The arrest of Aaron Swartz is clearly uncalled for: he's guilty of nothing more than downloading some files without permission, and we were pleased (though not surprised) to see QuestionCopyright.org board member James Jacobs quoted saying what needs to be said: "Aaron's prosecution undermines academic inquiry and democratic principles. It's incredible that the government would try to lock someone up for allegedly looking up articles at a library."
But beyond the disturbing fact of the arrest itself is a persistent problem in coverage of the case. Venue after venue refers to Swartz being arrested for "theft" or "stealing", even though he didn't steal anything. The bias isn't particularly subtle:
Aaron Swartz, the 24-year-old who went from helping to create Reddit to embracing a different brand of progressive activism, has been indicted on federal charges of breaking into MIT and stealing more than four million articles from an online database.
That's from Talking Points Memo, a political news site (boldface ours). But often the bias starts in the headline: