Under The Law, Anyone Interesting Is A Felon

The criminal prosecution of activist programmer and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz over his sharing of academic works from the archives of JSTOR likely lead to Swartz’s suicide. Via the New Yorker, law professor Tim Wu writes:

Most of the time prosecutors do chase actual wrongdoers, but today our criminal laws are so expansive that most people of any vigor and spirit can be found to violate them in some way. Basically, under American law, anyone interesting is a felon. The prosecutors, not the law, decide who deserves punishment.

Today, prosecutors feel they have license to treat leakers of information like crime lords or terrorists. In an age when our frontiers are digital, the criminal system threatens something intangible but incredibly valuable. It threatens youthful vigor, difference in outlook, the freedom to break some rules and not be condemned or ruined for the rest of your life. Swartz was a passionate eccentric who could have been one of the great innovators and creators of our future. Now we will never know.

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  • Raz

    Drumhead court-martial.

  • Jin The Ninja

    “Most of the time prosecutors do chase actual wrongdoers…”

    that’s new york times for,” the law in america protects rich white folks and tends to grossly and disproportionately target vulnerable populations, whether at home or abroad.”

    for some reason, whenever discussions about “law” occur, i tend to recall richard attenborough narrating a piece on lions or perhaps sharks.

    • God, The Devil & Bob

      I agree with everything you said except… David. David Attenborough.

  • DeepCough

    In a society of laws, legislators, lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officials rule with the utmost impunity.