A Justice Department representative told congressional staffers during a recentbriefing on the computer fraud prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz that Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” played a role in the prosecution, sources told The Huffington Post.
The “Manifesto,” Justice Department representatives told congressional staffers, demonstrated Swartz’s malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale.
Reich told congressional staffers that the Justice Department believed federal prosecutors acted in a reasonable manner, according to the sources. He also made clear that prosecutors were in part influenced by wanting to deter others from committing similar offenses.
When considering punishment, courts are supposed to impose an “adequate deterrence to criminal conduct” under federal statute. Swartz’s “Manifesto,” prosecutors said they believed, made clear that he intended to share the academic articles widely.
But there’s something the HuffPo is still missing.
Not only does the Guerilla Manifesto advocate doing a lot of things that may well be legal — the biggest exception is the one most applicable, downloading scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks…
And look at the passage from the Manifesto they quote in the brief, which appears in this larger passage.
There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.
We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. [my emphasis]
In context, much of the manifesto advocates for things that are perfectly legal: sharing documents under Fair Use. Taking information that is out of copyright and making it accessible. Purchasing databases and putting them on the web.
Aside from sharing passwords, about the only thing that might be illegal here (depending on copyright!) is downloading scientific journals and uploading them to file sharing networks.
But it’s the way the government used Swartz’ manifesto legally. They used it, as far as I’ve found, primarily to justify HOW they investigated Swartz.
They used it in a brief rebutting his effort to suppress a number of searches they had done in the investigation.
And that’s significant because of an oddity in the investigation. The government, at first, wasn’t all that quick to investigate Swartz. The let the actual evidence of the alleged crime just sit for weeks and weeks. Continue reading