No Copyright Infringement but Criminal Charges for Massive Download


Allegedly MIT’s computer systems were breached by Aaron Swartz who then downloaded millions of scholarly articles, but there are no claims of copyrights infringement. The New York Times reported that in July 2011 Aaron Swartz was indicted on charges that he:

...broke into the computer networks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to gain access to JSTOR, a nonprofit online service for distributing scholarly articles online, and downloaded 4.8 million articles and other documents — nearly the entire library.

Mr. Swartz was charged with charges of federal wire fraud and unlawfully obtaining information from a secure computer. Also he was charged with Massachusetts state crimes of breaking and entering, and unauthorized access to a computer system. However MIT recently reported that the state charges have been dropped.

The way JSTOR works is that colleges and libraries pay for access and then provide the materials free to their users. So even though the materials on JSTOR are free to users, subscribers to JSTOR must pay. The charges against Mr. Swartz are that he breached the computer security to do the download. No claims of copyright infringement, but a serious criminal charges nonetheless.

What about the JSTOR Copyrights?

When you take the time to read the Terms of Services (ToS) on JSTOR you will see that the original authors of the materials on JSTOR retain all intellectual property rights, including copyrights. Further JSTOR warrants that it is not a copyright infringer. 

So one might wonder, if Mr. Swartz infringed the copyrights of the authors on JSTOR why there have been no copyright infringement claims brought? That may change after the criminal trial however.

FOOTNOTE OF THANKS: To my friend Jonathan Thalheimer (McGuire, Craddock & Strother, P.C.) for passing along links about this JSTOR download.

The publications contained in this site do not constitute legal advice. Legal advice can only be given with knowledge of the client's specific facts. By putting these publications on our website we do not intend to create a lawyer-client relationship with the user. Materials may not reflect the most current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. This information should in no way be taken as an indication of future results.

Search Tips:

You may use the wildcard symbol (*) as a root expander.  A search for "anti*" will find not only "anti", but also "anti-trust", "antique", etc.

Entering two terms together in a search field will behave as though an "OR" is being used.  For example, entering "Antique Motorcars" as a Client Name search will find results with either word in the Client Name.


AND and OR may be used in a search.  Note: they must be capitalized, e.g., "Project AND Finance." 

The + and - sign operators may be used.  The + sign indicates that the term immediately following is required, while the - sign indicates to omit results that contain that term. E.g., "+real -estate" says results must have "real" but not "estate".

To perform an exact phrase search, surround your search phrase with quotation marks.  For example, "Project Finance".

Searches are not case sensitive.

back to top