Family blames Swartz death on prosecutors
The family of Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer, entrepreneur and activist who died last week, blamed his suicide on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the US prosecutors who accused him of crimes including wire and computer fraud.
Mr Swartz (26) helped create a technology called Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, which lets Web users gain access to online information. He was indicted in July 2011 for allegedly gaining access to and downloading more than 4 million articles and documents from a subscription-only service.
"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy," his family wrote in a statement. "It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death."
Mr Swartz was indicted on federal charges of gaining illegal access to JSTOR, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals, and downloading most of the library.
"The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims," Swartz's family wrote.
"Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community's most cherished principles."
Representatives from the US Attorney in Massachusetts declined to comment, citing respect for the family's privacy.
Leo Rafael Reif, president of MIT, expressed his condolences in a letter e-mailed to the university community and said that he asked professor Hal Abelson to make a "thorough analysis" of the institute's involvement with Mr Swartz's use of its computer network.
"Even for those of us who did not know Aaron, the trail of his brief life shines with his brilliant creativity and idealism," Mr Reif wrote.
JSTOR, in a statement, said it had settled its own claims against Mr Swartz in June 2011 and that he had returned the data.
"We join those who are mourning this tragic loss," JSTOR said in the statement, calling Mr Swartz a "truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the Internet and the web from which we all benefit."
JSTOR said that while it regretted being brought into the federal case, it had a responsibility to protect the owners and creators of its content.