RIP Aaron Swartz

Discussion in 'What's On Your Mind?' started by Frank, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. Frank

    Frank Original Member

  2. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    Terribly sad story. Evidently according to the forensics expert on this case, it was a gross misuse of prosecutorial discretion, as he was accessing files deliberately left open to the public by MIT. I hope his family sues both MIT and the federal prosecutor.
    KrazyKat likes this.
  3. KrazyKat

    KrazyKat Original Member

    Very very sad.
  4. KrazyKat

    KrazyKat Original Member

  5. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Prosecutors might have overcharged, but to say that there was no theft or crime is also a bit of a stretch.

    He had access to the archive because he was affiliated with Harvard, which apparently had paid for that access. He used that access to download millions of documents, which he apparently intended to distribute free of charge, which could turn could seriously harm or destroy JSTOR's business model.

    Just because you can access something on the internet doesn't mean that it's yours to take and redistribute.

    In this case, JSTOR itself was satisfied with the return of the documents.
  6. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Or just another example of an American who couldn't or didn't get the mental health care that he needed. Fortunately, he didn't exit via an elementary school with an AR-15. However, I'm not buying into this martyr crap.
  7. KrazyKat

    KrazyKat Original Member

    Ya think?!

    Sidestepping the issue: it isn't the about crime/innocence, it's about political retaliation and being hounded
    And loss: It isn't about "martyrdom." it's about the loss of someone who was so capable they could invent RSS at age 14. TenX smarter than anyone who has ever posted here. Dead at only 26, and hastened there by mindless authoritah.
  8. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    He didn't invent RSS. He was just one member of the working group that came up with the current RSS standard.

    Credit for the "invention" is generally given to Dave Winer. The development actually goes back to 1995 and Netscape but wasn't called RSS until later.
  9. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    I'd be more inclined to credit untreated depression.

    People who aren't depressed deal with things. Depressed people take an early departure.
  10. KrazyKat

    KrazyKat Original Member

    No go.
    The club of people that exit as you suggest are exclusively the domain of those MEN WHO THINK AR-15s ARE COOL. For starters.

    Aaron Swartz was not in that category. Putting him in the ranks of the feeb that carried out the Newtown killings is supremely insulting.
    As someone with depression, essentially harmless Krazy, Swartz was a member of my club, not yours.
    Sunny Goth likes this.
  11. KrazyKat

    KrazyKat Original Member

    It is easier for thugs to hasten the departure of targets with depression.
  12. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Except that the prosecution here doesn't qualify as thugs. Aaron Swartz entered a closet on the MIT campus and tapped into the LAN to steal copies of 4.7M documents.

    They were correct to have Aaron Swartz arrested and charged. After JSTOR indicated they were satisfied with the return of the pilfered documents, perhaps they should have been more conciliatory and offered a settlement.

    It's like the library down the street: Much of its content is in the public domain, but you can't just enter any way you can and help yourself. You have to play by the library's rules, which might include paying for access. Don't like it? Find a different library that offers a better deal.
  13. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    From The Smoking Gun:

    After investigators determined that someone had begun illegally downloading material from the JSTOR archive, they traced the hack to a basement wiring closet where they found a laptop and external hard drive connected directly to a network switch. The computer and the drive were hidden beneath a cardboard box.
    Anticipating that the owner of the hardware would return, investigators placed a hidden camera in the closet. As seen in the adjacent surveillance images (click to enlarge), Swartz was filmed on three successive days entering and exiting the closet. On January 6, 2010, as an MIT police officer was monitoring a live feed, Swartz--using a bicycle helmet to shield his face--was seen packing up the laptop and hard drive and departing the closet.

    An MIT police officer subsequently located Swartz riding his bicycle near campus. Swartz, according to a police report, jumped off his bike and fled on foot, but was apprehended and handcuffed by Agent Pickett and an MIT cop.
  14. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    It also turns out that he was NOT a co-founder of Reddit.

    The Reddit timeline:

    June, 2005: Founded by Steve Huffman & Alexis Ohanian
    January, 2006: Merged with Infogame (Aaron Swartz's company), i.e. Swartz joined Reddit 8 months along
    October, 2007: Conde Nast acquires Reddit
    Sometime around Christmas, 2007: Conde Nast fires Aaron Swartz

    Obviously, he was associated with Reddit long enough to have some impace, but he was not a founder.
  15. I'm sad about this guy killing himself, and annoyed that he was facing what seem like disproportionate charges. But can I just say, JSTOR is a really strange thing to target if you're going to be a renegade downloader. I used JSTOR on a few papers in grad school, then I stopped bothering with it because the articles were mostly pretty esoteric and not all that useful. Maybe it's improved since then? Or maybe he thought it was a low value target? I just can't see how the stuff on JSTOR would have been useful to anybody who didn't already have access to JSTOR through a college library. It was the stuff to cite in papers when you had to fulfill a citation requirement, not a place to do truly useful research (IME).
  16. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    phoebepontiac and KrazyKat like this.
  17. KrazyKat

    KrazyKat Original Member

    I think it's safe to say that almost no one agrees with that sentiment. The prosecutors were trying to make names for themselves and make him an example, moving from 4 to 13 felony counts.
    This piece takes the crime seriously:
    but still concludes:
    Why bad cops are bad, but bad prosecution is okay, is unclear to me.
  18. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Saying it's "vindictive prosecution" doesn't make it such.

    The guy was caught red-handed, after he'd been recorded on surveillance video several times and after he had pilfered 4,700,000 documents.
  19. Larry Lessig helps helps me put my JSTOR quandry into perspective:

    Was his activity criminal? Probably. But it's being characterized the same way as downloading movies or music, which is arguably worth millions of dollars or more. In real economic terms, these sorts of academic articles are not very valuable at all. I was going to say they're a dime a dozen, but they're probably not even worth that much. At times I've accumulated some of these journals in hard copy, and in trying to sell them online and in used bookstores, I've found it difficult to even give them away. Again, I haven't looked at JSTOR in a few years, but when I was using it I was finding "publish or perish" articles, the kind published strictly so professors can move forth on their tenure tracks, most of them dryly written for a purely academic audience about topics only interesting to specialists. While there is certainly intellectual value in this stuff, there really isn't monetary value -- in fact most of it is in one way or another heavily subsidized by universities and other academic institutions.
  20. Sunny Goth

    Sunny Goth Original Member Coach

    Sorry, but this case just shows (again) how prosecutors abuse the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

    Here's a good (but long quote) from techdirt on the subject:

    Given the disclosures by Swartz's expert, Alex Stamos, which are linked at the beginning of this post, it seems that Swartz had a strong argument that he did indeed have "authorization." As Stamos says, at the time of Swartz's downloads, "the JSTOR website allowed an unlimited number of downloads by anybody on MIT’s 18.x Class-A network" and "Aaron did not use parameter tampering, break a CAPTCHA, or do anything more complicated than call a basic command line tool that downloads a file in the same manner as right-clicking and choosing 'Save As' from your favorite browser."

    Thus, all Swartz did was write a script to find and download the files. As a factual matter, that may have been "authorization," rendering it lawful everywhere. Even if the script was "exceeding authorization," if the First Circuit had adopted the same rule as the Fourth Circuit and the Ninth Circuit, then Swartz would likely have been not guilty as a matter of law. All of which further shows why this prosecution should not have been brought in the first place; the prosecutor is supposed to exercise their judgment to do justice.

    The whole post is here: The Case Against Aaron Swartz Was Complete Garbage

    Marcia Hofmann writes about the problems with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (in general and as it applies to Aaronn Swartz) on the EFF site.

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