A former Harvard fellow and internet activist facing federal charges for allegedly hacking into the MIT network and unlawfully downloading nearly 5 million academic articles pleaded not guilty Wednesday to similar charges brought against him by the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office, according to his attorney Martin G. Weinberg.
Aaron Swartz, a 25-year-old Cambridge resident, was arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, charged with breaking and entering, larceny, and unauthorized access to a computer network, according to a press release by the District Attorney’s Office.
Swartz is accused of creating a fake identity to access the MIT network last September and illegally downloading more than 4.8 million articles from JSTOR, a nonprofit academic database. Swartz allegedly took steps to evade having his network access terminated by MIT and JSTOR, including the use of multiple IP addresses, hard-wiring a computer to the MIT network, and using file grabbing programs designed to circumvent JSTOR’s security system.
Swartz was apprehended on January 6 after initially fleeing from police.
But Weinberg maintains his client’s innocence.
“His conduct cannot be criminalized by any proper and constitutional application of any of the statutes at issue,” Weinberg wrote in an email to The Crimson. “I look forward to defending him.”
Swartz is part of a growing online movement that argues that information on the internet should be shared under open access agreements. Such positions have in recent years brought open access advocates into conflict with industry groups who seek to keep their products protected under copyright.
In July, Swartz was arraigned on federal charges of fraud and unlawfully obtaining information from and damaging a protected computer in a separate case brought by federal authorities that stems from the same alleged incident.
He was indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury on Nov. 17.
A Middlesex Superior Court released Swartz after his arraignment without having to post bail on the condition that the defendant surrender his passport.
Last academic year, Swartz briefly served a stint as a fellow at the Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. According to a University spokesperson, Swartz’s 10-month fellowship ended in June.
Swartz has been active in technology-related and political circles. He founded the start-up Infogami, which was acquired by Reddit, a popular site that aggregates websites. He is also a director of Demand Progress and a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, two liberal political groups.
Swartz is scheduled to return to the Middlesex court for a pretrial conference date on January 3. There is no trial date set for either of the charges, according to Weinberg.
Both Swartz and a spokesperson from MIT declined to comment.
—Staff writer Melanie A. Guzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at email@example.com.
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