The suicide of Reddit co-founder and Internet “open information” activist Aaron Swartz last week has given rise to new questions over the laws under which the 26-year-old was to be prosecuted against in the coming months. Swartz was facing three decades in prison for using the MIT computer network to downlaod nearly five-million academic-journal articles from the pay-for-access academic database JSTOR.
Swartz had run afoul with a 1986 law called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a law some argue was written very broadly to keep in step with the rapid pace of technological change. Schwartz’s supporters argue that these “broadly written laws” allow the government a considerable amount of discression in prosecution.
While Swartz may have been guilty of his crime, the case and his death have raised questions about copyright and intellectual property laws in the digital age where information is passed from one computer to another at the speed of light. How do we balance the new freedom that the Internet offers us with laws that offer reasonable protection for Intellectual Property holders?
Watch a clip from ’Real News’ Tuesday where the panel debates answers to these questions and discusses the Schwartz case: