The Rosa Parks story is interesting because she did something that was clearly good in the eyes of many but against the law anyway and that was 'bad' in the eyes of only a slight majority at the time.
That same thing can be said of Aaron Swartz, there are many people that feel the same way, that locking up knowledge behind paywalls is both immoral and that it impedes progress, but a majority can't be found to take on the business interests that control the flow of knowledge.
Unlike with Al Capone, we're not talking about flooding the streets with an intoxicating liquid, we're talking about to something that should be a basic human right here: the right to educate yourself through accessing our communal pool of knowledge. If there is one interesting thing about our current form of democracy it is that people routinely vote on a few narrow issues and get a whole pile of non-related items pushed at them going directly against the interests of that same majority.
Sometimes you have to do more than just sit on the wrong chair for a while to make a noticeable difference. Lots of people have been doing the equivalent of that for a long time now without much progress being made. I guess for Aaron that speed of progress just wasn't enough.
And just like Al Capone he wasn't charged with spreading the knowledge, he was charged with the computer crime equivalent of tax evasion, the breaking of some terms of service and evading some very basic bans on an otherwise terribly insecure network where everybody had access to that knowledge.
The internet doesn't care about censorship it is said, it will route around it. But someone will still have to program those routers and that where people like Aaron come in, they observe and identify bottle-necks, then proceed to fix them. If your gravy train ride depends on holding bits hostage and dribbling them out to the public at a rate or in a way that you can control then you really should go and read Nick Negroponte's 'being digital' again.
It's been said that I don't like JSTOR. I have no feelings positive or negative towards them, just like I have no such feelings towards dinosaurs. They're going to go away one of these days because their useful lifespan is almost at an end, disrupted by the combined cheap costs of storage and communication.
You just made a value judgment there, morally evaluating one form of lawbreaking over another, structurally similar, one. The point of democracy is to have such debates in an open, controlled forum. Yes, that forum can seem excessively slow. But there are very good reasons we don't want government to move at the hacker speed of everyone try their own thing (given that the activity has already been put in the domain of law versus free markets).
However, it is important to realize that in the case of computer networks, "the law" hasn't done the requisite work to analyze the domain and create appropriately scoped proscriptions. Instead, it has taken the expedient way of making everything illegal unless explicitly allowed (with possible three decade sentence), and then letting a small autocracy (prosecutor/court) decide individuals' fates.
That is not at all true and hyperbole does not help anyone's argument.