June 16, 2008

Alex Kozinski's wife (Marcy Tiffany) explains it all.

In a long, very carefully written email to the Patterico blog.

First, what do we think of this use of one's wife to run interference for you in matters sexual? For me, it's a little too:



But let's look at some text excerpts:
[T]he LA Times story, authored by Scott Glover, is riddled with half-truths, gross mischaracterizations and outright lies. One significant mischaracterization is that Alex was maintaining some kind of “website” to which he posted pornographic material.

Obviously, Glover’s use of the word “website” was intended to convey a false image of a carefully designed and maintained graphical interface, with text, pictures, sound and hyperlinks, such as businesses maintain or that individuals can set up on Facebook, rather than a bunch of random files located in one of many folders stored on our family’s file server. The “server” is actually just another home computer that sits next to my desk in our home office, and that we use to store files, perform back-ups, and route the Internet to the family network. It has no graphical interface, but if you know the precise location of a file, you can access it either from one of the home computers or remotely.
Now, it is a website, though, isn't it? Tiffany avoids saying that Glover falsely identified Kozinski's site on the web as a website. She can only assert that that he meant for readers to picture something more elaborate and accessible than it was.
As to how [the tipster Cyrus] Sanai accessed our server and was able to rummage through our personal files, frankly we are still trying figure it out. Apparently, if a person is able to find a link to an item in the “stuff” file, and he knows what he is doing, it is possible for him to reverse engineer his way into other items stored in that file without our knowledge or consent.
But wait! Kozinski himself welcomed visitors when he promoted himself in the "Judicial Hotties" contest run on the conspicuous blog Underneath Their Robes and provided links to his server. And what is this "reverse engineering"? Clicking around within a site?
A newspaper – especially a major newspaper as the Los Angeles Times purports to be – is supposed to be a responsible member of the community, not a predator. If the presence of certain files on a judge’s computer is a truly a newsworthy matter, it would have been so months earlier, before Alex was assigned [the Isaacs] trial, and certainly a few days earlier, before a jury had been chosen and the trial had commenced. But what excuse is there for timing the story with surgical precision so as to do maximum damage to the judicial process? In doing so, the LA Times caused the effort of the court, the parties and the 150 citizens who answered the call of duty by reporting for jury service from near and far to go to waste, just to make a big splash. This strikes me as worse than irresponsible.
I certainly agree with that and with much other material in the letter. The LA Times shouldn't have published the idiotic attack, and Kozinski did nothing wrong.

54 comments:

former law student said...

Providing links to specific files on a server does not constitute a license to look around the server to see what else is available. If I lend a friend a book, I am not giving implied permission to strip me of my library.

Obviously Kozinski should have taken precautions against people looking at unauthorized files. Often I get "The virtual directory does not permit its contents to be listed" when I start poking around a website.

AJ Lynch said...

"Marcy Tiffany" sounds like a stage name?

mcg said...

Providing links to specific files on a server does not constitute a license to look around the server to see what else is available.

Actually, yes, it does. At least that is Yahoo's position.

Turning off directory browsing requires changing a single line of your web server's configuration file.

former law student said...

that is Yahoo's position.

s/that is Yahoo's position/that is what Yahoo's spider does/

mcg said...

Let me also add that, according to Seth Finkelstein's analysis, the Kozinski web site was deliberately configured to allow web search engine robots to traverse the site. Let me be clear: the Kozinski site administrator did not neglect to create a robot control file. They did create one, and added a specific directory to it. That means:
--- he knew what the function of the robots.txt file was;
--- he added a single directory to that file, to prevent it from being indexed
--- he did not add the the now-infamous "stuff/" directory to that file, thereby allowing it to be indexed.

By "he" above I mean Judge K's site administrator (his son, I think). Judge K may be able to plead ignorance here; his site admit cannot. His "stuff/" directory was made public through a sequence of deliberate actions.

mcg said...

s/that is Yahoo's position/that is what Yahoo's spider does/

Those are functionally equivalent. The spider's design is not an accident.

Besides, I argue that you are giving implied permission to use URL truncation when you have an "Options Indexes" line in your httpd.conf file.

The Drill SGT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Drill SGT said...

MCG said... his site admit cannot. His "stuff/" directory was made public through a sequence of deliberate actions.

I understand what you said, I would argue that the last item, e.g. failing to list a directory in a file, does not amount on its face to a "deliberate action". It could just as well be an inadvertent one.

show me evidence that either, all directories except "stuff" were listed, or at one point "stuff" was listed, then removed, and you might make your claim.

mcg said...

One thing that's interesting is the claim that the word "website" connotes some sort of image of polish; a "graphical interface with text, pictures, sound, and hyperlinks." Those of us who have used the Web since its inception, and alternatives like FTP, Gopher, and Archie before that, could start blabbering like old men about "the old days" right about now.

Besides, it's technically incorrect. If your web server allows directory browsing, it automatically generates a web page of text and hyperlinks (and in some cases, even graphical file icons) when a user enters the URL for a directory that has no index file. I'd say the authors of, say, Apache's "mod_rewrite_url" and "mod_autoindex" modules might take exception to the claim that their work isn't "carefully designed and maintained" :-)

mcg said...

Drill SGT, I see what you're saying. I am willing to stipulate that Judge Kozinski did not intend for those specific files to be made public: that sharing those files was an unintended consequence of deliberate steps to make many of the surrounding files public.

But by commingling private and public files so completely, it renders it pretty much impossible for an outsider to differentiate between the two categories.

PatHMV said...

All these technical comments about what constitutes a "website" are interesting but utterly irrevelant. Yes, the "internet" has been around since before HTML and the "world wide web." Yes, servers may automatically generate an HTML directory listing for web browsers stumbling across a site (or perhaps the browser automatically assembles it based on older protocols, I don't know the details). But that's not what popular, common use of the phrase "web site" means.

As for the bit about sharing some of the specific files, yes, maybe that should have clued him in that the rest of the files could be gotten to by an intrepid searcher. But I doubt it would have clued many of us in. Security concerns are not terribly foremost in the minds of most computer users, as I think any computer security expert will tell you. It's just not something that springs to mind to a lot of folks to guard against. I see nothing at all so far which would truly contradict Judge K's statement that he had no intention of having these made available to all and sundry, to stop by, browse, kick the tires. He wasn't "publishing" this material to the world, even if his (and his sons') lack of computer security knowledge might have prevented him from taking steps to further restrict access.

The LA Times article was HIGHLY misleading. Those defending their choice of language like "cavorting" with an aroused donkey) sound, frankly, like Bill Clinton parsing words until they lose all connection with reality.

Yes, words have meanings, but they also have connotations which go beyond their technical meaning. "Cavorting" (to pick one example) carries implications with it that go far beyond the technical meaning. Likewise, "web site" also carries significant connotations with the public which go far beyond its technical meaning. To use those words in this context was terribly misleading.

TMink said...

When your wife is writing letters saying that you, her husband, are not interested in pornography, you are in trouble.

Most of us men are interested in pornography, it is the way our brain works. The visual sexual arousal centers of men is 250% larger than the visual sexual arousal center of women. Some men choose to avoid pornography for various reasons, but most of us are interested in it.

And our wives saying that we are not does not change that.

Trey

theobromophile said...

And what is this "reverse engineering"? Clicking around within a site?
Prof. Althouse,

If you've been watching this closely, you would know that it is impossible to "click around" the alex.kozinski.com "website." There is nothing to click. You can get to, for example, an archive of Judge Kozinski's "Dating Game" escapade from the link he offered, but you cannot, from there, get to any other file, directory, or page.

To be more pithy: one cannot "click around" when there is nothing upon which to click.

former law student said...

Most of us men are interested in pornography

Ms. Tiffany, Esq. said Alex K was not "into" porn , not that he was uninterested in it. IOW, pr0n is not one of his hobbies.

Other matters: I presume Louis Comfort Tiffany was not the last of his name, and that other Tiffanies continue to inhabit our planet. Tiffany -- not just a name for Yorkshire terriers.

The offending webserver belongs to Ms. Tiffany as much as to the rest of the Kozinski family -- she is free to speak about it without triggering any pronounced stand-by-your-man reflexes.

And yep, you pick a URL (which is the exact word for website, etc.) and you can start slicing off parts of the back end to find directories and read file lists. If you're a snooper.

mcg said...

Is that the new rule? You can only go to places on the web you can access with the mouse alone? I never got the memo that says we can't type URLs.

mcg said...

And yep, you pick a URL (which is the exact word for website, etc.) and you can start slicing off parts of the back end to find directories and read file lists. If you're a snooper.

Nonsense (the "snooper" part). There are a variety of legitimate uses for URL truncation.

Smilin' Jack said...

All this quibbling over how "public" the files were is just a red herring distracting attention from the real outrage here: this disgusting pervert possessed and distributed (that's what a website is for) porn. A man entrusted to protect our nation's decency turns out to be himself a perfidious purveyor of filth. This will only give ammunition to those who claim that the prosecution of obscenity is a hypocritical sham, rather than a vital federal law-enforcement function. Kozinski must answer, in this world and the next, for the damage he has done. Think of the children!

mcg said...

Let's provide a concrete and apropos example of a legitimate act of URL truncation. Judge Kozinski wrote an article called "The Wrong Stuff", a tongue-in-cheek article on how to lose an appeal. Until recently it could have been found at

http://alex.kozinski.com/articles/The_Wrong_Stuff.pdf

Suppose someone sent you this link, or found it on a web site, and clicked on it; you read the article, and you like it, and decided you'd like to read more of his work.

Where do you think you might find such a collection? Of course! It is entirely legitimate for you to have manually edited the URL to this:

http://alex.kozinski.com/articles/

and see what happens. Now, I don't know what would have happened, since the web site is empty now. But it could have returned a nicely formatted index of articles, not unlike the one that used to be found here:

http://alex.kozinski.com/articles/articles.by.ak.list.htm

or it could have returned a raw directory list of the PDFs contained there. Or, if his web server's configured to do so, it would have returned an error indicating that a directory listing is not available.

Revenant said...

Now, it is a website, though, isn't it?

There isn't a definite line between "website" and "PC connected to the internet".

P. Rich said...

"First, what do we think of this use of one's wife to run interference for you in matters sexual?"

Althouse: You aren't suggesting that the little woman was held down in front of a keyboard and forced to write this against her obviously weak feminine will, are you? Or are you implying that he should have forbidden her to publish this and locked her in a closet? I mean, surely not. Confusion reigns. Biddy won't be pleased.

mcg said...

There isn't a definite line between "website" and "PC connected to the internet".

Sure there is. If it responds to HTTP or HTTPS requests it's a web site. It might be empty, it might be broken, but it's a web site. It can respond to SMB requests, NFS requests, DNS requests, DHCP requests, whatever---but without good ol' port 80 up and running it isn't a web site.

Revenant said...

Sure there is. If it responds to HTTP or HTTPS requests it's a web site.

That's one possible definition, sure, and under it most net-connected PCs count as "websites". But even then we don't describe the entire contents of the PC as being "on a website".

For example, suppose an image was grabbed from "file://kozinski.com/image.jpg" -- was that "taken from a website", even though the HTTP protocol wasn't used, just because a webserver was running on the machine?

PatHMV said...

mcg... I don't think anybody is suggesting that the unpleasant Mr. Cyrus Sinai was breaking the law when he "snooped" on Judge K's server. But the LA Times suggested through its language that Judge K was offering this to the public in the same way that a blog is offered to the public or that posting something on a public street is offered to the public.

I think Sinai was legally entitled to do what he did; it's not "hacking" in any legal sense. But it's still rude. If I were to show somebody one document on my desk, that's not particularly an invitation to read every document on my desk. If I call somebody over to show them an e-mail that I was sent, and then leave for a few minutes, that's not an invitation to them to look at all my other e-mail.

I understand that there's something of a different ethos on the web, and I agree that if you put something out there, it's your job to at least make it clear that unwanted visitors are not allowed. But Sinai was not just some random computer person looking at what's out there, he was targeting Judge K particularly because he's a very disgruntled litigant. It was rude, irrelevant, and unnecessary for him to be snooping like that.

At any rate, this is all to say that the mere fact that this stuff could be found, legally, by others does not imply (as the LA Times and others did) that Judge K was in any real sense "publishing" that information to the world.

mcg said...

That's one possible definition, sure, and under it most net-connected PCs count as "websites".

No, they don't. Very few net-connected PCs have a running web server.

But even then we don't describe the entire contents of the PC as being "on a website".

Of course not. Only the directories being pointed to by the web server software are on the web site. It is a specially designated directory for that purpose. If you install a web server on your computer and fire it up, it's not going to start serving all of your files. You're going to have to place the files you want public in a special directory.

For example, suppose an image was grabbed from "file://kozinski.com/image.jpg" -- was that "taken from a website", even though the HTTP protocol wasn't used, just because a webserver was running on the machine?

You're not making sense here. The "file://" URL convention is used to pull files from your own machine, not from someone else's machine. So the example you've supplied here isn't a well-formed URL.

mcg said...

PathMV,

Cyrus Sanai, and anyone else, could legally and ethically access the content on alex.kozinski.com. The web is a public forum, and whatever you put on the web in an unprotected fashion is fair game. There are a variety of ways to carve out "private" areas of the Web using authentication and access control measures; but the default "state" of the Web is public.

On the other hand, I'm only referring to access above. It is another thing altogether what Cyrus Sanai has done with that content. I am very uncomfortable with what he has done. It smacks me as crude and vengeful, and completely irrelevant to the case he claims to have against Judge Kozinski.

blake said...

mcg is technically correct that "If it responds to HTTP or HTTPS requests it's a web site."

But there are a couple of problems there: First, "but without good ol' port 80 up and running it isn't a web site." Websites don't have to run off port 80. (I use 8000, 8080 and 10010 all the time, in fact, particularly for running specialized web-apps.) It's really just having the HTTP server running on any port that makes it a web site, and any open public port that makes it a public web site.

Second, those other protocols, (e.g., FTP) can often be accessed by a browser, which will display the information just as though it were a website.

Which means that, for the average schmoe, it's a website. This isn't a bad (non-technical) definition: "A website is anything I can get to with my browser."

This could even extend so far as to include files served by applications running in browser virtual machines. I mean, if my website is a Java applet that looks exactly like any other website but doesn't t use the HTTP protocol (except for the initial serving of the applet), does (or should?) the end user really care? (Well, he does in one way: The browser's back button won't work as expected.)

This is all kind of persiflage, though: There was nothing very wrong (of what I saw) on the site, nothing that demonstrated an intent to arouse (isn't that why we object to porno?).

Sinai meant evil and found a willing accomplice with The L.A. Times (a paper that was winning the journalistic equivalent of The Razzies long before there was a blogosphere). The article conveys the impression of a private porno club, and was timed to cause the most damage to the public as possible. The L.A. Times is a better testament to the dark side of free expression than all the porn in the world. (And as far as I can tell, this was true back when they were conservative shills, and hasn't changed since they turned liberal.)

What this means, basically, is that judges (and other public figures) will have to remove themselves even further from normal human activities, lest someone associate them with a raunchy e-mail.

Mrs. Albertine Eikenhorst said...

Oh you object to the word "cavorting".....due to lewd connotations ????

Well, I daresay, the word "frolicking" is positively Shakespearian !

Michael E. Lopez said...

Some people, I swear.

Open your own browser on your home computer.

Up where the address goes, type in "C:/" .

Now tell me that's a website.

mcg said...

Blake, thank you for the clarifications, but I hope you will agree that a web site doesn't happen by accident---certainly not by connecting your average PC to the Internet and flipping a switch.

blake said...

Michael,

If I do it, I get "Firefox doesn't know how to open this address because the protocol (C) isn't associated with any application.

If I use IE, it switches to the Windows file explorer (though it still says Internet explorer).

Opera rather smartly shows the files but changes the addresss to: "file://localhost/C:/".

Of all the responses, I believe Firefox's is the technically correct one. (You can get Firefox to browse the local drive with: "file:///C:/".)

If you taught people to do that, of course, they'd speak in terms of "not being able to find files on their website" while meaning their local drives.

Smilin' Jack said...

Suppose Kozinsky was a drug dealer as well as a pervert. And he kept his stash hidden under the front steps of his house, and one day some neighborhood kids found it and turned it in. Kozinski cries "Those kids were tresspassing! And it was really my evil son who put those drugs there! And they're really not that bad anyway!" Would that get him off?

It's disgusting that people are quibbling over internet protocols while our courts are being run by drug-dealing perverts.

blake said...

mcg--

I hope you will agree that a web site doesn't happen by accident---certainly not by connecting your average PC to the Internet and flipping a switch.

Hee hee. Not since Windows '98, no.

I figure they didn't think anything on the site was that big a deal (it wasn't--I mean, there weren't classified or sealed records or something, thank God), didn't figure anything was worth protecting, and they just underestimated the pernicious nature of their enemies.

blake said...

Smilin' Jack -- lol

Kitty Blackburn said...

And therein lies the quandry:

Where does one hide one's Stash?

What is the most appropriate place?

Should it be filed with the neo-Nazi, Satanic, Jihadist Docs?

Should it be kept close by the assorted Madam and Drug Mules ?

An upstanding, and prestigious Judge, like Kozinski, certainly can't store it amongst his bookmaking Slush Fund Statements.

So, where then?

Miss Henrietta Hoback said...

Nothing like a well-to-do family who shares their pornography with each other !

Anyone know what the Kozinski kid gave his Dad for Father's Day ???

former law student said...

Very few net-connected PCs have a running web server.

It's been a while, but didn't NT 4.0 and Win2K ship with IIS defaulted to run at startup? Isn't that why the Code Red worm spread so easily?

A'course, the Kozinskis had to apply for their domain name. I see they're registered through joker.com

Yale may not be a hacker, but he thinks he's LEET:

contact-hdl: CCOM-75995
person: Yale Kozinski
email: public@kozinski.com
address: Foo
city: Bar
state: Baz
postal-code: 31337
country: US
phone: +1.8001

Biff said...

How legitimate are our obscenity and sex laws when the chief judge trying the case has his own cache of porn and the governor of NY is patronizing the same call girls he used to prosecute?

Cerulean said...

"when the jurors asked Kozinski how long it would take to watch the movies, he announced it would be 5 hours, but that he would be right there watching with them. "
---LA Times

(And loving it, obviously.)

Revenant said...

You're not making sense here. The "file://" URL convention is used to pull files from your own machine, not from someone else's machine. So the example you've supplied here isn't a well-formed URL.

You are mistaken on that point; file:// can retrieve files from other computers, too. There are other URIs that can be used to retrieve files through a browser without using HTTP, too (such as ftp://).

Revenant said...

How legitimate are our obscenity and sex laws when the chief judge trying the case has his own cache of porn and the governor of NY is patronizing the same call girls he used to prosecute?

That's an easy question to answer.

First of all, the laws against prostitution have nothing to do with the laws against obscenity, so it doesn't matter if the governor of NY boinks hookers or not. Even in those counties of Nevada which allow prostitution, sale of obscene materials is still illegal.

As for the judge, even if he had a stash of "porn" (and so far no pornographic images from it have been revealed), there's no indication that anything in it was in violation against obscenity laws. So there would be no more conflict of interest in his judging an obscenity case than there would be in a judge with aspirin in his medicine cabinet judging a crack dealing case.

Daryl said...

And what is this "reverse engineering"? Clicking around within a site?

It's not clicking, it's typing.

Let's say you put a link on your blog:

http://www.lotsofphotographswebsite.com/
flowers/pictureofaflower007.jpg

If I want to see more of your flower photos, I might change that to end in "pictureofaflower006.jpg" and see if I get another picture.

Or I might remove the pictureofaflower text entirely, so it looks like:

http://www.lotsofphotographswebsite.com/
flowers/

I will end up with one of four things:

1 - forbidden - a message that the website host has blocked me from going there

2 - flowers/index.html - if there is an index.html file, that's what will be shown by default.

3 - an exposed directory structure - a naked tree showing all of the files in the directory. From here, I can look at anything; I don't have to guess at the names of the files. You will see these often when you go to FTP sites to download files.

4 - an automatic redirect to some other page - whatever the webmaster felt was the appropriate place to send me for snooping

Most professional web sites block users from seeing directory structures, by using one of the other 3 options, because they don't want people snooping or stumbling onto something innocently.

Slim999 said...

"The LA Times shouldn't have published the idiotic attack, and Kozinski did nothing wrong."

If Kozinski did nothing wrong, and the attack is idiotic, then why aren't you publishing the photos, Ann?

Why aren't you publishing the photo of the boy giving himself a blowjob?

Why aren't you publishing the picture of the women painted as cows?

Why aren't you publishing the photo of the Catholic Priest getting fellated by a child?

Patterico published them.

I'll tell you why you aren't, Ann. You aren't because such photos aren't fit to be printed on your blog. They're obscene ... that's why you won't print them.

You know they're wrong to possess, and that this judge has no business presiding over obscenity trials.

He can't. His objectivity is compromised by his own possession of obscene materials, which is illegal.

How do I know they're obscene? The exact same way that the Supreme Court detects obscenity: I know it when I see it.

Since when do Federal judges get to break the law with impunity?

Tagore said...

This was not a website. It was a (possibly intentionally) unsecured personal file server accessible through the http protocol. I wouldn't normally consider the two things that different, but in this case it is an important point.

Some media outlets have stated that the good Judge was running a "porn website". This implies that he was trying to draw the public to a set of pages he had made in order to promote the distribution of these files.

This was not the case- he had put the files on a server and done nothing to invite the public to them (though he did little to keep them out). It;s clear that he meant these files to be seen only by people he chose, and in that sense he was not running a "website", using the common definition of the term.

I've only seen a few images from his server, but none struck me as all that objectionable. I'd seen most of them before. I don't know why this is even a story.

mcg said...

You are mistaken on that point; file:// can retrieve files from other computers, too. There are other URIs that can be used to retrieve files through a browser without using HTTP, too (such as ftp://).

I stand corrected, thanks! I've never seen that usage. And for good reason; as your supplied linked explains. It goes on to say:

The file URL scheme is used to designate files accessible on a particular host computer. This scheme, unlike most other URL schemes, does not designate a resource that is universally accessible over the Internet.

So I'm still comfortable with excluding these URLs from the definition of a web site.

As for ftp://, yes, I agree those can in theory be used for web sites, but I'm comfortable that those are exceptions that prove the rule. In fact, ftp:// URLs indicate the existence of a server specifically set up to serve files over the Internet. In other words, it is not just a "PC connected to the Internet."

The point being: web sites aren't accidental.

mcg said...

This was not a website. It was a (possibly intentionally) unsecured personal file server accessible through the http protocol. I wouldn't normally consider the two things that different,

Because you shouldn't.

If I want to communicate privately with a friend in another city, I can 1) send him an email or 2) take out an ad in the local paper. I can 1) call him on the telephone or 2) take out an ad on the local radio station.

If I chose either option 2), it doesn't matter how much I intended the communication to be private---it's not.

Similarly, setting up an web server on the internet; configuring it to accept nearly full indexing by search engine spiders; and deliberately pointing other very public web sites to some of those files are similarly inappropriate steps to take when one wants to keep the files private.

This was not the case- he had put the files on a server and done nothing to invite the public to them (though he did little to keep them out).

Yes, he did. Let me repeat myself: he put the web site on the Internet, instructed search engines that they were free to index the entire site, save for one specific directory (not the porn directory!) and published links to that web site on the Internet in undisputably public pages. I agree he did not intend to make those files public, but it is not true that he had "done nothing to invite the public to them".

Tagore said...

mcg says:

Because you shouldn't.

I think I should. There is an enormous difference between running a website that invites the public to view certain images and having a file server that allows the public to view said images if they can guess the urls. It is not a line I would like to see smudged.

The good judge did not actively invite search engines to index his content, as far as I know. Instead he failed to prohibit them from doing so by using an almost empty robots.txt file and by allowing his webserver to serve directory listings. This was an amateurish mistake- I have to consider the whole episode an example of extraordinarily poor judgment given his public position.

But some media reported that he was "running a porn site". I've spoken with friends in Australia who have heard only that an American judge was "running a porn site" (of course they had no idea that he was actually at the level from which Supreme Court Justices are often chosen, or that he was an enormously respected legal schaolar).

He was doing no such thing. I have actually run semi-pornographic sites that were meant to send traffic to truly pornographic sites (that I was not running). One was probably the most famous semi-porn site of its day, receiving many millions of visits a day. I know how much marketing goes into running a porn site , and the good Judge was not engaging in that sort of commerce.

Saying that he ran a porn site is a lie, as far as I am concerned. He had some questionable images, chosen because he thought they were funny, on a file server that he thought he could control access to by not publicising the urls.

He was wrong about that, and it stuns me that a man in his position would be that dim about that sort of thing (but I do it for a living, so...), but I really don't see the story here. I can't imagine this on the news at 6 when I was a kid: Judge likes funny prurient pictures, next on 60 minutes.

Tagore said...

But...

Former Law student says: "Providing links to specific files on a server does not constitute a license to look around the server to see what else is available."

and is wrong. I'll type whatever I goddamned well want into my web browser's url bar. It is your responsibility to make sure that your server doesn't serve me something that might embarrass you.

holdfast said...

Slim999 (sockpuppet for Smilin Jack?):

Ann may not want to print them because they do not fit the tone or her blog. Various magazines such as Playboy, Hustler etc are not deemed to be obscene under the law and are perfectly legal to purchase if one is of the appropriate age. Nevertheless, I would not expect the pictures from those magazines to be published in Time, People or the University of Wisconsin Law Review, not because they are illegal, but because they do not suit the tone and readership of those magazines.

mcg said...

I think I should. There is an enormous difference between running a website that invites the public to view certain images and having a file server that allows the public to view said images if they can guess the urls.

Yes, indeed, they are quite different in many ways. But not by their name.

Besides, Alex Kozinski's web site in toto adheres to your first description far more than the second. Much of the content was accessible through search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Google, in particular, still provides 10 or more pages of entries from his "articles/" directory. Yahoo would have found more, because its spider is more aggressive. But they would not have been led there in the first place had a link to at least one of those papers wasn't made public.

Surely you agree that any reasonable person would assume that the various papers found in his "articles/" directory were for public consumption. I'm not saying he intended them to be public, just that it is a reasonable conclusion for an external party to draw.

Interestingly, he didn't create an index.htm file for that directory, either. If you typed "alex.kozinski.com/articles" into your browser, you would get an unformatted directory listing. He did create HTML, PDF, RTF, and WPD versions of an index file that he called "articles.by.ak.list.{htm,pdf,rtf,wpd}"; updated as recently as March 30, 2007. Why he didn't copy that over to index.htm is a mystery to me. But he didn't.

So if we create a new rule that says "it's not nice to surf raw directories without index files", it would unfortunately disqualify us from seeing much of the content that Judge Kozinski would want us to see.

The good judge did not actively invite search engines to index his content, as far as I know. Instead he failed to prohibit them from doing so by using an almost empty robots.txt file and by allowing his webserver to serve directory listings.

You are glossing over how critical it is that the robots.txt file was not completely empty. The fact that it was deliberately created and contained an explicit entry for a non-trivial directory indicates that its creator understood its purpose, and specifically chose not to block all indexing by search engine. Drill SGT above is correct: that doesn't establish that they intended to let the "stuff/" directory be indexed. The "stuff/" directory could have been added later without appreciating that the robots.txt file needed updating. But it does establish without a doubt that the site creator intended for at least some of its content to be indexed.

This was an amateurish mistake- I have to consider the whole episode an example of extraordinarily poor judgment given his public position.

Yes. But again, I'm not willing to go along with the fact that this was as innocent a mistake as others are making it out to be. This was not, and likely never was, a totally private web site. It was the commingling of private and public data that got him in trouble, not complete ignorance about the public nature of web sites.

But some media reported that he was "running a porn site". I've spoken with friends in Australia who have heard only that an American judge was "running a porn site" (of course they had no idea that he was actually at the level from which Supreme Court Justices are often chosen, or that he was an enormously respected legal schaolar).

I agree entirely that this is an unfair characterization---not because of the words "web site" though. I'd take issue with "porn web site" because the site definitely contained more than that; it wasn't even a majority of the content. And I'd certainly take issue with the claim he was "running a porn web site" for exactly the reasons you do.

Tagore said...

Interestingly, he didn't create an index.htm file for that directory, either. If you typed "alex.kozinski.com/articles" into your browser, you would get an unformatted directory listing. He did create HTML, PDF, RTF, and WPD versions of an index file that he called "articles.by.ak.list.{htm,pdf,rtf,wpd}"; updated as recently as March 30, 2007. Why he didn't copy that over to index.htm is a mystery to me. But he didn't.

This is part of my point. If you are trying to direct traffic to your images you will certainly create an index file and use it to direct traffic as you wish. It is not a mystery to me that he did not do so because I am working from the assumption that the judge intended to disseminate the files one by one to selected recipients.

At any rate, reading your post makes me think that we are parsing things a bit too fine at this point. We're in agreement about the large point, which is that his server has been mischaracterized in the media.

Where we differ is in assessing his intent. I do not believe that the judge meant these files for consumption by all and sundry. I'm not sure what you mean by innocent, but I just don't see why it is a big deal that he had these files sitting on a server. Of course I am almost immune to shame (though rather prone to guilt), and that might colour my response to this fracas.

I just don't see why this should be reported on at all.

Tagore said...

Addendum: I do understand your points about the robots file, but I'm not sure I agree with you on the indicia.

I do remember archie and gopher. Actually, if you left me in a blank room with the specs and a machine I could write a simple client for either in under an hour. So I don't consider that disagreement on the fine points of this incident indicates ignorance of the protocols.

rhhardin said...

John and Ken (KFI Los Angeles) cover Kozinski here, 6/17 6PM .mp3

They're usually anti-LA Times.

rhhardin said...

con't, with a call from Volokh in support.

Slim999 said...

@ Holdfast,

I didn't ask you. I asked Ann.

The reason Ann isn't printing the photographs is that it undermines her argument that the judge did nothing wrong.

If there is "nothing wrong" with the photo of the child fellating a Catholic priest, then there should be "nothing wrong" with Ann printing it on her blog.

If there is "nothing wrong" with a photo of a child sucking his own penis, then there should be "nothing wrong" with Ann printing it on her blog to prove to all who care to see that there is "nothing wrong" with the photo.

In fact, nobody can print the photos and then simultaneously make the argument that there is "nothing wrong" with it because they would be laughed out of the blogosphere, their credibility in tatters.

The photos are obscene and printing them would prove it. So, Ann doesn't print them. If I was an attorney, I wouldn't either. One never knows when one might have to appear before Judge Kozinski and have their case ruined by him.

That's why Ann isn't printing them. It's because Ann really does believe that there is something wrong with these photos. Ann really believes they are obscene. But that's not what Ann wants us to believe.

Ann is banking on the fact that almost nobody will print the photos (because they are obscene), so that we are left to take her word for it that the photos aren't obscene.

My question is: Why?