against Aaron, explained they've suffered no loss or damage, and asked the government not to prosecute."
Swartz himself reached out to his Twitter followers and thanked for their support via tweets. Demand Progress' current Executive Director David Segal said that “Aaron’s career has focused on serving the public interest by promoting ethics, open government, and democratic politics. We hope to soon see him cleared of these bizarre charges.”