Posted at 02:53 PM ET, 07/19/2011

Aaron Swartz, programmer at Harvard, accused of hacking MIT computers


Aaron Swartz, right, smiles in an undated photograph. (Image from Flickr account CreativeCommoners )

This post has been updated to remove references to Swartz work founding Reddit. That is under dispute.

A federal indictment unsealed today accuses Aaron Swartz — an activist, well-known programmer, and former fellow at Harvard’s Center for Ethics — of stealing millions of scholarly articles last year with the intent of sharing them online.

Swartz, 24, is known best for his work on the social media Web site Reddit and is also a founder and director of Demand Progress, a nonprofit political action group.

Swartz hacked into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s computer network between September and January of last year after breaking into a computer wiring closet on campus.

Swartz already had access to many of the articles because of his association with Harvard.

The programmer has been charged with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bond after pleading not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday, but faces up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted.

Swartz has long called for wider distribution of information in libraries, and advocated eliminating barriers to the distribution of information over the Internet.

“This makes no sense,” David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress said in a statement. “It’s like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library.”

By  |  02:53 PM ET, 07/19/2011

 
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