United States prosecutors hounded a young man to death last week for the "crime" of making publicly funded data accessible to the public.
Aaron Swartz killed himself in his New York flat on Friday night, weeks before he was due to face trial.
His "offence" was to download millions of academic articles from the Jstor database with the intention of making them freely available online.
Massachusetts prosecutors brought fraud charges against him which could have seen him jailed for 35 years and fined $1 million (£620,000).
Swartz was only 26 but the scale of his achievements as a programmer and activist for internet freedom and open data is clear just from looking at who paid tribute to him.
Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee tweeted: "Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep."
Author and activist Cory Doctorow described his friend as a "full-time, uncompromising, reckless and delightful shit-disturber" with "powerful, deeply felt ideals."
Lawrence Lessig called Swartz a "kid genius" who was "driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying."
Among many other projects Swartz had worked with Lessig and others to create the extremely successful Creative Commons licences as a less-restrictive form of copyright.
Aged just 14 he helped develop RSS, the technology for subscribing to websites.
Swartz was a major figure in the successful campaign to defeat the draconian Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa).
He "jailbroke" a massive chunk of US law - all public-domain material - from its clunky, outdated, paid-for database and set it free on the open internet.
He helped build the hugely successful "social news" site Reddit and the ambitious online library OpenLibrary.org.
Swartz wasn't just a believer in the liberal watchword of "transparency," though. He blogged at length about its limitations, warning that it can "promote apathy" by showing "the mindnumbing universality" of corruption and occasionally offering a sop in the form of "an extreme case (which) is located through your work, brought to justice, and then everyone goes home thinking the problem has been solved."
It's tricky to pin down exactly what he believed in but it apparently involved freeing information to clean up elections, empower the media and educate voters - all as a starting point to transform the entire system.
The size and danger of the challenge he set himself is shown by a tribute from an unlikely source - former Guantanamo Bay prosecutor Morris Davis, sacked for publicly warning the Obama administration not to reopen kangaroo courts at the torture camp.
Davis feared the US Justice Department wanted to make an example of Swartz as it did with alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning.
"Facing their seemingly limitless power and resources month after month takes a toll on your spirit and your finances," he said.
Swartz's family were in no doubt that was what drove their son to suicide. In a statement the day after his death they said his death "is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach."
Certainly the charges against him were absurdly trumped up.
Swartz had smuggled a laptop into a broom cupboard at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), connected it to the university's network, left it downloading Jstor articles then sneaked back to collect it.
That's not a million miles from the harmless "hacks" that MIT's notoriously roguish, super-intelligent and wildly inventive students routinely perpetrate.
To gauge the value of his "theft," a Jstor subscription costs around $50,000 a year. And many argue access should be free, considering how much research is produced with public money.
Jstor quickly ended its pursuit of Swartz and asked the government to drop its case. But ambitious district attorney Carmen Ortiz pressed ahead with the harshest charges she could muster.
Ortiz desperately claimed this week that her office had pushed only for a six-month sentence and that "prosecutors recognised that there was no evidence against Mr Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain."
But her statement was flat-out false. When Swartz was charged in 2011 Ortiz said: "Stealing is stealing," and an aggressive press release her office made great play of the potential 35-year sentence and $1m fine.
It's not at all clear Swartz committed any offence, though. Certainly not theft. Possibly copyright infringement, although tellingly that wasn't mentioned in his indictment. Demand Progress director David Segal described Swartz's actions as "allegedly checking too many books out of the library."
Arguably his real "crime" was to challenge the racket that is academic publishing, where publicly funded research is squeezed for profit by companies such as Reed Elsevier.
Reed Elsevier is notorious for its profiteering, its links to the arms trade, its support for Sopa and the accompanying law Pipa, and for publishing fake journals paid for by pharmaceutical firm Merck and containing articles praising Merck's products.
Swartz named Reed Elsevier in particular in his 2008 "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto" calling for a counter-attack against the way in which "the world's entire scientific and cultural heritage" is "increasingly being digitised and locked up by a handful of private corporations."
The music and film industries have already shown how if they make sufficiently outlandish claims about billion-dollar "thefts" they can get laws rewritten to protect their interests, and to attack people's right to use their own data any way they see fit.
Swartz's case suggests a similar pattern is emerging in academic publishing, as activists start to question why in the 21st century we are paying private corporations to act as gatekeepers to data which we paid for and which should be freely available to all.
Those corporations will fight back any way they can - including the full weight of the US legal system.
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