I think education should be provided to everyone, and honestly 99% of all internet users (like us) don't even understand most of that lingo. So what's the poiiiiiiinnt if like two people are gonna even buy it?
The authors of the academic papers can put them up on their own websites for everyone to access for free if they want. Some do. Lots don't. That's their choice. They wrote the paper.
JSTOR offers licenses to academic institutions to access the material. Students, faculty, researchers, and staff and access them for free.
That's how it works. You can debate if there's a better way, and there just may be. But you can't take the work of other authors or the property of JSTOR and offer it away.
He didn't get around to distributing the material and reached a settlement with JSTOR. That issue was solved. However, he used MIT's network and in doing so apparently caused a service outage at the facility for a couple of days. I think there would need to be some kind of recourse for that.
$1 million and 35 years? No, probably not. A bit overkill. But that they went after him is not surprising or particularly unfounded.