One More On Swartz (and MIT)

I want to respond to a couple of things mistermix wrote this morning about MIT’s response to Aaron Swartz’s death, but first, some preliminaries.

1:  This topic has become a lightening rod for a stunningly unproductive comment war between those who see Swartz as presumptively criminal who couldn’t take the heat his own actions had invited, and those who see him as  a martyr to the positive cause of internet and data freedom and to the defensive one of resistance to overweening corporate and government interests.

My own view is much closer to the side of those who see Swartz as a driven idealist, on the side of the angels, largely unprepared for real life.  It’s overwhelmingly clear that he believed deeply in acting morally according to a particular moral code and that he was aware that this commitment could bring him into conflict with existing legal (and more everyday) constraints. It is clear, to me at least, that his goals, what he thought the good was for which he was willing to enter into such conflict, is in fact a major social benefit:  information, if it doesn’t always want to be free* wants to be genuinely accessible — or rather, we as citizens, members of a polity that utterly depends on an informed electorate, need to have ready access to the words, numbers and wisdom required to perform our civic work.  Does that mean Swartz or anyone else should get out of jail free when they challenge someone else’s intellectual property claims?  No, and Swartz and his legal team did not seek do so, according to the Kevin Cullen/Boston Globe column to which mistermix linked.  For those without access to the Globe, here’s the datum:

Swartz and his lawyers were not looking for a free pass. They had offered to accept a deferred prosecution or probation, so that if Swartz pulled a stunt like that again, he would end up in prison.

I have no problem with that proposed resolution; seems about right to me.  Much more appropriate than this:

Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_037

That said, YMMV, on either side. [much, much more past the jump].

But here’s my point and my plea:  we’ve had now four threads on this matter.  I get it that some of you think otherwise, and have been fully in keeping with Balloon Juice traditions in the…how to put it…forcefulness of your expression of such views.  Now, please, just consider putting a sock in it.  The young man — I’m old enough to think of him as a very young man — is dead, and clearly suffered distress; whether or not you are convinced he was in the wrong just doesn’t f**king matter.  With absolutely no authority, and no intention of wielding a ban hammer for anything short of heinous, directly personal racism, bigotry, sexism and the like — mere insult and uninventive invective don’t cut it (that’s what pie filters are for, folks) –I’d just ask that you all try to stay on the actual argument, with some respect for the family, friends and those bereft by the loss of Aaron Swartz.  I’m asking as nicely as I can, OK?

2:   And while I’m at it, can I ask for some reflection before anyone spouts off about depression?  I’ve mentioned before that it’s been a big deal in my family, and I’m struck by the degree of careless and uninformed talk that’s run around Swartz’s loss.  No, depression should not be a get out of jail free card.  Yes, it is a serious, potentially fatal illness.  And yes, emphatically yes, I agree with one Swartz’s lawyer’s that the US Attorney’s office could and should have taken the risks posed to their defendent by the combination of a very aggressive prosecutorial approach and Swartz’s mental history:

Andy Good, Swartz’s initial lawyer, is ­alternately sad and furious.

“The thing that galls me is that I told Heymann the kid was a suicide risk,” Good told me. “His reaction was a standard reaction in that office, not unique to Steve. He said, ‘Fine, we’ll lock him up.’ I’m not saying they made Aaron kill himself. Aaron might have done this anyway. I’m saying they were aware of the risk, and they were heedless.”

It is worth remembering that prosecutors do have specific responsibilities to those under investigation or indictment, and a penumbra of duty that includes moral judgment.  I’m pretty sure the US Attorney’s office in Boston failed to meet at least some parts of that obligation.  But again, whether or not you agree, I’d ask anyone anxious to speak up on the role depression did play in Swartz’s death and any impact it should have had on the prosecution to think hard and write carefully.  This is not an area in which a snappy retort is likely to shed light, or, as important in my book, to contain what should be sympathy in the original sense of the word for a truly terrible and intensely complicated disease.

3:  A couple of links.  There’s a memorial site up for Aaron Swartz that any  so moved might find it worthwhile to visit.  And for those of you interested in actions that honor Swartz’s ambitions, MuckRock, a site dedicated to helping folks file Freedom of Information Act requests is offering free FOIA filing for the day in Aaron Swartz’s honor.

Alright, with those out of the way, onto the argument mistermix advanced in response to my piece about MIT President Rafael Reif’s announcement made in the wake of Swartz’s suicide and his family’s direct indictment of the Institute’s role in that tragedy. On that matter, mistermix writes:

When I read Tom’s piece about MIT’s President appointing a panel to study MIT’s response to Swartz, I figured that President’s haste indicated that there were some dirty hands at MIT who wanted to kick the can down the road. And what better way to do that than to follow the blue-ribbon example of Linda P.B. Katehi, still Chancellor of the UC Davis system, who used a panel to wiggle out of any accountability for her role in the pepper spraying of the Occupy protest on her campus. It doesn’t matter what the panel reports. What matters is that the panel’s report will be a long time in coming. When the report finally arrives, the outrage at those who insisted on draconian punishments for a “crime”–from which Swartz didn’t profit, which was completely non-violent, and which probably had minimal effect on the alleged victim (JSTOR)–will be attenuated by the passage at time.

To which my first reaction is, what would you have President Reif, and MIT do?  Not investigate?  Not formalize the process, identify decisions and the timing of those choices, name names?  That’s what I expect of Hal Abelson’s panel; if that’s not what I get, I will write again in this space acknowledging my error.

But until you see the document, roll with me on my assumption (as discussed in both my prior post and by several commenters in that thread) that Abelson is the real deal, in sympathy (I think) with Swartz’s take on open access, a man of formidable intelligence, as expert as you could hope for in the specific areas of computation and information most important to this case, and of previously tested and affirmed personal integrity and intellectual courage.  He may of course screw up; he may pull punches; he may be undermined by other institutional powers.  We will find out in time.  But for now, the rest of this post follows through the notion that Reif has requested a genuine inquiry and that Abelson intends to deliver one.

Given that, mistermix’s argument boils down to two related planks:  panels are devices to avoid action, and the way that this process arrives at the desired indecision is through delay.

Vouet,_Simon_-_Father_Time_Overcome_by_Love,_Hope_and_Beauty_-_1627

You know what: mistermix is right.  Just not always — and more to the point, some version of this approach is in fact how academic (and other) institutions both work and don’t work.  I can’t speak for other universities, but in the 8 years I’ve been at MIT I’ve come both to know and value its particular data-driven culture.  Assertions do not fly well in governance here — not as rhetoric, and not as robust foundations for the decisions they may be used to justify.

More, if you want to enact faculty governance as something more than form, you have to approach certain questions this way:  I don’t believethe faculty would not accept Reif’s say-so on this or many other matters — for all that he rose to his present position through the MIT faculty ranks.  Rather, on crucial questions, the recognized approach here (and perhaps everywhere else — again, I’m a latecomer to the academy and my knowledge of its practices, as opposed to those of my home institution falls somewhere between very little and none) is to create finders and interpreters (judges) of fact independent of the central administration.

So perhaps a reasonable question is whether or not this process is anything more than form; it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility to think of a committee made up of faculty close to the administration, who could be trusted to keep troubling matters at bay.  But there’s also evidence that the process does not have to happen that way, at least not at the one venue for which I have direct knowledge.

As some of you may recall, a couple of months ago I interviewed my colleague Nancy Hopkins on my internet science broadcast.  Hopkins was the leader of the first panel created to assess whether or not MIT was discriminating against women faculty in ways that directly and crucially affected their research and their possibilities for advancement at the Institute.  Her panel and the one that followed it demonstrated exactly that, and produced both MIT – specific and national results as a consequence.

So, no, I don’t accept as a simple assertion of fact that Rafael Reif’s appointing a committee led by a prominent MIT scholar is prima facie evidence of the desire to kick this matter down the road.

Nor is the issue of time is important; justice delayed and all that.  But first — I don’t know when Abelson plans to report.  My guess is that it would be relatively soon, and speaking purely for me, I’d hope to hear from this panel before the end of the coming spring term in May.  (I know that’s not exactly a blazing pace, but that’s pretty quick by local standards.)

But whether or not that’s the case, its still not clear to me that taking an extended period to come to a conclusion is itself an obvious tell for the desire to sweep matters under the rug.  Rather, the test for me will be in the recommendations that flow from this investigation, and the administration’s response to those suggestions.  And anyway, taking time enough to nail one’s case is not in and of itself a sign of ill faith. Note that the Hopkins committee and its sequels took a couple of years to get their work done.  They did it in the way most likely to persuade an MIT constituency:  to prove the claim that women received less lab space than men under equivalent needs, they went out with tape measures and gathered the dimensions themselves.  That and a host of other efforts to accumulate unequivocal numbers took a while.  When their work was done, the picture was clear, and its implications unmistakable.  That it had taken a couple of years did not diminish it’s impact; rather the reverse.

So many words, when what I’m really trying to say is that simply pointing to the UC Davis travesty (I agree w. mistermix on that one) is not sufficient to arrive at the conclusion that MIT will similarly try to avoid taking institutional note of what happened here and what should be done about it.

*Why yes, damn, straight: I want you to run, not walk, to the electronic book store of your choice and buy my last work, for which I’ll score roughly $3.50 in royalties against a still-unearned-out advance.

**functionally a department, but as a historical rhetoric, MIT still boasts a Department of Humanities, of which several department-equivalents are sections.  A detail of interest to just about no one.

Images: Vincent van Gogh, Prisoners Exercising, 1890

Simon Vouet, Father Time Overcome By Love, Hope and Beauty, 1627

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500 replies
  1. 1
    different-church-lady says:

    information, if it doesn’t always want to be free* wants to be genuinely accessible

    Information is not sentient, and cannot “want” a damn thing.

    That slogan has got to be one of the dumbest things smart people have ever come up with.

  2. 2
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    You may have no problem with unlimited resources and Federal overreach, but I do.

    Aaron was well off. It is my hope that his family use some of that wealth to do two things;

    1.) Sue DOJ for selective enforcment, as clearly, they felt he wasn’t too big to fail.

    2.) Establish a trust fund for those without resources, to defend against similar cases.

  3. 3
    Todd says:

    Swartz and his lawyers were not looking for a free pass. They had offered to accept a deferred prosecution or probation, so that if Swartz pulled a stunt like that again, he would end up in prison

    White people problems. Amazing what can happen for a dumbass kid with a daddy who is an IT exec at MIT, what with MIT dropping the civil suit and all.

    I’ll make sure that I leave flyers in the local courts about how to pre-emptively declare one’s own sentence when caught committing a criminal act.

  4. 4
    Zifnab25 says:

    You can argue the moral dimension and you can argue the legal dimension and you can argue the psychological dimension all the live-long day if you like.

    I just don’t understand how anyone – ANYONE – can justify 35 years for software piracy. This goes triple when we’re living in a world in which a business like HSBC can be complicit in several hundred billion dollars in money laundering and have not a single employee prosecuted.

    There are murderers who will see less prison time than Swartz.

    Bottom line, our judicial system in this country doesn’t seem to serve much of a civil purpose anymore. It’s not a tool for keeping people safe or a correctional mechanism for reforming desperate men. It’s just another political tool for special interests to intimidate lesser mortals. That a guy like Swartz could see a sentence 50% longer than Enron’s Jeff Skilling is really something to behold. Our system of justice is messed up.

  5. 5
    Todd says:

    @Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin):

    Establish a trust fund for those without resources, to defend against similar cases.

    Clearly, the world needs more h4X0rZ (or however those doofuses spell it).

  6. 6
    emma says:

    Forget it Tom. Scorpions must be true to their own nature.

  7. 7
    kindness says:

    Regardless, 50 years for downloading data when the frauds that brought down the world in 2009 haven’t even had their wrists slapped leaves one to feel some shit out there ain’t right.

    How do we make it right?

  8. 8
    different-church-lady says:

    @emma<Thanks for saving me some time: I'd been mulling over how to express pretty much the same idea. The best I could come up with was, "You're asking a bunch of people whose entire internet lives revolve around jumping to conclusions, being outraged, and screaming at each other to not jump to conclusions, be outraged, or scream at each other." Your version is a lot better.

  9. 9
    Zifnab25 says:

    @Todd: If its between more 20-somethings building wildly popular free-to-use software tools and websites, and inmates collecting dust in another round of multi-million dollar super max prisons, I’ll take the 1337 H4X0Rz, every time.

  10. 10
    Ted & Hellen says:

    The people condemning Swartz would have done the same to the early colonial rabble rousers who stirred up shit against the oppressive British regime.

  11. 11
    Todd says:

    @Zifnab25:

    I just don’t understand how anyone – ANYONE – can justify 35 years for software piracy.

    Just because it is typically done by white guys whose parents are happy not to think about, tucked away in basements in the throes of antisocial Aspie bliss does not mean that they don’t do more structural financial damage than the poor stoned schmuck who wanders into the bank with a pellet gun in his pocket and decides to ask for the money in the drawer.

  12. 12
    burnspbesq says:

    @Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin):

    Sue DOJ for selective enforcment

    Waste of time and money. Won’t succeed. Will get dismissed for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

  13. 13
    Lee Rudolph says:

    There’s a two-asterisked footnote at the bottom:

    **functionally a department, but as a historical rhetoric, MIT still boasts a Department of Humanities, of which several department-equivalents are sections. A detail of interest to just about no one.

    but when I search for what refers to it, all I find is “f**ing”.

    By the way, you clearly haven’t assimilated sufficiently to MIT if you can still write “Department” for “Course”.

    Sincerely,

    Just About No One
    Ph.D, MIT, M-O-U-S-E

  14. 14
  15. 15
    Todd says:

    @Zifnab25:

    If its between more 20-somethings building wildly popular free-to-use software tools and websites…

    Gotta say, I’ve generally had better luck with stuff I’ve paid for. I tend to find that free software is rarely worth what I paid for it.

  16. 16
    burnspbesq says:

    @Zifnab25:

    You forgot (or deliberately ignored) one important thing.

    A legitimate goal of the criminal justice system is to deter future criminal activity.

    Within that context, it is completely legitimate to throw the book (or, as someone said yesterday, throw the whole fucking library) at someone like Aaron Swartz, in order to illustrate to potential copy-cats that it just ain’t worth it.

  17. 17
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @burnspbesq:

    How is it a waste of time, as long as the lawyers get paid?

  18. 18
    mistermix says:

    Let’s assume that the MIT investigation is all in good faith and that the person running it is the right kind of person and all that, and I have no reason to doubt it. Even if the investigation goes off exactly as it should, having the investigation takes the heat off of MIT for quite a while, and that’s where I think it’s a clever trick, no matter whether it will ultimately be fair or not.

    Clearly, there were some actors in the MIT IT department (or maybe in legal or maybe in some other department) who were pushing for Swartz’ prosecution and refused the plea deal. Now that the charges against Swartz have been dropped, it should be fair game for reporters to ask them about their role in the matter. But the investigation gives them a gold-plated, institutionally-sanctioned excuse for saying nothing at this time. Their “no comment” statements will not be seen as evasion, but rather as deferring to the officially sanctioned investigation.

    Your post was on Sunday at 11 PM, so I assume the letter from Reif came sometime that afternoon or evening. That means that he was working overtime to craft an institutional response to the Swartz’ death, which began to be reported on Saturday. Am I being overly suspicious to think that part of the reason was to shield some of those who pushed for Swartz’ prosecution? Maybe I am, but human nature and institutional behavior being what it is, I doubt it.

    Consider the case of Katehi. She at least had to address the students and have a couple very uncomfortable reckonings under full public and press scrutiny–when the issue was hot and everyone was paying attention–before she named her commission and hid for a few months. In the Swartz matter, those who were pushing for prosecution don’t even have that. They’re insulated from having to face the press or students until the commission meets.

    So that’s my take on MIT as an institution, not the many individuals (in fact, probably a majority) there who treated Swartz well.

    I agree with what you said about mental illness, btw. Some of the comments about suicide and depression with little or no info show a huge ignorance on those topics.

  19. 19
    Todd says:

    @burnspbesq:

    A legitimate goal of the criminal justice system is to deter future criminal activity.

    Within that context, it is completely legitimate to throw the book (or, as someone said yesterday, throw the whole fucking library) at someone like Aaron Swartz, in order to illustrate to potential copy-cats that it just ain’t worth it.

    Hush. You’ll get the emoprogs to start sobbing again at the meanness of it all.

  20. 20
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Tom, the more I read on this more I am convinced that your characterization of him as driven idealist and also as unprepared to handle what happened to him is on the mark.

  21. 21
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Todd:

    Just because it is typically done by white guys whose parents are happy not to think about, tucked away in basements in the throes of antisocial Aspie bliss does not mean that they don’t do more structural financial damage than the poor stoned schmuck who wanders into the bank with a pellet gun in his pocket and decides to ask for the money in the drawer.

    I would put you in contention for Aggressively Stupid Comment That Advances The Cause Of Malevolent Ignorance…but I am sure that somebody else will manage to beat you.

  22. 22
    burnspbesq says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    The people condemning Swartz would have done the same to the early colonial rabble rousers who stirred up shit against the oppressive British regime.

    Perhaps. And they would have been entirely correct to do so. The American Revolution was one big act of treason against the Crown, which went unpunished only because it succeeded.

    Or have you forgotten that history is written by the winners?

  23. 23
    burnspbesq says:

    @Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin):

    How is it a waste of time, as long as the lawyers get paid?

    Frivolous litigation is a dead-weight economic loss to society as a whole, as I’m sure you understand but are conveniently ignoring in the interest of being oh so clever.

  24. 24
    celticdragonchick says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Perhaps. And they would have been entirely correct to do so.

    Because rebelling against a regime that merged corporatism and governance in order to use you and your family like a piggy bank to be broken at any whim is always wrong, natch.

    Those dirty hippies at Occupy needed to be shown a firm hand and more broken bones, while we are on that subject, amirite?

  25. 25
    emma says:

    Just as well that I have no faith in human nature. The viciousness on display here would make Buddha weep.

  26. 26
    Mister Harvest says:

    @Todd:

    Just because it is typically done by white guys whose parents are happy not to think about, tucked away in basements in the throes of antisocial Aspie bliss does not mean that they don’t do more structural financial damage than the poor stoned schmuck who wanders into the bank with a pellet gun in his pocket and decides to ask for the money in the drawer.

    You’ve laid out an argument. Care to make and defend it?

    In particular: What Aaron Swartz (not some hypothetical person) did was worth a $1,000,000 fine and 35 years in prison.

    Otherwise, it’s just road rage.

  27. 27
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Those who defy the avaricious Mouse and its allies must be punished.

    These people are the ultimate in rentiers, the ultimate in parasites. Once the original human creator is gone, the shit should be in the public domain. Fuck the heirs, fuck the corporations.

  28. 28
    burnspbesq says:

    @mistermix:

    Clearly, there were some actors in the MIT IT department (or maybe in legal or maybe in some other department) who were pushing for Swartz’ prosecution and refused the plea deal.

    Say what, now? Your ignorance of how the criminal justice system works is showing. Only one person gets to accept or reject a potential plea agreement or deferred prosecution agreement: the defendant. Neither MIT nor JSTOR has a seat at that table.

  29. 29
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @burnspbesq:

    conveniently ignoring in the interest of being oh so clever.

    It beats the alternative of being clever by half.

    I just wonder what you would have said about the legality of William Walllace’s disemboweling.

  30. 30
    Marc says:

    @mistermix:

    Am I being overly suspicious to think that part of the reason was to shield some of those who pushed for Swartz’ prosecution? Maybe I am, but human nature and institutional behavior being what it is, I doubt it.

    “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.”

  31. 31
    Marc says:

    FWIW, my take on Swartz is very similar to Tom’s–a driven idealist (I might quibble about the “side of the angels” part–ends and means, and all that) completely unprepared for real life.

  32. 32
    cyntax says:

    @burnspbesq:

    A legitimate goal of the criminal justice system is to deter future criminal activity.

    So why is it that under the current system as it’s been formed the guys who nearly wrecked the world economy either aren’t or can’t be prosecuted and this guy can look at 35 years?

    That’s not a white person problem, as Todd has so blithely stated, that’s part of the same structural inequity that made crack possession a much worse offense than powdered coke. It’s an expression of the fact that our government is way more responsive to people and industries with a lot of money (Swartz’s family doesn’t qualify here). And yes, that works on a continuum so that the white person gets off lighter than the person of color but none of us are as privileged as the large entertainment conglomerates (the ones who get to influence IP laws) and the banks.

    But by all means let’s keep ignoring the larger context.

  33. 33
    burnspbesq says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    Umm, has it perhaps not occurred to you that there are meaningful differences between a peaceful demonstration and armed insurrection?

  34. 34
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    These people are the ultimate in rentiers, the ultimate in parasites. Once the original human creator is gone, the shit should be in the public domain. Fuck the heirs, fuck the corporations.

    For that matter, the information allegedly stolen was never meant to be payable or profitable to the authors. Scientists, historians and sociologists who publish are not paid for their work and do not get royalties. They intend that the work they do be seen and hopeful prove useful to others. Swartz took nothing of any quantifiable value, since it never was meant to have a price tag on it.

  35. 35
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Ted & Hellen: What would the parallel colonial-era crime be? Taking books from a subscription library and printing them on a home printing press?

  36. 36
    mistermix says:

    @burnspbesq: My lawyer friends tell me that prosecutors routinely run plea deals past victims, in this case MIT and JSTOR, and the Boston Globe reports (source: Swartz attorney) that MIT opposed the deal.

    Also, too: it was reported in their hometown paper of record. If it were false, wouldn’t MIT be pushing back by now?

  37. 37
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Exactly.

    Tom, thank you for the request for reflection prior to spouting off about depression. It’s often forgotten that this disease has a lethality rate higher than several cancers. Yet few people feel the need to spout off with (often uninformed) opinions about cancer and recovery therefrom. I’ve missed the last few threads on this due to NAMI project deadlines, and I wanted you to know I appreciate the request.

  38. 38
    PJ says:

    If you want us to “put a sock in it”, why do you keep bringing up the topic?

    As the first commenter noted, information doesn’t want anything. Information is an abstract idea. Certain people, egged on by the tech industry (I’m looking at you, Google), want anything that can be digitized to be free (so long, of course, as it doesn’t cut into their own income.) This is regardless of whether it is pure “information”, or more correctly categorized as expression (probably the bulk of the material being illegally downloaded), or some combination thereof (the academic papers available on JSTOR).

    This attitude runs against current property law, and, to some degree, public sentiment regarding creativity, investment, the value of labor, and theft. So it shouldn’t be shocking that some commenters find the “idealism” supposedly motivating Swartz to be less than ideal.

    There has been a concerted effort by many techno-libertarians (e.g., Lessig, Doctorow, Greenwald) to make Swartz a martyr in the jihad against copyright. This is shameful. Suicide is a terrible thing, obviously for the victim, but even more so for their friends and family. It shouldn’t be a tool in a political battle, but that’s how it will be used.

    (I haven’t read about what Swartz planned to do with the JSTOR material, but it doesn’t sound like he was working on a research paper. Perhaps he wanted to post the papers, which had been digitized at some cost, on a site where they would be available for free to the public. Taking the work and property of others and freely distributing it without compensation is not noble. In any event, what would follow would be a game of whack-a-mole with the authorities as the hosting sites are shut down. If one wanted to really make this material freely available, I have no doubt that a tech consortium could make JSTOR and the universities an offer they could not refuse, with the costs covered by advertising, or perhaps some permanent endowment paid for by Larry Lessig and the online gambling trade.)

  39. 39
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @burnspbesq:

    A legitimate goal of the criminal justice system is to deter future criminal activity.

    Well, ideally. However, humans are involved.

    But do not ever forget, counselor, that The Holocaust was perfectly legal under Reich law at the time. Scrupulously legal. The lawyers at the Wannsee Conference were most insistent that the their actions were propelled by a legal Führer Order. What they were being asked to do wasn’t the problem with them.

    What is legal, and what is right, are not necessarily the same thing. Likewise, what is illegal, and what is actually wrong, can be in conflict, too.

  40. 40
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    . Scientists, historians and sociologists who publish are not paid for their work and do not get royalties. They intend that the work they do be seen and hopeful prove useful to others. Swartz took nothing of any quantifiable value, since it never was meant to have a price tag on it.

    Don’t forget the professors who crib salient paragraphs from student’s papers?

    Not that I’m critical; It’s supposed to be an Academic environment.

  41. 41
    Zandar says:

    Again, the issues of the tragedy surrounding Swartz’s death are separate from that death being laid at the feet of his critics.

    People who use the first to attack anyone in the second category are pretty much awful human beings, full stop.

  42. 42
    ET says:

    As a librarian I don’t know how I feel about this. I have to worry about copyright as part of my job on a daily basis and frequently wish it would go away because it is inconvenient so I do have sympathy for the intent but am uncomfortable with his method of expression – or at least the degree. Unfortunately I am not sure that what he was looking to do/prove was ultimately going to change anything because ultimately the law itself need to change. Sadly, that isn’t likely to happen and not because Congress doesn’t/can’t/won’t bestir itself to address it, but because there is a large part of the private sector that has too much to loose (better the devil you know after all).

    One one hand he knew what he was doing was wrong and did it anyway, likely knowing there was going to be some bill to pay. Of course 35 years seems excessive but then I look at the sheer volume and just have to gag. Prosecutions don’t care about intent in terms of charging only what/how to charge – likely were DoJ overreached (but prosecutors all over have this problem). It sounds like there was some deal going but maybe he didn’t have confidence it was going to hold – which would be his problem not DoJs – at least based on my understanding. Then you throw in the fact that MIT seems to have not necessarily been of the same opinion as JSTOR (the offended party) and that could be of more importance.

    All I know is that there was likely a lot beyond this situation, going on in his head that we will never know. We can only guess and speculate based on the incomplete picture of facts that are known. I refuse to believe this situation was the only contributing factor – though it may have been the final straw.

    A bit rambling I know but this situation doesn’t seem to have a quick and easy storyline that is satisfactory.

  43. 43
    WereBear says:

    I don’t understand the people being so harsh about this instance. Prosecutorial overreach happens; and it shouldn’t.

    THAT should be the point, not verbally beating on a dead person who did not do anything bad enough to lead to 35 years in prison… not even close.

    For anyone with liberal sensitivities, this is an important cause. How different is it from the person facing similarly overblown sentences for possession of one joint, or not having the money to pay a speeding ticket, or shooting a gun at a house instead of a person who is threatening her?

    This had nothing to do with justice. That should be what is getting people upset.

  44. 44
    pete says:

    @emma: Aw, c’mon, everyone knows Guatama was a cry-baby.

    I am in complete sympathy with your position. But the vicious are only part of the great community of people. They tend to be loud, and certainly annoying, but I suppose they have their place in spurring the rest of us on to empathetic thinking. I always find it particularly sad when we get manifestations like that in a usually witty and sympathetic hangout like this one.

  45. 45
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @celticdragonchick: JSTOR as the middleman provided added value–principally, ease of retrieval; my students will almost never use a journal article in their research unless they have found it on JSTOR–and MIT paid for that. That’s who’s being affected economically. Universities and research libraries pay for these databases. Sometimes handsomely. I don’t know how much JSTOR costs. The prosecution and punishment do seem out of whack, but I really don’t think it’s right to swing wildly in the direction of saying that it was an act of necessary information liberation.

  46. 46
    brantl says:

    Why didn’t he just pay for the JSTOR information, wasn’t he well off? And why is it OK to knowingly break a law and then say that he is cognizant of the peril and not trying to skate when he asks for leniency, that isn’t the letter of the law, having just admitted that he knew the law? If this were an intelligence test, then he would have failed it, spectacularly.

  47. 47
    Soonergrunt says:

    You do understand, Tom, that anything short of Prof. Abelson calling for several heads to roll will be seen as “sweeping it under the rug” by many people here?

    @Omnes Omnibus: What he said.

  48. 48
    burnspbesq says:

    @cyntax:

    the guys who nearly wrecked the world economy either aren’t or can’t be prosecuted

    (1) As far as “aren’t” is concerned, I would remind you that (a) complex white-collar cases take time to put together and (b) under Federal law (specifically, Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure) grand jury proceedings are secret.

    (2) As I have said often enough to become sick of having to repeat it, “unconscionable” and “illegal” are not synonyms. In addition, the Constitution does not allow retroactive application of new criminal statutes. If you take care to ensure that your behavior is within the boundaries of existing law at the time you act, you are good to go, regardless of whether Congress later decides that what you did ought to be a crime.

    Enough larger context for ya?

  49. 49
    Emma says:

    @PJ: He was not taking the property of others. That’s what people don’t get here. The information is actually out there freely. JSTOR is an aggregator and is properly reimbursed by its users for creating a convenient way of getting at the information. MIT has for a long time encouraged an open-access culture in which academic information is freely available, even to people outside their physical environment (at least, that’s what their D-Space people boast about). From what I’ve read, the JSTOR contract with MIT includes a clause about MIT making the information freely available (that’s as it may be, as most of those contracts are confidential, but the MIT culture sure makes it feasible).

    It should have been treated, at best, as a case of “causing inconvenience to other users.”

  50. 50
    celticdragonchick says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Umm, has it perhaps not occurred to you that there are meaningful differences between a peaceful demonstration and armed insurrection?

    Has it occurred to you that demonstrations (peaceful and otherwise) were also treason at the time and subject to severe penalties that included hanging by the neck until dead? How well did demonstrations work for the Regulators in North Carolina in 1771? They were fired upon at Alamance and forced to fight or flee. A number of survivors were hanged.

    The Crown refused to concede trade and taxation issues and brought the revolt through sheer incompetence. There were other outstanding issues (too many to seriously discuss here like immigration past the Blue Ridge, Native American relations and others), but the unfortunate habit of using lethal force and zealous prosecution to put down dissent was a major factor, and it echoed this last year in the Occupy protests around the country.

  51. 51
    schrodinger's cat says:

    I sympathize with Swartz’s goals but not his tactics, and yes as has been pointed by many others above, he seemed unprepared for the fall out of his actions. When Gandhi took on the British Government both in South Africa and India, it was long hard struggle, it involved many set backs. It involved long time spent in jail and motivating an entire nation. It was anything but easy. It is very difficult to change the status-quo.

  52. 52
    mistermix says:

    @Marc: That’s a strange argument coming from someone more than willing to speculate on Swartz’ family involvement based on little or no evidence.

  53. 53
    celticdragonchick says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    JSTOR specifically asked for the case to be dropped. If the allegedly injured party does not want a prosecution, then why was a case brought in the first place.

  54. 54
    The Red Pen says:

    Hal Abelson? I have complete trust that he’ll do a good job.

    Seriously, he’s a nerd’s nerd and an institution in and of himself.

    Anecdote: I was in a class with Abelson, and he, just for grins, started riffing on “trits” — trinary digits, and how many values you could have.

    HA: With one trit, you’d have 3 values, with 2 trits, you’d have 9, with 3, you’d have 27, with 4 you’d have…

    Me: 81.

    HA: Right… and 5 you’d have…

    Me: 243

    HA: 6?

    Me: 729

    HA: How are you getting these so fast?

    Me: [holds up wrist] Calculator watch.

    HA: Oh! [holds up wrist] Does yours do sin and cosine?

  55. 55
    Emma says:

    @brantl: No, you failed it by not investigating the facts, the CONTEXT of the damn story.

  56. 56
    eemom says:

    Well, at least we are getting closer to some intelligent and nuanced commentary on the topic. Good work, Professor Levenson.

  57. 57
    Chris says:

    @cyntax:

    So why is it that under the current system as it’s been formed the guys who nearly wrecked the world economy either aren’t or can’t be prosecuted and this guy can look at 35 years?

    For the same reason that destroying a building is considered “terrorism” (heinous, unjustifiable and putting the perpetrators on a level with child molesters) while destroying an entire country is considered “war” (a most honorable and patriotic activity in which there is much nobility and worthiness to be found).

    For whatever reason, the biggest crimes are the ones that seem to go unpunished in life.

  58. 58
    Don says:

    @Lee Rudolph: your sign off FTW!

  59. 59
    cyntax says:

    @burnspbesq:

    No it’s not enough context because you keep accepting the status quo without questioning how we got there.

  60. 60
    Cacti says:

    @Todd:

    White people problems. Amazing what can happen for a dumbass kid with a daddy who is an IT exec at MIT, what with MIT dropping the civil suit and all. I’ll make sure that I leave flyers in the local courts about how to pre-emptively declare one’s own sentence when caught committing a criminal act.

    It’s the civil disobedience of the special snowflake generation. Violate laws you consider unjust, but do everything in your power to escape any real world consequences for said violation.

  61. 61
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Chris:

    For whatever reason, the biggest crimes are the ones that seem to go unpunished in life.

    That has been noted before:

    Jean Rostand, “Thoughts of a Biologist” (1939) wrote “Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god.

  62. 62
    freemark says:

    @burnspbesq: He wasn’t ignoring it. It was fairly obviously implied by his statement for anyone who understands sarcasm.

  63. 63
    PJ says:

    @Emma: This is not true. The copyright in the material on JSTOR is owned by the journals which JSTOR reproduces. (As I stated in another thread, that the authors of these articles do not retain the copyright is outrageous, but that’s another issue.) JSTOR charges a fee to universities for access, some of which presumably goes back to the journals. According to one article I read, JSTOR cut Swartz off several times because he was violating their terms of service, which is why he set up the hidden laptop in the cupboard at MIT to download everything.

  64. 64
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @celticdragonchick: I haven’t been doing well in following this case, but AFAIK MIT saw it differently, and I presume that was because they wanted to deter people from pulling similar stunts. If I were MIT I might think, fuck, if we allow our vendors’ stuff to be pirated, or potentially pirated, we could end up with a massive problem. Wasn’t there a Napster case like that, involving people using university networks to copy music? If there was a Coke machine in the library that was rigged to give you your dollar back, they and Coke would probably want to stop that too. Like I said, proportionality is still an issue, but I don’t think the anarcho-libertarians’ meta-argument about “information” holds water.

  65. 65
    red dog says:

    Investment bankers probably stole millions from MIT and don’t get any reaction. This guy does a little poaching from the “academics” and gets the book. The strangeness of the bow tie and beard set and their bruised egos is unreal.

  66. 66
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cacti:

    Violate laws you consider unjust, but do everything in your power to escape any real world consequences for said violation.

    I can see you chortling and munching cheetos while watching old archive footage of attack dogs mauling civil rights marchers at the bridge to Selma. Not escaping the real world consequences and all that, of course.

  67. 67
    PJ says:

    @celticdragonchick: Because society as a whole is affected when a crime is committed (also, because apparently MIT did want him prosecuted.) Lack of prosecution can encourage the perpetrator, and others, to commit the same acts again.

  68. 68
    Phoebe says:

    One aspect to the MIT investigation that neither Tom nor mistermix mentioned, but that may be valuable as time goes on: investigations keep issues in the news. And one thing Aaron was incontrovertibly right about is that as a society, we should be having a discussion about how the fruits of scholarly research are walled off, or not walled off, from those who financed the work (whether through taxes or through uncompensated labor like peer review) and those who might be able to use it to build on if there were fewer barriers to access. In the U.S., at least, copyright and patent protections for IP exist (in theory) for a purpose other than giving owners a profit stream: the constitutional grant of authority to Congress tells us that the point of any protection at all is to promote the advancement of the arts and sciences. That’s why the term of patent or copyright is to be limited: this stuff is supposed to become available to the public, not be walled off in ways that make it inaccessible to anyone who can’t produce a special credential like membership in a university that can afford Elsevier’s fees.

    I would hope that this is a shocking enough set of events, with important enough implications, that people’s minds would remain focused on it regardless of other passing distractions. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to think that in a few months there will be a report from MIT to bring it to the fore again. The set of issues is too important for this to be allowed to fade into the background, or to go down as an argument on the level of whether it’s bad for people to pirate first-run movies on the Internet, as some commenters here and elsewhere apparently would like.

  69. 69
    Cassidy says:

    @celticdragonchick: I’m not sure I understand your argument? You can debate the ethics of armed insurrection, but to say they weren’t breaking the law (if I’m understanding you) doesn’t make sense. They broke the law. They won and got to form their own laws, thankfully. If they had lost, they’d have been prosecuted for breaking the laws no matter how justified. How is this not accurate?

  70. 70
    brantl says:

    @burnspbesq: Oh, they couldn’t have made their intention clear to drop the complaint, is that what you’re babbling?

  71. 71
    Chris says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    Well bloody said!

    Thanks for providing me with a new Gchat status…

  72. 72
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @PJ: I don’t know if that copyright regime is “outrageous.” Why would anyone publish a journal in the first place if they didn’t have some kind of exclusivity over the contents? It’s not like scholarly journals and academic publishers are rolling in dough.

  73. 73
    Gex says:

    Hey all,

    Just checking in. I got a glimpse of the comments asking about me yesterday, and am truly touched. Yesterday was crazy busy. Today will be too, but hopefully less so. I’m going to wait to update until an open thread. Just have a minute to pop in and leave this note.

    Thank you all so much.

  74. 74
    celticdragonchick says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I presume that was because they wanted to deter people from pulling similar stunts. If I were MIT I might think, fuck, if we allow our vendors’ stuff to be pirated, or potentially pirated,

    But was it actually piracy to download and post info that the generating source (the authors) aren’t being paid for in the first place? None of this is profitable material except, possibly, to JSTOR who did not want a case anyway.

  75. 75
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @The Red Pen: What a wonderful anecdote. Thanks for a bright spot in what could be a contentious thread. (I said “could be”.)

  76. 76
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    According to the Google, being convicted of Assault with a Deadly Weapon will get you anywhere between three months and five years. If one of the purposes of the justice system is to deter future such crimes then it appears that we’re more concerned about illegal downloading than we are about ADW.

  77. 77
    Cacti says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    can see you chortling and munching cheetos while watching old archive footage of attack dogs mauling civil rights marchers at the bridge to Selma. Not escaping the real world consequences and all that, of course.

    One of Martin Luther King’s most famous writings was his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. He went about his work expecting to be arrested, hosed, threatened, and mistreated. His cause? Equality under law and human dignity for an entire race of American citizens.

    Rather different than the travails of an upper middle class kid, who had a bee in his bonnet about access to academic materials, and who ran like a scalded dog at the first sign of trouble.

    That’s why one received a Nobel Peace Prize, and the other is a little tin messiah of bloggers and techie dorks.

  78. 78
    Emma says:

    @PJ: Actually, no.

    http://www.emeraldinsight.com/.....w=abstract

    JSTOR provides most of its programmatic services through grant relationships with universities. This brief report traces the history of JSTOR’s relationship with the University of Michigan in an attempt to illustrate the benefits of working in this collaborative way. As an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping the scholarly community take advantage of advances in information technologies, JSTOR is uniquely positioned to investigate many of the challenging problems facing libraries and publishers as they contemplate making transitions from traditional to electronic methods of accessing and archiving information. Originally a grant project of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with ten test journals and six test libraries, JSTOR now has nearly 250 paying library participants and 70 journals committed to contributing content. JSTOR’s immediate focus is on providing a trusted electronic archive of the full back runs of a minimum of 100 core journals in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences by the year 2000. One of the two universities that currently receive grants from JSTOR, the University of Michigan collaboration with JSTOR has grown substantially to include preparation of materials for scanning, user help desk services, and software development.

    JSTOR original mission was to digitize the oldest parts of the largest journal runs. Their deal with the journal publishers was that they would not compete with the current issues which the journals considered more important, i.e. that more people would be interested to pay for. So most JSTOR journals have a several year embargo, meaning that, for example, their coverage of a currently published journal would end in 2007 or 2008.

    Look, I am not claiming what Schwartz did was a great idea. And MIT certainly had the right to stop him. But the kind of over-the-top prosecution he was subjected to was ridiculous.

  79. 79
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cassidy:

    You can debate the ethics of armed insurrection, but to say they weren’t breaking the law (if I’m understanding you) doesn’t make sense. They broke the law.

    You start getting into Hobbesian notions of the manner of contract between the Crown and the people, and Jefferson gets into in the Declaration in that the Crown violated the social compact between himself and the people and therefore dissolved the legal ties that bound them to him.

    This gets out of my field, to be sure. I have little experience in political philosophy.

  80. 80
    Alison says:

    @Gex: So glad to hear from you, Gex! We were indeed getting worried.

  81. 81
    Cassidy says:

    @celticdragonchick: No biggie. I just wasn’t sure if I was understanding you correctly is all and was trying to clarify.

  82. 82
    different-church-lady says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    I would put you in contention for Aggressively Stupid Comment That Advances The Cause Of Malevolent Ignorance…but I am sure that somebody else will manage to beat you.

    Ignorance also wants to be free.

  83. 83
    Cassidy says:

    @Gex: @Alison: Yup.

  84. 84
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    I am reminded of Rees-Mogg’s paraphrase of Alexander Pope, “Who breaks a butterfly on the wheel?” in reference to the drug persecutions of Jagger and Richards back in the 60s. As I noted on an earlier thread, I hate the use of massive overcharging by prosecutors to increase leverage during negotiations. I think it is unjust and immoral, and, in this instance, was likely a factor in Swartz’s decision. Minor crimes, which this was at worst, deserve minor punishments.

  85. 85
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cacti:

    Rather different than the travails of an upper middle class kid, who had a bee in his bonnet about access to academic materials, and who ran like a scalded dog at the first sign of trouble.

    Those fucking middle class kids who actually had the nerve to create successful and useful internet technologies starting at age 14! The fucking nerve! Who the fuck did he think he was? Didn’t he know that you can only be a goddamned hero if you come from out of nowhere and write a letter sitting in a jail cell after breaking unjust laws?

    So, he needed to go the Nelson Mandela route according to you and prove that he he wasn’t just another middle class slacker by doing 35 years hard time in Club Fed all because he inconvenienced MIT. Then you might have some respect for the little dork.

    Got it.

  86. 86
    Comrade Jake says:

    @red dog:

    Investment bankers probably stole millions from MIT and don’t get any reaction. This guy does a little poaching from the “academics” and gets the book. The strangeness of the bow tie and beard set and their bruised egos is unreal.

    The problem with the investment bankers is that, while obviously quite vile, much of what they did was completely legal.

    As for the second part of your comment, I’m really not sure what to make of it. If you think bruised faculty egos are what drove Aaron’s prosecution, you’re very mistaken.

  87. 87
    Cluttered Mind says:

    @Cacti: Considering the guy was an overachieving programming genius who changed the face of the internet before he graduated high school I’m not really sure why you think it’s okay to mock him with the words “special snowflake”. He absolutely was someone who died far too young with far too much left to accomplish. It’s too soon to pass judgment until we see what, if anything, comes of this.

  88. 88
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Phoebe: but the implication of what you describe is that there’s no good reason for anyone to undertake what JSTOR did. They should have just done it for free, or else it’s tantamount to a theft from the public. That’s a problem. The idea that information should never be walled off clashes with the idea that there might be any incentive to be a (compensated) gate-keeper. The reason why there’s a difference between a peer-reviewed journal and a self-published blog or newsletter ultimately comes down to what it’s worth to maintain the credibility and distribution system–in other words, who pays. If no one ever pays, those gatekeepers go away, and while that seems awesome if the gatekeeper is a movie studio or a record company, I’m not sure it is if the gatekeeper is a panel of historians or medical experts. YMMV.

  89. 89
    PJ says:

    @FlipYrWhig: In most non-academic publishing, where the author is not an employee of the publication, the author retains copyright in the work and licenses it to the publisher for some limited time. There is no reason this practice could not work with academic publishing. As it is now, many (most? all?) academic authors receive no advance or royalties for their work, ever, and if they want to use or re-purpose the published material which they wrote, they must obtain permission from the publisher.

  90. 90
    Cacti says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    Those fucking middle class kids who actually had the nerve to create successful and useful internet technologies starting at age 14! The fucking nerve! Who the fuck did he think he was? Didn’t he know that you can only be a goddamned hero if you come from out of nowhere and write a letter sitting in a jail cell after breaking unjust laws?

    I know, right.

    The fight for equal justice under law, and against the onerous 10-cents-per page charge of the PACER system are practically the same.

    Maybe someday, his brother in techie-dorkery, Julian Assange can write a “Letter from my comfy digs in the Ecuadorian Embassy while on the lam.

  91. 91
    Emma says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I am reminded of Rees-Mogg’s paraphrase of Alexander Pope, “Who breaks a butterfly on the wheel?

    Obviously a sizable number of people who hate the idea of someone trying to make a difference, however silly and misguided the attempt.

  92. 92
    PJ says:

    @FlipYrWhig: If no one pays the movie studios, the movies will go away (or at least those that cost more than what’s in your bank account.) But, you know, there will still be cat videos on YouTube, so it’s all good.

  93. 93
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cacti:

    The fight for equal justice under law, and against the onerous 10-cents-per page charge of the PACER system are practically the same.

    You are not helping your case.

    You know that, right?

  94. 94
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma:

    The information is actually out there freely. JSTOR is an aggregator and is properly reimbursed by its users for creating a convenient way of getting at the information.

    OK, a stupid sounding analogy admittedly, but: the government gives out free cheese to all citizens. I get some and put it in my kitchen. My neighbor enters my house one day and takes the cheese. Did my neighbor commit theft?

  95. 95
    Emma says:

    @FlipYrWhig: As I mentioned above thread, they did it with money provided by the Mellon Foundation and working with academic libraries like the University of Michigan. It’s a non-profit. I’ll bet you even money that once they figured out what was going on, they backed away from prosecution right smartish.

  96. 96
    Cacti says:

    @Cluttered Mind:

    Considering the guy was an overachieving programming genius who changed the face of the internet before he graduated high school I’m not really sure why you think it’s okay to mock him with the words “special snowflake”.

    He was a programming genius, ergo he should be immune from prosecution for a few million counts of theft.

    So, which part of that doesn’t make him a special snowflake?

  97. 97
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @celticdragonchick: I wonder if the thinking was of the slippery-slope sort, about the wider issue of the misuse of university computer networks, as it was in those Metallica/Napster cases.

  98. 98
    mikej(droid) says:

    I’m all for civil disobedience but part of the deal is going to jail.

  99. 99
    Cacti says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I get some and put it in my kitchen. My neighbor enters my house one day and takes the cheese. Did my neighbor commit theft?

    Yes.

  100. 100
    Emma says:

    @different-church-lady: Bad analogy. Information is not cheese. It is not a consumable intended for private use of one individual. However, say the government gave you the right to store cheese in your house for distribution to others, and you leave your door routinely open, and the neighbor came in and helped himself, you could certainly prosecute him for trespass. But not for murder.

  101. 101
    Cacti says:

    @mikej(droid):

    I’m all for civil disobedience but part of the deal is going to jail.

    Jail is for little people, not for important computer geniuses.

  102. 102
    Cluttered Mind says:

    @Cacti: Nowhere, anywhere, did he ask for or argue that he deserved immunity. Immunity means something rather specific when you’re talking about prosecution and a court case, and you have no reason not to know that as there have been multiple threads on this topic by now. At this point I’m pretty sure you’re trolling, so I’m done with the argument.

  103. 103
    eemom says:

    Mistermix: Exactly what do you think MIT SHOULD be doing at this point? Firing people WITHOUT first investigating what actually happened?

    Perhaps you are familiar with a document called the Freeh Report? That was seven or eight months in the works and it sure as shit didn’t result in crimes being swept under the rug.

  104. 104
    Chyron HR says:

    This topic has become a lightening rod for a stunningly unproductive comment war

    So we obviously need more front-page posts on this topic.

  105. 105
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cacti:

    Maybe someday, his brother in techie-dorkery, Julian Assange can write a “Letter from my comfy digs in the Ecuadorian Embassy while on the lam.

    The more I read your posts, the more I am reminded of the sadistic juror from “12 Angry Men”

    You don’t give a shit who this kid was or what he did. You just need to hate.

  106. 106
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @PJ: That’s certainly the way it’s been for me–one book from a university press, for which I received in compensation 3 copies of said book, and a handful of articles in scholarly journals, for which I received nothing but satisfaction. But flip it around: why would anyone keep a journal or a scholarly press going at all in a truly free-information world? At a certain point, someone has to get paid, minimally, for something, even if it’s just a skeleton staff sending out emails and doing simple proofreading.

  107. 107
    PJ says:

    @Emma: I don’t see how what you wrote contradicts what I wrote. From my own experience, I know that JSTOR will charge me for any article I want to look at.

    For what it’s worth, if I were the prosecutor, I would have cut a deal for probation and community service. What I object to is the notion that Swartz was some kind of freedom fighter who should be glorified as a martyr.

  108. 108
    Emma says:

    I just realized. The funny thing is that he could have just gone to the libraries where most of the paper copies of these things are store, photographed them or used a portable scanner, and then uploaded them and we wouldn’t be in this ridiculous conversation. Because the stuff is actually out there, though many libraries have discarded their print copies in order to rely on aggregators like JSTOR.

    And more to the point. The next time one of you law-and-order mavens bitch about some overreach of the Department of Justice, I am going to take great pleasure in throwing this conversation in your faces.

    What? You didn’t think I could be a scorpion too?

  109. 109
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    For a supposedly liberal site there’s an awful lot of commenters who sound like the O’Reillys and Hannitys and Limpballseseses of the world, demonizing anyone who dares break their moral codes with mocking, childish disdain.

  110. 110
    Cluttered Mind says:

    @celticdragonchick: Apparently if you are not personally suffering a great deal at the hands of an unjust system, you have no reason to complain or attempt to make any sort of change. Maybe someone should go back in time and tell that to Gandhi (born into an elite family and was an upper middle class lawyer before he got involved leading the struggle for Indian rights)

  111. 111
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Emma: nonprofits still have costs, of course. If libraries stopped buying JSTOR, it would eventually be a defunct nonprofit.

  112. 112
    Comrade Jake says:

    @Emma:

    The information is actually out there freely. JSTOR is an aggregator and is properly reimbursed by its users for creating a convenient way of getting at the information.

    Hmm. Doesn’t JSTOR also index some publications that aren’t open access?

  113. 113
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Emma:

    I just realized. The funny thing is that he could have just gone to the libraries where most of the paper copies of these things are store, photographed them or used a portable scanner, and then uploaded them and we wouldn’t be in this ridiculous conversation.

    Yes, he could.

    That also makes the prosecution even more ridiculous.

  114. 114
    Cacti says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    The more I read your posts, the more I am reminded of the sadistic juror from “12 Angry Men”

    You’re just one bad analogy after another.

    The accused in that film didn’t commit the offense he was charged with.

  115. 115
    notgonnahappen says:

    You people are hilarious. Most of you didn’t even know who this guy was until he killed himself last week. Now suddenly it’s all about how he was being persecuted or whatever. Give me a fucking break.

  116. 116
    MBunge says:

    “Swartz and his lawyers were not looking for a free pass. They had offered to accept a deferred prosecution or probation”

    Deferred prosecution or probation IS a free pass or damn close enough to make no difference.

    Mike

  117. 117
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cacti:

    The accused in that film didn’t commit the offense he was charged with.

    And I argue that the accused here didn’t steal anything.

    Why do you persist in the denigrating jibes at him? What did he do to you?

    You make it sound like your animus is personal. Care to explain?

  118. 118
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Emma: Well, sure, if he had decades upon decades of time and nothing else to do. You can record pop songs off the radio one by one, but you’re probably going to get in trouble if you go to the station with a laptop and upload their library.

  119. 119
    Cacti says:

    @Cluttered Mind:

    Maybe someone should go back in time and tell that to Gandhi (born into an elite family and was an upper middle class lawyer before he got involved leading the struggle for Indian rights)

    Imperialist oppression by a foreign occupier vs. 10-cents-per-page to access court documents.

    Real problems vs. white upper middle class American problems.

  120. 120
    Emma says:

    @PJ: If JSTOR is charging you, their model has changed considerably. My first major job as an academic library departmental manager was to implement JSTOR. We bought all their backruns of social science journals and signed up for everything else they produced. The library paid for it all and all we did was to pass on the printing costs to the student if they went over a certain number of pages. The same as if you had gone to the printer with the hard copy.

  121. 121
    CorbinDallasMultipass says:

    @Todd:

    I tend to find that free software is rarely worth what I paid for it.

    Right, I mean what good free software exists?

  122. 122
    different-church-lady says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    They should have just done it for free, or else it’s tantamount to a theft from the public.

    OK, think about this a bit more deeply:
    1) The information is supposedly already freely available.
    2) JSTOR does not own the content, they merely aggregate it.
    3) Therefore JSTOR adds nothing of value to the exchange.

    So… if the information is already freely available… why is it necessary to “liberate” it from JSTOR in the first place?

  123. 123
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cacti:

    Imperialist oppression by a foreign occupier vs. 10-cents-per-page to access court documents.

    Keep up with the conversation.

    He didn’t upload court documents.

  124. 124
    Cacti says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    And I argue that the accused here didn’t steal anything.

    Not even his own lawyers took that position, hence their attempts to negotiate a defered prosecution and a plea agreement on his behalf.

  125. 125
    pete says:

    @Cacti: Suicide is indicative of a real problem.

  126. 126
    different-church-lady says:

    @Cacti: Someone on the internet coined a word for this once…

  127. 127
    Emma says:

    @FlipYrWhig: And? Part of their deal was to give you tapes of everything you had bought up to that date, if it ever came. Athough PJ says they are now charging for items, which they certainly did not in the late 90s, when I was really involved with setting it up, so maybe their business model has changed considerably.

    JSTOR was a response to an academic need, and it used academic resources, not a little scrappy start-up fighting it all out in the big bad world.

    As I’ve said before, I am not opposed to the idea that Schwartz needed to be stopped. But throwing major jail time at him is ridiculous.

  128. 128
    Phoebe says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    No: the issue is that there needs to be a reasonable balance between incentives to create high-quality work and make it available and its ultimate availability to society at large. That’s one reason I cited the constitutional grant of authority to Congress: it is intended, obviously, to set a balance. The public doesn’t get instant ownership over a creator’s work; the creator (or, more likely these days, her grantees) doesn’t get to bottle up the work forever.

    Over the last few decades that balance has tipped alarmingly against what scholars are now referring to as the creative commons: more and more is being walled off and privatized, and for longer and longer periods. This is bad for everybody except rentiers: material can’t be accessed or reused, the growth of knowledge is stifled, and hierarchies of wealth and access harden in place. Every scholar I know, including the well-credentialed ones at strong universities, has encountered some difficulties in recent years arising out of this set of trends, and it’s the lucky ones who only encounter inconvenience. Those in the arts find that material that would have gone into public domain twenty years ago under previous rules — that would be available for re-examination, for adaptation into operas or new movies or new books — are locked away for the benefit of IP owners who have more than realized the expected value of that IP under the rules that governed when it was created. And so on.

    You can support compensation for the makers of IP and still consider the current regime, and the tendencies of our IP laws, to be harmful and misguided. It’s supposed to support the advance of the arts and sciences, remember? If we’ve gotten to a point where it’s actively impeding that advance by cutting off access to information to all but a privileged few, it’s past time for that balance to be reset.

  129. 129
    Barry says:

    @Todd: “I’ll make sure that I leave flyers in the local courts about how to pre-emptively declare one’s own sentence when caught committing a criminal act. ”

    I’ll help you out – you can save lots of time by not leaving those flyers in the courts which deal with high-level financial crimes because:

    1) They’re already bribing their way out, and
    2) We don’t have any such courts – we don’t prosecute those people.

  130. 130
    PJ says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I understand that academic journals are not money makers. But there’s no reason they can’t have exclusive publication rights (but not ancillary rights) to an article, or even a book, for a limited time, which is the case in most other publishing.

    I obviously don’t believe in a “free information” world. I believe that people should be compensated for their labor, ingenuity and creativity.

  131. 131
    MBunge says:

    @Emma: “The funny thing is that he could have just gone to the libraries where most of the paper copies of these things are store, photographed them or used a portable scanner, and then uploaded them and we wouldn’t be in this ridiculous conversation.”

    And why didn’t he do that? Probably because it would have taken a hell of a lot of work, far more than he could or would do.

    Mike

  132. 132
    Real American says:

    @Emma: JSTOR is not free and open to the public. Universities like MIT pay tens of thousands of dollars in order to license JSTOR content for their faculty and students. Looking at their pricing rubric, a medium-sized U.S. university would pay $85,000 for permanent access to JSTOR’s Arts & Sciences I content–and that’s just one of the types of content they offer.

    The academic journals themselves may not be worth anything, but JSTOR provides a service in collecting them, digitizing them and putting them online on a platform that makes them easily accessible and searchable. It’s not correct to say that JSTOR articles have no value.

  133. 133
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @different-church-lady: I’m getting confused, probably because in that bit I was trying to characterize an argument I don’t agree with.

    From my standpoint, JSTOR invested a goodly amount of time, energy, and money developing a very useful product (much more convenient than trying to search out articles one by one), which they charge for. I don’t know how much universities and libraries pay for it. I just know that students and professors absolutely rely on it. So I can see why they deserve the protection of the law in a general sense, and I think the “information should be free” inspired animus against them is a bunch of hooey. And at the same time the charges seem disproportionate, because the degree to which anyone has been materially harmed appears to be minimal.

  134. 134
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @PJ: Learn the phrase “false dilemma” before you post again.

  135. 135
    Emma says:

    @MBunge: Because he was trying to make a point, scorpion.

    One of the things the electronic world has done is to make “for profit” things that used to be “for free”. Twenty, even ten years ago you could walk into a library and there would be row upon row and shelf upon shelf of these things called paper journals, and you could read them and make copies at your leisure. If your library didn’t happen to have a copy of the journal you wanted, you went to the ILL desk and ordered the articles you needed.

    But space got very dear and Universities hated paying for so many journals, so very clever people became aggregators and packaged that free information and made you pay for it.

    It wasn’t a well-thought out thing, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have done it, having no faith in the sense of institutions or attorneys, but it did have a point.

  136. 136
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    As I have said often enough to become sick of having to repeat it, “unconscionable” and “illegal” are not synonyms. In addition, the Constitution does not allow retroactive application of new criminal statutes. If you take care to ensure that your behavior is within the boundaries of existing law at the time you act, you are good to go, regardless of whether Congress later decides that what you did ought to be a crime.

    @burnspbesq: This will never be a good enough answer for folks who just want blood. You’re dealing with a lynch mob here, counselor, not people who in any way understand the legal system, much less what “legal” even means.

  137. 137
    Cacti says:

    @MBunge:

    And why didn’t he do that? Probably because it would have taken a hell of a lot of work, far more than he could or would do.

    One might even venture that you could put a monetary value on the amount of man-hours that such a project would involve.

  138. 138
    different-church-lady says:

    I’d like to suggest that we not get bogged down in the “why not steal it some other way” diversion. Clearly the action of his “crime” was intended as an intellectual statement, not as a genuine attempt to steal intellectual content in and of itself.

    Oh, and by the way, as far as I know, the scenario Emma describes is just as much copyright violation as anything you can do purely digitally. (The fact that we seem to have a separate set of laws that covers violations in the purely digital ream doesn’t make much sense to me. But then again, there’s very little about current copyright law that does make sense.)

  139. 139
    some guy says:

    @Pinkamena Panic:

    besides most of the front pagers, what makes you think this is a liberal site?

  140. 140
    different-church-lady says:

    @Cacti:

    One might even venture that you could put a monetary value on the amount of man-hours that such a project would involve.

    We see what you did there.

  141. 141
    Emma says:

    @Real American: So the value of the product to the aggregator is more important than the value of the information to the user?

  142. 142
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cacti:

    One might even venture that you could put a monetary value on the amount of man-hours that such a project would involve.

    So go try to sue in a civil court.

    Oh, that’s right…JSTOR didn’t want to.

    That just leaves you.

  143. 143
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Phoebe: all that may be true, but I still don’t see why anyone would want to sign up to run a journal or any kind of publishing entity in a world where information was as free as all that. And maybe I’m being mistakenly sentimental and/or elitist about that, but I can’t quite shake it.

  144. 144
    El Cid says:

    @Emma:

    I just realized. The funny thing is that he could have just gone to the libraries where most of the paper copies of these things are store, photographed them or used a portable scanner, and then uploaded them and we wouldn’t be in this ridiculous conversation. Because the stuff is actually out there, though many libraries have discarded their print copies in order to rely on aggregators like JSTOR.

    I doubt that this would free someone from investigations and possible charges of varying sorts, and anyone spending that much time doing so would be noticed as an individual in particular libraries.

    Even if I were a paid individual subscriber to some journal, I don’t think I would be allowed (by law or by lawsuit action, I don’t know) to scan it or type it in and make it freely available on the web.

  145. 145
    Emma says:

    @different-church-lady: No, it isn’t. You can copy articles out of any journal for personal use. You CANNOT routinely copy complete issues of journals, and you certainly cannot copy them in multiples and give them to your friends. You can’t even do it to place them on reserve for classes, as a matter of fact.

  146. 146
    Cluttered Mind says:

    @celticdragonchick: We’re attempting to talk about Aaron Swartz, who attempted to get a plea deal for probation and deferred prosecution that the entity he stole from was willing to accept. In fact, the entity he stole from (JSTOR) didn’t even want to prosecute him. We appear to be debating someone who wants to talk about a bizarro-Aaron Swartz who exists only in his mind who believed himself above the law and demanded immunity for the crime of bypassing some kind of 10 cent per page court document cost (what does that have to do with JSTOR and downloading academic journals? Hell if I know!), and killed himself in a huff when his demands were not catered to. Maybe it’s me, but I think we’re not going to get very far given these circumstances.

  147. 147
    different-church-lady says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Your use of the ironic voice (in the literal sense of the term) slipped past me.

    So, allow me to rephrase, without the direct “rebuttal” component. The general assertions of some seem to be:

    1) The info is freely available
    2) JSTOR added nothing of value
    3) JSTOR did not own the information
    3) Therefore there was no violation against JSTOR.

    It occurs to me all these assertions could not possibly be true, because if they were, nobody would ever pay JSTOR.

  148. 148
    Barry says:

    @burnspbesq: “You forgot (or deliberately ignored) one important thing.

    A legitimate goal of the criminal justice system is to deter future criminal activity.

    Within that context, it is completely legitimate to throw the book (or, as someone said yesterday, throw the whole fucking library) at someone like Aaron Swartz, in order to illustrate to potential copy-cats that it just ain’t worth it. ”

    Can you send me a link to the video where they hanged the Wall St frauds? Because in terms of deterrence, a mass hanging of those guys would not be excessive.

  149. 149
    Marc says:

    @mistermix: By the same token, it’s pretty odd to denounce other people for speculation (i.e., reading the exact same sources you did but reaching interpretations you don’t share) and then follow it up with a few of your own.

  150. 150
    PJ says:

    @Pinkamena Panic: If the “information” is free, how do the authors get paid? Or, more to the point, why should Google or Kim Dotcom get paid, instead of the authors?

  151. 151
    Cacti says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    So go try to sue in a civil court. Oh, that’s right…JSTOR didn’t want to.

    I noticed you seemed to have trouble grasping this further up-thread. Criminal laws are the laws of society, and can never be prosecuted by a private individual in our court system. Once a criminal complaint is made to the law enforcement authorities of the State, its resolution is no longer in the hands of the aggrieved party.

  152. 152
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma: When you used the term “upload them” I assumed you meant uploading them to the greater internet, not merely personal use.

  153. 153
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cluttered Mind:

    Pretty much.

  154. 154
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Emma: well, the alternative would have been ceasing to pay for a lot of those journals — and, considering your library background, you know well how infrequently those volumes get used, especially as younger people get unaccustomed to “books” and “the library” — which would benefit precisely no one. Digitize it and someone will find it. Keep it a dusty bunch of paper and it will only ever take up space.

  155. 155
    some guy says:

    @PJ:

    rare indeed is the academic journal where an author gets paid anything.

  156. 156
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @PJ: I see you didn’t listen. Sorry, can’t hear you anymore through all that pie.

  157. 157
    Emma says:

    @El Cid: Absolutely not. I was being a bit sarcastic, I didn’t make myself clear.

    Thew biggest argument around these days is copyright for digitization purposes. Copyright for paper materials is a pretty established question. But you also can get away with more because most libraries don’t have the staff to watch someone constantly, especially now when you don’t need to actually make prints.

    My problem with the “jail for years” option is that the stuff he copied is academically produced research, financed mostly by the US government through its support of Universities, and it has been taken over by the profit motive. So we pay for it but unless we have the money to pay for it again, we can’t use it. So I understand his impulse to grandstand about it, even if I think it was ill-thought.

  158. 158
    Cacti says:

    @different-church-lady:

    It occurs to me all these assertions could not possibly be true, because if they were, nobody would ever pay JSTOR.

    Stuff I don’t want to pay for Information wants to be free!

  159. 159
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    You make it sound like your animus is personal. Care to explain?

    @celticdragonchick: Fuck, figure it out. Cacti hates this now very dead kid, because:

    1. He came from a rich family
    2. He had skills and got paid handsomely for them, something Cacti will never know
    3. Could and did expect to be able to commit a crime and get away with it without doing any jail time.

    Privilege. This kid had it and Cacti doesn’t. Cacti is resentful about this state of affairs, and when the kid snuffs himself, Cacti does a victory dance, failing to realize that rich people with privilege are still people.

    When the rich see the poor as slaves to do their bidding, and the poor see the rich as inhuman predators who would happily have them ground up for gasoline to fuel their giant comfy cars, you have a social problem. One that historically gets resolved via bloodshed. And that’s probably what’s going to happen here, sooner or later, because both parties are starting to arrive at the idea that bloodshed is a pretty nifty idea.

  160. 160
    Emma says:

    @PJ: Authors of academic articles don’t get paid. I have published several and have gotten back pre-prints and thanks.

  161. 161
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Cacti:

    Criminal laws are the laws of society, and can never be prosecuted by a private individual in our court system.

    I was talking about a civil suit. JSTOR did not pursue a civil suit for damages and did not want the prosecution pursued.

    Once a criminal complaint is made to the law enforcement authorities of the State, its resolution is no longer in the hands of the aggrieved party.

    How the fuck do you justify the expense and trouble of pursuing a prosecution when the injured party does not want you to continue or will no longer cooperate??

    You do realize that most prosecutors drop cases when this happens? Remember the Kobe Bryant rape case?

  162. 162
    Emma says:

    @different-church-lady: Yes. Look, I am getting a little frustrated here, because I’m riding one of those hobby horses of mine, and that is the disappearance of academic research from the public domain. If you have ever worked in an working-class neighborhood public library, with the limited amount of money that public libraries can leverage out of the public, the aggregation of information into “for pay” packages would be one of your great worries. I had to do that for two years and having to turn away bright high schoolers made me crazy.

  163. 163
    PJ says:

    @Emma: This is my point.

  164. 164
    pete says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease: “both parties are starting to arrive at the idea that bloodshed is a pretty nifty idea”

    I regret to say that you seem to be right. How do we de-escalate?

  165. 165
    Emma says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Digitize it for pay and put it out of reach of a lot of people. And, as a society, we have already paid for it.

    Look, I know I’m not going to convince anyone. We’re all (or most) situated economically or academically in such a way that we can always get the information we want, so we can’t see what damage it is doing to society as a whole.
    Oh, well.

  166. 166
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Emma: “Profit motive” or payment motive? Because there are ways to contract arrangements so that people and organizations be paid for useful things without building in a surplus for getting rich. Even nonprofits don’t do things for free for everyone.

  167. 167
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    One that historically gets resolved via bloodshed. And that’s probably what’s going to happen here, sooner or later, because both parties are starting to arrive at the idea that bloodshed is a pretty nifty idea.

    I actually caught myself thinking (and saying aloud) that the Sans-Culottes were onto something when they started running the tumbrels to the guillotines in France after I watched the Daily Show last week on banks to big to prosecute for money laundering.

    Your premise is still terrifying.

  168. 168
    Barry says:

    @mistermix: burnscum doesn’t deal with facts.

  169. 169
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Cacti: Proportion. It’s what you seem unable to comprehend.

  170. 170
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Emma: Isn’t that a false distinction? Digitize it for pay, or keep it a hard copy on a shelf… for pay. Subscriptions cost money too.

  171. 171
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma: Well, we’re getting into important, but tangential territory here — to which I can only speak in the most generalized and underinformed sense. But the huge ball of wax we’re headed towards is the general all-effed-upedness of how we value and pay for intellectual content. There’s an awful, tacit — maybe even subconscious — belief that the actual content creators ought to do all of this for love and passion, and thanks for giving all this research and art an creativity to the world and, wait a minute, hold it, you expect money for this?

    I remember vividly an exchange I had here on BJ about how on-line music stores were ripping people off and a song should cost a quarter at most. And I’m thinking, “Dude, you probably pay $80 a month just for the bandwidth on your phone to download that song, and you think a buck for the actual song itself is an outrage?”

  172. 172
    geg6 says:

    I know next to nothing about this guy and don’t really care to. But what I do know is that he posted information owned by JSTOR without permission and against federal law. That is criminal and he should have paid the price for it and not the price that he and his lawyers thought was most appropriate but the price a judge, jury, and the relevant law proscribed. Did DoJ overreach? Perhaps. But it would never have had the opportunity had this bright but obviously privileged and pampered young person decided he got to determine what information should be free and which should not. I really don’t have a lot of sympathy for this guy and don’t really understand why so many people here and elsewhere think he’s some sort of hero. He invented something to do with the internet or computer technology. So the fuck what? Doesn’t make him arbiter of who gets paid for information and who doesn’t, who pays and who doesn’t, and it certainly doesn’t give him the right to steal others’ hard work because he, Aaron Swartz, had decided that he was The Decider.

  173. 173
    Emma says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Either one. A lot of academic research these days is paid for by the US government in one way or another. So the taxpayer is already shelling out for the information obtained. Then we make them pay again, and, though I’m not going to be hurt in the pocket (I work in an academic institution and have access to so many databases that it is an embarrassment of riches) many people who are trying to study their way out of bad situations are. Public libraries are being shut down or their ability to get the information curtailed, outside of interlibrary loan, which is a crapshoot these days, because, hey, “everything is on the Internet”.

    If it’s bad to have a society divided firmly into “haves” and “have nots”, it’s worse to have a society divided firmly into “can’t get informaation” and “cannot get information.”

  174. 174
    Emma says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Most of the stuff in JSTOR is old stuff. UNLESS THEY HAVE COMPLETELY CHANGED IN THE LAST TEN YEARS, their primary business was to digitize the oldest materials published by a journal and not to step on the journal profit by maintaining an embargo on the most recent issues.

    Don’t misunderstand. They are a fantastic service, and worth every penny to an academic library, since most libraries cannot own everything. But we’re putting more and more information out of reach of people who can’t pay for it. It’s going to come to bite us in the ass.

  175. 175
    handsmile says:

    @Emma: , @Phoebe: , @FlipYrWhig:

    I’m rather burnt out from commenting on the Swartz matter on the previous threads related to it, but I’d just like to thank each of you for such a thoughtful, nuanced, and informative (to me at least) discussion of JSTOR, academic publishing and copyright issues in the electronic age. A good deal there to reflect upon. Always grateful for more light than heat, here and elsewhere.

  176. 176
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma: The problem is I have no idea how to reconcile these two assertions:

    #43:

    The information is actually out there freely.

    #163:

    Digitize it for pay and put it out of reach of a lot of people.

    Which is it? How the information be both freely available and out of reach at the same time?

  177. 177
    👽 Martin says:

    @Cacti:

    Violate laws you consider unjust, but do everything in your power to escape any real world consequences for said violation.

    However, Aaron didn’t violate any laws. He admittedly pushed them right to their edge, but he didn’t violate them.:

    He was an intelligent young man who found a loophole that would allow him to download a lot of documents quickly. This loophole was created intentionally by MIT and JSTOR, and was codified contractually in the piles of paperwork turned over during discovery.
    __
    If I had taken the stand as planned and had been asked by the prosecutor whether Aaron’s actions were “wrong”, I would probably have replied that what Aaron did would better be described as “inconsiderate”. In the same way it is inconsiderate to write a check at the supermarket while a dozen people queue up behind you or to check out every book at the library needed for a History 101 paper. It is inconsiderate to download lots of files on shared wifi or to spider Wikipedia too quickly, but none of these actions should lead to a young person being hounded for years and haunted by the possibility of a 35 year sentence.

    Aaron was stuck in a place that a great many others find themselves – in the no-mans-land where our frothy mix of Constitutional rights, copyright laws, and the nature of how disgital systems like the internet function. Legislators and legal scholars have been trying to sort this mess out, to limited success.

    Here’s the problem:

    The internet is one enormous exercise in the continual downloading of copyrighted material. When you came to read this page, you downloaded a bunch of files – you have to download them in order for your computer to read and display them – one of the files contained Tom’s words above, which we would have to assume are copyrighted. One contains John’s site banner, which we would have to assume is copyrighted. Others might contain photos, or videos or other things we would have to assume is copyrighted. If we are forced to either individually ask permission to view these things, or to go through some white-listing exercise where each copyrighted work has to be individually authorized for download through some centralized agency, then the web portion of the internet would quite literally stop being useful. Clearly, that’s not tolerable. But there’s no way to build legal frameworks that allow the functioning of the internet and simultaneously prevent you or I from downloading ‘The Avengers’ should we stumble across it. Just like with any other bit of content on the web, how are we to know if it was put there with permission or not? We have no way of knowing if those really are Tom’s words, or if Tom was the one who posted them. Distribution of digital content presents some very thorny problems for our legal system, things that nobody anticipated even a few decades ago.

    RIAA and the MPAA have been working feverishly at this because they (rightly) are worried that it will destroy the economy for movie and music distribution. Granted, they are profoundly incompetent at actually solving the problem, but they are at least suitably attuned to the scope of the problem. But along with RIAA and MPAA are a host of other agencies that oversee copyrighted material, including scientific journals.

    At the end of the day, the current state of things is that its not illegal to download. The illegality comes with hosting. If you put ‘The Avengers’ up on your website, you’re breaking the law by going beyond fair use of that copyrighted material. If you download ‘The Avengers’ from someone else’s website, you aren’t breaking the law unless you turn around and share it again (and services like BitTorrent operate because everyone is doing both simultaneously – so you can’t readily download something without in turn sharing it). Now, that doesn’t mean someone won’t come and knock on your door for downloading or try and lock you up, but you should be able to win the case with sufficient application of legal fees. RIAA and MPAA are determined to create a scenario where the cost of winning is sufficiently high that everyone decides to simply not play the game. Our legislators are unfortunately sympathetic to this tactic.

    This was one of Aaron’s loopholes – he downloaded. Rather than just the occasional article that JSTOR and MIT expected, he downloaded a LOT. But he used tools that JSTOR and MIT created to do exactly that. Nothing wrong with that. That is not hacking. That is not illegal. That is not even a violation of JSTORs terms and conditions nor was it a violation of MIT policy. Now, we can all argue that he ‘should have known better’. Fair enough, but the law isn’t based around everyone having an inherent understanding of when downloading something is intended and when its not.

    But the copyright community is trying to build a case for criminality for something that the law realistically can not support. We have legislators and prosecutors that are sympathetic toward the goal of the copyright community and are happy to assist them. It’s obvious that they saw Aaron as a kind of poster case for digital copying, but it’s not at all clear that he broke any laws. The crux of the case against him was the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (written a decade before the web was invented), that makes it a crime to “intentionally access a computer without authorization or exceed authorized access”.

    Now, Aaron had authorization – explicitly granted by MIT and JSTOR. He used tools provided by MIT and JSTOR for downloading large numbers of journals (there are other researchers that are using the JSTOR repository for doing language research, and we use JSTOR to measure faculty research impact by examining how certain journal articles are referenced in future research, so mass downloading of articles has legitimate educational use which MIT and JSTOR was trying to support), so he didn’t exceed authorized access either. It wasn’t what JSTOR intended, but it was what JSTOR authorized him to be able to do. And Aaron has a point in that taxpayer funded research shouldn’t sit behind a paywall only for certain privileged academicians to have broad access to. It’s perhaps not a broad social issue, but its a broad issue within academia and has wide-ranging social implications for this country – such as, should only elite researchers at well-endowed institutions get full access to the academic literature, while researchers at lower-regarded and funded institutions – those least able to pay, be required to pay. That’s a fundamental violation of our public education and academic contract in this country, and one that is the very antithesis of what peer-reviewed scientific publication is about. The consequence is a ‘separate and unequal’ outcome to education in this country. Democrats should be all over this, and siding with Swartz, but it’s seen as too narrow an issue.

    From what I see, Swartz was willing to accept more consequences for his actions than he should have had to. But the public really ought to pay a lot more attention to this broader issue, as its only going to get worse and more complicated, and the corporations are demanding and getting some rights here that they absolutely do not merit. And it won’t just be limited to torrenting movies and music, but the whole Instagram terms kerfluffle is part of this, the changes to Facebook terms are related to this, CBS getting The Hopper’s CES best of show award taken away is related to this, Amazon’s right to delete books on your Kindle is related to this, your ISPs ability to block or throttle access to Netflix is related to this. Everything we consume will become digital and digital rights is going to be huge, and it’s getting horribly fucked up. Look at how the 3D printing community is looking to do an end-run around gun legislation by providing 3D models of banned items. That too is part of this.

  178. 178
    Darkrose says:

    @mistermix:

    Consider the case of Katehi. She at least had to address the students and have a couple very uncomfortable reckonings under full public and press scrutiny–when the issue was hot and everyone was paying attention–before she named her commission and hid for a few months.

    That’s mostly incompetence looking smart in hindsight. Katehi got completely blindsided; it never occurred to her that it might make national news, and since it happened on a Friday, she was left scrambling. In this case, I suspect MIT realized immediately that there was going to be an issue and acted accordingly.

  179. 179
    Cacti says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):

    Proportion. It’s what you seem unable to comprehend.

    From paragraph 32 of the Indictment:

    In all, Swartz stole approximately 4.8 million articles, a major portion of the total archive in which JSTOR had invested. Of these, approximately 1.7 million were made available by independent publishers for purchase through JSTOR’s Publisher Sales Service.

    Even assuming the most favorable argument made by Swartz’s defenders holds, 3.1 million articles were free, ergo, no theft.

    He took 1.7 million saleable items.

    What is a proportional potential sentence for 1.7 million counts of theft?

  180. 180
    different-church-lady says:

    @👽 Martin:

    However, Aaron didn’t violate any laws. He admittedly pushed them right to their edge, but he didn’t violate them.:

    Isn’t this why we have courts and judges and juries and cases and things? To decide if his theory about this was correct or not?

  181. 181
    jibeaux says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Oh, I don’t know about that. University librarians have told me what those journal subscriptions cost per year, it can be more than a Mercedes SUV, and it goes up at about the rate of health insurance. Multiply by that a few thousand universities, subtract out your minimal overhead, you have a very tidy profit. I’m not in academia, but I understand there is some degree of frustration with this system.

  182. 182
    Barry says:

    @burnspbesq: “(1) As far as “aren’t” is concerned, I would remind you that (a) complex white-collar cases take time to put together and (b) under Federal law (specifically, Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure) grand jury proceedings are secret.”

    It’s been how many years now? I understand that some cases might take years to make, but there should have been a metric sh*tload by now.

    “(2) As I have said often enough to become sick of having to repeat it, “unconscionable” and “illegal” are not synonyms. In addition, the Constitution does not allow retroactive application of new criminal statutes. If you take care to ensure that your behavior is within the boundaries of existing law at the time you act, you are good to go, regardless of whether Congress later decides that what you did ought to be a crime.”

    And I’ll reply that we’ve seen hundreds of billions of dollars of fraud, and some of it is clearly illegal, just as the notarization frauds.

  183. 183
    Emma says:

    @different-church-lady: Oh yeah. That’s going to be a doozy of a fight. But we’re not talking about “creators” getting paid. ALL of the creators of those articles, the researchers, don’t get squat for publishing, except kudos from their colleagues and maybe tenure if they’re lucky. That is the academic trade off. Vast swatches of that research was funded by the US government — i.e., you and me. It used to be available for free either in a local library or through your interlibrary loan. But as libraries have started to rely more and more on academic aggregators it’s become harder and harder to find someone with paper journals that will take the time to provide copies.

    Oh, and don’t get me started on faculty who do most of their business by email and don’t bother to keep copies.

  184. 184
    sneezy says:

    @Emma:

    The funny thing is that he could have just gone to the libraries where most of the paper copies of these things are store, photographed them or used a portable scanner, and then uploaded them and we wouldn’t be in this ridiculous conversation.

    Sure, he could have. But that would have been a lot of work, probably more work than he could have done alone. So instead, he opted to gather the materials from an organization that had already done that work.

  185. 185
    Barry says:

    @FlipYrWhig: ” Like I said, proportionality is still an issue, but I don’t think the anarcho-libertarians’ meta-argument about “information” holds water. ”

    Proportionality is the entire f-ing thing here

    If he had gotten a year or two in prison, very, very few people would be outraged.

  186. 186
    lol says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Building space, shelves and staff to curate it all costs money as well. I don’t get the notion that it was “free” before.

  187. 187
    Barry says:

    @PJ: “Because society as a whole is affected when a crime is committed (also, because apparently MIT did want him prosecuted.) Lack of prosecution can encourage the perpetrator, and others, to commit the same acts again. ”

    Please link to where you urged a mass hanging on Wall St, because that would be proportionate.

  188. 188
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @different-church-lady:

    There’s an awful, tacit — maybe even subconscious — belief that the actual content creators ought to do all of this for love and passion, and thanks for giving all this research and art an creativity to the world and, wait a minute, hold it, you expect money for this?

    You raise a good point. A concrete example is browser based games. I play them. The trend now is to offer the base game for free and then charge a modest sum for enhanced content. When this is done the wailing in the relevant forums rivals a chorus of coyotes. The developers do get paid by the gaming site. The sums are modest so the devs have started this pay-for-more-goodies regime and there are many who feel that it’s downright unfair. The fact that the devs may want to eat regularly and even have families is beyond the wailers.

    It’s easy to second guess, but I think that this attitude was engendered in part by the early days internet companies tendency to give it away in order to build up a base of consumers for whatever their next big move was going to be. The “for free” came to be expected, the rest not so much.

  189. 189
    lol says:

    @Barry:

    If he had gotten a year or two in prison, very, very few people would be outraged.

    Are you kidding? People in this very thread think the 6-8 month plea bargain that the prosecution was offering was far too much for the precious snowflake.

  190. 190
    geg6 says:

    @👽 Martin:

    the corporations are demanding and getting some rights here that they absolutely do not merit.

    And you’ve just explained why I don’t participate in the everything digital all the time club.

    This is why I still buy books and dvds. And here I thought it was because I’m too old, set in my ways, and un-enthralled by digitizing everything (mainly because the quality of type, video, and music is much worse than anything on a page, the tv or on vinyl/cd. But you’ve now given me a perfectly rational reason that I can use to explain to students why you’ll never catch me watching a tv show, movie, or listening to music on my phone or computer.

    I’m stickin’ it to the man!

  191. 191
    Barry says:

    @Cacti: “One of Martin Luther King’s most famous writings was his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. He went about his work expecting to be arrested, hosed, threatened, and mistreated. His cause? Equality under law and human dignity for an entire race of American citizens.”

    How many decades was MLK in prison?

  192. 192
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma: Well, one way of looking at it is to say that they are getting paid for it, but indirectly. Rather than getting direct compensation for any given article, they are getting funding that allows their job to exist in the first place. Perhaps it all falls under “work for hire.”

    Perhaps services like JSTOR can be viewed the same way on-line ticket services are: you don’t have to pay them, but if you don’t, you have to go down to the box office and get the ticket yourself. Maddening, because such a system plays very deliberate psychological games with both the ticket buyer and the creator. But in the end if you’re unwilling to go down to the box office you don’t have much grounds for complaint.

  193. 193
    Emma says:

    @different-church-lady: I think I answered some of that in previous postings, but let me try to “aggregate” :-)

    What happens is that as non-profits like JSTOR and Project MUSE create these vast databases of articles, especially very old stuff, say, like some of the Harvard/Yale/not to mention European journals, libraries who are struggling with space and budget issues make the decision to rely on them and discard their paper copies. There are already groups of people trying to make sure that at least one library keeps a paper copy of journals (should be LC, of course, but then again, look at the Congress we have).

    So, if your local public library can’t afford JSTOR and the local academic libraries with whom it does business don’t have paper copies, getting the information becomes an issue, especially if you don’t have the budget to pay for it (and many academic libraries have started charging). So, the information may be there, but it might not be reachable by people without the financial/academic access.

  194. 194
    geg6 says:

    @different-church-lady:

    That is what I’d like to know. Why does Aaron Swartz get to decide and not a judge or jury?

  195. 195
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Emma:

    One of the things the electronic world has done is to make “for profit” things that used to fe “for free”.

    JSTOR is for profit? I don’t think so. They charge a subscription fee to cover costs.

  196. 196
    different-church-lady says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: Every word.

  197. 197
    jibeaux says:

    Sample of journal prices from 2008 that I found: http://openoasis.org/index.php.....Itemid=411

    I can’t say that I understand the economics of it.

  198. 198
    jibeaux says:

    @Gex: Also want to say, glad to hear from you. Best.

  199. 199
    Cacti says:

    @Barry:

    How many decades was MLK in prison?

    How many felony offenses was he charged with in his lifetime?

  200. 200
    Zach says:

    This is all I have. A link to a petition to get the WH to waive (DAMMIT!!! Waive was the word I couldn’t come up with yesterday when making this petition.) governmental immunity if a wrongful death case is brought against the DoJ. I don’t want them to admit guilt, just get an airing of the situation with a true advocate for Mr. Swartz driving the show.

  201. 201
    Emma says:

    @different-church-lady: OK, let me ask you. If you had bought the ticket, then got to the box office and they told you you would have to pay again, how would you feel about it?

    it’s hard to work with analogies, because information is an odd sort of… commodity isn’t even the right word. It’s tied up with all kinds of social and cultural aspirations/desired outcomes. The system is breaking down. In academia, the Open Source movement is picking up steam, and many Universities have started to create their own repositories of research produced by their faculty/staff ( many modelled, ironically, after MIT’s famous D-Space) to make it publicly accessible. But the whole research/publication/access situation is a dog’s breakfast, and it’s getting worse.

  202. 202
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma: OK, so in the three point model, only two can be true. JSTOR must be adding something of value. In this case, the problem doesn’t lie with JSTOR, but with the inability or unwillingness of the institutions to keep the paper copies. Lamentable, but not justification for violations against the service.

  203. 203
    Cacti says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Perhaps services like JSTOR can be viewed the same way on-line ticket services are: you don’t have to pay them, but if you don’t, you have to go down to the box office and get the ticket yourself. Maddening, because such a system plays very deliberate psychological games with both the ticket buyer and the creator. But in the end if you’re unwilling to go down to the box office you don’t have much grounds for complaint.

    That’s pretty much the alpha and omega of services like JSTOR. People are willing to a pay premium for convenience.

  204. 204
    PJ says:

    @Barry: I’m not seeing what your desire for mass murder has to do with this issue.

  205. 205
    Emma says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): I know that. I am talking about information in general. Keep up. Lots of entries.

  206. 206

    @Cacti:

    The fight for equal justice under law, and against the onerous 10-cents-per page charge of the PACER system are practically the same.

    Court documents are public property. IMO, the government should provide that service, at cost.

    Not a for-profit company.

    Maybe someday, his brother in techie-dorkery, Julian Assange can write a “Letter from my comfy digs in the Ecuadorian Embassy while on the lam.

    Those are two very different cases. Swartz didn’t endanger anybody by his actions.

    (And Assange is as much a ‘hacker’ as I am a pro football player, but this thread’s clouded enough as it is).

  207. 207
    Barry says:

    @celticdragonchick: “So, he needed to go the Nelson Mandela route according to you and prove that he he wasn’t just another middle class slacker by doing 35 years hard time in Club Fed all because he inconvenienced MIT. Then you might have some respect for the little dork.”

    I’ve yet to see a sign that any of these guys would cut him that slack. Perhaps they’ve posted eloquent posts on Mandela and MLK and all that.

  208. 208
    JoyfulA says:

    @WereBear: Locally, a man served his time for an armed robbery in another state and returned home to be the sole caretaker of his elderly father in a wheelchair. The father wanted to go hunting, so the felon drove him to the area for disabled hunters. In helping his father in and out of the car, etc., the felon carried the hunting rifle.

    So he was arrested. State laws for that situation are lenient, so the county prosecutor got the crime moved to federal court. The felon was convicted and sentenced to 10 years; the county prosecutor crowed (which I hope was one of the reasons he was defeated for state attorney last year).

    Even for someone who dismisses hunters’ rights and gun rights, like me, this is a nothing of a crime. Now, besides the unnecessary human misery created, we will have to pay to keep one man in prison for 10 years, and pay to keep another man in a nursing home for 10 years or until he dies, conservatively half a $million, so a DA can beat his chest and say how tough on crime he is.

    Are all prosecutors scum?

  209. 209
    lol says:

    @Barry:

    If Wall Street executives got caught on video committing the actual crime, you’d have seen more prosecutions.

    In the real world, financial crimes are notoriously difficult to prove and frequently, the “crime” was technically legal thanks to deregulation and loopholes.

    Who and how do you prosecute when you have a firm shorting highly-rated (by a 3rd party even) derivatives of packaged mortgages that they’re selling to their clients with or without the knowledge that the mortgages were fraudulently prepared by countless mortgage originators? It’s almost impossible to unpack, assign blame and prove a crime was committed at the higher levels. You don’t hear answers to these types of questions from critics because they don’t have any. They just want blood.

  210. 210
    Barry says:

    @Comrade Jake: “The problem with the investment bankers is that, while obviously quite vile, much of what they did was completely legal. ”

    We still don’t know how many hundreds of billions they stole, but the DoJ is fine with that.

  211. 211
    Culture of Truth says:

    @geg6: This is what I have been thinking as well. While my sense is the prosecution way, way, overreached, the issue does go to – ‘who gets to decide’? When it comes to rules of ownership of property, use, trespass, computer access, downloading, security, disclosure – who decides, people who are good at computer coding, or everyone?

  212. 212
    Emma says:

    @different-church-lady: Oh jeez. We are really talking at cross-purposes, aren’t we? Nowhere did I said it was justified. But notice JSTOR dropped their action and asked the government not to proceed.

    I never said he was justified. I said he was trying to make a point. Of course JSTOR provides a terrific service and that’s why libraries pay for it. But they are doing it with information that has been paid for already.

  213. 213
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma:

    OK, let me ask you. If you had bought the ticket, then got to the box office and they told you you would have to pay again, how would you feel about it?

    A better question — and one which probably lands much closer to the specific condition of academia we’re comparing it to — is, how would I feel if my ability to go to the box office didn’t exist, and I had to pay the convenience fee no matter what?

    Something that actually has happened a couple of times to me. And the answer is, “not good at all.”

    There’s an argument to be made that services like JSTOR encourage, or are complicit in, the destruction of other means of access.

    it’s hard to work with analogies, because information is an odd sort of… commodity isn’t even the right word. It’s tied up with all kinds of social and cultural aspirations/desired outcomes.

    Bingo. Which is probably why people get into such conflict about it — it’s so hard to pin down.

  214. 214
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Todd:

    White people problems.

    Fuck you, racist.

  215. 215
    Fred Fnord says:

    @Cacti: Wow, that’s classy. So I assume you would have been fine with, say, Rosa Parks being sentenced to 50 years in prison too? Or, to pick a more recent phenomenon, the Occupy people being sent to prison for the rest of their lives?

    Oh, sorry, I’m on Balloon Juice… that’s probably very nearly the position of quite a few people here. ‘Anyone further left than I am is a lunatic and should be locked away’.

  216. 216
    Barry says:

    @FlipYrWhig: “The reason why there’s a difference between a peer-reviewed journal and a self-published blog or newsletter ultimately comes down to what it’s worth to maintain the credibility and distribution system–in other words, who pays. ”

    Actually, we (the public) already paid.

  217. 217
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @geg6:

    I wouldn’t say I always do it, but I try to get my entertainment the old-fashioned way as much as I can, for all these reasons (old-fartness included, premature in my case.)

  218. 218
    Emma says:

    @different-church-lady: I know. If you ever want to get an eye/ear full, get a hold of some of the library literature on this.

  219. 219
    Barry says:

    @Cacti: How many decades in prison should he get?

  220. 220
    lol says:

    @Fred Fnord:

    Not even Swartz’s own lawyer thought he was facing 50 years. Drop the hyperbole and people will take you seriously.

  221. 221
    Culture of Truth says:

    DOJ prosecutes Wall Street all the time. Gets jail time too.

  222. 222
    different-church-lady says:

    @Emma: Actually, I think we just now stopped talking at cross purposes. I frequently make the mistake of making general assertions in replies to specific individuals, which end up sounding like personal rebuttals. Sorry.

  223. 223
    Cacti says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    Court documents are public property. IMO, the government should provide that service, at cost.

    PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) is managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

    Users are not billed if their quarterly activity is less than $10, based on a 10-cents-per-page charge.

    Where’s the beef?

  224. 224
    Barry says:

    @eemom: “Perhaps you are familiar with a document called the Freeh Report? That was seven or eight months in the works and it sure as shit didn’t result in crimes being swept under the rug. ”

    And that was after a few investigations which didn’t do squat, and long after it was futile to attempt a cover-up.

  225. 225
    Cronin says:

    @Cacti:

    The fact that you and that other asshat seem to think that making copies of public domain academic studies warrants over three decades of imprisonment says anything anyone should give a shit about knowing about either of you.

  226. 226
    different-church-lady says:

    @Ted & Hellen: Excuse us, the adults are trying to have a conversation.

  227. 227
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @👽 Martin:

    However, Aaron didn’t violate any laws. He admittedly pushed them right to their edge, but he didn’t violate them

    He secretly hardwired a laptop and hard drive into MIT’s system. That’s what got the Feds called in in the first place. Are you telling us that that act was not a crime?

  228. 228
    Emma says:

    @different-church-lady: I do too. Sorry.

  229. 229
    lol says:

    @Barry:

    The 6-8 month plea bargain that prosecutors offered seems pretty fair.

  230. 230

    @Todd:
    What ‘structural financial damage’ occurred, exactly?

  231. 231
    mistermix says:

    @eemom:

    Mistermix: Exactly what do you think MIT SHOULD be doing at this point? Firing people WITHOUT first investigating what actually happened?

    As an example, I think MIT should issue a press release confirming or denying this morning’s report in the Globe, which alleged that they blocked a plea deal for Scwartz, and that they should identify those responsible for the decision and make them available to the press. Because an “investigation is in progress” they won’t, and the truth of that won’t be fully known until after the committee reports.

  232. 232
    Emma says:

    @jibeaux: Medical research journal prices are a nightmare. And publishers make sure they have a lot of “value added” stuff, so they can make sure they can charge more each year.

    Other sciences are just as bad. I remember back in the late 90s one astronomy journal (astrophysics?) that added a CD copy of the data sets for some of the articles and tripled its price.

  233. 233
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @lol:

    Who and how do you prosecute when you have a firm shorting highly-rated (by a 3rd party even) derivatives of packaged mortgages that they’re selling to their clients with or without the knowledge that the mortgages were fraudulently prepared by countless mortgage originators?

    I wonder where, in this burgeoning age of idiocracy, you would find twelve jurors who could even understand the nature of such crimes.

  234. 234
    Theobald Smith says:

    @Emma: Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.

    You see, JSTOR did exactly that–they sent an army of humans out to scan, digitize, and upload all of those papers from library collections, and distribute them via the Internet. In order to pay for this, they negotiated deals with the journal publishers who own the copyright, and negotiated with universities to get paid for this.

    After all, labor costs money; electricity, to keep your computers and your scanners up costs money; bandwidth costs money–if you want to keep providing this service, well, you can’t run it as a charity if you want to be providing a consistent service.

    Now, some guy comes along, downloads your database of papers, and posts them on a file-sharing website. Not only is he stealing all the work of scanning, digitizing, and cleaning up those papers you did, he’s making it such that nobody else will ever want to scan old journals, because their work will just get stolen.

    Can you see how that might be problematic?

  235. 235
    Culture of Truth says:

    @👽 Martin: But he was really stuck in some unexpected situation, was he? I mean he deliberately broke JSTOR wide open, I assume to test or prove a point about information access.

  236. 236
    Cacti says:

    @Fred Fnord:

    Wow, that’s classy. So I assume you would have been fine with, say, Rosa Parks being sentenced to 50 years in prison too?

    Being charged with 4 felonies tends to carry the possibility of more substantial prison time than a single misdemeanor.

    Or did you sleep through 9th grade civics class?

  237. 237
    Comrade Jake says:

    @Emma: They charge what the market will bear, and their profit margins are insane. Still, they provide a service, and it’s simply not true that all of this stuff is already paid for. At best it is subsidized by tax dollars.

  238. 238
    gene108 says:

    I have no idea why people are “shocked” by the DOJ seeking the maximum possible sentence.

    My limited, anecdotal experience with the criminal justice system is the prosecutor sets out to seek the maximum sentence possible, putting the onus on the defense to convince the court for a reduced sentence.

    It’s not the job of the prosecutor to seek leniency.

  239. 239
    Tim F. says:

    @lol: May I suggest that someone with ‘fnord’ in his name just might be stirring the pot.

  240. 240
    lol says:

    @Cronin:

    I guess if you had your way, no one will bother going forward to digitize, preserve and make available older public domain information and that you can freely browse all the nothing.

  241. 241
    different-church-lady says:

    @Barry:

    How many decades was MLK in prison?

    Wrong question: how many decades could MLK have been in prison had they pursued as much prosecution as was allowed under law?

    Because that would be the apples-to-apples comparison to the Swartz case.

  242. 242
    lol says:

    @gene108:

    They weren’t even seeking the maximum possible sentence. Swartz’s lawyer has said he was facing 7-8 years in the worst case scenario.

  243. 243
    Emma says:

    @Comrade Jake: SO@gene108: So as a society we don’t have a say with what happens with things created with our tax dollars? And how the results are managed?

  244. 244
    jibeaux says:

    @Emma: What I particularly don’t understand is that any practicing physician is going to have a personal subscription to professional journals that also feature peer-reviewed research and glossy pictures, too. And they have ads. But they’re what, three or four hundred a year, maybe, versus cost of a new car? I realize there’s a difference in volume when your customers are universities vs. a bunch of individuals, but I still don’t understand that dramatic a price difference.

  245. 245
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Cacti:

    The accused in that film didn’t commit the offense he was charged with.

    Um, no. The jury acquitted due to reasonable doubt, but at the end, it was still quite possible for the defendant to have been guilty. It wasn’t like that “Murder She Wrote” episode where Angela Lansbury deduces who the real killer was while serving on the jury deliberating over the case.

    I am genuinely curious now. Exactly what is it about this case that is affecting you so deeply? How did Schwart’s crime affect you personally in such a way that it justifies your apparent glee and delight over his death, alternating with an occasional flash of bitterness over the fact that, by committing suicide, he evaded the 35 year sentence you desperately wanted him to serve?

  246. 246
    jibeaux says:

    @different-church-lady: I’m guessing less than fifty.

  247. 247
    PJ says:

    @Emma: Well, take a look George Bush’s wars for how much say we have with regard to how our tax dollars are used and managed.

    But seriously, if this is a big issue for you, work to get legislation passed, or get together with like-minded people to influence how universities provide access to the works they produce. I realize that is no small thing – in fact, it’s a very big thing to do, and is very hard. (Much harder than illegally downloading files.)

  248. 248
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @mistermix:

    Did MIT say no to any plea bargain, or did they say no to that specific deal laid on the table by Swartz- that he be given a walk unless caught again?

  249. 249
    Fred Fnord says:

    @different-church-lady: You might be interested to know that ‘online ticket sales’ is actually a very cogent comparison. That’s because a lot of the time, now, theaters and venues have stopped offering in-person sales at all, or have a contract with the online ticket seller that they will not charge any less (and, indeed, USE the online ticket-seller in their box office).

    So basically, you take an added convenience feature, and then make those who don’t use it pay for it too by getting rid of the free alternative. In several theaters in San Francisco it is now impossible to buy tickets without being charged an online ‘convenience fee’, even in person.

    Just as in more and more places it is impossible to gain access to this in-theory-freely-accessible information without directly paying for it, because fewer and fewer places are maintaining the shelf space for it. And don’t expect this trend to reverse itself: we are every year taking things out of the public sphere and privatizing them, then charging money that nobody can afford for them. It’s yet another way of preventing social mobility in our already-socially-immobile society.

  250. 250
    Xenos says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    The people condemning Swartz would have done the same to the early colonial rabble rousers who stirred up shit against the oppressive British regime.

    Some of the early colonial rabble rousers were vile people – fervant anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists who detested George III for allowing the Quebecois to practice their religion (in 1774, causing some of the riots in Boston soon thereafter). They are the direct ancestors of a lot of the bircherite thugs this country has been cursed with.

  251. 251
    Ruckus says:

    @different-church-lady:
    It sounds like you are confusing intellectual property and material property. The IP is the content of the journals and is the free part(generally!). The MP is the delivery method, paper or digital.
    In this case(and I am going by what I’ve read) the IP was always intended to be free and freely accessible. The MP(the delivery system) was paid for by MIT, who then made the IP available. If that is the case then there is no theft of IP. There appears to be theft of service from MIT by placing hardware(a laptop) directly connected to a MIT server, bypassing the normal delivery system of one journal/article at a time access.

  252. 252
    Emma says:

    @jibeaux: It’s called “the screw university libraries out of all the money we can.” But there’s an explanation.

    A personal subscription to many journals is (used to be, I haven’t been in acquisitions in years) about 1/4 to 1/3 the price of what they charge an University. They base the ridiculous charge to Universities on the premise that many many people have access to the journal and that if all those people bought a subscription they would make much more money. Of course, the happily skate over the fact that most of those people couldn’t buy a subscription even if they sold all their belongings and possibly their spouses and significant others as well.

    The problem is that being published in those high-subscription academic journals is where the academic reputation is. Remember, most of the people publishing won’t get paid in cash, but there’s the matter of getting your name out there so that the grants and the tenure rolls in. It’s also how you get your research out to your peers (most practicing doctors won’t touch one of these journals, really). So the best researchers get published in the most famous journals, which then become even more famous and attract more good researchers…

  253. 253
    👽 Martin says:

    @different-church-lady:

    But the huge ball of wax we’re headed towards is the general all-effed-upedness of how we value and pay for intellectual content. There’s an awful, tacit — maybe even subconscious — belief that the actual content creators ought to do all of this for love and passion, and thanks for giving all this research and art an creativity to the world and, wait a minute, hold it, you expect money for this?

    Actually, that conflates the problem unfairly.

    The real problem is that the public is accepting of unavoidable impediments to commerce but not artificial ones. This is at the very heart of a ‘free market’ – you cannot manipulate the operation of the market at its most fundamental level, and that’s the territory we’re in with digital content.

    If I want to buy a copy of ‘The Avengers’, that should be a straightforward act. 20 years ago, that would have required going to a retail store and seeing if they had it. But consumers had no expectation that every store would carry it – physical packaging carries unavoidable costs – a store only has so much display and storage space, they only have so much capital by which to acquire inventory, and so on. That started to change with online sales, though. Much larger addressable market meant that retailers like Amazon could effectively stock everything, and trust they would be able to sell through eventually. It was a more efficient market structure that knocked down a number of previously unavoidable impediments. But almost nobody tried to stop that market from developing naturally. In fact if anything, we put too much effort into favoring that market by knocking down sales tax policy and some other things.

    Now, downloading content the size of ‘The Avengers’ is no longer an unavoidable impediment. I know this because I can go onto Netflix and stream a movie that is structurally indistinguishable from ‘The Avengers’ – one that is the same number of megabytes and aspect ratio and needs to be delivered at a given framerate and so on. Whatever impediment might have existed there is gone. The free market therefore should be able to fill that void and provide me the ability to either stream or download ‘The Avengers’ online. Maybe not every retailer – maybe iTunes has it but not Netflix, or Amazon has it but nobody else, but it should exist in some way that I, as a consumer, can turn over the $30 or whatever that Disney wants and get the content.

    The real problem is that the content providers are artificially stopping that market from functioning by refusing the provide the content in the form that consumers want. I understand the argument that ‘the studios are free to sell you the content how they see fit’ but in truth, they aren’t if the end result between their chosen avenue and your resultant avenue is identical. They can force me to buy the DVD and then rip it on my computer and produce a file which is identical to what they would otherwise have provided online, but there’s no point to that. They haven’t changed the value of the content by restricting how it’s distributed, all they’ve done is cost me time and aggravation. It’s akin to saying ‘We’ll only sell this content in counties that voted for Mitt Romney’. Sure, they could do that, but it’s arbitrary and pointless and consumers would be right to be angry by such a deliberate manipulation of the retail marketplace. But that is precisely what the content producers are doing – because they are equal parts afraid of what the new marketplace brings for their channel management and careful control of getting residual income from their properties, and incompetent at implementing market solutions in a timely manner.

    Some of this is slightly out of their control. The Game of Thrones link example above is actually wrapped up in contractual obligations between HBO and cable operators that will take some years to unwrap, but that’s only a subset of the problem. Most of it is fully within their control to change, but they refuse to. They don’t want to unseat the careful hierarchy of control that they constructed with networks, cable distributors, retail distributors, 2nd run theaters, and so on, some of which is now completely unnecessary and form a new artificial impediment to the market. We simply do not need cable distributors to serve as a necessary infrastructure layer between the studios and consumers, but the studios are terrified of what an on-demand distribution economy would look like.

    If the studios would stop trying to manipulate the distribution market and simply make their content available for sale, even at the same price as their physical media, much of the downloading issue would go away. As it turns out, downloading of content peaks during the window when there is no legitimate distribution market – that is, the completely artificial 3-6 month period after movies leave the theater and before they hit DVD. So, a product exists that is impossible to buy. That’s anathema to a free market. It was tolerable when filling that gap was viewed as unavoidably difficult or impossible to fix, but the presence of these movies on sharing sites and the ease with which you can download them puts the lie to this being a difficult thing to fix. The solution is sufficiently easy that people are volunteering their own resources to solve it. I have a hard time defending the studios refusal to allow the market to function in that situation, and so nobody should be surprised that shadow distribution markets are developing.

  254. 254
    sparrow says:

    @emma: Ha. My Greek husband uses that parable all the time when I slam my hand to my head and ask “why are people so [x]??”

  255. 255
    Soonergrunt says:

    @geg6: I haven’t read all the way to the end of the thread yet, but I’m pretty sure that before I see this comment somewhere in the 220-240 range, that somebody will have called you a fascist or some such.
    For expecting that people would not commit the crime of theft, or for expecting that those charged with such a crime would face the criminal justice system.

    As a side note, if he were charged with rape, most of his defenders here would want him drawn and quartered without the nicety of a trial. Unless, of course, he were charged with rape AFTER being charged with theft of documents…

  256. 256
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Within that context, it is completely legitimate to throw the book (or, as someone said yesterday, throw the whole fucking library) at someone like Aaron Swartz, in order to illustrate to potential copy-cats that it just ain’t worth it.

    Ahh…Herr Burnsenhausen. Such a Good German you are.

  257. 257
    Emma says:

    @PJ: I do that. I am a member of both the American Library Association and the American Association of Law Libraries as well as other professional institutions who’ve made it a business to battle on these issues.

  258. 258
    Fred Fnord says:

    @lol: You’re wrong, as it happens. His lawyer said he was quite possibly facing up to 35 years in prison, and then the prosecution dramatically increased the number of counts he was facing. 50 years is actually a fairly conservative estimate of the new amount. And it’s hard to understand why they would have increased the number of counts like that, when they could already put him away for 35 years with relative ease, unless they were looking to at least threaten to put him away for longer.

    Oh, sorry, I’m sure you are following all this more closely than I am and have some other idea for why they did that. Or did you get all your information in the comment threads?

  259. 259
    Raven says:

    OK, this shit has been beaten to fucking death and I want to know how gex is fairing. Open thread please.

  260. 260
    Cacti says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    How did Schwart’s crime affect you personally in such a way that it justifies your apparent glee and delight over his death, alternating with an occasional flash of bitterness over the fact that, by committing suicide, he evaded the 35 year sentence you desperately wanted him to serve?

    So many shithouse lawyers on this thread.

    35 years was the presumptive maximum sentence he faced, if he was convicted of the most serious possible violation for every offense charged, with every possible aggravating factor found to be applicable.

    Prosecutors, generally without exception, will allege the maximum possible sentence in the indictment or information to strengthen their position in any future negotiations.

    The odds that he would have actually been sentenced to 35 years upon conviction are slim to none.

  261. 261
    Ramalama says:

    I used to work at MIT and have had a lot of dealings with the IS&T Dept. It was (at the time) populated by some students on work-study and also full-time professionals who were always helpful, nerdy, intelligent, friendly, and seemingly supportive of ideals that Swartz also held – based on chats, bumper stickers pasted on desks, and so on.

    Seems to me that someone(s) in the Administration like a Dean’s office or the office of the Corporation pressed this case to the full hilt. = There was a tendency for people to concentrate solely on exactly what was directly in front of them, forgetting anything surrounding them. Like spotting some violation (if any) and completely forgetting the spirit of the violation. But they pick and choose to view what constitutes a violation.

    I mean, Noam Chomsky is a political activist in addition to being a linguist. MIT pays him as a linguist, regardless if he’s ‘working’ on politics or linguistics.

  262. 262
    sparrow says:

    @Citizen Alan: Almost guaranteed he’s a “content creator” of some type who is butthurt about piracy. Which I am sympathetic to, to a point. But some people carry the sense of personal betrayal way too far, and it seems to ruin their lives far more than if they just figured out a way to make money even with piracy going on…

  263. 263
    nemesis says:

    Swartz did the equivalent of downloading free music.

    Cant seem to get a handle on whats okay to steal and what isnt these days.

  264. 264
    lol says:

    @Fred Fnord:

    Straight from his attorney:

    Swartz’s lawyer, Elliot R. Peters of Keker and Van Nest LLP, echoed these sentiments to me today in an interview. Peters refused to speculate about why Swartz committed suicide. He described Swartz as a “very sensitive and very smart person” who had been “very scared” by the Government prosecution. Peters told me that, in his opinion, the Government had been “awfully unreasonable” in their approach to the case. He said that they insisted that Swartz plead to all 13 felonies. They said that even if Swartz pled guilty, they were going to seek a prison sentence. They told Peters that if the case went to trial and Swartz were convicted, they would seek a prison sentence of 7 to 8 years. They told Peters that they thought the judge would impose that sentence. (Peters told me he didn’t agree; he thought the case was defensible and that even if Swartz lost, Peters didn’t think the judge would have sentenced him to custody time.)

    The government indicated it might only seek seven years at trial, and was willing to bargain that down to six to eight months in exchange for a guilty plea, a person familiar with the matter said. But Mr. Swartz didn’t want to do jail time.

    So to summarize:

    1. The prosecution offered a plea bargain of 6-8 months in jail and was rejected.

    2. The prosecution planned to seek 7-8 years if he was convicted.

    3. Swartz’s attorney thought even the 7-8 year scenario was unlikely.

  265. 265
    WereBear says:

    @JoyfulA: Thank you for contributing such a sad story… which sums up my point.

    Yes, a crime was committed. Was it “worth” ten years in jail? Of course not! Not to society, not to the people involved. Not to anyone.

  266. 266
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @PJ:

    I haven’t read about what Swartz planned to do with the JSTOR material, but it doesn’t sound like he was working on a research paper.

    That’s very clairvoyant of you.

    How much JSTOR material is out of copyright? JSTOR is only now starting to release material on an open-access basis that is undeniably public domain. If a publisher puts out a paper copy of Moby-Dick, you are basically paying for the physical materials, not the textual content, and it’s a tenuous argument that compensation is inherently due on a per-access basis in exchange for the one-time act of scanning in and indexing pages of old journals, when the textual content is public domain. That is a separate discussion from the racket of modern journal publication.

    With PACER/RECAP, Swarz and his colleagues were making the point that works of the US government explicitly without copyright protection were being paywalled from access, against the stated intent of the system to cover its costs. (Fees paid for the costs 3.5 times over, and those costs reflect a bloated, inefficient system.)

  267. 267
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @brantl:

    Why didn’t he just pay for the JSTOR information, wasn’t he well off? And why is it OK to knowingly break a law and then say that he is cognizant of the peril and not trying to skate when he asks for leniency, that isn’t the letter of the law, having just admitted that he knew the law? If this were an intelligence test, then he would have failed it, spectacularly.

    It shouldn’t do so, but it does still stun me to see how deeply stupid and absolutely brainwashed so many people are. Thank you for the reminder.

  268. 268
    eemom says:

    @lol:

    The 6-8 month plea bargain that prosecutors offered seems pretty fair.

    But he was still stuck with being a felon. And the ultimate arbiters of all that is moral around here have determined that he rightly regarded that as unacceptable.

    I think Mr. Levenson’s characterization of the young man is likely accurate. I think it’s tragic that he took his life.

    But the bullshit attitudes flying around here on this matter, including but not limited to labeling as “authoritarian” anyone who doesn’t believe that breaking the law in the name of principle entitles the lawbreaker to decide what the acceptable consequences are, are sucking the sympathy out of me like air from a balloon.

  269. 269
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @gene108: It is supposed to be the job of a prosecutor to seek a just result, not the maximum possible sentence.

  270. 270
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    You do understand, Tom, that anything short of Prof. Abelson calling for several heads to roll will be seen as “sweeping it under the rug” by many people here?

    Ahh, SG, another Good German, steps forward.

  271. 271
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

  272. 272
    Keith G says:

    @WereBear: I don’t know if you are still about, but thanks. You have strengthened my notion that good ideas may still be read at this blog.

    So many dim-bulbs here just want to draw lines and pick sides while important ideas drown in the ditch.

  273. 273
    👽 Martin says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Isn’t this why we have courts and judges and juries and cases and things? To decide if his theory about this was correct or not?

    No. This isn’t a debate about whether his theory about the law is correct or not. This is a debate about whether the laws as constructed are compatible with each other and how operate as a society. Unlocking that door shouldn’t require cramming some citizen in the lock and forcing them to act as a key. The laws used against him make no sense as written if we acknowledge the existence of the internet. That’s not some obscure angle of the law, but the anchor of the modern economy that Congress has refused to keep pace with – largely because Congress is older and about as out of touch as the average retirement home on this issue. This is one of the more difficult consequences of having a non-representative government and continues to be one of the areas in which young people are deeply cynical of the ability of government to function properly.

    Or if you do want to require a citizen serve as that key, at least do it proportionately. The situation did not need to escalate beyond all reason to achieve that goal. The charges put against him carried a maximum sentence of 50 years in federal prison – where parole and reduced sentences are much less likely. Objectively, he’d have been in far better shape if rather than openly going in through the tools provided by MIT and JSTOR, had he murdered a security guard and stolen the physical hard drive that contained the documents. For that he’d likely only be facing half that sentence or less, and as a state crime, not having the resources of the federal government gunning for him and a greater likelihood of a lenient sentence. And as he tried to plea to something reasonable, the feds would simply toss on more charges that were even more outrageous than the previous ones.

  274. 274
    Todd says:

    That does it – I’m sold on the idea.

    I’m going to go out on the wide wide world of the Internet and buying a Mumia shirt and a drum…

  275. 275
    Comrade Jake says:

    @Emma:

    So as a society we don’t have a say with what happens with things created with our tax dollars? And how the results are managed?

    This is not what I suggested at all. How you extracted that from my post is beyond me.

  276. 276
    Cacti says:

    @eemom:

    But the bullshit attitudes flying around here on this matter, including but not limited to labeling as “authoritarian” anyone who doesn’t believe that breaking the law in the name of principle entitles the lawbreaker to decide what the acceptable consequences are, are sucking the sympathy out of me like air from a balloon.

    +4.8 million (one for each count of theft)

    It’s why I call it the civil disobedience of the special snowflake generation. Not only should they be able to violate the law as a matter of principle, they should also get to decide what offenses they’re charged with, and the maximum possible sentence (which, unsurprisingly, is usually 0).

    A 6-8 months plea deal on a 4-felony count indictment was too onerous for the “hero” in this episode.

  277. 277
    PJ says:

    @Emma: This is good to hear – you seem like you’d be a sympathetic advocate.

  278. 278
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Barry:

    If you take care to ensure that your behavior is within the boundaries of existing law at the time you act, you are good to go

    The naivety of Dimestore J. Lawyer, Esq. would be touching if it were not so deeply corrosive.

  279. 279
    Todd says:

    She’s hung up on the tax dollars.

    What she should really be considering is that there are ongoing costs to maintain, and development costs for future upgrades of capacity, storage and bandwidth.

    If you budget like a conservative, then no system can ever be expanded or improved without raising the price.

  280. 280
    ef says:

    I have a tendency to rank those who agree with throwing the whole fuking library at him to deter others with this:

    “a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21”
    — Republican Charlie Fuqua, from his book God’s Law

    yea that will teach em

  281. 281
  282. 282
    👽 Martin says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):

    He secretly hardwired a laptop and hard drive into MIT’s system. That’s what got the Feds called in in the first place. Are you telling us that that act was not a crime?

    No he didn’t because what you describe is effectively impossible.

    He connected the computer to the MIT public network. MIT’s network is exceedingly open. Aaron didn’t need to hide his presence because MIT goes out of their way to not look for your presence. Aaron didn’t authenticate on the network because the network requires no authentication. MIT makes no effort to throttle your usage or limit your bandwidth – by design. Further, he had a JSTOR account by virtue of his affiliation with Harvard University, which he did not try to obscure. They run, by design, probably the most open network you will find anywhere in this country. You cannot turn around and fault Aaron for being connected to that network when he not only had every right to be connected to it, but every expectation that he would be connected to it:

    MITnet is an open network. There are no network firewalls, or network filter restrictions, and computers connected to MITnet are given network addresses that are accessible by the public Internet. This type of network provides reliability of, and accessibility to, shared network resources and supports the diversified needs of the community.
    __
    In this type of computing environment (where there is direct exposure to the Internet), an unprotected computer is especially vulnerable to online attacks, spam, or other threats that can compromise a user’s identity or undermine the security of a computer’s hardware and data.

    There’s nothing to hide from there. Anyone can go, connect, and be on the unfiltered internet connection that MIT provides. You cannot fault people for doing so when it operates that way by design.

  283. 283
    PJ says:

    @👽 Martin: The majority of people who bit-torrent or otherwise illegally download copyrighted material do not do it because it is too expensive, or otherwise unavailable, they do it because it is free. When Radiohead offered In Rainbows available on a pay what you will plan, the majority of legal downloaders paid nothing to the band, and an even greater number of people chose to illegally download the album (perhaps giving their email addresses was too onerous a price.)

  284. 284
    handsmile says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    “…if [Swartz] were charged with rape, most of his defenders here would want him drawn and quartered without the nicety of a trial”

    As you are one of the “front-pagers” on this site, I’d like to know if you stand by this statement.

  285. 285
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Emma: well, yeah, that’s kind of why it’s worthwhile to run a journal in the first place. They solicit submissions, choose the stuff they find best, and charge money for us to read what they pick. That cannot possibly be an unethical state of affairs, can it? And the rhetoric about how “we” already paid for it would apply to any subscription fee of any kind, no? But libraries still pay for journals. Before the Internet, I don’t remember people claiming that it was unfair for journals to charge for subscriptions so that the public could find out about the results of publicly funded research. Isn’t that just an analog “paywall”?

  286. 286
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @👽 Martin: didn’t he connect to a locked server closet?

  287. 287
    Todd says:

    @Cacti:

    It’s why I call it the civil disobedience of the special snowflake generation. Not only should they be able to violate the law as a matter of principle, they should also get to decide what offenses they’re charged with, and the maximum possible sentence (which, unsurprisingly, is usually 0).

    Nelson Mandela and John Lewis are undoubtedly awed by the displays of courage of these special snowflakes.

  288. 288

    Poor Aaron.

    If only he had learned patience before the law.

    Change certainly would have come, all by itself, amirite?

  289. 289
    jibeaux says:

    @FlipYrWhig: The people trying to come up with a different model than the extort-the-universities one say that some of these journals have 30%+ profit margins. I don’t frankly see why they don’t have 200% profit margins charging that amount and with what seems like minimal overhead, but anyway. I’m rooting for whoever is trying to get back to charging the public a reasonable rate for information.

  290. 290
    weaselone says:

    The reality is that JSTOR needs to money in order to maintain and expand its database of journals. It has employees it must pay, equipment that needs periodic replacing and physical facilities for which it has to pay rent and utilities.

    The rational solution would be for the Federal Government to take over this service, possibly through the creation of a new branch of the Library of Congress and offer free of charge to everyone with access to a computer and the internet. That would naturally require tax dollars which guarantees if it were ever implemented, the Republicans would defund it at their earliest opportunity.

  291. 291
    👽 Martin says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    But he was really stuck in some unexpected situation, was he? I mean he deliberately broke JSTOR wide open, I assume to test or prove a point about information access.

    You cannot ‘deliberately break JSTOR wide open’. JSTOR allowed unlimited downloads by anyone on MITs network. Making it inconvenient to download a lot of something doesn’t make it illegal to download a lot of something, in the same way as hiding a key under your mailbox at the curb doesn’t make it illegal to possess for someone who stumbles across it.

    These things that are obviously rare in the physical world because physical restrictions force them to be rare cannot always translate across to the digital world where there are no such physical restrictions. Congress has a hard time understanding that, but it’s not the role of citizenry to pay the cost of an uneducated and unformed legislative branch. It is not illegal for me to write a program to walk across every URL at CNN and download their entire website. It’s not illegal because CNN invites that behavior in two ways:

    1) in aggregate from every one of us visiting their site and navigating down through the structure they want us to use
    2) through Google and other search engines that function specifically by walking across every URL at CNN and downloading their entire website. This is desired behavior.

    CNN may not like that I’m acting like Google without giving them the benefit of search results, but that’s not my problem. It’s perfectly legal. It might be rude or inconsiderate or undermining some mutual agreement in society, but we don’t send people to prison for those things. We don’t even arrest them for those things. Congress might think it should be illegal, but then it must be illegal for Google to function or for anyone to read CNN without explicit permission.

  292. 292
    handsmile says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    Here’s the h/t that I owe you. Well done, sir!

  293. 293
    Todd says:

    @weaselone:

    The reality is that JSTOR needs to money in order to maintain and expand its database of journals. It has employees it must pay, equipment that needs periodic replacing and physical facilities for which it has to pay rent and utilities.

    You’re, like, just totally sucking up to The Man, man, and not being groovy and loving the earth and being, like, free, and providing free stuff to the people that love freedom….

  294. 294
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Pinkamena Panic:

    For a supposedly liberal site there’s an awful lot of commenters who sound like the O’Reillys and Hannitys and Limpballseseses of the world, demonizing anyone who dares break their moral codes with mocking, childish disdain.

    BALLOON JUICE IS NOT A LIBERAL BLOG, at least as that label pertains to the dominant commenter clique, which is made up of Agnew/Obama Republicans.

  295. 295
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Ted & Hellen: And so my point is proven by other means, but proven nonetheless.

    Say, how are you faring giving away your property for free or does that standard only apply to others?

  296. 296
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Cacti:

    That does not answer my question as to why you demonstrate what seems to most people here to be a gleeful delight in his death, alternating with fury that he somehow escaped rightful justice by killing himself.

  297. 297
    rb says:

    @Phoebe:

    Thank you for this eloquent and succinct description of a major trending problem. You are so right on.

  298. 298
    Cacti says:

    @Todd:

    You’re, like, just totally sucking up to The Man, man, and not being groovy and loving the earth and being, like, free, and providing free stuff to the people that love freedom….

    If people can only get 400 free pages per year on PACER, none of us is truly free.

  299. 299
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @👽 Martin:

    He’d been downloading from JSTOR using the script, and they blocked a few of the IP addys he was using. JSTOR then saw the script running again, and they blocked MIT altogether, for a short time. When JSTOR unblocked MIT, Swartz went into a wiring closet and hardwired into the MIT system. He covered his rig with a box and walked away.

    Some time later, someone from MIT walked into that closet, lifted up the box and saw the laptop and hard drive. This person notified MIT security, who called in the Feds. The Secret Service agent suggested installing a camera in order to catch anyone who tried to retrieve the hardware. When Swartz went back to the closet to retrieve the hardware, security saw him, went to apprehend him, and he did a 400-yard dash. Security caught him with the laptop and hard drive in his backpack.

    So…if MIT is so open, why did they feel the need to apprehend Swartz? Why did he hook up to the MIT computer system in such a deliberately secretive manner?

  300. 300
    rb says:

    @different-church-lady: “freely” meaning you can, or at one time could, get it at no or little cost, though possibly with some delay (e.g. through ILL), in hard copy.

    Now, with services like JSTOR, this information is instantly available online, but you have to pay for it.

    Universities and large libraries (the source that powered ILL) react by subscribing to the digital service, and pulping the hard copies. Now information that was once free is only available for a price.

    This trend is awesomely convenient for the guy sitting at his desk on a university campus with JSTOR access, but it kinda sucks for a kid whose only access to scientific articles is (was) through the underfunded local library.

  301. 301
  302. 302
    geg6 says:

    @Todd:

    For real. I cannot believe that people are hero worshipping this guy. I know nothing about him, really, but based on what I’m learning in this thread, I’m thinking 8-10 years may have done him some good. If only to burst his giant, enormous, Macy’s-Thanksgiving-Day-parade-balloon ego. How one goes from stealing information/content to hero who should never have had a bad day in his life is completely beyond me.

  303. 303
    pete says:

    @Cacti: “It’s why I call it the civil disobedience of the special snowflake generation.”

    Really? I was getting the distinct impression that you called it that because you are trying to use a rhetorical device that might annoy those with whom you disagree.

    The guy is dead, by his own hand. That is a tragedy. The circumstances also raise issues about politics, law, social conventions and so on, but first and foremost it’s a tragedy. I have read pretty much all of this thread, and see no hint in your posts that you can empathize with the human element, which to my mind is paramount. I am sorry for you, for that reason.

    It would be good if this tragedy caused a lot of people to reconsider the violence of the system we have for dealing with all criminals.

  304. 304
    geg6 says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Heh. And where may I deliver your internets, sir?

  305. 305
    Cacti says:

    @geg6:

    How one goes from stealing information/content to hero who should never have had a bad day in his life is completely beyond me.

    Jesse James was also a folk hero in his day. Different age, same phenomenon.

  306. 306
    Corner Stone says:

    @Zandar:

    People who use the first to attack anyone in the second category are pretty much awful human beings, full stop.

    Shut the fuck up you fucking clown.

  307. 307
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    BALLOON JUICE IS NOT A LIBERAL BLOG

    I don;t think you know what that word- liberal- means. I think that you have bought into the definition foisted by right-wingers that it means ‘ideological leftist’. It does not. It means ‘open to suggestion’.

  308. 308
    Corner Stone says:

    @some guy:

    besides most of the front pagers, what makes you think this is a liberal site?

    This is not a liberal blog.

  309. 309
    ed_finnerty says:

    john corzine

  310. 310
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Phoebe: Well said.

    I don’t know where the balance should be and I don’t really think the Aaron Swartz picked the best way to illustrate the problem. He did, however, make it very public. Unfortunately, we, at least here on this blog, seem to be having trouble separating the wheat from the chaff. The IP issues are one thing. The value provided by JSTOR is another. The appropriateness of Swartz’s actions are yet another. The appropriateness of the charges and potential sentence, again, is another issue. A lot of the heat here Dems to come from people who are upset by different aspects of different issues fighting with one another.

  311. 311
    👽 Martin says:

    @PJ:

    The majority of people who bit-torrent or otherwise illegally download copyrighted material do not do it because it is too expensive, or otherwise unavailable, they do it because it is free.

    That’s not relevant. Once the content providers eliminate all legal avenues to participate in the marketplace, then they’ve forced everyones hand. You can’t then go back and cherry pick everyone’s motives. If the copyright holders want to have a leg to stand on, then they need to ensure there is always a legal avenue to participate in the market (or at least within reason) – only then do they have a case to go after people’s motives.

    And further understand that just because US buyers have a legal market, doesn’t mean that one exists for people in Canada or the UK or Mexico or wherever. A tremendous amount of bit torrent traffic works to get around yet more artificial restrictions to the market around currency exchange and non-US distribution.

    When Radiohead offered In Rainbows available on a pay what you will plan, the majority of legal downloaders paid nothing to the band, and an even greater number of people chose to illegally download the album (perhaps giving their email addresses was too onerous a price.)

    Ok, but Radiohead considered it a success – as did everyone else. A typical (good) contract for album sales returns is $2 per album, and that starts to pay off the advances paid to produce the album. Radiohead’s previous album sold about a million copies, so the band could have seen as much as $2M in earnings off of it.

    In Rainbows, in spite of the free downloads, is estimated to have earned Radiohead at least $3M. While the per-unit revenue was much lower, the band wasn’t handing 90% of it over to half a dozen or more middlemen. From the band’s perspective, it was a success. It might not seem successful from a fairness perspective, that some people paid a lot for it and others not so much (or nothing), but the retail market in the US operates like that all the time. I guarantee if you get on a plane, there will be people that paid twice as much or even 5 times as much as you for the same seat, and others that paid nothing. This is normal.

    So Radiohead got out of the deal what they wanted (they earned more and on their terms) and fans got what they wanted – the album at the prices they wanted – whatever that price happened to be. Who lost here? FWIW, I paid $6 for it. It was 3x what they would have otherwise earned and half what I otherwise would have paid. Seemed a good compromise. IIRC I was still annoyed with them for refusing to offer their albums through iTunes for so many years – not that it should have mattered, but it did to me. In hindsight I should have paid more.

  312. 312
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    I find it amusing to note that the people most decrying the “social misfit aspie basement dwellers” etc are the ones demonstrating the most bloody literal-mindedness on the thread. I’m sure it’s no accident they are mostly lawyers.

  313. 313
    different-church-lady says:

    @Ruckus: In other words the digital “crime” is more analogous to breaking and entering, than it is to theft, yes?

  314. 314
    rb says:

    @gene108: It is nominally her/his job to seek justice.

    We do forget this sometimes, alas.

  315. 315
  316. 316
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Apples/oranges, Sooner.

    I can only hope you know that already and are just being an ass.

    Creators of the JSTOR content don’t get squat.

  317. 317
    Cacti says:

    @pete:

    I have read pretty much all of this thread, and see no hint in your posts that you can empathize with the human element, which to my mind is paramount. I am sorry for you, for that reason.

    Thanks for the cyber-psychoanalysis Dr. Freud.

    However, your assessment that the human element is paramount in this story is rubbish. People commit suicide everyday and don’t get 4-5 front page posts on this blog about it. This story is about a self-styled “hacktivist” and how bent out of shape his cult following is that he was ever charged with a crime.

    If a 6-8 months sentence seemed worse than death, his problems were far deeper than an “overzealous prosecutor,” and the inane petitions being submitted to have said prosecutor removed from her position seems like so much misplaced grief and anger.

    My disdain for Mr. Swartz, aside from his unwillingness to accept the accountability that is the foundation of civil disobedience, was his conduct in the PACER incident. In 2009, the Government Printing Office started a pilot program where a free trial of the service was launched at 17 public libraries.

    Mr. Swartz then proceded to use this free trial to download 20% of the database, which led to the plug being pulled on the pilot program. Far from acting for the greater good, his narcissistic act actually made things demonstrably worse for the people who could have benefitted from free PACER access at a public library.

    And now he’s dead. Does that make what he did noble in hindsight?

  318. 318
  319. 319
    rb says:

    @Soonergrunt: As a side note, if he were charged with rape, most of his defenders here would want him drawn and quartered without the nicety of a trial. Unless, of course, he were charged with rape AFTER being charged with theft of documents…

    SG, this is really beneath you. I’m sincerely disappointed.

  320. 320
    different-church-lady says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: DING DING DING DING DING WE HAVE A WINNER!

  321. 321
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    They solicit submissions, choose the stuff they find best, and charge money for us to read what they pick. That cannot possibly be an unethical state of affairs, can it?

    You appear to be under the impression that academic journals work on the same principles as the magazines you buy at a newsstand. You really ought to be disabused of that impression.

  322. 322
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    People have been excessively charged with crimes in this country for like forever. There’s nothing a prosecutor loves to do more than to stack a pile of charges against a defendant, especially when the sheer volume of charges and the total years incarcerated that the defendant faces usually induces them into accepting a plea agreement, saving the prosecutor the trouble of trying the case. I find it hilarious that so many people think that what Swartz was facing was unreasonable and unfair when it is SOP for everyone else in America.

    Let me know when those of you who are outraged about what Swartz was facing will be willing to go to bat for all the people, many of them minorities, that prosecutors overcharge every day.

    White people problems indeed.

  323. 323
    Corey says:

    @Cacti: My disdain for Mr. Swartz, aside from his unwillingness to accept the accountability that is the foundation of civil disobedience, was his conduct in the PACER incident. In 2009, the Government Printing Office started a pilot program where a free trial of the service was launched at 17 public libraries.

    Mr. Swartz then proceded to use this free trial to download 20% of the database, which led to the plug being pulled on the pilot program. Far from acting for the greater good, his narcissistic act actually made things demonstrably worse for the people who could have benefitted from free PACER access at a public library.

    This is only a coherent reason to “disdain” anyone if you ignore what he did with these publicly-funded and created documents after he downloaded them.

    But hey. Authoritarians gonna authoritarian-ate.

  324. 324
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cacti: Willingness to accept consequence does not mean that one should accept the maximum sentences or that one should not fight to minimize those consequences. I have seen nothing from Swartz’s side that indicates that he was not willing to accept some kind of plea. The positions of his supporters in the comment section of a blog should not be confused with his position or that of his legal team. That being said, the idea that the sticking point on a plea bargain was reluctance to be branded a felon seems entirely reasonable to me. Obviously, your mileage varies.

  325. 325
    Cacti says:

    @Corey:

    This is only a coherent reason to “disdain” anyone if you ignore what he did with these publicly-funded and created documents after he downloaded them.

    He published the 20% he got…

    And in exchange, got access to 100% of PACER yanked for everyone else.

    What a hero.

  326. 326
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @pete:

    In 1962, my grandfather, who’d always been chased by the black dog, who had sixteen children- eight still living at home- who had financial problems due to having sixteen kids, who had stomach ulcers, went to his employer and asked for a raise which he did not receive. Shortly thereafter, early on a Sunday morning, he went down to the basement and had what was officially called an accident while cleaning his gun.

    The narrative in the family as I was growing up was that his death was the fault of the damned Hollanders who wouldn’t give him a raise. After a while it became that, well, ulcers, but those damned Hollanders should have given him that raise. Finally, and this is where I think it will rest, is that it was the depression, exacerbated by his own actions of having more children than he could support.

    As I see it, Cacti’s clumsy reaction is to those who would clumsily try to place the blame on those damned Hollanders- in this case MIT and the prosecutor.

  327. 327
    different-church-lady says:

    @Cacti: Well, that pretty much kills my theory that it had more to do with your disdain for those still living who will use a tragedy as a cheap appeal to emotion in the service of advancing their pet issues.

  328. 328
    PJ says:

    @👽 Martin: I picked the In Rainbows example because it was an example of a work that was legally available worldwide (and for free, if you wanted.) It was still downloaded illegally more often than not.

    Of course it was a success as far as Radiohead was concerned. Radiohead, one of the biggest bands in the world, could have made it only available on the back of Cheerios as a flexidisc and they would have made millions on cereal sales. My point was that people who illegally download things on the internet do it mostly because it is free. Some people may be trying to get their hands on Downton Abbey before it’s available in the US (and which can be viewed for free on PBS), but I’d guess that legal market availability is not the deciding factor for most people. If you have statistics that show otherwise, I’d be glad to look at them (seriously).

    More to the point, HBO is not being crushed by not having their programs available in other markets or forums – if they were, they’d make their stuff available immediately on iTunes, etc. Rather it’s the people who were making a middle class living at their art (I’m speaking of musicians I know) who were pushed closer to the poverty line by illegal downloading. You can support a band on 40,000 CD sales; on under 10,000, it’s much harder.

  329. 329
    Cacti says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Willingness to accept consequence does not mean that one should accept the maximum sentences or that one should not fight to minimize those consequences. I have seen nothing from Swartz’s side that indicates that he was not willing to accept some kind of plea.

    From post 264…

    The government indicated it might only seek seven years at trial, and was willing to bargain that down to six to eight months in exchange for a guilty plea, a person familiar with the matter said. But Mr. Swartz didn’t want to do jail time.

    I’d say a plea deal of 6-8 months in view of the charges he faced was pretty damned good.

  330. 330
    rb says:

    @Odie Hugh Manatee: I find it hilarious that so many people think that what Swartz was facing was unreasonable and unfair when it is SOP for everyone else in America.

    It’s evil when targeting Swartz, and when targeting everyone else too.

    But then I hate our prison-industrial complex with a serious passion, so there is that.

  331. 331
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    You appear to be under the impression that academic journals work on the same principles as the magazines you buy at a newsstand. You really ought to be disabused of that impression.

    Uh, care to disabuse me? I can’t boast a mile-long publication record, but I’ve got a few, and I’d like to know where I’ve gone wrong in your estimation.

  332. 332
    Corner Stone says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):

    As I see it, Cacti’s clumsy reaction is to those who would clumsily try to place the blame on those damned Hollanders- in this case MIT and the prosecutor.

    Bullshit. I suggest you’re way off base on interpreting Cacti’s hostility.

  333. 333
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Ted & Hellen: ahh, are you sure you’re not a lawyer? Because you haven’t shown the original thought that people normally associate with an artist, but you sure are trying to thread the needle on these words to get the meaning you want.
    You’re the owner/rights holder, just like JSTOR is. But you know that. Regardless of what the writers of those documents get paid or not paid (which is between the owner and the creators and utterly fucking irrelevant), the owner has certain rights.
    So do you or do you not give your property away or let anyone who wants to take it without paying do so?

  334. 334
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Odie Hugh Manatee: Swartz is the new Manning.

  335. 335
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @Odie Hugh Manatee:

    People have been excessively charged with crimes in this country for like forever.

    But, this is a political agenda, as the prosecutorial cautionary tale for any copycat. It’s a chilling of dissent, in it’s most effective form. Remember, Aaron didn’t seem to be affected by his wealth. He wasn’t pulling files to save money. It was a political statement.

    Now, when you add-in to selective enforcement to the mix, it gets to smelling. Do you know of any prosecutions with these terms which have befallen the basement troll with the latest illegal download? Now you can say that this is prosecutorial discretion, but you can also say it is selective enforcement.

  336. 336
    Corey says:

    @Odie Hugh Manatee:

    Let me know when those of you who are outraged about what Swartz was facing will be willing to go to bat for all the people, many of them minorities, that prosecutors overcharge every day.

    Are you really serious with this?

  337. 337
    Corner Stone says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I can’t boast a mile-long publication record, but I’ve got a few, and I’d like to know where I’ve gone wrong in your estimation.

    “The Incas: What extinction level event should they have been planning for?”
    “Porn in the ’70’s: Don’t Bash the Bush!”
    “Don’t grow that beefsteak! Here’s the variant you should be talking about for your home garden.”

  338. 338
    handsmile says:

    rb:

    My implied point as well at #284. Perhaps you will be able to comprehend the relevance of his response at #301.

  339. 339
    rb says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: the idea that the sticking point on a plea bargain was reluctance to be branded a felon seems entirely reasonable to me.

    I am offended by your brazen rationality and continual treating of the accused (and now deceased) as a human being. At long last, have you no indecency, sir/madam?

  340. 340
    Todd says:

    @Cacti:

    And in exchange, got access to 100% of PACER yanked for everyone else.

    Wasn’t that about the time they kicked in the redaction rules on the actual useful stuff, like socials and account numbers?

  341. 341
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Soonergrunt: Would this be a parallel? T & H have a gallery show. You go to the show, take out a camera, and snap pictures of each of T & H’s works. Would T & H be cool with that? Would the gallery?

  342. 342
    Corner Stone says:

    @Corey:

    Authoritarians gonna authoritarian-ate.

    Don’t you mean, “grifters gonna grift!” ?
    As ABL would (and did) say.

  343. 343
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Corner Stone: I fully intend to make a career on narrowly-tailored question-begging.

  344. 344
    Brian O'Connell says:

    Our media & tech elites have paid a lot of attention to this incident because one of their fellow elites seems to have been treated unfairly by the government.

    But this sort of thing happens all the time to people who aren’t in this rarefied class of elites, or who don’t have powerful and influential friends (which is much the same thing). But outside of a few blogs or smaller websites, it’s not reported.

    So I’m not reading the reporting and general response in the media about Swartz as a “power to the people” type of complaint, so much as elites complaining that one of their own should not be treated this way by the government. Prosecutorial overreach depends on the absurd number of laws & regulations that we’re all subject to. Or I should say that we’re all nominally subject to them. There’s supposed to be an understanding about who benefits from prosecutorial discretion.

    Howls from the right on the non-prosecution of David Gregory are the flip-side of this coin.

  345. 345
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cacti: Felony v. misdemeanor is huge. I am also rather of the opinion that probation with a good sized sentence dangling over his head would have served as well as anything.

    As a general rule, I think American criminal sentences are far too harsh. I also absolutely abhor the practice of overcharging. Prosecutors are supposed to be in the business of representing the interests of the people and getting a just result. Might be naive on my part, but there you have it.

  346. 346
    Emma says:

    @PJ: There are a great many people in my profession who put their souls into that fight. It’s a hot button issue for librarians.

    I’ve been doing a lot of looking into questions of open access recently, especially in fields like medicine and law. I’m by no mean an expert, but I’m getting an education, if nothing else!

  347. 347
    Corner Stone says:

    @FlipYrWhig: “How to be a Pragmatist in a Pragmatic Paradigm: Hint – Be Pragmatic!”

  348. 348
    Soonergrunt says:

    @rb: Since when is pointing out the blindingly obvious beneath anyone?
    Were you present here for any of the Ben Roethlisberger issue or any of the Assange issue? Because what I said is exactly how some people on here behaved. I don’t need to call out names. They know who they are. This was before I became a front pager. The fact that I am now a front pager does not change what happened, and it certainly doesn’t bar me from noting it.
    Some of the commentariat were actively speculating that the accusations that were variously made against Steelers QB Ben Roethisberger were accurate and correct and even when it was pointed out that he wasn’t actually charged, let alone convicted of rape or sexual assault or anything else for that matter, the response was mostly along the lines of “this is the internet, not a court room and we don’t have to have the same standards here.”
    Many of the exact same people were the very first ones to rush to the claim that Mr. Assange was being setup by Swedish authorities on behalf of the US CIA with rape charges.

  349. 349
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @nemesis:

    If you work on Wall Street, or at Bain Capitial, it’s legal to steal from pension funds.

    If you’re a kid in college, we’ll throw the book at you for downloading 2 minutes of music.

  350. 350
    rb says:

    @geg6: based on what I’m learning in this thread

    Heh, you win this thread’s George W. Bush Memorial Prize for Unintentional Humor.

  351. 351
    Corner Stone says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Many of the exact same people were the very first ones to rush to the claim that Mr. Assange was being setup by Swedish authorities on behalf of the US CIA with rape charges.

    I do not remember a lot of crossover.

  352. 352
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @FlipYrWhig: By which I mean that it’s IMHO appropriate to say at the same time that we have the right to find disproportionate the treatment both have faced for each set of deeds AND to be skeptical about the lionizing and martyrology that have resulted from both.

  353. 353
    Corner Stone says:

    @geg6:

    I know nothing about him, really, but based on what I’m learning in this thread, I’m thinking 8-10 years may have done him some good.

    This could be BJ’s motto at this point.
    What a cretin.

  354. 354
    Soonergrunt says:

    @FlipYrWhig: More to the point, when I or anyone else with a camera were to do that, and then start making fully accurate reproductions of the work down the thousandth of a milimeter including the artist’s signature, and then start giving those away for free, how will the gallery or the patron deal with that? The light and heating bill and the mortgage on the gallery property are due on the first of the month.

  355. 355

    @different-church-lady:
    A skilled carpenter enters your house, takes photos & measurements of every chair you own, and then leaves without actually taking anything.

    He then goes home to his tools, and creates perfect replicas of your chairs for his own use. (He doesn’t sell these chairs. He just sits on them).

    At first, you want to press charges for the B&E, but it turns out that you have a past relationship to this carpenter, to the extent where he’s had your permission to let himself in, and sit on any one of your chairs at any time (I didn’t say that this was a normal relationship). So you choose not to explicitly go after him for the B&E. There was no hard evidence of ill intent, and nothing was stolen.

    However, attorneys from the GLOBAL CHAIR CORPORATION(tm) soon arrive at the carpenter’s house to confiscate the chairs he made, for his own use. They also threaten him with up to 35 years in prison for violating their Chair IP, even though no profit was made. He’s offered a plea bargain– only one year in jail, as long as he promises to essentially give up carpentry for the rest of his life.

    Keep in mind that, to the eye, these are perfectly ordinary chairs. The design of which predates the very existence of GLOBAL CHAIR. (In fact, outside of this little tale, many outside observers had been questioning GC’s right to restrict anyone’s access to this design of chair at all, for quite some time)).

    If my little story sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is.

    But change a few words, and this is (within the limits of the metaphor) almost exactly the story we’ve all been screeching over since Saturday.

  356. 356
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Soonergrunt: I only hesitated before adding that part because AFAIK Swartz never got to the point of re-disseminating any of the stuff he copied — correct?

  357. 357
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    That story sounds like a lot of corn.http://www.cleveland.com/natio.....to_co.html

  358. 358
    Corner Stone says:

    FYWP

  359. 359
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Prosecutors did overcharge Manning as well. Both people also appear to have done the actions they were accused of doing. However, to make this more fun, Swartz’s actions, downloading millions of documents because of a belief that access to information should be much more open is a good fit and matches the idea of a protest or of civil disobedience. Manning downloaded millions of documents and released then in what context? To expose war crimes? To get back at the system? To let information be free? I will also point out that Manning is a soldier operating in another legal system. There things he cannot do that civilians can.

  360. 360
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches: Well, I don’t know if the parallel is a “perfectly ordinary chair.” That’s why my analogy was to an art gallery. Even ones free and open to the public that showed only art made by publicly-funded artists, should such things exist, would probably be leery of letting people take pictures of the works, even if they said it was only for their own use or to make a political statement about censorship.

  361. 361
    Emma says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Let me try again.

    An academic journal serves a primary purpose and a secondary one. The primary purpose is to spread the information on current research and discoveries are widely as possible. The second one is to provide scientists a forum to spread the word about their work and check the “publishing” box in their tenure sheet. Libraries buy the journals because it is the time-honored academic model. “Regular folk”, non-academics, had access to them through their local libraries, if they were near to a large public or academic library, or through interlibrary loan. Simple model.

    Yes, most of the research, especially the scientific stuff, if subsidized, directly or indirectly, by the US government. And yes, you are definitely paying twice for it when you have to pay to see the results. But most damaging, once those journals are digitized, libraries feeling the financial pinch get rid of the paper copies and pay for the service instead. Many of the database aggregators have limits on interlibrary loans, for example,so access to a lot of information already paid for is disappearing.

    To me, that is a huge issue in a democratic society. Your mileage may vary.

  362. 362
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    For the record, it’s only a couple of months since everyone was talking about Obama’s digital team for the election campaign, and how it cleaned the clock of the opposition.

    You can believe that those devs acquired their skills, particularly in parsing big data, through explicitly authorized means during the 2000s, but that would just be a testament to the amount of crack you smoke. A glance at the Twitter stream of Obama campaign CTO Harper Reed may be useful in this regard.

  363. 363
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    @Corey:

    Fuck yes I am. Have you ever been convicted of a felony? Been there, done that. I’ve walked the mile in those shoes. I’ve been through the system and am well aware, intimately, of how it ‘works’. That you think I’m not being serious is seriously funny.

    In a very sad way.

  364. 364
    db11 says:

    @Emma: Emma – thanks to you (and the very few others) for trying to shed some real light on the difficult issues at stake. I admire the patience, persistence, humility and humanity reflected in your posts.

    Not sure if you saw this Tim Gowers blog post from yesterday:
    http://gowers.wordpress.com/20.....#more-4540

    It covers the very real and thorny issues involved in trying to shift power/access/availability in academic/journal publishing from the for-profit Elsevier model. (I’m sure you must be aware of his and Terry Tao’s Forum of Mathematics initiative).

  365. 365
    different-church-lady says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I do not remember a lot of crossover.

    Isn’t there a database that keeps track of this kind of stuff?

  366. 366
    PJ says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches: First off, MIT apparently did want to prosecute Swartz for the equivalent of breaking and entering.

    Second, there is no analogy between the taking of the chair design (which, in your example, appears to be uncopyrighted) and Swartz’ purpose, which is unknown, but probably was related to uploading copyrighted material to the internet without providing compensation to the copyright holders, i.e., it was not for his own use.

    Even if it was for his own use, what does that matter? If I print a trillion dollars for my own use, I haven’t reduced the amounts in anyone else’s bank account, but I certainly have reduced their value.

  367. 367
    rb says:

    @Soonergrunt: You said “most of his defenders.” Not “some people on here.”

    That aside, the accusations (legal and otherwise) against Roethlisberger and Assange (creeps both, in my not-for-courtroom-trial estimation) were an order of magnitude more heinous than those against Swartz. Bringing rape into it strikes me as a little weird.

    You also strenuously agreed with geg6 saying this: But what I do know is that he posted information owned by JSTOR without permission and against federal law.

    In point of fact, Swartz did not “post” anything. So what geg6 “do know” is completely fucking false, and consequently his/her “do the crime pay the time” schtick is just tired.

    So yeah, I thought that comment was beneath you. Still do.

  368. 368
    Brachiator says:

    @👽 Martin:

    That’s not relevant. Once the content providers eliminate all legal avenues to participate in the marketplace, then they’ve forced everyones hand.

    This is bullshit. Theft of art and intellectual content has always existed. Always will. It is exacerbated by digital technology, but people steal content because they want to, because is easily done, and because the risk of getting caught and punished is often non-existent.

    It has nothing to do with anyone eliminatating all legal avenues to participate in the marketplace. People get impatient and want what they want now.

    Shit, Dickens had to go on the road and do readings in part because Americans were stealing his shit, publishing it, and not paying him a freaking dime for his work. Oddly enough, lending libraries, the old tech equivalent of MegaUpload, got started because of this bit of intellectual theft.

    And to those who think that this case is just about a thief unwilling to face the consequences of his actions, keep in mind that the Ben Franklin stole and republished author’s works, without paying them a dime, and that until the 19th century, Americans offered a variation of the notion that “information wants to be free:

    The opposition maintained that literature, like all imaginative creations, should not be regulated by law and commerce, that undercapitalized nations, without public libraries, needed inexpensive access to ideas and entertainment that they could not generate themselves or afford to purchase at high rates, and that the free availability to publishers of an author’s works did more to advance his reputation and long-term earnings than the restricted circulation created by the higher price of books on which a copyright royalty was paid.

    That said, I find the comments here knocking Aaron Swartz to be dumbass and mean spirited. But I guess it wouldn’t be Balloon Juice otherwise.

  369. 369
    pete says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): I’m so sorry to hear that sad story about your grandfather.

    In this case, it’s worth recalling that the classic essence of tragedy is that, at least in part, you bring it on yourself.

  370. 370
    Soonergrunt says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Correct. He was aprehended first.
    He may have intended to release all the information or he may not have. I don’t know. It’s also irrelevant.
    But even if, in our hypothetical, I didn’t start handing free copies of the paintings, the fact that I’ve made one without the express permission of the gallery owner and/or artist is a crime.
    If I borrow Star Wars on DVD from my local library and rip it to my personal network and never show it to another living soul I’ve committed a crime under the law.

    You want to argue that the law needs to be changed, I’ll agree with you. But I’m not comfortable with the idea that people should disobey the law at their whim without some accountability.

  371. 371
    Corey says:

    @Odie Hugh Manatee: The laughable bit is that you assume people who care about Swartz don’t similarly care about others, “many of them minorities”, faced with prosecutorial abuse of power.

  372. 372
    Corner Stone says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Isn’t there a database that keeps track of this kind of stuff?

    That would be great if there was and there was somehow I could get access to it for little or no money.

  373. 373
    Emma says:

    @Theobald Smith: I have a headache that won’t quit and I’ve had it. Do some research into JSTOR and figure out the differences between a non-profit using academic assets in partnership and a for-profit money maker.

    Not that I’m going to change any minds. We’re all at the level where loss of access to information is a null problem. Doesn’t affect us, so who cares, right?

  374. 374
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Brachiator:

    until the 19th century, Americans offered a variation of the notion that “information wants to be free:

    In the 300 years since the Statute of Anne, the pattern has been consistent: importers of intellectual property practice “piracy”, exporters impose increasingly broad copyright terms.

    Going further back than that, the points at which knowledge flourishes most productively are always ones where barriers are broken, whether it’s through translation, or new publishing mechanisms, or new distribution methods. New barriers eventually take their place. The model of journal publishing that is now calcified and moribund was, around 1700, the model that powered the scientific revolution.

  375. 375
    Corner Stone says:

    @pete: What are the elemental composition pieces of the classic tragedy?

  376. 376
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Apples/oranges, Herr Sooner.

    No matter how many times you pretend, with your simpleton fail analogy, that it’s not so.

  377. 377
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Corner Stone: well, yeah.

  378. 378
    Ruckus says:

    @different-church-lady:
    In my mind, yes. I may not use those exact words but the idea is the same. The modern world of course does not work the same way as it did just a couple of decades ago. The fact that we can repeatedly, rapidly communicate without ever even knowing each other is relatively new. The fact that immense amounts of information is available to most of us is new. The amount of entertainment(even if much of it isn’t entertaining) available is immense. All of this is new and the law is almost always playing catchup and trying to figure out what a proportional response is. Because this issue is worth money to someone and because our system almost always is in a response mode rather than a prevention mode and because it raises issues that are complex, we will probably figure it out after the next 2 major changes, what ever they may be. And then we will get it wrong at least the first time.

  379. 379
    Keith G says:

    Damn this has already been pointed out:

    @geg6:

    For real. I cannot believe that people are hero worshipping this guy. I know nothing about him, really, but based on what I’m learning in this thread, I’m thinking 8-10 years may have done him some good

    Eeeeyay!

    That is soooo cool. Lil hard time to straighten out the punk. That is the enlightened manifesto of the “USA #1” crowd.

    Eric Erickson just came in his pants.

  380. 380
    Corner Stone says:

    That Kayak travel commercial is the VERY reason I do not wear sweaters.

  381. 381
    Corey says:

    Balloon Juice: Law and Order Conservatives for Obama

  382. 382
    Corey says:

    “Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.” – Balloon Juice Commenters

  383. 383
    different-church-lady says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches: OK, this is fun. (Actual fun, not sarcastic fun.)

    Now, the problem here might be that it’s not a carpenter who’s entered my house taking detailed measurements so he can recreate his own knock-offs — it’s that I have a magical chair-cloning machine. I get to keep the original chair, and I get to deliver an exact copy to someone else.

    The problem is the only way to get the chair from my house to yours is a cargo van. I gotta put gas in it, I gotta pay for maintenance, and I gotta pay a driver. For that I charge people a fee. Let’s also say I’ve got to pay for electricity to run the cloning machine, maintain that, and pay an operator.

    One night after hours some guy comes in, runs my machine and creates 3 million clone chairs and uses the van to deliver them to his house without filling the tank when he’s done.

    In addition, I specifically told this guy, “Hey, you don’t get any more chairs. Buzz off, and don’t come in my house anymore.”

    Yeah, I still have the original chair. But my house was still broken into and my resources were used without my permission.

    Let’s not even get into the part where the original chair was in pieces before I got it.

  384. 384
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I’m talking about the whole “it doesn’t matter what damage he actually did/what his motivations are/ridiculous penalties for a nearly valueless property crime – teh law is teh law” people way up thread… first time I’ve dropped in on this.

    If one thinks that 35 years for basically stealing books is a reasonable penalty, when people that kill other people can often get a much smaller penalty, then there’s a really major problem with one’s moral compass.

    That goes along with the folks saying “he’d be a folk hero to these people even if he raped someone” bullshit. Sorry, if he’d gone on and raped anyone, I’d be saying “well, the piracy charges are bullshit, but the rape charges, if true, make him an asshole and he should get the book thrown at him.” Personally, I rate crimes against persons as far more serious than crimes against property. In the West’s justice system, that seems to have gotten tossed overboard some thirty years ago as a guiding principle. Now, it’s possible for crimes against property to roll up into the territory of crimes against people; for example, taking an old lady for all her money and exposing her to homelessness and hunger definitely crosses that line, but the punishment for this crime is clearly out of all reasonable proportion for the damages that anyone can do by pirating content. Actually, they’re illustrating the central problem with their point; if he had actually raped someone, the likelihood of him ending up in jail for his first offence would actually be pretty low, and illustrates the absurdity of the priorities of the people writing and enforcing criminal law, who protect the property of non-human persons with far greater zeal than protecting actual human beings who’ve had the security of their persons violated.

    As an aside, I’d like to point out to some of the trolls upthread… pirating CONTENT, not SOFTWARE. The ability to harm actual human beings with pirated content is zero; the same is not necessarily true for software. Nice shot at muddying the waters, though.

  385. 385

    @FlipYrWhig:
    If I take a picture of the Mona Lisa, using a technology that won’t damage the physical instance of the object itself (ie no flash), who have I hurt?

    Leonardo’s been dead for centuries.

  386. 386
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Would this be a parallel? T & H have a gallery show. You go to the show, take out a camera, and snap pictures of each of T & H’s works. Would T & H be cool with that? Would the gallery?

    FWIW, I actually let people do this all the time. Most of them ask permission first, and are usually doing it as a future reference for a possible purchase or to forward to someone else who might be interested in purchasing the original. It’s not as though a shitty print off a camera phone is going to replace the original.

    But comparing visual art copyright to literature copyright, especially as it pertains to academic work for which the creators have been paid already, is seriously stupid.

    Put me on a publicly funded salary and pay me everyday to come in and paint pictures, then we’ll talk about an analogy here. YOu guys are grasping.

  387. 387
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    @Corey:

    Please do post some links showing your having been engaged and expressing your outrage about prosecutorial overreach prior to Swartz.

  388. 388
    jamick6000 says:

    @Todd: The whole “white people problems” thing is really stupid. First of all, Swartz was active in trying to end the drug war. So the whole “They never care about this stuff when it happens to minorities” is just false.

    There’s a lot of people on here bascially saying that since minorities are treated badly, no big deal that some white person is abused.

    The whole logic is just like the wingers who say “I don’t have healthcare benefits, so why should these teachers.” Race-to-the-bottom mentality.

  389. 389
    different-church-lady says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    If I borrow Star Wars on DVD from my local library and rip it to my personal network and never show it to another living soul I’ve committed a crime under the law.

    One that you are highly unlikely to ever be prosecuted for.

    If, on the other hand, you make a huge deal out of the fact that you did it, essentially waving this fact under George Lucas’ nose, well…

  390. 390
    Soonergrunt says:

    @rb: You know, it’s possible for somebody on here to agree with the general gist of something that somebody else said, and not become wholly responsible for the exact accuracy of a literal reading of the entire original comment. Similarly, one may agree with one thing that someone said, and not even care too terribly deeply about what else that person said in a particular comment, and still not become wholly responsible for the exact accuracy of a literal reading of the entire original comment.
    And if I wrote “most of his defenders” when I should have said “some of the people defending him, and some people who aren’t even commenting at all, and some people who don’t appear to comment on this site anymore”–well, you got me there. Mea culpa maxima.

  391. 391
    Corner Stone says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    If I borrow Star Wars on DVD from my local library and rip it to my personal network and never show it to another living soul I’ve committed a crime under the law.

    I thought this was like a pro sports game. If you DVR it but don’t use it for commercial use then it’s not a crime?

  392. 392

    @different-church-lady:
    This carpenter used his own car. (Made of wood, of course, he’s a narrow-spectrum prodigy), so your gasoline is safe.

    But beyond that, IMO you’re totally within your rights to press charges for the B&E, and sue for damages (the stolen electricity). Because you’ve clearly incurred a loss there. (Notice how I haven’t argued against either charge wrt Swartz).

    It’s GLOBAL CHAIR CORPORATION(tm) (a wholly-owned subsidiary of SEATING SOLUTIONS, Incorporated) that I have a problem with. (Actually, it’s even worse that that, the Board at GC had decided it wasn’t worth pursuing, but the Feds don’t care and pursue the case anyway).

    BTW does anyone know (has read/heard) why MIT went straight to the Feds instead of the Cambridge PD? Is that usual?

  393. 393
    Ruckus says:

    @different-church-lady:
    That doesn’t change the law. He still broke it. So if GL does ask that he be prosecuted, is the fact that SG made a copy that has a value of what $30 worth the possible $250,000 fine and 5 yrs imprisonment?

  394. 394
    jamick6000 says:

    There’s a lot of people on this iste who LOVE to claim they care about poor people (or the “vulnerable” — a gag inducing term if you ask me) and are also bashing Swartz.

    As people who actually care about the poor understand, access to information is a class issue. ie people at elite institutions or people with money can see scholarly works/publications, but the poor people don’t have access to those things. (Oh by the way, taxpayers usually fund the generation of these articles in the first place.)

    Just something for all you fake liberals/crypto-fascists to keep in mind!

  395. 395
    Brachiator says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    Going further back than that, the points at which knowledge flourishes most productively are always ones where barriers are broken, whether it’s through translation, or new publishing mechanisms, or new distribution methods. New barriers eventually take their place. The model of journal publishing that is now calcified and moribund was, around 1700, the model that powered the scientific revolution.

    It’s not just a matter of removing barriers. In Shakespeare’s day, copyists would furiously write down actors’ dialog, and perform crappy bootleg productions of hot plays, and charge money for it.

    Pirates sell shit that they steal. The guy behind MegaUpload was rolling in the deep.

    But I also absolutely agree with you that extensions of copyright are stupid and often represent rapacious greed (Disney is a prime offender here).

    On the other hand, it amazes me that a lot of comix nerds have no problem with the shitty payments to artists and unfair contracts that are often imposed upon them. But they don’t care. They just want their fix of comics, often not caring how creative or crappy they are, and they don’t care whether artists get ripped off or lose all rights to their work.

    @polyorchnid octopunch:

    As an aside, I’d like to point out to some of the trolls upthread… pirating CONTENT, not SOFTWARE. The ability to harm actual human beings with pirated content is zero.

    This is a phony, pseudo-libertarian argument that seeks to base law purely on questions of harm. If someone breaks into your house, dances naked, and leaves you pictures of their escapade, but has not taken anything, or damaged doors or locks, you could still have them arrested for trespass. Even if they do you no harm.

  396. 396
    handsmile says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    This is actually my field, so let me address it as least as it applies in New York City and Los Angeles.

    Almost all contemporary fine arts galleries permit visitors to take photographs of the works on display. Any artist represented by that gallery recognizes and at least tacitly accepts that practice. A small minority of galleries do not or request that guests sign a statement affirming the galleries’ exclusive reproduction rights.

    Fine arts museums, with few exceptions, permit non-flash photography of artworks in its permanent collection. Photography within temporary or “special exhibitions” is usually prohibited.

    As for soonergrunt’s subsequent remark about “fully accurate reproductions” of those artworks, there is in fact an entire genre of contemporary art, “Appropriation Art,” that presents “reproductions of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to it.” The genre’s most prominent artist, Sherrie Levine, came to attention by exhibiting exact copies of photographs of Walker Evans as her own work.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appropriation_art

    The aesthetic merits of this kind of art and art practice could be long debated, though likely not on this blog. With respect, the relation of photographic reproduction of artworks and their economic value to the issues heatedly debated here regarding the Swartz matter seems rather tangential even trivial.

    ETA: Please understand I’m not trying to be a smartass here; I recognize that you and SG were seeking to pose a comparable creative endeavor.

  397. 397
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    I don’t answer rhetorical questions. They’re above my pay grade.

  398. 398
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches: “BTW does anyone know (has read/heard) why MIT went straight to the Feds instead of the Cambridge PD? Is that usual?”
    No idea, but perhaps Cambridge PD doesn’t have a Computer Crimes Unit? Perhaps CPD referred them to Secret Service? Any number of things, really, but they’re just guesses.

  399. 399
    dww44 says:

    @geg6: I don’t know whether you’ve been following this issue for the last several days and have perhaps already read and seen Chris Hayes’ tribute to Swartz on his UP show this past Sunday, but if you’ve not, here’s a link. While it may not change your thinking , I hope that it might:

    http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/01/13.....be-missed/

    and, if that doesn’t convince you, then this comment much earlier in the thread has a clear and concise take on the issue.
    @WereBear:

  400. 400
    different-church-lady says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    It’s GLOBAL CHAIR CORPORATION(tm) (a wholly-owned subsidiary of SEATING SOLUTIONS, Incorporated) that I have a problem with.

    Right. In addition we did not discuss whether I came by my chair-cloning machine and the original chair by fair means, nor whether I even ought to have the right to clone the chair.

    The “theft” of the duplicate chairs and the fairness of my operation are two different issues, crammed into the same box by circumstance. Though the seemingly simple but rarely practiced art of compartmentalization, one can easily arrive at the simultaneous conclusions that my chair cloning operation does not serve the public interest, but the theft of the chairs is not a sane remedy to that problem.

  401. 401

    @PJ:

    First off, MIT apparently did want to prosecute Swartz for the equivalent of breaking and entering.

    I’ve read both, and no longer know which to believe.

    That said, B&E is B&E, charge him for that. Not a 35-year charge. Sue him for theft-of-service, too. Potentially expensive for him, but also not a 35-year charge.

  402. 402
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Corner Stone: All the following is based upon my understanding of the law. I’ve been wrong before. I might even be wrong again at some point in the future, so take it with a handful of salt:
    It all depends on the rights that the copyright holder grants you. Media content that is broadcasted usually includes the limited right to copy and replay the content as it was originally shown, including the commercials on the original receiving device, like your DVR. That right does not include the ability to edit out the commercials. You have to intentionally fast forward through them if you don’t want to watch them in real time. But DVDs, video tapes, and laser discs have never included the right to copy media that you didn’t actually own. The right to copy that media which you own is enshrined in Fair Use doctrine, but the technology to bypass the anti-piracy technology embedded in modern DVDs and Blu-Rays is illegal as a separate issue. And no, for the record, I do not think that’s right. It’s also functionally irrelevant because it’s not terribly technically difficult to get hold of and use that technology.

  403. 403
    different-church-lady says:

    @handsmile:

    Almost all contemporary fine arts galleries permit visitors to take photographs of the works on display. Any artist represented by that gallery recognizes and at least tacitly accepts that practice. A small minority of galleries do not or request that guests sign a statement affirming the galleries’ exclusive reproduction rights.

    And that’s going to be just fine until the day arrives where some clever monkeys come up with a camera capable of making a snapshot of the painting that is virtually indistinguishable from the original. At which point these standardized expectations will break down in ways that are neither simple nor pretty.

    Which is were we’ve been for about the past 15 years with sound recordings, and about the last 10 with commercially available formats of movies, where we’ve arrived recently with digital books, and where we will be shortly with full-fidelity versions of movies.

  404. 404

    @Soonergrunt:
    I always thought that if you called the Feds directly with a local complaint, they’d refer you to local law enforcement first. Maybe not.

    I have no doubt that CPD would have seen a wire hooked up to a network and called in the Feds/DHS/SS right away, but some accounts have MIT calling in the Feds first.

    I’m not even sure if it means anything, but it would be nice to know.

  405. 405
    different-church-lady says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    I’ve read both, and no longer know which to believe.

    @Soonergrunt:

    All the following is based upon my understanding of the law. I’ve been wrong before. I might even be wrong again at some point in the future, so take it with a handful of salt:

    My god, it’s almost as though laypeople on the internet are admitting they are viewing a complex subject from a distance, and commenting on it based on less-than-trustworthy information. Shall we check the weather report in Hades?

  406. 406
    pete says:

    @Corner Stone: (Delayed response, work intruded) My Classical Greek education is many years in the past, so I would probably get a formal definition of tragedy wrong, and in fact Aeschylus & Euripedes had, IIRC, different conceptions of it. But the remorseless workings of fate were part of it, with the idea that each of us carries within the seeds of our own destruction; hubris begets nemesis. Hence in part the ritual elements of the drama, with chorus and such-like. The ancients were pretty good practical psychologists.

  407. 407
    jefft452 says:

    @burnspbesq: “A legitimate goal of the criminal justice system is to deter future criminal activity.”

    I’m all in favor of shooting an Admiral from time to time to encourage the others, I just have a hard time seeing encouraging these particular “others “ worth shooting this particular “Admiral”

    @celticdragonchick: “The Crown refused to concede trade and taxation issues”

    Refused to concede??? Its your fault because you didn’t give in?

    “but the unfortunate habit of using lethal force and zealous prosecution to put down dissent was a major factor”

    Not really, forget the Disney version of the history of tyrannical British oppression
    The government response to the Boston “Massacre”, for example, was to pull all soldiers out of Boston and stick them on a deserted island in the harbor to try to cool tensions
    Late 18th cen Britain may have been a liberal paradise compared to most of Europe, but the main reason that tyrannical oppression of American colonists wasn’t high on the agenda is that nothing that happened in Boston or Williamsburg was as important as what happened in Jamaica or Madras. London did not want to squander Britain’s tiny army garrisoning the seacoast, much less chasing Indians out of the Ohio valley so Williamsburg could hand out land grants

    @FlipYrWhig: “… but I don’t think the anarcho-libertarians’ meta-argument about “information” holds water.”

    Neither do I, on IP issues I’m in the middle of the road with the yellow stripes and dead armadillos, one of the few times where I think that’s a good place to be
    But when the “author deserves to be paid for his work” turns into “the guy who bought stock in the corporation that bought the copyright from the authors grandson deserves to be paid for the authors work”,
    I start drifting over to the “information wants to be free” nut’s side

    @Cacti: “He was a programming genius, ergo he should be immune from prosecution for a few million counts of theft.”

    Yes, “the Republic has no need of scientists”, Lavoisier’s contribution to science should not shield him from justice
    But he was a god-damn tax farmer, this guy just violated copyright

  408. 408

    @different-church-lady:

    the theft of the chairs

    I need to head out, but this is the crux of it for me: I don’t see any “chair theft” here, at all. You still have a house full of chairs.

    Other resources may very well have been stolen, but chairs weren’t among them. Just a particular idea or notion of a chair, which was then instanced elsewhere.

    I suppose we should all be grateful that whomever invented Fire didn’t have an attorney…

  409. 409
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    Oh, so that’s the different church.….

  410. 410

    @different-church-lady:

    My god, it’s almost as though laypeople on the internet are admitting they are viewing a complex subject from a distance, and commenting on it based on less-than-trustworthy information. Shall we check the weather report in Hades?

    You lawyers do realize that, from my point of view, it’s you who are the laypeople, right? :P

  411. 411
    ef says:

    Too bad SOPA didn’t pass eh?

  412. 412
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    it’s you who are the laypeople, right? :P

    Then why the fuck is she talking like Burns?

  413. 413
    pete says:

    @Cacti: (Delayed response) Upthread, I noted that “suicide is indicative of a real problem” — I am glad to see you now acknowledge that. You might also note that this neither blames nor exculpates the prosecutor. There is plenty of room for criticism all round, and we none of us need to go nuclear over nuances.

    That said, I am profoundly insulted by your confusion of my vaguely Buddhistic and occasionally Jungian self with Dr Freud of Vienna. For one thing, I haven’t done cocaine in decades.

  414. 414
    handsmile says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    The following is re-printed from a post by emptywheel last Sunday night. (I believe eemom may have posted this on an earlier Swartz thread here). While it doesn’t directly address your question “why MIT went straight to the feds,” it does provide some timeline information. Our earlier exchange today on the jurisdiction of the US Secret Service in certain computer crimes would seem relevant as well.

    http://www.emptywheel.net/

    “The public story of Aaron Swartz’ now-tragic two year fight with the Federal government usually starts with his July 19, 2011 arrest.

    But that’s not when he was first arrested for accessing a closet at MIT in which he had a netbook downloading huge quantities of scholarly journals. He was first arrested on January 6, 2011 by MIT and Cambrige, MA cops.

    According to a suppression motion in his case, however two days before Aaron was arrested, the Secret Service took over the investigation.

    On the morning of January 4, 2011, at approximately 8:00 am, MIT personnel located the netbook being used for the downloads and decided to leave it in place and institute a packet capture of the network traffic to and from the netbook.4 Timeline at 6. This was accomplished using the laptop of Dave Newman, MIT Senior Network Engineer, which was connected to the netbook and intercepted the communications coming to and from it. Id. Later that day, beginning at 11:00 am, the Secret Service assumed control of the investigation. “

  415. 415
    different-church-lady says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches:

    Other resources may very well have been stolen, but chairs weren’t among them.

    Were the chair clones not mine until I said someone else could have them?

    I suppose we should all be grateful that whomever invented Fire didn’t have an attorney…

    Interesting analogy… what if I were to say, “Yes, go ahead, help yourself to all all of my fire you want. But you can’t take any of my wood.”

    The history of music would probably be very different if today’s copyright law had been around when Bach came up with his well-tempered stuff.

  416. 416
    handsmile says:

    @different-church-lady:

    I’m actually aware of some arts & technology “clever monkeys” that are investigating the feasibility of developing such a camera. In fact, in the early 1990s some graduate students at MIT’s Media Lab did some preliminary research.

    The materiality of the paint did (and I expect will) pose the insurmountable problem. But such monkeys are ever so much cleverer than mere art historians.

  417. 417
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @handsmile: I appreciate knowing that. Ted & Hellen left out the gallery in his statement of what he’s happy to have done with his work.

    My feeling has been, though I’m interested to find out that I’m wrong, that the gallery, insofar as it exists to sell the unique works it agrees to display, wouldn’t be too keen on the idea that it has ended up providing a way for the public to both see and then acquire (in some fashion) the artist’s works — without having anything to show for it.

    If your business is to sell artwork, you won’t be in business long if you provide a space in which people can make free high-quality copies of the work instead of buying it from you. If your mission is not business, but, instead, to educate the public about art, you may answer these questions differently — but you’ll also need to find a different way to keep up a budget for acquiring, conserving, guarding the art and such. You’ll need to get grants, raise funds, put out a tip jar, something. Somebody’s doing visible or invisible work here, and somebody’s paying them, even if at the point of interaction between creator and public it’s free. (Even a free art gallery with an all-volunteer staff has an electric bill, no?) Which is why the rhetoric of openness and freedom has to be IMHO balanced by an awareness that money does change hands at some point, and that not all involvement with money is a terrible act of exclusion and disenfranchisement.

  418. 418
    Brachiator says:

    @different-church-lady:

    The history of music would probably be very different if today’s copyright law had been around when Bach came up with his well-tempered stuff.

    I suppose that it could be said that Bach gave his stuff away for free, but he did it in hopes of securing employment:

    In 1733, Bach composed the Kyrie and Gloria of the Mass in B minor. He presented the manuscript to the King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania and Elector of Saxony, August III in an eventually successful bid to persuade the monarch to appoint him as Royal Court Composer.

    And he was sometimes paid for his work:

    Bach was able to convince the church and city government at Mühlhausen to fund an expensive renovation of the organ at St. Blasius’s. Bach, in turn, wrote an elaborate, festive cantata—Gott ist mein König, BWV 71—for the inauguration of the new council in 1708. The council paid handsomely for its publication, and it was a major success.

    The presumption, I suppose, that if media content is free, then the public will pay for what it likes. But we might also return to the world in which artists have to seek commissions from the wealthy in order to live.

    As it is, Bach died without having much in the way of rights to his works: “Bach’s estate included five Clavecins, two lute-harpsichords, three violins, three violas, two cellos, a viola da gamba, a lute and a spinet, and 52 “sacred books”, including books by Martin Luther and Josephus.”

  419. 419
    handsmile says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Not for the first time, I must head to my off-line life before being able to address adequately your interesting remark. I will try to leave a reply on this thread sometime tomorrow morning.

  420. 420
    PJ says:

    @Brachiator: Prior to the introduction of copyright, those who could afford to write full time were either independently wealthy or supported by wealthy patrons, in whose favor they had to remain if they wished to eat.

  421. 421
    pete says:

    @Brachiator: “Bach gave his stuff away for free, but he did it in hopes of securing employment”

    Nowadays, MP3s are largely ads for live performance. Plus ca change and all that.

  422. 422
    PJ says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Expecting payment for the works one creates is simply gauche. The joy of creation, and “likes” on Facebook, should be sufficient reward.

  423. 423
    rb says:

    @Soonergrunt: You know, it’s possible for somebody on here to agree with the general gist of something that somebody else said

    Sigh. The general gist of geg6’s comments was that the one thing that is certain is that Swartz distributed pirated content in violation of federal law. This is false.

    The general gist of your response was to proactively defend geg6 from charges of “being a facist” because s/he expects “that people would not commit the crime of theft.” This carries the untruth forward.

    And the general gist of the remainder of your point was that those of us who think Swartz got a raw deal will defend an alleged rapist to the hilt so long as he is also illegally distributing pirated content, while having no respect for the rights of the accused under other circumstances.

    I just thought this was a little coarse, and beneath your usual standard. But consider the issue dropped.

  424. 424
    different-church-lady says:

    @Brachiator: I had more in mind the idea that Bach either came up with, or popularized, the system through which one could play a piece in any key and have it not sound out of tune — a true innovation, but not a specific “work”. Today you can get patent and copyright protections for such things, but back then it was just something he shared with the world. If he had the legal means to restrict this innovation or charge high sums for its use, perhaps it would have never caught on.

    The way I said it wasn’t really clear because I was feeling uncertain about whether Bach actually “invented” the well-tempered system or was merely the first significant champion of it.

  425. 425
    Brachiator says:

    @PJ:

    Prior to the introduction of copyright, those who could afford to write full time were either independently wealthy or supported by wealthy patrons, in whose favor they had to remain if they wished to eat.

    As I noted earlier, in the world of the theater, you sold tickets, but pirate copyists would pop up to offer knockoffs of successful plays. There was a publishing industry after a time. Dickens wrote about his own problems and how Sir Walter Scott died bankrupt because copyright was not respected. Scott had tried to invest in the printing business to get around the problem of not having the rights to his works protected, but the investment enterprise failed.

    But yeah, finding a patron in the other arts, or employment by the church, was about the only way to make it in the arts.

  426. 426
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @PJ:

    Prior to the introduction of copyright, those who could afford to write full time were either independently wealthy or supported by wealthy patrons, in whose favor they had to remain if they wished to eat.

    After the introduction of copyright, those who wrote full-time rarely ended up wealthy. There were more Grub Street scribblers than self-sufficient authors, and those that managed to make good money relied largely upon the distributed patronage of subscriptions.

  427. 427
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @rb:


    I just thought this was a little coarse, and beneath your usual standard. But consider the issue dropped

    OUCH !

  428. 428
    different-church-lady says:

    @Brachiator:

    But yeah, finding a patron in the other arts, or employment by the church, was about the only way to make it in the arts.

    And apparently today the artist is replaced by the academic researcher, the church by the university, and the patron by the grants programs.

  429. 429
    Gwangung says:

    @different-church-lady: heh. More like JOINED by them.

  430. 430
    WaterGirl says:

    @Raven: Do we still not have an open thread 2 hours later??

    Gex, glad to see you pop in. I was close to trying to figure out if it would be invasion of privacy to ask Cole to send you a message asking if you were alright.

  431. 431
    Donut says:

    @Tom L:

    Now, please, just consider putting a sock in it

    Dude. Take your own advice. You’re not helping. And really really not objective.

    @Chyron HR:

    No shit!!!

  432. 432
    Brachiator says:

    @different-church-lady:

    If he had the legal means to restrict this innovation or charge high sums for its use, perhaps it would have never caught on.

    Interesting question. Of course, Bach deliberately published the work “for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study,” so it may not have been an issue, even had copyright been around then.

    The way I said it wasn’t really clear because I was feeling uncertain about whether Bach actually “invented” the well-tempered system or was merely the first significant champion of it.

    He may have been more a champion and supreme technician.

    Although the Well-Tempered Clavier was the first collection of fully worked keyboard pieces in all 24 keys, similar ideas had occurred earlier. Before the advent of modern tonality in the late 17th century, numerous composers produced collections of pieces in all seven modes: Johann Pachelbel’s magnificat fugues (composed 1695–1706), Georg Muffat’s Apparatus Musico-organisticus of 1690 and Johann Speth’s Ars magna of 1693 for example. Furthermore, some two hundred years before Bach’s time, equal temperament was realized on plucked string instruments, such as the lute and the theorbo, resulting in several collections of pieces in all keys (although the music was not yet tonal in the modern sense of the word.)

    Very interesting hypothetical.

  433. 433
    Comrade Jake says:

    So, what’s everyone’s h-index?

  434. 434
    Comrade Jake says:

    So, what’s everyone’s h-index?

  435. 435
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @PJ: Ah, but there’s another whole category of people who contribute, and I think they get short shrift in a discussion like this. The creator, whether it’s someone who wrote an article that ended up on JSTOR, or Ted & Hellen, or Abby Hoffman or Lawrence Lessig, might well say, “Have at it, information should be free, I might have rights to my own work but I care more about the world having it and doing what it will with it.” Great! But in a world where everyone agreed with that premise, what incentive would there be in maintaining an academic journal, or a press, or an art gallery? These have to be conducted by amateur hobbyists, staffed by all volunteers, maybe grant-seeking on the side? I don’t like that development. We don’t live in an anarcho-syndicalist collective. We need money to change hands to be able to do these things, or they’ll just be a grown-up’s version of extracurricular activities.

  436. 436
    PJ says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: An additional problem was that only a much smaller proportion of the population was literate. As literacy grew, and literature became popular entertainment, so did the ability of authors to make a living. I have not researched this period, but I would not be surprised if the increased ability to make money off of publishing led to increased enforcement of copyright.

  437. 437
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @different-church-lady: True, which is why it’s not entirely appropriate to talk about how anything is “free.” You can probably take the commerce and the profit out of these activities, but you can’t take the _money_ out of them, not if you want people to do them to earn a living rather than just as a pastime. Which is why I have a hard time swallowing the idea that JSTOR is nothing more than the bridge troll preventing information from being free. That was Swartz’s view and what he was set on exposing and taking a stand against, no?

  438. 438
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @PJ: IIRC, the first few generations of people who did make money from publishing pulled it off by selling big books to rich, educated folks, as opposed to selling cheap books to middle-class, literate folks. One of the authorities on copyright and literacy is William St. Clair, who wrote _The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period_. His view is that when copyright was shortened in 1774, the result was that literate people ended up reading a lot of cheap reprintings of old books, because the new ones were priced out of their reach.

  439. 439
    sapient says:

    There is no such thing as free information. Libraries cost money. Librarians cost money. Shelves cost money. Books cost money. Restoration and/or conservation of books costs money. Electricity to heat the building (or to run a computer) costs money. Real estate for library costs money. Cleaning staff for library costs money.

    People who aggregate data are people who have a job – need a salary. People who edit crappy scans need to be paid – need a salary. People who keep putting stuff online need cash. People how make sure the system works, the bills are paid, the system doesn’t crash – need cash. People who decide what to include – need money.

    Information isn’t free. How we want to valuate it, and pay for it is a different question. Maybe the government should do it, as the government supported libraries. That’s the taxpayer. That’s okay with me, but not with a lot of people.

  440. 440
    PJ says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Oh no, they should do it for the pleasure of supporting the arts and sciences, as the nobility did once upon a time.

  441. 441
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    OK. The Circle is Unbroken. We’ve gone a full revolution to Bean-Counter logic and rationalization.

    Time to call it a Night.

  442. 442
    PJ says:

    @FlipYrWhig:
    The root cause of my exasperation with the “information wants to be free” people is that, while they implicitly acknowledge that intellectual property has value — otherwise, they wouldn’t bother to set it “free” — they don’t believe that the people who create, cultivate, manage and market that value should be compensated for it.

    The second cause of my exasperation is that while they are eager to dispense with intellectual property, they are unwilling to consider the basis of other forms of property. If “free information” is a public good, how much good could “free real estate” or “free corporate shares” or “free money” do?

  443. 443
    PJ says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Thanks for the reference to this book, I will look it up.

  444. 444
    different-church-lady says:

    @PJ: Yeah. You know, make me nobility and I’ll do the ever-loving fuck out of that.

  445. 445
    Recall says:

    @PJ: Making something free doesn’t mean that the producers won’t be compensated.

  446. 446
    different-church-lady says:

    @Recall:

    Making something free doesn’t mean that the producers won’t be compensated.

    True, but creating the public expectation that all content ought to be free doesn’t really do much to help create realistic mechanisms for that compensation, does it?

  447. 447
    Recall says:

    @different-church-lady: On the contrary, it helps a great deal.

  448. 448
    Soonergrunt says:

    @rb: see how you only responded to half of my comment (and rather selectively at that,) and not the other half?
    Yes. Let’s consider it dropped now.

  449. 449
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @different-church-lady:

    True, but creating the public expectation that all content ought to be free doesn’t really do much to help create realistic mechanisms for that compensation, does it?

    Notwithstanding the corollary; the public expectation that realistic mechanisms for the Public good, should include the compensation of free service akin to our theoretical media rights (aka the Airwaves belong to the People”

  450. 450

    @PJ:
    (1) You’re conflating content Creators with Rentiers: JSTOR is the latter. Lack of imagination in finding new ways to reward the former is not a valid excuse for giving the latter excessive power.

    (2) “Property” and “Money” aren’t real. They are abstractions, social conventions we’ve developed to allocate resources, establish hierarchies, etc… but they are ultimately something that only exists inside our collective heads.

    Those two words have had very different meanings in the past (read Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle for details). They will have very different meanings in the future.

  451. 451
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor: Is every journal publisher or press or gallery a “rentier,” then? Because if the new paradigm is that the creator just goes directly to the public and the devil take the hindmost, there are a lot of scholarly and not-particularly-lucrative enterprises that are going to fail, and few of them will be replaced by public resources, that is, taxpayer-supported entities open to virtually all. There are such things as middlemen who provide valuable services, and gate-keepers who don’t function (solely) to bar the riffraff but (also) to uphold quality and arcana against a tsunami of crap.

  452. 452
    PJ says:

    @Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor: I’m not conflating them, that’s why I wrote “create, cultivate, manage, and market”. These are all different jobs, and are often done by different people. JSTOR is in the managing (and possibly marketing) business. But for many kinds of works, some or all of these jobs are necessary in some degree if it is to be enjoyed by the public – if a band makes an album, and no one manages the band or markets the album, it is highly unlikely that anyone outside of their immediate circle of friends and family will ever hear it.

    Yes, all forms of property and money are social constructs. Why aren’t Sergey Brin and Larry Lessig challenging them as well?

  453. 453

    @FlipYrWhig:
    There aren’t too many galleries (or single journals) that have the power to send someone to jail for violating some imaginary fence that didn’t exist 20 years ago. My problem is with exploiters, not facilitators who enter into contracts with those who create the content.

    @PJ:
    The music industry is transforming into this model as we speak. Few like to hear this, but the days when more than a handful of people got to make millions selling recordings are over. Want to make money? Tour. Perform. Or yes, find an individual or organization to be your patron. Do a Kickstarter, like Amanda Palmer did.

    But there’s nothing special about music as a product or as an industry that makes this so. Music just got to the post-scarcity world first.

    Scary, isn’t it?

    Yes, all forms of property and money are social constructs. Why aren’t Sergey Brin and Larry Lessig challenging them as well?

    I assume that Brin’s too busy trying to find new ways to monetize our eyeballs to be much concerned with philosophy. And Lessig knows as much about these cultural changes as anyone, so I’m sure why you drop his name on this.

  454. 454
    Corner Stone says:

    @sapient: This is simplistically stupid. Of course information is free.
    How do you stop it? Do you prohibit The Beatles or Levis in the USSR?
    Can you teach Algebra in Asia but not USA?
    You’re talking about capture, not information.

  455. 455
    PJ says:

    @Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor:

    Condescension is not a persuasive rhetorical strategy.

    I’m very familiar with the music business and its decline. The exploiters nowadays aren’t Morris Levy and the Chess Brothers but rather Kim Dotcom and all of the music fans who would rather take music than pay for it. And it’s not philosophy I’m concerned with, it’s livelihoods. Google and Larry Lessig (though contributions made by the tech industry) make money by devaluing copyright.

  456. 456
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor:

    My problem is with exploiters, not facilitators who enter into contracts with those who create the content.

    Good, I’m glad, but IMHO rhetoric about free flows of information ends up, by logical extension, implicating many not-particularly-blameable middlemen and gatekeepers. If your goal is free access, _Critical Inquiry_ offends against that just by charging for a subscription not everyone can afford. One man’s “facilitator” is another man’s “rentier” — as the saying goes, we’ve established what you are, we’re just haggling over price.

  457. 457
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Brachiator:

    Scott had tried to invest in the printing business to get around the problem of not having the rights to his works protected, but the investment enterprise failed.

    There’s a history of that too. Richardson and Franklin were printers first. Mark Twain invested his fortune in the Paige Compositor.

  458. 458
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @PJ:

    Google and Larry Lessig (though contributions made by the tech industry) make money by devaluing copyright.

    When I’m being a cynic and a Luddite I wonder if there’s a kind of quasi-WalMart-ization that takes place when tech behemoths use their ubiquity to make content free — and selectively deploy the rhetoric of openness and democracy in the service of that agenda.

  459. 459
    Eli Rabett says:

    @Zifnab25:

    According to the globe, MIT vetoed the settlement the Swartz’s lawyer negotiated.

    Undoubtedly at the end the AUSA was demanding that Swartz be banned from using a computer for a long period of time as is typical in these cases, something that Swartz would have considered worse than death.

  460. 460
    Corner Stone says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Woah, woah. This answer seems entirely too glib. I disagree with your conclusion here.
    I don’t think you’re taking Judas at all at his word in this response.

  461. 461
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    His view is that when copyright was shortened in 1774, the result was that literate people ended up reading a lot of cheap reprintings of old books, because the new ones were priced out of their reach.

    Well, Donaldson v Beckett made it possible to assemble anthologies, and that’s exactly what happened, at speed. (Johnson’s Lives of the Poets started life as editorial introductions — copyrightable — to a multi-volume collection of public domain texts.)

  462. 462
    M. Bouffant says:

    Is a “lightening rod” the magic wand Mormons use to make their duskier-skinned converts “whitesome & delightsome?”

  463. 463
    Marshall says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Many of the exact same people were the very first ones to rush to the claim that Mr. Assange was being setup by Swedish authorities on behalf of the US CIA with rape charges.

    Given what we know now, can you have any doubt that this was (is) in fact the case?

  464. 464
    Marshall says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    But flip it around: why would anyone keep a journal or a scholarly press going at all in a truly free-information world? At a certain point, someone has to get paid, minimally, for something, even if it’s just a skeleton staff sending out emails and doing simple proofreading.

    Page charges. I (or, rather, my employer) has paid many $1000’s to get something published.

  465. 465
    Corner Stone says:

    @Marshall:

    Given what we know now, can you have any doubt that this was (is) in fact the case?

    Ooohhhh…SNAP!

  466. 466
    sapient says:

    @Corner Stone: “You’re talking about capture, not information.”

    Sure, but “capture” as you describe it, or “publishing” as it’s historically described, is worthwhile and expensive. My opinion (or yours) as a comment on this blog is worthwhile, perhaps. Or perhaps not. It’s “information” and free to all. Good for everyone who mows through it. But publishing involves finding worthwhile (or marketable, or whatever) information. It is 1) identified, 2) edited, 3) produced for consumption, etc. Information on JSTOR? It’s all there! Go find it! Don’t use JSTOR, and see how far you get, how fast you get it, how comprehensive your search is.

    I mean, go interview the authors yourself – they’ll probably give you a free copy of their paper.

    The fact is, it’s a huge amount of work to identify authors, publish their work in a form that is legible and correct online, etc. If it were all that easy, everyone would be doing it, right?

  467. 467
    Marshall says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Which is were we’ve been for about the past 15 years with sound recordings, and about the last 10 with commercially available formats of movies, where we’ve arrived recently with digital books, and where we will be shortly with full-fidelity versions of movies.

    I think we are there now for 3-D printing.

  468. 468
    Marshall says:

    @sapient:

    The fact is, it’s a huge amount of work to identify authors, publish their work in a form that is legible and correct online, etc. If it were all that easy, everyone would be doing it, right?

    Why bother? arxiv.org has been doing this for free for about 2 decades now.

    In many areas of physics, arXiv is the real publication. The actual journal article is more like a seal of good housekeeping.

  469. 469
    PJ says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Google has already thrown its weight around by trying to monopolize the book market (fortunately shot down by the federal court), and facilitates illegal downloading by putting those listings near the top of any search (just plug in a band, an album title, and MP3) – it makes money on each of those clicks. The more something is “free”, the more people are reliant upon Google to obtain it, which means more advertising money for Google.

  470. 470
    Corner Stone says:

    @sapient: What century are you living in?

  471. 471
    different-church-lady says:

    @Recall: Care to show your work on that equation?

  472. 472
    different-church-lady says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    When I’m being a cynic and a Luddite I wonder if there’s a kind of quasi-WalMart-ization that takes place when tech behemoths use their ubiquity to make content free — and selectively deploy the rhetoric of openness and democracy in the service of that agenda.

    Their gambit seems to be devaluing the content so that the supply pipe becomes the more valuable item.

  473. 473
    sapient says:

    @Marshall: Well then, what’s the beef? If people are doing that for free, and everyone can get access to it, then everything else is superfluous, right? Cool: problem solved.

  474. 474
    different-church-lady says:

    @Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor:

    Few like to hear this, but the days when more than a handful of people got to make millions selling recordings are over. Want to make money? Tour. Perform. Or yes, find an individual or organization to be your patron. Do a Kickstarter, like Amanda Palmer did.

    Indeed: now instead of a handful of people making millions selling recordings, a handful of people will make millions by asking for it directly on the internet. Progress!

  475. 475
    sapient says:

    @Corner Stone: I’m living in the century that I was employed in the industry of information aggregation. But, since, as Marshall has pointed out, the problem is solved, no need for people to be campaigning for free information or access. People are out there, slaving away for nothing. Good for us!

  476. 476
    sapient says:

    Kind of like what Thomas Jefferson said about his artichoke plants: hell, I can produce them for nothing! WTF! Why buy anything [when I have slaves to do stuff for me]?

  477. 477
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Marshall: I can have all sorts of doubts for the same reasons that I don’t believe that the Bush White House was engaged in a conspiracy to make 9/11 happen. First, because in both cases, no evidence of any level of credibility exists to support the idea, and second, because I am not a paranoid fool.

  478. 478
  479. 479
    xian says:

    @geg6: You say

    I know next to nothing about this guy and don’t really care to. But what I do know is that he posted information owned by JSTOR without permission and against federal law. That is criminal and he should have paid the price for it and not the price that he and his lawyers thought was most appropriate but the price a judge, jury, and the relevant law proscribed.

    So, he posted JSTOR information? I realize you know next to nothing about the case…

    Also, you have convicted him before his trial. You “know” he did something and that that thing was criminal.

  480. 480
    xian says:

    @geg6: in what sense did Aaron get to decide? by killing himself?

  481. 481
    xian says:

    @Theobald Smith: “…and posts them on a file-sharing website…”

    Do you have a cite for this? because my understanding is that he downloaded the files but did not post them anywhere, and there is some debate about whether he was seeking to do analysis of a large data store (something he had experimented with in the past) or was doing a “liberation” action, as with PACER/RECAP.

  482. 482
    xian says:

    @Soonergrunt: “As a side note, if he were charged with rape, most of his defenders here would want him drawn and quartered without the nicety of a trial.”

    You’re so full of shit it’s pathetic. Enjoy arguing with your straw people.

  483. 483
    Corner Stone says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    As a side note, if he were charged with rape, most of his defenders here would want him drawn and quartered without the nicety of a trial. Unless, of course, he were charged with rape AFTER being charged with theft of documents…

    People don’t seem to be really connecting with your personal animus short story here…

  484. 484
    xian says:

    @geg6: those of us who admired him generally did so for many of his other good works online (for the past 12 years years, since he was about 14), such as his contribution to RDF and RSS, etc.

    When I heard about the JSTOR exploit I remembering wondering what had gotten into him, because it sounded pretty reckless and serious.

    So, is that hero worship?

  485. 485
    xian says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I think by this point the folks with axes to grind and hobbyhorses to ride have figured out how to “play” this one and are now playing it to the hilt.

  486. 486
    xian says:

    @Corner Stone: if only there were some way for soonergrunt to find these lost missives and name some fucking names or shut the fuck up.

  487. 487
    xian says:

    @rb: In fact geg6 also “knows” that there’s a federal law against posting JSTOR articles.

  488. 488
    xian says:

    @Soonergrunt: so, like, if I said a different thing, then that might be true, and if so, then that’s what I meant instead of what I did say

  489. 489
    xian says:

    @Judas Escargot, Bringer of Loaves and Fish Sandwiches: not just the Feds but the Secret Service. Haven’t yet heard why they were involved.

  490. 490
    xian says:

    @PJ: this was originally expressed as two sides of a coin (by Stewart Brand, in 1984):

    On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.

    (http://www.rogerclarke.com/II/IWtbF.html)

  491. 491
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @xian:

    Enjoy arguing with your straw people.

    Soonergrunt: putting the “lack” in “lackey”.

  492. 492
    Theobald Smith says:

    @Emma: If one supports open access to data, what Swartz did was incredibly counterproductive – incidents like these make publishers nervous, and make acceptance of digital distribution mechanisms by publishers that much harder. I think that’s a genuine harm.

    @xian: Asserted as point 31 in the indictment (http://www.wired.com/images_bl.....seding.pdf).

    It’s true that he never uploaded the files anywhere–he certainly didn’t have the opportunity, as he was arrested while trying to recover the laptop.

    However, I think it’s unlikely that he intended to do a large-scale data analysis to determine what fraction of papers were in the public domain.

    First, if you wanted to do that sort of data analysis, you wouldn’t need to download the papers themselves; JSTOR’s database already indexes papers by citation, and it would be a whole lot easier to determine the subset of papers in the public domain with a few database queries and a script or two. Given Swartz’ technical competence, it would take him probably a day or two to write that code.

    Second, he was a fellow at Harvard with his own JSTOR account; if he had wanted this metadata to do an analysis for advocacy purposes, JSTOR would almost certainly have worked with him to provide a dataset that would let him answer that question. I suspect JSTOR themselves would like to know the answer to that question.

    None of those match up with the facts of the case–you don’t need the papers themselves, just the metadata, in order to do the kind of study he originally said he wanted to do. Given that he did none of those things, I think it’s pretty reasonable to say he was trying to liberate JSTOR’s PDF copies of journal articles.

  493. 493
    xian says:

    @Theobald Smith:

    @xian: Asserted as point 31 in the indictment (http://www.wired.com/images_bl…..seding.pdf). It’s true that he never uploaded the files anywhere–he certainly didn’t have the opportunity, as he was arrested while trying to recover the laptop.

    OK, so you are correcting yourself? You wrote the he “post[ed] them on a file-sharing website,” but you meant you’re pretty sure he planned to post them, yes?

    However, I think it’s unlikely that he intended to do a large-scale data analysis to determine what fraction of papers were in the public domain.

    Uh, you added the part about what the analysis might be about to what I wrote.

    None of those match up with the facts of the case–you don’t need the papers themselves, just the metadata, in order to do the kind of study he originally said he wanted to do.

    Where did he originally say that (genuine question)?

    Given that he did none of those things, I think it’s pretty reasonable to say he was trying to liberate JSTOR’s PDF copies of journal articles.

    I agree that this is probably what he was trying to do, but I don’t agree this justifies saying that he did it.

  494. 494
    rb says:

    @xian: Heh, good point.

  495. 495
    brantl says:

    @Emma: When he used JSTOR without permission, got stuff from a service that he did not have permission to use, and then said I would like to request this alternate punishment to the one that the law sets out, that’s failing an intelligence test, you mean that context?

  496. 496
    jake the snake says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    I tend to agree, but would be amenable to a reasonable compromise, say life plus 10 or life plus 20. The life plus 70 in the UK is absurd.

  497. 497
    jake the snake says:

    @PJ:

    I am curious if the Justice Department and Time-Warner would push for 35 years for someone who hacked them and
    got free cable. The analogy is very close, since JSTOR is a rentier who provides material under copyright for a fee.

    BTW negotiations between defense lawyers and prosecuters
    happen regularly. The majority of criminal convictions
    are from plea-bargains

  498. 498
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    The pipe is worth more than the content, indeed.

    Fuck me. Half the commentators here could easily make a nest at Legal Insurrection.

    Nixonian Republicans.

  499. 499
    rb says:

    @jake the snake: That depends. Is the accused a smart, vocal, privileged hippy, or self-styled hacker?

    Then yes.

    A poor person?

    Then FUCK yes.

  500. 500
    brantl says:

    @Ted & Hellen: I think your a display case for stupid, myself. I doubt you have any other purpose.
    As for this guy, do I think they should have hounded him? No. Do I think he should have taken it into consideration that he might be punished with all the law allowed? Exactly.

Comments are closed.