Crusading Nerd Liberates 18,000 Academic Journal Articles

The strange case of activist Aaron Swartz—who faces 35 years in prison for downloading a ton of academic articles—is predictably shaping up to be a rallying call for information freedom supporters. One guy just dumped 18,592 journal articles on The Pirate Bay in solidarity.

The torrent was uploaded by Greg Maxwell, who explains in the torrent description that he did it as a protest against the "poisonous industry" of academic publishing. "Authors are not paid for their writing, nor are the peer reviewers," he writes, "yet scientific publicans are some of the most outrageously expensive pieces of literature you can buy."

The articles are mostly public domain documents from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society—which published Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, among others. Typically, they cost $19 a month to access but you can get them all for the low-low price of free! So, get downloading, science geeks. You can do it while wearing a stylish new Free Aaron Swartz T-shirt.

Anyone familiar with how internet activism snowballs could have seen this coming. At least superficially, Swartz's charges seem as absurd as prosecuting someone for checking out too many library books: JSTOR, the database he's charged with 'stealing' the papers from, is freely accessible to anyone at a university, as Swartz was when he downloaded the documents. And he already worked things out with JSTOR, who didn't press charges.

But the feds are accusing Swartz of hacking into MIT's network to download the articles, and we all know they're on an anti-hacking frenzy these days. They might get some extra work out of the Swartz case, as calls have already surfaced for the hackers of LulzSec to target JSTOR. [via GigaOm]