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Aaron Swartz and the Two Faces of Power

•, By Ryan Singel
 The feds might come knocking,” he said. “Someone went to a library and downloaded things and they claim it exceeded authorized access.” Aaron, whom I’d written about before, was being careful — which meant cagey, evasive, and awkward. “I hope this doesn’t happen,” he added, referring to the raid.

But Aaron was clearly worried and seemed a bit embarrassed by the drama. Without admitting anything, he noted that he once downloaded and analyzed hundreds of thousands of law review articles to see who was doing sponsored research. The resulting paper had been published in the Stanford Law Review in 2008.

It wasn’t much to go on. I didn’t know the institution or the data set or the dates or the place — but I drafted what I could, to be published if he was indeed raided the next day. It actually took two more months for the feds to charge him for excessively downloading academic articles. That prosecution came despite the fact that the non-profit Aaron had downloaded articles from had no interest in prosecuting him.

Aaron had pissed off Power.

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