January 13, 2013

"I worry that Swartz’s prosecution is a sign that America is gradually losing the sense of humor that has made it the home of the world’s innovators and misfits."

... America is gradually losing....

78 comments:

wyo sis said...

The sense of humor? That's what made it the home of innovaters?
Sense of humor is not the phrase I'd use. Sense of possibility maybe.

Maguro said...

I wouldn't say it's a sign of anything, other than the folly of pressing your luck after Federal prosecutors let you slide the first time.

I fought the law and the law won

Big Mike said...

@Professor, are you the only person who hasn't noticed how utterly humorless the left has become?

n.n said...

It was recognizing and respecting individual dignity, which made America the land of innovators and misfits. It has been redirection and obfuscation, which has defended its progressive corruption.

rhhardin said...

Getting an application to clown school sent to your upper management is always timely.

Amartel said...

As the hard left tightens its grip on America, the legal leeway for useful harlequins decreases abruptly. (Not gradually.)

Clayton Hennesey said...

Swartz was a thief, right? Or was he only a thief in the David Gregory sense?

bpm4532 said...

As the left tightens it's grip, legal authorities will check Democrat campaign donation lists to decide if they should apply existing law.

Balfegor said...

"Sense of humor" is not a phrase I'd use to describe Americans in the past. Indeed, "humourless" seems more apt. Or at least "terribly earnest." It's not coincidence that Prohibition took root in the US (and those dour Scandanavian republics), but not in places like Britain and France.

Maguro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chickelit said...

At 26, Bill Gates had already co-founded Microsoft and was busting his ass to make it fly.

At 26, Steve Jobs was well along towards commercializing the Mac brand.

At 26, Wozniak had developed the computer that eventually made him famous.

At 26, Swartz is still labeled as an activist. Who knows what he could have done, but perhaps the broader movement he served--bringing down capitalism instead of building it up--played no small role.

rhhardin said...

The phrase that R. Emmett Tyrrell used, back when he was entertaining, was handwringers, hysterics and busybodies.

Maguro said...

I don't think it's a sign of anything. Have Federal prosecutors ever been known for their sense of humor? Fucking with these people has always been a very dangerous proposition.

Quayle said...

The operating procedure of the American left is merciless ruthlessness in the cause of mercy and compassion.

ambienisevil said...

I disagree. Swartz was in a very real way Mark Zuckerberg's superior - he worked for something worthwhile - and somewhat related to the spirit of Wozniak and maybe early Jobs. Older Wozniak quit/took early retirement. Later Jobs unfortunately realized what he had to do to survive and lost a lot of his idealism, but it still snuck through every once in a while. I don't say that lightly, I'm a supporter, but it's true.

I'm sure you've all heard Tim Berner Lee's lovely eulogy by now if you are interested in the subject. Nothing more to add to that, really.

I would go so far as to say those of you are calling him a relative underachiever or a common thief (ridiculous), don't really understand the most noble spirit of the country, without which it will die.

What am I saying? It's already dead, a lost cause.

chickelit said...

I would go so far as to say those of you are calling him a relative underachiever or a common thief (ridiculous), don't really understand the most noble spirit of the country, without which it will die.

Do you understand the likes of Arnold Beckman?

The portrayal of Swartz I'm reading is someone who fought intellectual property. Jobs, Wozniak, Gates, invented it. There's a fundamental difference there.

Google Swartz' name under Google patents or better still go to the USPTO website and search his name as a named inventor. I'm just not pulling up anything.

elkh1 said...

The point is those in power don't want to lose control over us, the little people, the misfits, the rebels. It's easier for them to extort "contributions" from the established few to stay in power than to persuade the rest of us to retain them.

In the old days, geeks such as Bill Gates ignored Washington, and reaped a whole lot of troubles to fight off Antitrust charges; Google got its charges dropped for being a huge contributor to the president's re-election; Elon Musk got a truck load of our money to feed his electric car...

The country may have lost its innovators, the politicians are rewarded with wealth and power, the connected are rewarded with our money.

Eric said...

As the left tightens it's grip, legal authorities will check Democrat campaign donation lists to decide if they should apply existing law.

What do you mean "will"? New Black Panthers, Jon Corzine, David Gregory, occupoopers... how many more examples do you need?

edutcher said...

What's this "America", kemo sabe?

The Lefties have been doing everything in their power to make this country as dour as Russia for the last 40 years and now he says he doesn't like it?

Clayton Hennesey said...

@ambienisevil

So if Professor Althouse writes a book on law and blowjobs and I copy it and distribute it as an ebook torrent, setting that information free of its chafing copyright, I, too, would be operating in the most noble spirit of the country.

garage mahal said...

I would go so far as to say those of you are calling him a relative underachiever or a common thief (ridiculous), don't really understand the most noble spirit of the country, without which it will die.

chickelit's asinine statement was about the fact that Swartz didn't use his massive intellect and creativity solely to enrich himself. So if he wasn't mass producing shitty software or overpriced phones he must have been an anti-capitalist.

chickelit said...

@garage: If guys like you are fighting the very concept of intellectual property, then we really are losing something in the country.

Do I have to spell it out better?

chickelit said...

I think those of you who cannot hold the opposing interests of encouraging and rewarding the useful arts on the one hand while enriching the public domain of knowledge on the other have lost sight of the bargain Thomas Jefferson struck for us over two centuries ago.

Read, study it, critique it, but do not pretend to know better than it.

Robert Cook said...

"As the hard left tightens its grip on America...."

Hahahahahahaha! Now that's fucking funny!

EDH said...

America is gradually losing the sense of humor...

America, or its rulers, the "New Mandarins"?

[Chomsky's] fundamental point on the New Mandarins is that we should not uncritically accept the claim that technocratic approaches are neutral and beneficial. Chomsky writes: 'Quite generally, what grounds are there for supposing that those whose claim to power is based on knowledge and technique will be more benign in their exercise of power than those whose claim is based on wealth or aristocratic origin? On the contrary, one might expect the new mandarin to be dangerously arrogant, aggressive and incapable of adjusting to failure, as compared with his predecessor, whose claim to power was not diminished by honesty as to the limitations of his knowledge, lack of work to do or demonstrable mistakes.'

He also suggests that common presumptions about the greatness of the West and the modern age are misguided. He writes that these assumptions are created automatically regardless of real social conditions: 'one would expect any group with access to power and affluence to construct an ideology that will justify this state of affairs on the grounds of the general welfare.

Lyle said...

Free stuff is what made America. Oh yeah!

Robert Cook said...

"The operating procedure of the American government is merciless ruthlessness in the cause of asserting its prerogatives, deceptively called 'freedom and justice'."

I fixed that for you.

Robert Cook said...

"The portrayal of Swartz I'm reading is someone who fought intellectual property. Jobs, Wozniak, Gates, invented it."

Wozniak and Jobs, for all their achievements, did not "create" the idea of intellectual property. A book under copyright is protected intellectual property. Both books and copyright, surprisingly enough, predate the presence of Wozniak and Jobs on the earth.

Moreover, Woz and Jobs initially stole the property of the telephone company, in that they built and sold devices that would replicate the electronic tone(s) that governed the conveyance of telephone signals across the wires. With one of these devices one could make telephone calls to anyone anywhere in the world without being charged a cent. As usual with them, Woz devised it as a prankster's toy--Woz and Jobs were drawn together partially due to a mutual enjoyment of playing pranks--and Jobs saw the opportunity to make some money (at the telephone company's expense).

Alex said...

At 26, Swartz is still labeled as an activist. Who knows what he could have done, but perhaps the broader movement he served--bringing down capitalism instead of building it up--played no small role.

Exactly, our modern MSM is 100% anti-capitalist so they put up this guy as a saint.

Maguro said...

Moreover, Woz and Jobs initially stole the property of the telephone company, in that they built and sold devices that would replicate the electronic tone(s) that governed the conveyance of telephone signals across the wires. With one of these devices one could make telephone calls to anyone anywhere in the world without being charged a cent.

Really, how the hell did that work? Do you have a link?

chickelit said...

Wozniak and Jobs, for all their achievements, did not "create" the idea of intellectual property.

That's not what I meant Cook and I suspect you know that. They created intellectual property in the sense that they generated patents or at least the concepts and reduction to practice.

Jobs created/co-invented a slew of design patents. See for example: link

Wozniak was an inventor on utility patents, for example: link

Just because you don't respect or recognize intellectual property, Cook, doesn't mean that the rest of the world shares your view.

Robert Cook said...

Blue Box

There are plenty of places to find this info, but this is one source.

Robert Cook said...

"Just because you don't respect or recognize intellectual property, Cook, doesn't mean that the rest of the world shares your view."

How do you presume to know that I don't recognize intellectual property?

Alex said...

Cook - well do you?

Robert Cook said...

Another source re: Jobs and Woz and their blue boxes

Robert Cook said...

I do.

chrisnavin.com said...

You're never hard enough Left for the resident socialist, Red Robert Cook.

Hola comrade!

chickelit said...

How do you presume to know that I don't recognize intellectual property?

Because you pedantically skimmed over my point about Jobs and Wozniak creating some intellectual property (there I put the partitive in for you -- happy?) and tried to divert the point.

Will you accept that Jobs and Wozniak created some intellectual property while Swartz did not? Unless you can find and a patent or patent application to the contrary.

Robert Cook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Cook said...

"Will you accept that Jobs and Wozniak created some intellectual property while Swartz did not?"

I never disputed that they created some intellectual property, I disputed your statement that they invented intellectual property. That poor choice of word on your part did lead me to actually believe you were asserting they created the idea of intellectual property, which I concede was a misinterpretation on my part.

But Swartz also created intellectual property. From Wikipedia:

"Swartz was a member of the RSS-DEV Working Group that co-authored the 'RSS 1.0' specification of RSS[2], and built the Web site framework web.py and the architecture for the Open Library. He also built Infogami, a company that merged with Reddit in its early days, through which he became an equal owner of the merged company.[i]"

And Woz and Jobs also stole intellectual property, so your point, denigrating Swartz, (whom I had never heard of before his death), by contrasting him with Jobs and Wozniak, presenting the one as a mere moocher and the pair as makers, is misinformed.

They were all...both.

chickelit said...

"Swartz was a member of the RSS-DEV Working Group that co-authored the 'RSS 1.0' specification of RSS[2], and built the Web site framework web.py and the architecture for the Open Library. He also built Infogami, a company that merged with Reddit in its early days, through which he became an equal owner of the merged company.[i]"

All of those activities fall outside the scope of patentable material. Perhaps he copyrighted them. That would be delicious.

MadisonMan said...

Lack of a sense of humor knows no political party when it comes to the party in power.

Big Mike said...

@MadMan, you and I fully agree.

R. Chatt said...

Even if he hadn't committed suicide, even if he didn't produce a marketable product, the disturbing part of this story remains: the hounding of this young man by the Justice Department. He obviously ticked some people off. Was the prosecutor using/abusing his power as a payback?

Biff said...

Prosecutors, of course, have long been known for their sense of humor.

I may agree that the prosecutor had been seeking an excessive punishment for Swartz, and I may have agreed with Swartz on a particular issue here or there, but I am tiring of the hagiographies that are being written about Swartz.

I laughed out loud at the line in the linked article that "Swartz then threw himself into political activism" (How sweet! How noble!) without mentioning the substance of his political views. Despite the occasional libertarian-ish remark from Swartz, he was very much a man of Occupy and the uncompromising left (which explains the hagiographies).

I cringe at the articles that refer to Swartz as a "kid" or "boy" who didn't care about money as if he were some cute, naive, eccentric juvenile. That grossly shortchanges and disrespects the actual man. He was a twenty-six year old, tech-savvy, political activist who had a nice payday a few years back when his company was acquired by a media giant.

He had his frailties, including depression (with which I sympathize greatly), but he was an extremely smart, voluble man who was certain of the correctness of his opinions, and he offered little quarter to those with whom he disagreed.

Beware hagiography.

(Disclaimer: I was lightly acquainted with Swartz. I didn't dislike him personally, though we had strong disagreements about several subjects.)

Michael K said...

"The portrayal of Swartz I'm reading is someone who fought intellectual property. Jobs, Wozniak, Gates, invented it. There's a fundamental difference there. "

Sorry but Jobs stole the GUI from Xerox PARC. Bill Gates then stole it from Jobs but Xerox wasn't doing anything useful with it. They had just told PARC to quit messing around and go back to research on copiers.

The guys who started Adobe, and Ethernet and the laser printer all left.

When I was in college, before Gates was born, we had a set of chimes in the fraternity house that matched the sounds of nickels, dimes and quarters in the phone. The phone company used to wonder why there was no money in the cash box.

One time, about 1959, we decided to call Khruschev collect. It was about 1 AM which was probably working hours in the Kremlin. We got as far as someone who told us "Chairman Khrushchev is still asleep." It might have helped that my name is Kennedy, although it was before Kennedy was elected.

chickelit said...

Sorry but Jobs stole the GUI from Xerox PARC.

Hey dipshit, I wasn't talking about or linking to that. I linked to his design patents. If you are presuming those patents are invalid and have proof of it I'm sure you could make a small fortune. Oterwise accept them as being valid and not "stolen."

The point was made elsewhere that this kid was somehow the equivalent of Jobs et al. and I disputed that. But go ahead and keep worshiping your little hero.

tim maguire said...

F. Scott Fitzgerald, in one of wrongest lines ever, said there are no second acts in American lives.

The opportunity to fail and try again, the chance at a second act, is what makes America great. And it is one of te many things our government is currently destroying.

Swartz's ultimate undoing was the government coming down on him like a ton of bricks for a fairly minor transgression. No more acts for him.

tim maguire said...

Chickelit, he had fantastic accomplishments for a 26 year old. He just wasn't focussed on becoming fabulously rich. So you can pick 5 incredibly rich people and show how they were on their way to riches by his age and that proves...what? Exactly?

Mark O said...

The Progressives are all Puritans at heart, feeling the need to conform us to their better understanding of conduct and utterly lacking in any sense of the absurdity of their own existence.

Mark O said...

"Was the prosecutor using/abusing his power as a payback?"

Obviously you are unaware of the actual function of the "criminal justice" aspect of the government. If there is anything in need of reform, it is the criminal system.

chickelit said...

So you can pick 5 incredibly rich people and show how they were on their way to riches by his age and that proves...what? Exactly?

Hey, I'm not the one putting Swartz in the pantheon.

Someone mentioned his alignment with OWS goals. Full disclosure: I'm at odds with OWS goals. Figure it out.

garage mahal said...

Aaron Swartz was an anti Steve Jobs, maybe that's why his activism is so appealing. Me, I wouldn't have pissed on Steve Jobs if he were on fire.

Maguro said...

Thanks for the link, Cook. Interesting that the whole Blue Box thing was enabled by Bell publcly disclosing the technical specs for their own switching gear.

AJ Lynch said...

Wonkblog and Ezra Klein are well known for their sense of humor if that is what you call doctrinaire librul propaganda.

Levi Starks said...

Sorry my son, but you're too late in askin, Mr Peabody's coal train done took it away.

Michael K said...

" chickelit said...
Sorry but Jobs stole the GUI from Xerox PARC.

Hey dipshit, I wasn't talking about or linking to that. I linked to his design patents. If you are presuming those patents are invalid and have proof of it I'm sure you could make a small fortune. Oterwise accept them as being valid and not "stolen." "

My goodness! There are a couple of books that tell the story.

My point was that intellectual property is often not really property at all. That's why I am opposed to the DRM that the music companies that fund Obama use to rip off kids who want to listen to music.

kentuckyliz said...

I really don't get the problem with what he did with public, public domain documents.

But copyright violation...isn't that a civil and not criminal matter?

Balfegor said...

Re: Clayton Hennesey:

So if Professor Althouse writes a book on law and blowjobs and I copy it and distribute it as an ebook torrent, setting that information free of its chafing copyright, I, too, would be operating in the most noble spirit of the country.

Well, maybe not the most noble spirit of the country, but Americans have a proud tradition of ignoring copyright, going back to Benjamin Franklin. Much as we complain about Chinese piracy today, the British complained about American piracy in the 19th century. Our publishing industry was built on rampant piracy of foreign works.

Robert Cook said...

"Full disclosure: I'm at odds with OWS goals."

What do you imagine the OWS goals to be?

Alex said...

OWS goals are to topple capitalism.

Levi Starks said...

Ok, I'll treat this as a serious question.
The problem with intellectual copyright law is the lawyers.
Protecting intellectual property is perfectly acceptable, to a point.
The problem is with the administration of said protection. Lawyers (from henceforth to be referred to as protectors) produce no actual product. The value they add is the additional revenue they claim to bring to the actual producer. When the protectors are also the lawmakers, it's pretty much a no brainer that extending copyright protection out to an effective infinity assures them a continuing revenue stream. If it helps, think about how the oil industry works to get additional oil and gas out of depleted wells. but instead of pumping in water, they're pumping in legislation. The original reasoning behind copyright's and their limitations was that is was seen as allowing creators an opportunity to obtain a reasonable revenue from their product, while also allowing for the public good in that after a reasonable time the greater benefit would be through open access to ideas.
Laws now in effect serve only to enrich the protector, and the offspring of the creators.
If theirs a dollar to be made off the producers back the lawyers will find a way to make it.

Levi Starks said...

Better yet,
If you want a close look at underbelly of the copyright infringement business, and have the stomach for it you might enjoy this site.

http://dietrolldie.com

Athouse should read this since it is mostly legalese. and it give her a picture of where some of her future graduates are destined to practice law.

Robert Cook said...

"OWS goals are to topple capitalism."

Is it?

I'm sure there are some involved in OWS who hold that goal. I'm just as sure there are others involved in OWS who do not specifically want to topple capitalism--which, when it falls, will fall of its own weight and rot--but want to see a more fair and equitable capitalism. You may see this goal as "socialism" or even "communism," but I see it as simply holding those most advantaged under capitalism to the same laws and standards of ethical behavior as the rest of us are expected to follow.

Rusty said...

" but I see it as simply holding those most advantaged under capitalism to the same laws and standards of ethical behavior as the rest of us are expected to follow.

Then it isn't capitalism -free markets-anymore.


Robert Cook said...

Rusty said:

"Then it isn't capitalism -free markets-anymore."

So your contention is that capitalism--the mythical "free markets"--not merely gives license to but requires that the wealthy be permitted to operate free of the ethical and legal obligations that bind the rest of us?

Finally, someone who's honest about the outlaw nature of those persons and institutions at the top in our economic system!

Jason said...

You're like my yo-yo/
That glows in the dark./
What made it special/
Made it dangerous./
I won't forget.

AprilApple said...

Watch this video.
Chris Dodd(D- corrupt) was behind the paranoid tyrannical effort to stop the free flow in information in the internet.

Jason said...

Swarz strikes me as the kind of young man who would say "nuts" rather than pay a bribe.

Doesn't do too well with people like Holder in charge.

Bob Ellison said...

I thought I was a tech cognoscente, but I know nothing about this Aaron Swartz story. It sounds complex, and suddenly Instapundit, Althouse, and other sites are all over it, as though everyone has heard the tale, or as though it's so obvious that a quick read reveals the plot.

If you want the story to sell, you should tell it first, and analyze it second.

And you, a law professor!

AprilApple said...

Chris Dodd(D-corrupt) is now a Hollywood lobbyist. Not difficult to connect those dots.

Bryan C said...

chickelit, had Gates, Woz, and Jobs reached age 26 in the year 2012, I strongly suspect that they would each have already been guilty of multiple federal felonies. You can't do today what they did.

That's the problem with so many laws today, and especially intellectual property laws. They've been hijacked by wealthy cartels and turned into a weapon against the public they were designed to enrich. The public domain, as a legal safe-harbor, hardly exists anymore. Even the big guys like Google get yelled at and threatened for doing things that are perfectly legal.

What Swartz did was dumb, but the notion that you can be made a federal felon - for life - for the crime of copyright violation is outrageous - and counterproductive.

Rusty said...

Robert Cook said...
Rusty said:

"Then it isn't capitalism -free markets-anymore."

So your contention is that capitalism--the mythical "free markets"--not merely gives license to but requires that the wealthy be permitted to operate free of the ethical and legal obligations that bind the rest of us?


No it isn't my contention.
You might try reading something on the subject.
I recommend Meise, or Smith.

Rusty said...

Robert Cook said...
"Full disclosure: I'm at odds with OWS goals."

What do you imagine the OWS goals to be?


Whatever they accomplished must be their goals.

Biff said...

We are all felons now.

jr565 said...

Levi Starks wrote:
The problem is with the administration of said protection. Lawyers (from henceforth to be referred to as protectors) produce no actual product. The value they add is the additional revenue they claim to bring to the actual producer. When the protectors are also the lawmakers, it's pretty much a no brainer that extending copyright protection out to an effective infinity assures them a continuing revenue stream. If it helps, think about how the oil industry works to get additional oil and gas out of depleted wells. but instead of pumping in water, they're pumping in legislation. The original reasoning behind copyright's and their limitations was that is was seen as allowing creators an opportunity to obtain a reasonable revenue from their product, while also allowing for the public good in that after a reasonable time the greater benefit would be through open access to ideas.
Laws now in effect serve only to enrich the protector, and the offspring of the creators.
If theirs a dollar to be made off the producers back the lawyers will find a way to make it.

You sound like a far lefty talking about redistributing the wealth and people have earned enough money for their own work lets spread their wealth around a bit.

jr565 said...

Levi Starks wrote:
"The problem is with the administration of said protection. Lawyers (from henceforth to be referred to as protectors) produce no actual product. The value they add is the additional revenue they claim to bring to the actual producer. When the protectors are also the lawmakers, it's pretty much a no brainer that extending copyright protection out to an effective infinity assures them a continuing revenue stream."

THere are other law makers and lawyers trying to undermine copyright. And they're getting paid for their work too.

jr565 said...

Bryan C wrote:
"They've been hijacked by wealthy cartels and turned into a weapon against the public they were designed to enrich. The public domain, as a legal safe-harbor, hardly exists anymore"

You mention Microsoft and Apple in the context of the public domain. Both of those companies are for profit comapnies putting out product that you have to pay for. Anything open source or put out in the open domain are put there with rules set by Microsoft and Apple. What do you think the public domain SHOULD entitle you to when it comes to companies like Apple or Microsoft?