More complete background: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/07/reddit-founder-ar...
I'm neither encouraging nor discouraging people from donating, but I do think that it's a little off-putting that Aaron's taking what could have been a selfless, martyrdom-filled act of civil disobedience and then changing it into "silly mistake," from which he's asking for help recovering.
: 'Doing the time' as a turn of speech. I doubt Aaron would get actual jail time for this. Then again, I am not a lawyer.
That said, the legal system is setup in a way where it costs a lot of money to get a truly fair trial. A lawyer will tell his side of the story; without a good one he won't be properly heard by the legal system. Aaron would be a disservice to his cause by putting up a poor defense.
His JSTOR use was heavy enough to draw an IP ban. Yet he continued. I fail to believe he was really trying to hide - he knew his actions would be noticed. Network admins would see what was going on. And even in the wiring closet, putting a bike helmet over his face? That's not exactly covert.
JSTOR would know something was up - the IP ban was probably automatic but still I would guess the folks administering their servers would have noticed a huge spike in activity from MIT.
MIT would know something was up. Their network admins are not asleep at the wheel.
Seems to me, it was no secret what he was doing. He did not try very hard to conceal it. (Or maybe you think he was supposed to hold a press conference or at least call the TV news first?) With the way he went about this, it's no wonder he got caught.
Moreover, he already knew he had an FBI file from the PACER incident. So it's not like he couldn't imagine the FBI getting involved.
Then again, I could be wrong. Maybe he really is that stupid.
1. Include some background on why I should care.
2. Provide some level of assurance that this page is actually linked to the issue at hand and isn't just a phishing scheme.
1. Brilliant programmer gets chance of a lifetime.
2. Turns that into lots of money early in life.
3. Decides to change the world in his own way.
4. Consciously & purposefully breaks the law.
5. Has a webpage to get others to pay his legal bills.
Aaron should man up, take responsibility for his actions, and pay his own bills.
And if this is his idea of changing the world, perhaps he should reconsider his choices and find a better way of paying it forward to other brilliant programmers who never got the breaks he did.
So, don't worry - he's poor enough for your pity and support.
2) As to your second line of thought, that we should punish him because he consciously broke the law... I disagree with anyone on this forum who says that Aaron didn't know the potential consequences of his actions, and therefore should not be punished. But I also disagree with you.
This was a victimless crime, and the only ones pursuing it are some relentless G-men. Where is the corporation or person that has been wronged? Who, in the public, wants to pillory Aaron? What did Aaron gain? Do we really need to make an example of him, so this doesn't happen again? Is this really good a use of taxes?
My reaction is just shame and disgust... I mean, really? This brilliant kid is going to jail because of civil disobedience? Just so we can show there is still a book than can be thrown?
As the prosecution sees it, Aaron broke into a service and took information that JSTOR charges 5 figures for access to with the intent of putting it on a file sharing network and thus destroying the commercial value of that information. If you read the indictment, the prosecution's vantage point seems to show that Aaron did this with the intention of destroying the commercial value of the information, because he opposes the commercialization† of that kind of information.
The prosecution's charge is that Aaron deliberately set out to harm an organization because they were incompatible with his own ideology.
† JSTOR is a nonprofit but you get the drift
Sort of like how Rosa Parks decided to harm an organization because it didn't agree with her ideology. I mean, we're a nation of laws, she should have just sat where the bus driver told her to, am I right? Do we even have to debate the idea that sometimes laws are dictated to the people, not by the people?
Thankfully there are people who are actually willing to take action, rather than shilling for the powers that be. Academic research by public institutions should be free, in both senses of the word.
>"the prosecution's vantage point seems to show that Aaron did this with the intention of destroying the commercial value of the information"
Of course they will claim that, what else would they argue?
Aaron's been pretty clear on his stated goals I'm not sure he can even argue that sentiment. Take a look at his "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto"
That is not a good thing for him to have said before trying to liberate JSTOR.
It's funny that people can play the Anti-Godwin without even really knowing who Rosa Parks was; at least you can assume the people who invoke Hitler actually know why Hitler was evil.
And Swartz didn't set out to harm JSTOR commercially. That's only the view of prosecutors, which is completely expected.
Are you being deliberately obtuse? The point of bringing up Rosa Parks is that you make claims like, "We are a nation ruled by laws, not people. It is not up to Aaron Swartz". Substitute Aaron Swartz for Rosa Parks/Gandhi/whatever other examples people have brought up, and you should see what a ridiculous statement that is.
>"It's funny that people can play the Anti-Godwin without even really knowing who Rosa Parks was"
What's really funny is that, between calling opposing ideas "dumb" and "retarded", you've managed to conceal from most of the HN community the fact that you're really an arrogant blow-hard.
And it's that idea that myself and other "retards" here are able to get behind, despite the fact that he broke the law to try to accomplish it, and will likely suffer consequences.
Because Universities and research facilities are going to download the JSTOR torrent as opposed to purchasing access, just because it's available, right?
That sounds a lot like the argument the record labels and MPAA make. I can't remember, do people still pay for music and movies?
Ah, the intellectual inconsistency of conservatism, where condemnation or condonation is so dependent upon the arrow of time. Urging caution to slow down the rate of societal change is valid; fallacious arguments to further that goal are not.
At the time, the same cryptofascist arguments were bandied about for dear Rosa - she's upsetting the system of segregation between seats, she's destroying the value of the bus lines because white people won't want to ride them, she's delaying the bus and inconveniencing others, she's destroying the value of all businesses that rely on serving white customers, etc etc etc.
But since Rosa Parks is in the past, we embrace Rosa Parks and claim her as part of our American Heritage, responsible for helping usher in an era of freedom and equality. She was guilty of breaking the law, but consciously and respectfully submitted to the immutable system. But the system was wrong back then, so we no longer consider her a criminal.
But Aaron Swartz? He's guilty of stealing (hold pinky to mouth) millions of dollars. For a straightforward downloading of too many articles combined with an upsetting mens rea. Use the vague modern-witch hunting laws to lock him in the clink and throw away the key!
I agree that Aaron Swartz is guilty - of breaking into a closet. If MIT wishes, he should be prosecuted by the Middlesex DA and given the same punishment any non-poor white kid would receive - restitution and probation.
Just go back and reread any thread of yours regarding TLS versus designing new protocols. The liberal cryptographers will design dozens of protocol implementations with starry-eyed visions of new unformalized properties that don't actually exist. Most will be used in places where TLS would have sufficed and most of them will be broken. But eventually something new will come out this mess, provide enough advantages to gain traction, and become hardened canon over the years. Conservative philosophy will never design a crypto protocol, but it will prevent a lot of damage from the redundant badly-designed protocols. Both philosophies are needed.
One could be both liberal and conservative in different areas, but your non-technical comments read the same way. Or perhaps you're just a bit confused about what conservatism actually is. Totally reasonable given the shifty name calling that masquerades as political "debate". This is quite long, but got me started on seeing where the continuum underlying the political spectrum actually comes from. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/01/gentle-... . Eventually, despite that series's mischaracterizations and slightly wrong decomposition, I realized I am liberal (sorry MM) (also, this does not imply that I support politicians who use that label).
Here I stopped reading.
A more modern example of the presence of something "unwanted" bringing upon "damages", is Walmart moving into a high end town (which from what I understand, leads to a decrease in property values).
I am playing devil's advocate here, but Rosa Parks certainly could harm the Montgomery Bus Line with her inaccurate seat occupation.
You may as well shortcut the argument and go straight to mentioning Hitler.
It may be up to a jury to do the right thing - they stand a better change of being unbiased, thankfully for Aaron.
What does putting him in prison accomplish? Obviously they're prosecuting him just because he broke a law. Not because he hurt anyone, or because he stole a bunch of money, or because he is a danger to society. They're trying to put him in prison as punishment for breaking a rule. Which is fine, except that in this case, he's obviously someone capable of making meaningful contributions to society. It just doesn't make sense to lock him up like they're trying to.
And all of this doesn't mean he shouldn't be punished--its just very plain to see that prosecutors have a job to do, and being sympathetic to who they're prosecuting isn't part of their job. If they're particularly good at their job, it would be a net loss to society.
The subtext of this argument is obviously, "prosecutors are self-interested, and what they claim to think has nothing to do with what they really think, which is 'I am going to pursue whichever cases present the best opportunity for career advancement'." This, too, is a dumb way to think, because however much prosecutors may or may not think that way, judges and juries do not think that way, nor do they believe prosecutors are entirely animated by career concerns.
No, a prosecutor's job is not to seek justice, their job in adversarial legal system is to prosecute a case in the guidelines of the law. Its pretty clear that the prosecutor has a case against Aaron and its not their job to decide on whether the law is "just" or "right" their job is to prosecute that case to the fullest extent of the law. The last thing we need are prosecutors choosing what laws should and should not be enforced.
Its the judge and jury's job to decide what and what is not just.
Prosecutorial discretion doesn't enter into this case; this is a prosecution-driven case. They are bringing this case very deliberately.
Would you characterize his intent differently?
The same article says there were two original founders, and two later founders, which kind of tells me they didn't split that $10-20M evenly.
Even if it was all cash with no sort of vesting or earn-out, and Aaron got 10% (sounds about right for a non-true-founder), that would only be $1-2M, and that would be taxed down to six figures. All my financial speculation is based on what I find on the internet, though I have met Aaron a couple of times.
If I had no faith at all in your word, I would consider that very unlikely since Aaron was probably an impoverished student at the time, and he seems rational enough not to throw away income in such a reckless way.
Anyway, now you've got me curious.
ADDED. "If I had no faith at all in your word," was probably not the best way to phrase it. All I meant was, "Before reading your comment, I would have considered it unlikely . . ."
He did it to, as far as I know, set the information free from the paywall. To release that information so anyone and everyone can access the research we'd already paid for.
A noble cause? yeah I think so.
I don't want to compare it to Ghandi's salt works but the comparison could be made. A stand against artificial restrictions on something that should be free or cheap for all.
That person is guilty of breaking and entering and, I believe, of theft.
We are a nation ruled by laws, not people. It is via the due process of law that claims like "all the information held in JSTOR is the property of the citizens of the US" are resolved. It is not up to Aaron Swartz.
That's the Civics class version. The real version is more about realpolitik. People make the laws, and use violence (or the threat of it) to carry them out. And these laws will predictably reflect distributions of power in society.
When we had slavery, those laws deserved to be broken without hesitation. Repeatedly. Virtually no one believes all laws, in each country, should be followed. In fact, direct action basically means you will not Do As You're Told, and thereby disobey someone's law.
(What does the US goverment do in places like the Middle East and South America? Try to remove governments which make laws they don't like, and install ones which do.)
So back to your example, yeah, no one sheds a tear if someone returns paintings to their rightful possessors, having taken them back from thieving Nazis (and their shady beneficiaries). Same goes for the British Museum and anything they stole via colonialism.
What right do I have to restrict your access to knowledge?
What if someone went around the entire country and put every book into a huge safe. Then locked the safe shut and let anyone enter the safe for $25 a pop. Would you be okay with this? Would you cite the law and accept your fate?
Yes, this is a country governed by laws, and we're all grateful. But those laws can and are at times abused to create monopolistic practices, like restricting access to research.
Ask yourself, just what value does JSTOR add that's worth $25 per article in the modern day of digital distribution?
No reasonable person questions that the laws get things wrong or create opportunities for market abusers. But hopefully, most reasonable people don't believe that the antidote for those problems is vigilantism.
Without vigilantism, what solution would you propose to market abusers? Wait for someone in power to enforce the antitrust law?
When time or resources for enforcement are short, vigilantism can be a net positive for society.
17 USC? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_17_of_the_United_States_C...
It's not a natural right, but that statement makes it sound like you're against copyright. If that is the case, I don't think many people agree with you.
Assuming "every book" includes books I own, then that constitutes theft.
That person is guilty of breaking arbitrary laws guided by poor analogies between the physical and digital worlds and, I believe, of nothing.
We are a nation ruled by laws, not people. It is via the due process of law that claims like "wow, we need to wake up and change some of these ridiculous laws" are resolved. It is not up to just Aaron Swartz.
Gandhi spent several years in prison. He believed in his cause and made that sacrifice. Man up, aaronsw.
Did he only "free" publicly funded research papers? What about all the work that is funded by private foundations or even self-funded? In some disciplines, for example physical anthropology, most research is not publicly funded. You didn't pay for it. What gives you the right to set it "free"?
i remember another one too, something about depression and it didn't matter who paid for dinner anymore, but i can't find that one.
And, no, this is not a case of civil disobedience. If it was, Swartz would have publicly violated the law (rather than attempting to conceal the crime) in order to draw attention to its putative unfairness.
Aaron Swartz is a spoiled brat. I hope that they throw the book at him.
So you think the appropriate punishment for what he did is a longer prison sentence than most rapists and murderers receive?
My guess is Swartz will end up dropping his rebellious attitude and will apologise for what he did.
For this reason I am happy to help how I can
You cannot reasonably read tacit support for Aaron Swartz into JSTOR's failure to press charges.
I was mugged last year and I didn't press charges (my three muggers were, as it turned out, barely old enough to have graduated high school). Do I support muggings?
(Some nerd is typing as fast as he can to make the argument that I tacitly am doing that, so let me head you off at the pass NO I DO NOT.)
But I still agree with what this guy did, which is nothing whatsoever to do with the stuff that has happened to me.
But I am a nerd.
Make connections if you like.
Further, using the legal system to extract a huge penalty before any jury has decided on guilt is the worst type of bullying by the big against the small.
Lastly, many of us relate to what Aaron is going through, and simple compassion compels us to help. Saying Aaron should "man up, take responsibility for his actions, and pay his own bills" belittles him and those of us who have chosen to support him.
If the feds get their way you'll know exactly where to find him for the next 35 years.
Swartz, on the other hand, is a young, successful first-time offender.
I know it makes the story a lot more boring to talk about when the only consequences are financial and reputational, but consider that perhaps when you talk about Swartz spending "35 years" in federal prison, you are being ghoulish.
"you are being ghoulish"
It's an artifact of the way the media has everyone trained.
"If convicted he could spend up to 400 years in prison!" (counts*years per count, full load)
The math is also the way the prosecutors get people to plea.
You maybe figure, the AUSA's position is, whatever happens in this case, Swartz is at least walking away with a felony conviction.
I certainly don't want Aaron to face unduly severe consequences for his actions, but I'm not sure how you are reconciling those two views.
The DoJ definitely wants to make an example of Swartz, they don't hate him more than carders.
Is your average man supposed to take 30 years+ on the chin for trying to release academic papers?
If he didn't have a penis would you feel more compassion? As I have never heard it be suggested that a woman in desperate circumstances has a need to man up.
As for what could he do to give more breaks to other programmers, he was trying to give out academic papers for fuck's sake. On the scale of things, that is giving more breaks to others, than most people accomplish in a lifetime.
What is your idea of changing the world?
So much depends on specifics of the situation that I'm not really comfortable making any type of judgement on anyone involved.
Also didn't he make a ton of money selling Reddit?! :/
He knew what he was doing, and hew knew what he was doing was wrong. Doesn't seem terribly smart to make enemies high up.
He might have known (and even the extent of this is not clear) that what he was doing was illegal.
But that doesn't mean it is wrong, law and morality are two very different things.
Me and many others would argue that what he did was almost a moral imperative, he tried to free human knowledge (mostly paid by tax dollars!) from the artificial monopoly of some corporate leeches.
And if you need more arguments for this, just read up on what Thomas Jefferson had to say about it: http://harmful.cat-v.org/economics/intellectual_property/
If what Swartz did was a "moral imperative", why aren't you working on liberating journal articles from Elsevier as we speak? My guess: because it is not really a moral imperative. There is a difference between a moral judgement and an "imperative", and you've lazily blurred that line.
If you believe something shouldn't be illegal, then campaign to get the law changed!
Are people video-camming movies in cinemas "just freeing human knowledge"?
Were wikileaks publishing secret sensitive hacked info "just freeing human knowledge"?
I don't need any more arguments, because I absolutely disagree. If you believe a law needs to be changed, the way to get it changed is not to start breaking it. We live in a civilised society here. It's this kind of "political activism" I detest.
On the contrary, history shows it to be one of the few effective methods.
You're saying that Rosa Parks was wrong when she refused to go to the back of the bus. The underground railroad was wrong for refusing to comply with fugitive slave laws. Ghandi was wrong for breaking the laws imposed by the British.
We live in a civilized society precisely because many people have disobeyed uncivilized laws. It's actually one of the hallmarks of our civilization that we can draw a distinction between what's right and what's legal.
But do you have any data on the downside of that approach?
How many people who disagree with a law will then cause havoc if they broke the law to get what they wanted? Instead of attempting to follow channels?
Is that because you believe it's not likely to be effective, or because you'd rather see an unjust law than an unruly populace?
Edit: ...or some third opinion that I can't think of
And I would add: if people didn't ignore dumb laws society would crawl to a halt and collapse.
This is right in the indictment, which is linked from the last 'aaronsw post on HN.
Randal Schwartz was a contractor for Intel, through an IT contracting company. At the conclusion of his contact and, as I remember, his employment with the company that placed him, he backdoored systems at Intel. He later used those backdoors to regain access to Intel systems and got caught.
Randal Schwartz' defense has always been that his activities were innocuous (and, in some cases, necessary to complete work for Intel, which is a claim that is damaged by the fact that some of his actions took place after his business relationship with Intel was severed). There is no "service to the greater good" angle in Randal Schwartz's case. What happened with him was either a spectacular misunderstanding or a galactic-scale instance of bad decisionmaking on his part.
Aaron Swartz set out to liberate information from a private database, because that information had been unjustly locked up.
What you're saying when you draw an equivalence between these cases is that you think most computer fraud/abuse cases are illegitimate. I'm not saying that's a ridiculous perspective to have (though it is not mine), but you should be on guard for the ways that perspective can cloud your reasoning. By all means keep believing that the Internet should be a "wild west" where the strong/gifted rule unchecked so long as they don't steal people's credit card numbers. But also read the case files when you want to argue about them.
I never claimed that the two cases are the same. Just that Aaron's case reminded me of it.
You are right, Randal never had a motive remotely close to Aaron for any greater good of any sort. [In fact I will go on and argue that there is no reason Aaron should be prosecuted since the plaintiff has decided not to pursue the case against him].
What I meant was that (same as the parent) although Aaron's goals may have been good, I do not agree with the manner he went about achieving it.
The DoJ's role in this case isn't simply to right a single wrong done to JSTOR; it's to defend JSTOR and every organization like JSTOR from everybody like Swartz. If Swartz walks from this case because JSTOR --- the victim of a crime --- doesn't put its own reputation on the line to stand up against him, that's a signal that it's OK for other people to liberate documents from other databases.
By prosecuting Swartz criminally and regardless of JSTOR's actions, the DoJ is in effect saying that it doesn't fall to JSTOR to "heroically" defend federal law; that's the DoJ's job.
Again: while I don't like what Swartz did, I hope he wins his case, because I kind of like him. But that means I need to be more clear-eyed about what's happening here, not --- like many commenters on this thread --- less clear-eyed.
As a person that knows about Aaron, I know it can be trusted, but it might not be the same for others. Just a reaction that the folks supporting Aaron might want to be aware of.
One company who got around this hurdle was App.net(piggybacking on the Stripe/Visa/Mastercard brand). I'm assuming this is another implementation of Stripe.
I've seen enough of these that it could be a real business. (Ex: help pay for a defense against some government intrusion, or RIAA overreaching, or to bring a case to challenge an unconstitutional statute, or to overturn a dumb pantent, or whatever).
It could even evolve into a platform for the political moneybomb we've seen before. (A bounty for the first person to introduce some bill, for example: patent reform.)
The myriad of utterly retarded message board arguments you could hide behind to make this claim are so obviously numerous and complicated that I'm not touching this thread with a ten foot pole. Just chiming in to say, "no".
These prosecutors work for the Obama Administration, and ultimately the President. The President has certainly courted the tech/internet vote, and I think some internet activism in this case is worth a shot. But it would need to be done basically right now (i.e. before the election). Are the prosecutors going to drop the charges? No. But some political pressure could improve whatever the terms of a plea deal are.
Disclosure: Aaron and I briefly worked at the same non-profit organization many years ago. But we were essentially in different departments, so while we met once or twice I wouldn't say I know him personally.
My underlying assumption is that Obama is more than likely going to win re-election. FiveThirtyEight has him at 75% likelihood to win, and intrade bettors have him at 66%. But even if he wins, he'll have much less reason to pay attention to the views of the reddit demographic after the election than he will before. So Aaron's supporters should start working this right away.
Same goes with Congress by the way, if a member of Congress could be enlisted to help (what's the Congressional districts for Aaron's hometown and current residence?)
But the Internet told you that Obama's going to win, so as far as you're concerned, the election is over, and it's time to start playing games with it to make stupid points.
Are we told anywhere what JSTOR's actual costs are for scanning documents and serving PDF's? Yes. Someone provided a link to details of JSTOR's budget in the other Swartz thread. Very interesting. They appear to be some very well paid "librarians" (archivists). And lo and behold, they are trying to figure out how to make Google bucks. Seed the Google index with links to JSTOR articles that sit behind a paywall, then charge $10 or more for a la carte access. (Can you feel the desperation?)
Sounds great, they can piggyback on Google, maybe run some SEO, do some behavioural tracking and all that. But there's just one problem: this is library material. Library as in the kind that is funded by grants, taxes, tuition or endowments. Non-commercial. And even more, does Google Scholar show ads? Do they charge anyone for access?
I'd put my money on projects like archive.org or publicresource.org, who charge nothing, before I'd bet on these guys. Sadly, this criminal case may really be all for nothing. Because businesses like JSTOR will likely fail, not because of kids like Swartz, but because they simply are not as smart about technology as the folks who run sites like archive and publicresource.
I feel the state of academic publishing is essentially, a hustle. People being divorsed from community feedback and their own rights as authors is farcical.