March 4, 2013

"Once your life is inside a federal investigation, there is no space outside of it."

"The only private thing is your thoughts, and even they don't feel safe anymore. Every word you speak or write can be used, manipulated, or played like a card against your future and the future of those you love. There are no neutral parties, no sources of unimpeachable wisdom and trust."

78 comments:

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Are you done with Gatsby and now pulling "Today's sentence" from "1984"?

Bryan C said...

In retrospect Swartz would have been better off reacting with open defiance and doing exactly the opposite of what his lawyers told him to do. Go public. Wear a camera and a mic, record your "private" meetings with prosecutors and stream them online. The prosecutors obviously prefer to work in secret because it helps them, not because it helps you.

Once it's clear that they're acting in bad faith and intend to railroad you anyway,there's no sense in playing the game by their rules. Seriously, what else are they going to do? Shoot you?

Perhaps the next mark will learn from his mistakes and adopt a somewhat more aggressive defense.

edutcher said...

Essentially, this is another, "don't do the crime if ya can't do the time", since Swartz was dumb enough to pull the lion's tail (something else you really don't do unless you're prepared for the consequences).

There are plenty of people who are harassed by the Feds because what they did has the appearance or perception of impropriety (things dear to the hearts of Lefties), but walking into a closed room full of open gasoline cans with a lit cigarette is something else.

Mark O said...

There has to be a change in the ideas of prosecutorial immunity. There is little justice in the criminal "justice" system.

Perhaps the most chilling remark was that for one of these powerful prosecutors, it was only a "game."

CEO-MMP said...

Is it possible to despise 'the gummint' more than I already do?

Maybe when they come after me, I don't know.

Thanks Professor. Now I'm all pissed off and looking for a fight.

Lawyers....

jr565 said...

Wow, it's like the first time people have been privy to the inner workings of a federal investigation.This is what happens to people.

mark said...

edutcher said...
Essentially, this is another, "don't do the crime if ya can't do the time"


And what happens when the "crime" has been decided to exist by the prosecutor?

Are you willing to stand behind that comment if someone knocks on your door with a crime they will make up or find after they arrest you?

jr565 said...

How many people go through these investigations and DON'T kill themselves. It sucks, but then again Swartz felt he was above the law.
It's only when he was ensnared did he start paying attention to the idea that being prosecuted for alleged misdeeds is not a great place to put your life.

jr565 said...

mark wrote:
And what happens when the "crime" has been decided to exist by the prosecutor?

People are found not guilty in trials all the time.
They say you can indict a ham sandwhich, but if there's no there the case can be thrown out or a jury can find that the prosecutor didn't make his case.

We didn't even get that far since Swartz offed himself so soon into the game.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

And, Glen Reynolds is right. It is almost a CERTAINTY that you, as you sit there reading this comment, are in violation of SOME law somewhere in your everyday life, perhaps even a law with serious consequences.

jr565 said...

Mark wrote:
Are you willing to stand behind that comment if someone knocks on your door with a crime they will make up or find after they arrest you?

So you dont think Swartz knew what he was doing was wrong?
WHy the subterfuge then?

jr565 said...

Someonehastosayit:
And, Glen Reynolds is right. It is almost a CERTAINTY that you, as you sit there reading this comment, are in violation of SOME law somewhere in your everyday life, perhaps even a law with serious consequences.

With all respect to Reynolds, who I agree with on many things he's in agreement with Swartz and on doing away with copyright, so take what he has to say with a grain of salt on this.
Its not a crime to him because of course he doesn't think it should be .

mark said...

jr565 said...
People are found not guilty in trials all the time.


So?

Our limited government was designed because government means power. And power will ALWAYS be misused. The constitution was written to throttle the government for this very reason.

It is why citizens need to know what any administration is doing. And stomp the crap (not literally) out of career administrators when they get out of line. Not give them a pat on the back and a "too bad, so sorry" to the ones they harm.

traditionalguy said...

The Fed DAs have a lust for power that demands sacrificing innocent victims whenever they can get away with it.

That said, the powerless are the ones demonized as cartoon villains in the press/media in pre-released stories that have little actual facts mixed with a load of fictional metaphors.

Without a media that dares to investigate and push back such stories as lies we are all in jeopardy all of the time.


That was Bob Woodward's message to us about the Obama regimes apparent confidence that without an unafraid media they now have absolute power to become the Dictator that Obama says he isn't...until the crisis day.

And why did the Homeland Security Feds just order 2600 armored cars to supplement their stockpile of billions of rounds of 40 mm wad cutters? Is it planning for the crisis day?

jr565 said...

mark wrote:
It is why citizens need to know what any administration is doing. And stomp the crap (not literally) out of career administrators when they get out of line. Not give them a pat on the back and a "too bad, so sorry" to the ones they harm.

I agree, but just because you or Glenn aren't fans of certain laws doesn't mean that prosecutors are necessarily not upholding the law in enforcing them.

I hear this type of argument when people are jailed for drug crimes because the person thinking it's wrong thinks that there shouldn't be laws against it. If a prosecutor goes after someone (and have you ever not heard of a prosecutor not using both barrels when going after someone) because someone supposedly violates a law or commits a crime involving drugs it doesn't mean they have exceeded their authority. Even if they throw the book at someone.

edutcher said...

mark said...

Essentially, this is another, "Don't do the crime if ya can't do the time"

And what happens when the "crime" has been decided to exist by the prosecutor?


That's your opinion; in this case, I disagree - as I've said here a couple of times.

Are you willing to stand behind that comment if someone knocks on your door with a crime they will make up or find after they arrest you?

Again, my opinion is he broke the law.

Going after somebody because his actions had the "appearance of impropriety" (something the Feds love doing), as was the case with Neil Bush, is another matter.

Swartz made himself a target; he fancied himself a latter-day Zorro and got involved with something where the prosecutor felt he had reason to indict (prosecutors do that all the time, it's why they go before a judge to see if there's enough to go to trial and stuff).

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

And, Glen Reynolds is right. It is almost a CERTAINTY that you, as you sit there reading this comment, are in violation of SOME law somewhere in your everyday life, perhaps even a law with serious consequences.

Some?

Try several, if not dozens or even hundreds.

Ask Lyn Nofziger or Neil Bush.

jr565 said...

It is why citizens need to know what any administration is doing. And stomp the crap (not literally) out of career administrators when they get out of line. Not give them a pat on the back and a "too bad, so sorry" to the ones they harm.


In the case of Swartz just because you and Glen Reynolds think the prosecutor has gotten out of line doens't make it so.
That doesn't mean that citizens don't need to know what any adminstration is doing. In certain cases they shouldn't. (think of any covert program requiring security clearance) In the case of Swartz, we are seeing what happens in real time so we kind of do know.

rhhardin said...

I spend all my time trying to make my thoughts public.

jr565 said...

Swartz is like Robin Hood. Just because Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor doesn't mean that the Sheriff of Nottingham shouldn't have gone after him for thievery laws. It doesn't make him an automatic villain simply because he uses the full effect of the law to go after Robin Hood and his band of thieves.
(he was a villain, but for other reasons). Whatever the merit is of redistributing wealth, do you think that a sheriff shouldn't go after the Robin hoods of the world?
Many would view the Sheriff as the villain simply for upholding the law.

Leland said...

What happens when the prosecutor decides you committed a crime, but instead of taking you to court, proceeds to punish you by levying legal demands on you while pushing off the court date as long as they can?

tim maguire said...

Shorter jR565, as presciently summarized by Lawrence Lessig: I'm right, therefore I have a right to nuke you.

See, jr, in most civilzed nations, there is a notion of the punishment fitting the crime. It's not enough to say, "he shouldn't have done it." Aaron's "crime" shouldn't have been a criminal matter in the first place and it's a largely settled question that his prosecution was political.

They went after him for his activism, not his acts.

MarkW said...

So you dont think Swartz knew what he was doing was wrong?
WHy the subterfuge then?

He knew that the MIT library and JSTOR (the online journal archive company) would not condone what he was doing. If caught, he might lose his library privileges. Worst case, he might be charged with trespass or JSTOR might sue him. But I don't think he dreamed that some immoral, hyper aggressive politically ambitious federal prosecutor would try to spin this into multiple felonies that could mean 35 years in prison.

The issue isn't that Schwartz didn't do anything wrong, the issue is the prosecution being all out of any proportion to the actual offense. And there's the possibility, too, that this prosecution was political payback for Schwartz's effective opposition to the SOPA law, which would make this all even more egregious.

Larry J said...

If this guy is correct, the average American commits 3 felonies a day without realizing it. According to him, there has been an explosion of federal criminal statues and many of them are vaguely worded, allowing for any prosecutor so inclined to go after anyone he wants with not only the resources of the federal government but complete legal immununity.

What happens when ordinary people start seeing the government as the enemy of freedom? Recent polls already show that a majority of Americans don't believe the government has the concent of the governed. There is historical precedent in the form of a document that begins, "When in the course of human events..."

No sane person wants to go there.

Quayle said...

Warning to the innocent: Federal investigations and US Attorney indictments are human shredders you best better keep you tie away from.

They will grind you your midsection until you can get someone to notice you didn't do anything wrong and turn off the machine.

PatHMV said...

I read this article, and was actually left with surprising little sympathy for the author.

By her own admission, she was very familiar with the previous investigation of Swartz during the investigation by the FBI into his use of the PACER database. Yet when the MIT/JSTOR investigation came around, she says she had to Google "grand jury" to understand what the subpoena she received was. If you choose to live with a person who is hell-bent on attacking institutions, you might want to do a little more research on the potential consequences.

In the article, she comes across to me as a typical college kid, willfully ignorant of the world and its consequences, refusing to listen to the advice of those who could help them. She says that in most states felons can't vote, but the reality is that in most states, felons who have completed their sentence (are no longer on parole or probation) can indeed vote.

Her lawyers tell her to stop living with Swartz, and to stop talking about the case. But she refuses to move out, and only "mostly obeyed" the proscriptions about talking about the case.

She seems to be utterly unable to believe that anybody might ever doubt her word, that prosecutors might have good reasons to not believe self-serving "I don't know anything" or "he didn't do anything wrong" statements from a suspect's girlfriend. "I wanted to talk to Steve human-to-human," she says of the prosecutor. That strikes me as one of the core conceits of the current generation, this belief that everybody must and should be taken at face value, and not suspected of ulterior motives or worse.

That's not to say the prosecutors were virtuous or not, or to comment on the merits of the Swartz investigation. But in this article that she herself wrote, his girlfriend comes across as a naive child. I sympathize with her loss, which I'm sure has caused her great suffering. But one gets the sense that she didn't take the criminal justice system, our laws themselves, very seriously until she got involved in this. Right or wrong, Swartz was skirting the edge, pushing the boundaries. If you choose to do that, you should educate yourself about what the consequences might be.

edutcher said...

The funny (in the ironic sense) part is that the Feds even have documents for those investigations where they can't make the case that, in effect, say, "Even though what I did was perfectly legal and aboveboard, I promise I'll never do it again".

David said...

Has self-indulgent crap now become a recognized literary genre?

sydney said...

The Fed DAs have a lust for power that demands sacrificing innocent victims whenever they can get away with it.

Not just federal, but local and state prosecutors, too. There should be some sort of retribution for prosecutorial abuse of power. Most lawyers are so used to being in the courthouse that they don't realize what a trauma it is for the average person to be hit with charges/lawsuits. To them, it really is just a "game" and no big deal. They are dealing with people's lives, but they don't realize it.

Kirk Parker said...

I'm with PatHMV here. To quote myself (my intro to posting a link to this story on FB):

"Wow. I hold no brief for the prosecutors in this case, but wow--life is sure harder when you're naive, ridiculous, and unstable. Not that I hold it against her, really, as if it were her fault: starting out life with a drug-dealer for a father can't be good. But I wonder if there were any others in her life who could have pointed her to a saner existence?"

Robert Cook said...

"Seriously, what else are they going to do? Shoot you?"

Obama has asserted his right as commander in chief to do just that, so...don't feel too safe.

SJ said...

Did the author of that article ask Martha Stewart for any advice or comment?

The discussion about Swartz and the wisdom/foolishness of his actions is enlightening.

His case is different from Martha Stewart's case in many ways.

However, they are similar in one way. A prosecutor with an axe to grind can keep searching, until they've found something to charge the suspect with.

mark said...

Kirk Parker said...
I'm with PatHMV here. To quote myself (my intro to posting a link to this story on FB):

"Wow. I hold no brief for the prosecutors in this case, but wow--life is sure harder when you're naive, ridiculous, and unstable."


What about when the prosecutor is naive, ridiculous, and unstable. AND willing to use that to destroy lives?

What about when you, edutcher, jr565, etc are naive to what happened and whip out the "hey, he is a criminal!" without anything other then your own opinion? How are you different from lefties promoting the supposed evils of Governor Walker?

JSTOR didn't want him prosecuted. MIT didn't want him prosecuted. The prosecutor wanted a "hacker's pelt" on his wall. Even though he had no idea what hacking is. At all.

As far as the: He is a thief, like Robin Hood, who wanted to redistribute wealth ... sure. So I guess the entire world must really hate us mathematicians to keep stealing our wealth. You damn cheap bastards.

Rabel said...

PatHMV said:

"I read this article, and was actually left with surprising little sympathy for the author."

Same here.

It seems to me that she lied to Swartz, she lied to her lawyers, she lied to the grand jury, she lied to the prosecutors and, if you read the article, she lied to you too.

jr565 said...

SJ wrote:
However, they are similar in one way. A prosecutor with an axe to grind can keep searching, until they've found something to charge the suspect with.

Have you ever heard of a prosecutor who didn't throw the book at people?
The problem with Swartz is that he downloaded 2.7 million documents.
They, the prosecutors can thus get him on millions of crimes. It's not as if he downloaded a single file. Prosecutors will look at taht in totality and the proposed sentence will be reflected.

lets also not forget that the prosecutors did ultimately offer him a deal for only a few months of jail time which he refused.

Kirk Parker said...

mark,

Can you read? If so, please cite, word-for-word, where I said I thought Schwarz was a criminal.

For extra credit, explain what the first sentence of my 12:00pm comment means.

Balfegor said...

re: jr565:

So you dont think Swartz knew what he was doing was wrong?
WHy the subterfuge then
?

"Things people would prefer you not do" and "criminal" occupy two very different spaces on the spectrum of wrongdoing. But people tend to be secretive about both.

I have to say I went in with quite a bit of sympathy for the author and left with quite a bit of sympathy for the author. Involvement in a criminal investigation is quite painful for all the private parties involved, even if DOJ is willing to say you're just a witness, as opposed to a target or subject. It's a scary situation.

mark said...

jr565 said...
The problem with Swartz is that he downloaded 2.7 million documents.


Nope. You can legally download 2.7 million documents from JSTOR. I can legally download 2.7 million documents from JSTOR. At a reasonable pace, not overloading their servers ('cause that is against usage rules), that would take us working together about a year. I would just put a bandwidth throttle in my python script.

His problem was he used a script to download 2.7 million documents from JSTOR too fast. Evil Evil man he was. Heck. He should have first only downloaded the ones that books.google.com wasn't already hosting anyway.

Oso Negro said...

I committed thought crimes today. I passed through the TSA Security line at the airport and fantasized about pummeling the agent who insisted I say my name aloud.

Kirk Parker said...

Rabel,

I think that's a bit harsh. Preschool-aged children make up stuff all the time, but we don't go, "OMG my child is going to have a terrible life; look at how much she lies!"

Norton clearly did not have what we would normally consider to be an adult understanding of either "the truth" or "the world outside myself". While this clearly contributed much to her disaster I'm not comfortable assigning her all the culpability for this condition. For one thing (as I said), her family situation sounded pretty disastrous--unless that, too, was made-up.

gbarto said...

To put the Swartz case in perspective, it helps to remember that Jon Corzine is walking free. The New Black Panthers who lined up around voting booths weren't prosecuted. The people behind Fast and Furious have the whole government apparatus working to cover for them. We all know that a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. But we also know that the government declines to prosecute the cool kids all the time.

Swartz' mistake was that he thought he was a cool kid tweaking the man. He didn't realize he was actually a punk tangling with the powers that be.

You can argue about whether or not the prosecutors went too hard on Swartz. But it's pretty hard to make the case that they were right for tenacity in pursuing Swartz and right for their lack of tenacity in pursuing Corzine.

wyo sis said...

"Once your life is inside a federal "there is no space outside of it. The only private thing is your thoughts, and even they don't feel safe anymore. Every word you speak or write can be used, manipulated, or played like a card against your future and the future of those you love. There are no neutral parties, no sources of unimpeachable wisdom and trust."

Leave off the part about federal investigation and it sounds a lot like what our presidential candidates go through.

jr565 said...

Tim Macguire wrote:
See, jr, in most civilzed nations, there is a notion of the punishment fitting the crime. It's not enough to say, "he shouldn't have done it." Aaron's "crime" shouldn't have been a criminal matter in the first place and it's a largely settled question that his prosecution was political.

They went after him for his activism, not his acts.

Going after him for his activism might dissuade other activists from doing the same activism. But I don't agree that they weren't going after him for his acts as well. YOu just don't think that there should be a punishment for said crimes.
Others may, and do, disagree.

We have these debates all the time as what is a fitting punishment. Why, for example, is crimes involving crack more punishable than crimes involving Coke, and hitting blacks more than whites.
I dont have a great answer, except to say that the law can often be an ass. And what I agree with or don't agree with really has little bearing on the practical application of the law.

If Swartz had downloaded 10 documents this wouldnt be an issue But he didn't he downloaded millions of pages worth by exploiting a loophole.

If he really thought he had done nothing wrong he should have tried to fight this in court and exhonorate his actions.

jr565 said...

gbarto wrote:
To put the Swartz case in perspective, it helps to remember that Jon Corzine is walking free. The New Black Panthers who lined up around voting booths weren't prosecuted. The people behind Fast and Furious have the whole government apparatus working to cover for them. We all know that a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. But we also know that the government declines to prosecute the cool kids all the time.
Just because Jon Corzine wasn't prosecuted doesn't mean that it was somehow wrong to prosecute Swartz. Its not a case of either/or. I agree Corzine should be prosecuted as well.

But suppose the prosecutors DID prosecute Corzine. Would you not want them to "throw the book at him"? Would you be accusing the prosecutors of overzealousness or would you WANT them to hit him both barrels?

mark said...

Kirk Parker said...
mark,
Can you read?


Yep. I just followed the comment of "I'm with PatHMV here" to far and lumped together to many people.

Sorry.

jr565 said...

"Nope. You can legally download 2.7 million documents from JSTOR. I can legally download 2.7 million documents from JSTOR. At a reasonable pace, not overloading their servers ('cause that is against usage rules), that would take us working together about a year. I would just put a bandwidth throttle in my python script."


Wasnt there also a per page paywall for downloading? Did he pay that per page rate?
IN fact, wasnt that the whole point of Swartz's crusade? He felt that info should be free and that he could appropriate it and distribute it.

"In order to make these documents available, JSTOR has to license the content from publishers. Negotiating these licenses is a tricky business, not least because an academic journal has generally got a backlog of older content that, though it may be in the public domain, will still have to be scanned and archived. Some publishers charge web users outside the institutional subscription system a per-article fee for access to their stuff, a practice that has enraged many, given that quite a lot of this material is in the public domain, and the publisher's right to paywall such material seems therefore questionable.

A lot of people seem to believe that it doesn't cost anything to make documents available online, but that is absolutely not so. Yes, you can digitize an academic journal and put it online, but if you mean to offer reliable, permanent availability, it costs a huge amount of money just to keep up with the entropy. Plus you have to index the material to make it searchable, not a small job. Everything has to be backed up. When a hard drive fries, when servers or database software become obsolete or break down, when new anti-virus software is required, all this stuff requires a stable and permanent infrastructure and that does not come cheap. Finally, the more traffic you have, the more it costs to maintain fast, uninterrupted server access; you can see this whenever some little blog is mentioned in a newspaper and its server crashes five seconds later. In the case of JSTOR you are looking at many millions of hits every month, and they can't afford any mistakes."


THe Aaron Swartz's of the world think that they should be able to access documents that others had to pay licensing fees for and which, to recoup their losses charge a fee to view. Even for open source documents.

Kirk Parker said...

gbarto,

I certainly agree with your 1:03pm, up until: "But it's pretty hard to make the case that they were right for tenacity in pursuing Swartz and right for their lack of tenacity in pursuing Corzine.? Who's arguing that? Nobody that I can see.


mark,

Thanks! And while PatHMV can certainly stick up for himself, by my reading he's not defending the prosecution either.

Balfegor said...

Re: jr565:

Wasnt there also a per page paywall for downloading?

I thought the whole point of the case was that there wasn't any paywall for people downloading through MIT's internet connection. Which is why he could do what he was doing.

The problem -- if any -- wasn't that there was a paywall he was circumventing, but that MIT was specifically blocking his IP or MAC or something, and he was repeatedly circumventing that access restriction.

jr565 said...

From Aaron Swartz himsef:
We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks.

That's his manifesto. And he's done this kind of stuff before.
If you don't like JSTOR's policies then dont use JSTOR. Or, create a new JSTOR competitor that allows you to host documents that are open source. See which one people prefer.
Swartz could have done that, but no. He felt entitled to documents simply because he felt they should be free.
If he put up a site that attempted to compete with JSTOR people accessing the documents on his site should respect the rules there as well. I assume that he would, even if allowing for unlimited downloading still have rules in effect as to how much downloading could be done at once. Anyone disrespecting or violating the terms set on his site should be dealt with HARSHLY.
If that means the cops are called in, oh well.


jr565 said...

THeres also this;
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz defended her office's prosecution of Aaron Swartz as "appropriate," and said her office was prepared to offer a deal that would have put him behind bars in a low-security prison for six months.

Robert Swartz said his son rejected that offer because he believed he did nothing wrong. He also said his son suffered from a medical condition -- ulcerative colitis -- that would prevented him from serving in prison.

He was offered a deal and rejected it. Therefore the DA went after him the way they would when someone turns down a deal. And ulcerative colitis is a reason to keep someone out of jail? I'll have to keep that in mind. Make sure to have my Nexium prescription on hand when I'm about to rob a bank. I can't go to prison, i have acid reflux!


Rabel said...

Kirk Parker, it was harsh and intentionally so.

What I read was a construct of self-justification and rationalization in which she portrayed herself a saintly innocent among the wolves.

She recites an array of cruel coincidences which worked against her in her role as Swartz's only true friend.

The father, the car accident, the Vicodin, her illnesses, the breakup with Swartz, her professed ignorance of legal process despite her years of experience as a journalist, and on and on. None of them ring true to me.

In the Grand Jury hearing she became an avenging angel, outsmarting the seasoned prosecutors at the game they play every day of their working lives.

Self-serving hogwash. All of it.

garage mahal said...

Odd the Chamber of Commerce can conspire to hack unions and progressive advocacy groups with impunity. But download too many free files and the Feds come down on you like a ton of fucking bricks.

jr565 said...

Here's an intersting post about Aaron Swartz, called Was Aaron Swartz stealing which outlines the fact that open source documents are not exactly free:

"In 2003, PLoS launched a nonprofit scientific and medical publishing venture that provides scientists and physicians with high-quality, high-profile journals in which to publish their most important work. Under the open access model, PLoS journals are immediately available online, with no charges for access and no restrictions on subsequent redistribution or use, as long as the author(s) and source are cited, as specified by the Creative Commons Attribution License.


How is it free?:
"PloS charges those who wish to publish a fee, usually several thousand dollars, to cover peer review and publishing costs. These fees are ordinarily covered by the researcher's institution.

http://www.theawl.com/2011/08/was-aaron-swartz-stealing

jr565 said...

-CONT-
Keep all that in mind as you read a typical comment recently written by someone who understands bupkes about this thing: one Greg Maxwell, who recently uploaded a 33GB file of JSTOR articles onto The Pirate Bay in protest of the Swartz indictment. (Maxwell says the file contains the whole pre-1923 public domain archive of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.)

The documents are part of the shared heritage of all mankind, and are rightfully in the public domain, but they are not available freely. Instead the articles are available at $19 each—for one month's viewing, by one person, on one computer. It's a steal. From you.

This is about twenty kinds of not true. JSTOR is paid (not by the public, but by institutions) for a service, not for content The money that individuals pay for these articles goes not to JSTOR, but to the publisher that is making the material available.

Let's follow this out a bit. There are nearly 19,000 documents in this 33GB download, and anyone can take them off The Pirate Bay—and then what? It will tax an ordinary home computer quite a lot to search just this one file, the archives of a single journal of the 1,400-plus currently distributed by JSTOR; that's the tiniest drop in the bucket. The practical futility of Maxwell's gesture only demonstrates that JSTOR is providing an invaluable service to the public, even with respect to documents in the public domain—one that could be improved upon, maybe, but completely impossible for individuals to duplicate using existing technologies.

But the worst misapprehension in Maxwell's remarks is his total misunderstanding of what public domain really means. Shakespeare is "part of the shared heritage of all mankind," too, but does that mean you can march into a Barnes & Noble and take any copy of Shakespeare that you want out of there for free? No! You have to pay Barnes & Noble and Penguin Classics or whomever for making it available to you in a form you can use, in this case a book. To fail to appreciate this point is to weaken the argument for open access by depriving it of clarity and focus.



Too many on this board sound an awful lot like Maxwell.

jr565 said...

-cont-
Consider Project Gutenberg, where someone has kindly volunteered the work of scanning all of Shakespeare into digital form, and still other volunteers have provided text cleanup and money and server space and IT work so that you can download Shakespeare there for "free", but, well, no, it's not free; this has cost and is costing someone something, just as public money has been allocated by your local government to pay publishers and librarians to maintain public copies of books that you can borrow. In each case there is work to be done by people who most often need to be paid (and deserve to be paid) for their efforts.

Finally, making a profit off of public domain works is allowed; indeed, it's half the point. You're allowed to make a hip-hop rendition of Shakespeare's sonnets and then sell it to make money. The crux of the matter here is balancing the public interest against private interests; individuals should have the right to be compensated for their work, and the public should be free to reuse and remix the products of our shared culture.



JSTOR dealt with the publishers who's work they host and in effect are paying them for said hosting. Did Swartz work out any contracts or agreements with said publishers before taking said work to do whatever he was going to do with it?
No? Then he's 150% in the wrong here.

Kirk Parker said...

Rabel,

I agree she's an badly damaged person, one who seems unable to function as a normal adult in society... I just don't feel comfortable assigning all the blame for that condition to herself.

Rabel said...

One example of the self-serving deception from the article:

"We did not know how to interpret Steve's behavior. I worried everyday about him getting a warrant to raid me. If I lost my laptop, I was not only going to have to fight a contempt of court charge, but it would destroy what was left of my work life just as I was barely making it hand to mouth."

Is she saying that as a "journalist of hackers", her "beat" and her "friends," that she couldn't come up with a replacement computer?

Is she saying that she, a professional writer, had her life's work on a laptop with no backup?

No. She's playing the pity card, reality and truth be damned.

jr565 said...

Key point from the article:
"He told me that Steve Heymann, the prosecutor, had offered a deal: three months in prison, three months in some sort of halfway house, and three months probation, and one felony count. He told me he would take it if I wanted him to.

We talked about it, about what a felony count would mean to him, to his life and his dreams in politics. I thought about my father, sent away to state penn when I was 17, and how it had crushed him. He'd not lasted long after prison.

To be a felon in this country is to be a pariah, to be unlistened to. Aaron wanted more than anything to speak to power, to make reforms in the very system that was attacking him now. In most states a felon can't even vote. The thought of him not voting was unfathomable.

But the truth is I wanted him to take the plea deal and end it. I wanted to not be scared anymore, to not deal with these people anymore. Nine months didn't seem so long, and I came very close to asking him to do it. But I looked at him, and I thought about PCCC (the first of his political action groups), Demand Progress, and Washington DC, and all the work he'd done. "If you want to fight it, you should fight it," I told him. I told him I would support him


HE should have taken the deal. Instead he tried to fight it. Only, by killing himself he didn't even fight it.
It was a completely wasted gesture.

jr565 said...

Rabel,
Even if what you quote is true, so what? It was a worry about what might happen, not what did happen.
It wasn't jsut the author either.
Aaron was acting paranoid as well.

We lived in a state of paranoia. We wondered if we were followed, eavesdropped on. We'd only speak freely when we were walking down the street, and even then Aaron wouldn't talk plainly to me about the case.

Didn't the attys on their side tell them they shouldn't be together or talking about the case? Why did they not heed their attys advice and stay apart. It would be less ammo to provide to prosecutors who are looking to dig up the dirt.
I don't really know why people are down on this woman. She had no knowledge of Aarons actions at the time he did them. And if she did give something away it was Aaron's manifesto where he expressed his intent and philosophy.
I cant imagine that prosecutors wouldnt find that anyway, and even so IT'S A MANIFESTO. Why would Aaron want to hide his manifesto, since that is what Aaron was all about.

jr565 said...

Mark O wrote:
Perhaps the most chilling remark was that for one of these powerful prosecutors, it was only a "game."


THat was the impression of the author who was being hounded by prosecutors. It wasn't the prosecutor saying "I think this is only a game". I can imagine if you are on the receiving end of a threat of indictment you're not going to have complementary things to say about those who are prosecuting you.

David said...

The same government whose "homeland security" department just purchased 2400 "light" tanks. The tanks are called "street sweepers" because from the multidirectional gun ports, the officers can secure our homeland by sweeping all life from the streets with automatic weapon fire.

The feds, by the way, have real automatic weapons. Not the journalist-politician kind that we proles can own and which the good thinking pro governmental power liberals want to take.

More federal power. Just what we need to perfect our society.

Dante said...

Looking up JSTOR, they are not for profit. It sounds like they are trying to get journal information available, in a relatively inexpensive manner. It sounds like the value of JSTOR is in searching, and also in allowing access to the journal articles prior to the copyright expiration.

I'm not sure what Swartz' motives were. Perhaps he felt it was evil to restrict documents published in journals. But JSTOR decided not to go after Swartz, after he returned the data.

However, this is a basic problem with Big Government. If government owns and controls next to everything, and it decides to make an example, as it seems in this case they did, the government has tremendous resources to attack someone.

In this case, it seems that Swartz is a highly sensitive individual, who was perhaps not cut out for this kind of thing. You need a fat slob like Michael Moore to do this kind of activism. But, I am concerned about the power of government against the little guy.

It seems in this case, Swartz would merely have taken old journal entries, and made them available to the public, as opposed to only those associated with ivory towers. Perhaps he would have undermined the value of some of the employees of JSTOR, and the work they have done. Wrong, yes, but not as bad as releasing top secret information, like that Assange guy.

Maybe the government prosecutors are simply frustrated they can't get to Assange, and decided to make mincemeat of this sensitive guy.

What I know now, is it seems very sad to me. I don't think there were any evil motives, nor any attempt to disrupt the order of things. Just a person trying to do the world a little bit of good, perhaps naively.

Kirk Parker said...

Rabel @ 2:32pm,

Interestingly, the "barely making it hand to mouth" was one of the few things in the article I took at absolute face falue.

Surely you're aware that there's a fairly large underclass of marginally-subsisting people hanging about the fringes of the academic and journalistic worlds, aren't you? How much do you suppose Wired.com pays for one article? Most people who move through college with vague dreams of "changing the world" eventually meet some kind of reality check and change careers if necessary to become essentially self-supporting. But not all...

Chip Ahoy said...

This story is about a chick admitting that chicks are thick as hell and nothing but trouble. That their propensity to bla-bla-blabber is the undoing of those around them.

She starts it off by clarifying the basis was her bugging the snot out of him about how much he was paid for reddit. Right there, that would be the end of it. "Look, I'm not going to answer that now piss off about that question." Then one more time and BANG gone. He would have called somebody else to bail him out, they would have gone through someone else's files, who didn't log to keep their sanity and who didn't bla-bla-blabber about his manifesto which provided the cause they lacked up to then. The confession is so irritating that's where I stopped.

Michael K said...

"In retrospect Swartz would have been better off reacting with open defiance and doing exactly the opposite of what his lawyers told him to do. Go public. Wear a camera and a mic, record your "private" meetings with prosecutors and stream them online. The prosecutors obviously prefer to work in secret because it helps them, not because it helps you."

This is pretty much Conrad Black's strategy and he spent time in prison but emerged with his pride intact and all charges thrown out by the US Supreme Court. Of course, he had the money to do this while few are able to do so.

After reading his book, I have a new attitude toward the US legal system. My old one wasn't too good either.

Rabel said...

Kirk Parker,

I don't doubt that she was on the low end of the wage scale, but the point there is that she claimed that if she lost her laptop she could not continue support herself.

She was in the middle of the "hacker community" and I'm certain that she could have easily found a replacement. Probably at no cost as she was known as a friend of that community.

So I saw that statement as a lie to elicit sympathy from the reader.

jr565 said...

Dante wrote:
What I know now, is it seems very sad to me. I don't think there were any evil motives, nor any attempt to disrupt the order of things. Just a person trying to do the world a little bit of good, perhaps naively.

I think he was trying to disrupt the order of things and he saw that disruption as a moral good. Whereas I would say his disruption was evil.If you found his disruption evil or good says a lot about how you view his actions.
I think they were evil.
But then again I am a HUGE critic of the whole free internet movement since its so anti markets its scary. It strikes me as yet more socialism completely disrespectful of industries and intellectual property.But that's just me.
I think HE personally was acting form what he considered good intentions. Maybe even the best intentions. But his actions were wrong.
Certainly nothing to kill yourself over. But should he have served some jail time? Probably. He should have gotten the jail time offered to him in his deal.

Douglas said...

The most interesting thing in the article for me (aside from the pathetic revelations of the author's and her boyfriend's naiveté) was the stuff about how the prosecutors were so wrong - they thought they had caught a criminal mastermind, and were sure they would find oodles of evidence to support that, and were really pissed off when they didn't. If that's not a career-ending misjudgment, it should be.

Revenant said...

And what happens when the "crime" has been decided to exist by the prosecutor?

While that is a serious problem, it does not apply to this case.

What Swartz did was both illegal and immoral. What's more, he knew it was illegal -- that's why he hid his face from the security camera.

A felony conviction would have been justified. He should have taken the deal.

Revenant said...

Odd the Chamber of Commerce can conspire to hack unions and progressive advocacy groups with impunity.

Turnabout is fair play; unions enjoy special legal exemptions from prosecution that the rest of us don't.

E.g., if you follow someone around all day harassing them, you can be jailed for it -- unless you're doing it as part of a labor dispute, in which case feel free to follow the CEO's kids to school and scream at them.

mark said...

jr565 said...
I think they were evil.
But then again I am a HUGE critic of the whole free internet movement since its so anti markets its scary. It strikes me as yet more socialism completely disrespectful of industries and intellectual property. But that's just me.


Talk like that always makes me want to hit my head on the table. Anti-market? The New York Stock Exchange itself runs because of the free internet movement.

Are you using DECnet right now? Maybe this page you are reading is actually in Word Star rather than HTML? Or are you using Chrome or Safari (WebKit ... which is a fork of a KDE html project itself) or Firefox (open gecko rendering engine)? I know, I bet you are on a Sun Sparc workstation that doesn't support TCP/IP and cost $20,000 to be able to write "hello world" for your first C program.

Do you really believe you would have a computer at home, or in your pocket, trade stocks at the New York stock exchange, access to much of the worlds produced information so you can make new things, usable cryptography, get an MRI, use Google Maps, and on and on if it wasn't for the free internet movement and the concepts it is based on?

Anyway, read The Public Domain by Jame Boyle. ( http://www.thepublicdomain.org/ ).

gbarto said...

Responding to upthread:

"But it's pretty hard to make the case that they were right for tenacity in pursuing Swartz and right for their lack of tenacity in pursuing Corzine. Who's arguing that? Nobody that I can see."

The federal government is arguing exactly that by the actions they took and the actions they did not take. And that's my point: We have a plethora of laws on the books. We have prosecutors who have to decide which cases to pursue and which to leave. And even if you're innocent, a federal trial puts a helluva dent in your wallet and your schedule. That means that whether your life gets turned upside down or not depends to a large degree on how the DA looking at your file feels about the crime in question and about whether your potential violation is something to investigate and prosecute to the fullest or something not worth bothering with.

In these circs, one may tend to lose faith in our system of justice if the resources are lacking to go after an Obama bundler or backer but there are resources aplenty for someone fighting something (copyright) that is important to some of Obama's biggest backers. At the very least, it really looks bad. To me, it suggests the true danger of prosecutorial discretion as it now exists: not that Swartz was unjustly prosecuted (if you're really engaged in civil disobedience, you want to be prosecuted), but that we don't have a reliable way of knowing who will and won't run afoul of the law.

Revenant said...

It strikes me as yet more socialism completely disrespectful of industries and intellectual property.

Anarchism perhaps, but socialism? Not under any definition of the word I've ever heard.

It is certainly true that there is a lot of hostility to intellectual property rights out there. However, a lot of that hostility stems from the fact that much of modern IP is just a lot of government-invented crony-capitalist bullshit.

For example, Disney built its fortune one other peoples' stories and characters -- Snow White, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, et al. Yet they will sue the pants off anybody who tries to use Mickey Mouse in a story without cutting them a check -- even though everyone involved in the creation of Mickey Mouse is long-dead, and even though Mickey Mouse was invented under a legal regime that would have seen it enter the public domain 30 years ago.

Hell, they're releasing a new Oz movie without cutting the Baum estate a check -- because Baum wasn't rich enough to get Congress to grant his estate indefinite ownership of his creations.

If IP law was reformed to only protect true creativity, and then only for a strictly limited period of time, it might be taken more seriously.

Kirk Parker said...

Rev,

"If IP law was reformed to only protect true creativity, and then only for a strictly limited period of time, it might be taken more seriously."

This ^ 1000!

Dante said...

Jr:

But then again I am a HUGE critic of the whole free internet movement since its so anti markets its scary.

I too am a HUGE critic of stealing IP and giving it away, from movies, music, etc.

In this case, though, it's not quite so clear. The journals allow JSTOR, a non-profit, to redistribute. JSTOR is presumably merely obtaining enough revenue to maintain the repositories and access. It's not like they are trying to make a business of it, but rather enabling access.

Even now, JSTOR allows posting to the internet downloaded papers (though paid for).

It isn't like that Assange dude, or the P2P people stealing people's IP, or the Open Source movement with viral rights attached to them, or China deciding what rights they ought to have to others IP.

Mark said...

Well, most academic research in this country is funded by either the federal government or by non-profits.

JSTOR makes their data available to academic institutions for free; everyone else has to pay a not non-onerous fee to see it.

What I want to know is what skin the feds had in this particular game. Why was Swartz putting stuff that was already paid for by the government for the general welfare into the free internet more of a crime than what Corzine did?

Well, I actually know. Corzine is one of the players, Swartz was one of the people who actually thought about the people.

Emil Blatz said...

Wow, under those oppressive conditions you wouldn't want to utter a fart. Even a silent one.

Mark said...

It actually helps a bit to understand the peer review system that dominates academic publishing.

The idea is that journals receive papers from academics, editors parse the entries for quality (usually just by looking at the qualifications of the primary researchers, i.e. the letters and institutions after their names) and then send copies to reviewers they trust.

In other words, more people in their already tight circle.

These experts then say yeah, this meets conventional wisdom, OR say Wow, this rocks! or just as often I don't know what the fuck this kid is doing.

And then the paper gets published, or not.

All of this is outside of government oversight. But government funding of research is totally based on the researchers' track record in publication within the peer-reviewed journals.

In the hard sciences, my gut is that the system works. In the softer ones, I think whatever squishes most pretty wins.

mark said...

Dante said...
It isn't like that Assange dude, or the P2P people stealing people's IP, or the Open Source movement with viral rights attached to them, or China deciding what rights they ought to have to others IP.


On P2P. How should society handle new distribution mediums? In the past for things like recordings (they are stealing from composers), radio (they are stealing from performers), and cable tv (they are stealing from everyone). And each of those DO steal from content creators. We are OK with that 'theft', by law. We passed laws to protect the new distribution format from the old monopoly holders of the old distribution format by limiting payment or even telling musicians that radio owes them nothing.

For example: I develop of new way of sharing information that is superior to sheet music, recordings, radio, tv, cable, or the internet. Why should the government enforced monopoly holders in those old distribution formats be allowed to KILL my new technology through the extension of their monopoly? Aren't their current monopolies in the old tech enough? Because they will kill the new tech given the chance. Just re-read all the venom against recordings, radio, cable, vcr's, and the internet by the old guard. Can you imagine if buggy whip manufacturers where given the right to make the laws for automobiles?

On Open Source. Why shouldn't I control the software I create? If Microsoft can charge whatever they want (and I assume you are OK with that) why can't I tell you "If you use MY code, then my 'payment' is you must pass that on the same freedom I gave you to your users. If you don't like it ... don't use my code. Write your own library or kernel you damn pirate." GPL isn't viral. It is people using copyright to protect THEIR code in a way that they desire. And the proof that this is superior to closed code is rather easy to see. Open Source software runs the internet and controls the data. Period.

On developing countries (not China). The USA didn't respect the IP of the world for the first 100+ years of our nation. We allowed publishers to do what they wanted because having lots of available knowledge for developing industry is really really important. Of course today we don't want a 3rd world nation to become a 1st world nation. The simple fact is that a nation which limits IP protection to reasonable terms will develop faster the ones that overly protect. This has been demonstrated time and again in the last centuries. And this right (loose IP laws) as a nation to develop that WE claimed in our early years we deny to others.