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Sites like Reddit and Digg are based entirely on free-thought concepts like crowdsourcing, forums and fair use. So, what's a poor former Reddit team member supposed to do when someone doesn't want to share their ideas? Apparently, he steals them. That's what Boston police say, at least. Today, they indicted 24-year-old programmer and Demand Progress co-founder Aaron Swartz on multiple charges, claiming he pilfered over four million documents from MIT and the JSTOR academic archive.
Carmen Ortiz, the US District Attorney for Massachusetts, says that Swartz – who didn't even attend MIT – broke into an off-limits area at the school and tapped into the University's network in a wiring closet, the NY Times Bits blog reports. “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars,” Ortiz said.
Swartz is up for wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, recklessly damaging a protected computer, aiding and abetting, and criminal forfeiture. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison and a $1 millon fine. You can check out the indictment online.
And yes, the Bits article is the top story on Reddit, in case you were wondering.
Update: Demand Progress, the political organization co-founded by Swartz, offers their take on the situation on their blog. You can guess their slant by the name of the post alone: "Federal Government Indicts Former Demand Progress Executive Director For Downloading Too Many Journal Articles." Apparently, JSTOR didn't even want charges brought against Swartz.
Update, round two: Apparently, the New York Times (and by extension, us) got it wrong the first time around. Aaron Swartz didn't co-found Reddit; he became part of the company when Reddit merged with Swartz's company, Infogami, six months into Reddit's lifespan. You can check out the clarification in a Google+ post by Alexis Ohanian, one of the, erm, actual co-founders. We've updated the article's text accordingly.
Image credit: Boston.com