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Edward Tufte’s defense of Aaron Swartz and the “marvelously different” (danwin.com)
202 points by danso on Jan 20, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments



> And so I told Bill Bowen that he had a great opportunity here to not wreck somebody’s life. And of course he thankfully did the right thing.

MIT take note please.


(I know this will be an unpopular post, so I'll preface this by saying that Swartz's transgressions didn't warrant multiple years in prison and the whole situation is a tragedy.)

MIT take note please.

I think they have - in Tufte's anecdote he mentions that the AT&T security person asked "why we went off the air after about three months." The implication is that between the security guy's technical interest and the fact that Tufte wasn't hacking the phone system anymore, there was no real reason to go after him.

In Swartz's case, after the first few time MIT/JSTOR detected his activity, all they did was to (try to) block Swartz's access to the system. If Swartz had given up, that may have been the end of it. There are parallels between Tufte and Swartz but there are also differences.

(again, I am in no way saying that Swartz deserved a long prison sentence or he deserved to die.)


The major difference that sticks out for me in your comparison is that free access to long distance calls is optional but free access to knowledge is not. A second difference is that it seemed there was a dialogue going, a dialogue during which if a similar one had happened between MIT and Aaron, MIT might have found out they were about to destroy something precious. AT&T, that well-known bastion of freedom and openness could do that. MIT apparently could not.

Finally I urge you to please watch Taren's video at the end of the linked article.


It's worth noting that for most of the twentieth century AT&T was a driving force for scientific and engineering innovation in the US, greater than most universities (though perhaps not MIT). Researchers there won seven Nobel prizes, and two Turing awards. On a more mundane note, Unix was invented there, as well as C and C++, and the photovoltaic cell.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_Labs#Discoveries_and_devel...

None of these accomplishments would have been possible if AT&T didn't know how to coddle geniuses.


No disrespect to AT&T's Bell Labs and its employees legendary achievements was meant or implied. I'm well aware of what they stood for. (my first unix wm was mgr...).


Just to add, you forgot the transistor.


I talked to Tufte after the event. It wasn't anyone from the Labs that talked to him, it was a corporate security guy.


Finally I urge you to please watch Taren's video at the end of the linked article.

I watched it. It was certainly touching. What specifically are you referring to in the video? Or just the whole thing?


The whole thing.

I think it was more than just touching, and I also think that it puts the lie to anybody that still wants to harp on the case not being the prime factor in Aarons life over the last two years as well as the reason why he choose to conclude it.

There are a number of very good questions in her address, questions that have no easy answer. Especially the ones about technology being used to improve the world, and the bit about 'magic'. After all, it really is close to magic, we wield all this power and we use it in the aggregate to sell advertising and gizmos. It's certainly food for thought for me.


Is there a transcript, or a way to watch the video without installing Flash?


I see you've already found it. If anybody else wants to read rather than view the video http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5088757


I think this is a reasonable post and the distinctions are important. However, perhaps Tufte would argue that he (Tufte) knew what he was doing was illegal, especially if done in order to self-profit...and IIRC, other blue-boxers who had some profit-motive were not given such a light treatment when caught.

In contrast, from Aaron's point-of-view, what Aaron was doing was not explicitly illegal. From his admittedly skewed vantage point, he was only freeing what should be public...the FBI stalking of him after the PACER incident likely reaffirmed in his mind that information that is legally available for free will often be blocked by the powers-that-be, just because.

Of course, as we know now, his miscalculation was that JSTOR's archives were not (not all of them, anyway) in the same public status as the PACER documents.

I don't mean to start a new debate over whether Aaron was at fault for not thinking things through more...I'm just pointing out how Tufte could reasonably have empathy for Aaron despite the obvious differences in motive and execution of their schemes.


> Of course, as we know now, his miscalculation was that JSTOR's archives were not (not all of them, anyway) in the same public status as the PACER documents.

Is there any evidence that was a miscalculation?


A significant part of the JSTOR corpus is out of copyright. I expect that Aaron meant to do with that subset what he had done with PACER.


To my knowledge, no (if you mean a blog post in which he explicitly states it). I'm just inferring from the disbelief and shock he apparently experienced when prosecutors chose to follow through.

If you mean if there was evidence whether he was wrong about the legality of distributing JSTOR documents...there seems to be some confusion about it, but it doesn't seem that many of Aaron's most legally-mindful defenders have said that freeing JSTOR was just as non-criminal as freeing PACER.


It should be noted, that you can login to JSTOR and read much of the content freely now. Albeit - only three articles at a time in your "bookshelf".

I wouldn't find it at all surprising if the various universities/journals/research bodies figure out how to make this research, much (majority) of which has been paid for by the public, available to the public.

I am one of the most "pro-ip-protection/opposed to copyright infringement" people on HN, and look down on anyone who violates producers/authors rights on commercial content - but I firmly stand with Aaron on the "Make research knowledge free to everyone" side.


I'm just pointing out how Tufte could reasonably have empathy for Aaron [..]

Agreed, I was more responding to jacquesm than to Tufte.


As well as Tufte, the video at the end of the post, where Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman talks, is well worth listening to.


I hope someone takes the time to transcribe it...at the end of an already emotionally draining service, Taren still managed to bring out a collective, audible weeping in the packed auditorium.

She was very aggressive on her calls to make sure the prosecuting attorneys face reproach. But interestingly, Carmen Ortiz was mostly mentioned in passing. Stephen Heymann by far was the target of Taren's anger.


Here's a transcription of Taren's eulogy (consider it a rough draft -- I don't have time to check it carefully now):

http://mretc.net/~cris/swartz-transcripts/taren-transcript.t...

If anybody does read it along with the video, please feel free to send me any corrections (or change the txt file and send me a diff). Thanks!


Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm crying too now.


https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/fire-assistant-us-...

The petition asking for Heymann firing still lacks 15.000 votes.

From what I read he was more instrumental than Ortiz in the aggressiveness the prosecution.

Not that the witch hunt is very useful in itself, but it keeps people involved and the more shit we stir, the most likely things will move.


I talked to Tufte after the event. It seems this was the first time, apart from some late-night cocktail parties, that he'd spoken about it publicly. http://go-to-hellman.blogspot.com/2013/01/edward-tufte-was-p... http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5086036


I had no idea Tufte had been a blue box hacker. Amazing story.


I was hoping someone here could shed some light on this. This would apparently be the first time (according to Google) Tufte has ever talked about experimenting with blue-boxes. I have no doubt he (and whoever his Stanford roommate was) had the technical chops to do it. I just wonder how he knows his was the "first"...since blue-box experimentation seems to have spontaneously come about after hackers put 2 and 2 together...and there was no Hacker News/Slashdot/Internet to post (with a timestamp) the exploit. Perhaps the AT&T official acted as if it were the first time they encountered a blue box in the wild?


As I recall, the first to exploit this was Joybubbles; however, Tuftes may have been the first to build a blue box. The information on MF signalling was freely available in 1960 when it was published in the Bell Tech Journal so it is conceivable that there may have been others who developed this in parallel.

For those who are interested in more on Joybubbles, then there's a documentary being made about him. More info at http://www.joybubblesthemovie.com/


This was the first time Tufte had talked about this. I asked him after the talk. It was december 1962. http://go-to-hellman.blogspot.com/2013/01/edward-tufte-was-p...


What would Tufte say about someone that tried to "liberate" his beautiful, expensive and excellent books? Would he be outraged at the sight of "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" available as a pdf on a torrent site?

If Swartz and his ideas were so marvelous, why is Tufte still charging any money for his work?


FWIW, a few years ago, someone asked Tufte for a copy of his out-of-print "Data Analysis for Politics and Policy" and Tufte posted the PDF files of it:

http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0...

It's an excellent book. Not as groundbreaking (or as illustrated) as his data visualization books, but filled with interesting observations on the intersection of data and policy. He really should do a new edition of it.


Thanks for the link! That is interesting.


The relevant question isn't whether Tufte would approve of someone pirating his books but whether he would make a huge legal case out of it. I'm pretty confident in saying that he wouldn't try to make everyone who downloaded it a federal felon and get thrown in prison for even a day, let alone years.


There is a very real difference between commercial work and research that has been paid for by the taxpayer.

Aaron was about about freeing public information.


As I understand it, Swartz believed in open access to publicly funded research, not freedom of information in a more general sense. There is a substantial distinction between the two; I don't think Aaron would have taken issue with Tufte charging for his book.


It turns out that Tufte developed the content for "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" while at Princeton.

Although he did self-publish the book later at his own (considerable) expense, where do you think the money Princeton paid him all those years came from?

If you consistently apply Swartz's idea here, Tufte is in the wrong for charging for work that taxpayers helped fund. But I have a different take: Swartz's idea is bogus.

"In 1975, while at Princeton, Tufte was asked to teach a statistics course to a group of journalists who were visiting the school to study economics. He developed a set of readings and lectures on statistical graphics, which he further developed in joint seminars he subsequently taught with renowned statistician John Tukey, a pioneer in the field of information design. These course materials became the foundation for his first book on information design, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.[5][6]

After difficult negotiations with mainline publishers failed, Tufte decided to self-publish Visual Display in 1982, working closely with graphic designer Howard Gralla. He financed the work by taking out a second mortgage on his home. The book quickly became a commercial success and secured his transition from political scientist to information expert.[5]"

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Tufte


It is worth noting that the situation described -- trouble with publishers, needing to take out a second mortgage to publish the book, etc. -- need not happen in today's world. We have the software to format books on even the cheapest computers, and the infrastructure to distribute books to the entire world at no cost to the author (one can find a free Wifi connection even in small towns). All that is needed is time, and in the case of academic publishing (textbooks, research articles, course notes, etc.) that time is already paid for by other means.


Does coursework at a privately-funded institution count as publicly-funded research? Let's pretend that Princeton is a government institution: if someone uses his own salary, from the government's payroll, to develop and self-publish a book, that work belongs to the government? Did Tufte's mortgage belong to the government (or Princeton, in this case), too?


Of course not. That's my entire point: given today's mixed economy, when public money is used to aid the creation of a thing, it does not mean that the resulting work ought to belong to the public, contracts and agreements be damned.

Swartz obviously did not agree with that, or he would not have committed those crimes against JSTOR and MIT.

(By the way, the "private" universities, Princeton included, are only nominally private, and it's been that way for a long time. I think that should change: there ought to be a full separation of state and education.)


"today's mixed economy"

Today's economy is not really relevant to something that happened in 1975. Things have greatly changed since then, particularly when it comes to the dissemination of human knowledge. In today's world, a book can be published at no cost over the Internet. Scholarly articles, course notes, recordings of course lectures, and all the other methods of communicating knowledge can all be done rapidly, cheaply, and on a global scale using the Internet.

"it does not mean that the resulting work ought to belong to the public"

As Thomas Jefferson put it, "The field of knowledge is the common property of mankind." The idea that a person's knowledge should be hidden behind paywalls, or that it should collect dust on the bookshelves of a university library, should be considered disgusting in today's world. Copyright only ever made sense when it came to academic publishing as a way to promote the publishing industry, because at one time the publishing industry was the most effective system for spreading knowledge (ironically, copyright started in England out of an attempt to censor the publishing industry). The moment we created a better system -- the Internet -- we should have reevaluated the application of copyright to academic publishing, and rewrote the law to promote the use of the Internet over the publishing industry.

Instead, what we have today is a bizarre situation: the publishing industry has more power than ever before under copyright law, and the Internet is being used to further restrict access to knowledge. Publishers are using copyrights and abusing the Internet as a way to attack the used book market, and even to avoid actually publishing journals (why do we even bother with the publishing industry if they do not actually publish things?). The moral issue here is not whether or not human knowledge should be shared online, but whether or not the academic publishing industry should even be a player anymore.

"crimes against JSTOR and MIT"

That the word "crime" is even mentioned in the context of what Aaron did is a sign that our legal system has become completely disconnected from serving the interests of society. The law apparently considers the protection of the revenue stream of an anachronistic publishing industry to be of greater value than improving access to knowledge. I suppose you might say that people should just pay up or travel to the nearest university library -- and if they cannot afford to pay and cannot afford the travel costs, too bad (after all, if they wanted to be educated, why are they so poor?).

Aaron was doing his civic duty by breaking bad laws; more people should follow his example.


"today's mixed economy"

What you've written in regard to this point has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. See http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/mixed_economy.html.

"The idea that a person's knowledge should be hidden behind paywalls"

A person's knowledge is the result of his own mental and physical effort. The rest of the world, no matter their number, has no right to dictate that he shares his knowledge, nor do they have the right to dictate the terms that he proposes. This is because he has a right to his life. Anything less than that is slavery.

Morally speaking, a man does not owe another man a basket of picked cotton just because he happens to be black. In the same way, one man does not owe another man money, a job, a scientific article, or a movie just because he happens to be able. Need is not a valid claim on anyone's life.


> A person's knowledge is the result of his own mental and physical effort.

A person's knowledge hasn't been the result of his own mental and physical effort since the stone age, and probably earlier. We all gain our knowledge by studying the words of those before us, and then we may be able to contribute a tiny piece to that giant interlocking puzzle ourselves.

The 'ownership' of those new pieces now belongs to publishing houses that themselves did not contribute to the knowledge.

Restricting the free flow of knowledge is unethical.


"The rest of the world, no matter their number, has no right to dictate that he shares his knowledge"

Perhaps not, but why should I be allowed to dictate to you what you are allowed to do with knowledge that I impart to you? Put another way, if I publish a paper describing knowledge I have developed, why shouldn't anyone who receives that paper be permitted to spread that knowledge further -- and if so, why not by simply giving copies of the paper to others?

"Anything less than that is slavery."

I think perhaps you missed part of the definition of slavery:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery

Did anyone say that anything about forcing someone to work? Did anyone say anything about not paying someone for their work, if that person demands payment? No, nobody is talking about that. What we are talking about is what we can do with the products of a person's work once those products have been made available to us.

Almost all the scientific papers that are published today are written by people who are paid to do research and to share the results of their research with others. Very few scientific articles are written by unpaid volunteers (even grad students typically receive some compensation for their time). This is not a question of paying for research, because research is already paid for and would continue to be paid for in the absence of the publishing industry. If a researcher does not want other people to read the articles he writes, he can refuse to publish -- he can take his secrets to his grave.

Copyrights are not and have never been a natural right. Copyright, as applied to academic publishing, has only ever been a system for promoting the dissemination of knowledge by monetizing a publishing industry. Researchers routinely assign their copyrights to publishers when they publish articles, losing whatever claim they had to preventing copies of the work from being made. We no longer need publishers to spread knowledge across our nation because we have a better system, the Internet, and therefore copyrights on academic work have outlived their usefulness.

The comparison to slavery is pedantic and misleading. Slaves do not have a legal option to not do as commanded by their masters; in a world without copyrights on academic work, researchers would have a legal option, which is not publishing their work.

"In the same way, one man does not owe another man money, a job, a scientific article, or a movie just because he happens to be able"

Which is fine: you are free to not publish your work. You will probably not get very far as a career researcher if you refuse to publish, but that is your problem and not mine. It is not really society's problem either, because there is no shortage of researchers who willingly publish their work, nor is there any shortage of researchers who will willingly publish their work in the absence of copyrights. Ayn Rand's notion that copyrights are a necessary function of government was absurdly misguided, but we can forgive her because as an author she profited from copyright (unlike researchers, who rarely profit from copyrights on their knowledge). Copyrights are a means to an end, and in the age of the Internet, copyrights on academic works have completely outlived their usefulness.

Your right to not teach others what you know is not in question here; rather, the question is whether or not I can teach others something you taught me. Considering that human civilization exists because we have spent generations passing knowledge along and it was only very recently that we even considered forbidding people from spreading knowledge, I would think that there is no real moral dilemma there and that the answer to the question should be obvious.


It is already available on torrent/cyberlocker sites.


"...in this part, Tufte related how he told Aaron, half-seriously, that Aaron’s main fault was downloading millions of articles when only a few thousand were worth downloading."

So true; the trick is in recognising and curating those few thousand.


The commonly accepted metric for "worthwhile" articles would be the number of citations they have received from other articles. One could conceivably figure out, through some clever parsing, which articles have been cited the most.


There are indeed citation indexes which are used to 'score' papers when they are cited, one such being the Science Citation Index, a subscription service available to many members of universities.

http://thomsonreuters.com/products_services/science/free/ess...

There are issues with citation indexes, bias towards early publication &c. My comment was directed more at the 'paper mill' and the 'minimum publishable result' tendency in some areas of science!


This reminds me of a line in Schindler's List: "Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don't."


I found this so touching and amazing. From http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/001552, linked to from OP's article:

Dear Aaron,

I would have so enjoyed talking with you. Next time let me know.

Best,

ET


"There is one other chance: Tufte is giving a lecture about his forthcoming book, Beautiful Evidence, tonight. The only problem is that it’s scheduled at the same time as my IHUM final. I try to calculate what grade I will get if I skip the final. I decide that if I zip through the test answering the easy questions and jog over to where Tufte is speaking, I should be able to get enough of both. So that’s exactly what I do."


Oh, another old counter-culture guy who egged on an impressionable kid. How sad that Aaron's attempt to strike a blow like those of his mentors was so squalid. Kids, I'll tell you since these heroes won't: if your "hack" involves picking locks, buying multiple computers to bypass a download limit, and violating terms of use, it's not a movement and it is not heroic. Don't let these lazy essayits lead you down this path. Find your own cause, and make it worthwhile.


I have an extremely pointy and very heartfelt remark that I'd like to throw your way but (1) I am trying very hard through all this to not let my seething anger get the better of me and (2) it would (rightly) get my account banned so in the interest of better judgement I've only downvoted you.


I am angry too, but at the mentors who accepted the worship of a troubled young man and led him to this. Why don't you make your pointed comment and risk a ban? Please, I can take it and it would be refreshing to see instead of all this crap directed at law enforcement. And if you are not creeper out by some of Aaron's mentors fondly recalling his cuteness, you are not paying attention to what was going on there. And now his corpse is being repurposed for several agendas. I'll go first and welcome a ban: fuck that.


> I am angry too, but at the mentors who accepted the worship of a troubled young man and led him to this.

Those mentors are mentors because they treat people regardless of age as equals. Yes, Aaron had his troubles. But he wasn't guided by those mentors as much as that he was guiding them. There was more give-and-take there than you give credit for, you are reducing Aaron to the level of an incompetent, he was anything but. You are also making the assumption that anybody could have stopped Aaron from doing what he felt and thought was right, I think Taren's address at the end of the linked post has few things to say about that.

> Why don't you make your pointed comment and risk a ban?

Because well over 3 decades ago I decided that there had been enough undirected anger in my life and I figured out I should put that energy to constructive uses. The whole JSTOR affair and the very unfortunate conclusion (to put it extremely mildly) has taught me something about myself, that the lid on the volcano is not as solid as those 30 years have made me believe. Dumb, insensitive and uninformed remarks about this upset me and I have to work just a little harder to stay on the right side of the line.

So I won't be taunted by you. The last time someone successfully taunted me (highschool bully, he ended in hospital and I got a 3 month suspension) it was a disaster. I learned my lesson, and chose to develop in a different direction.

> Please, I can take it and it would be refreshing to see instead of all this crap directed at law enforcement.

Have you been paying attention at all? That 'crap' is grounded in a deep dissatisfaction with the way this case has been handled, by people at varying levels of power, including some in government. It has already led to an amendment proposal of the law.

> And if you are not creeper out by some of Aaron's mentors fondly recalling his cuteness, you are not paying attention to what was going on there. And now his corpse is being repurposed for several agendas.

I think you are entirely missing the point here. Aaron killing himself has woken up a large number of people to the fact that this has gone too far.

> I'll go first and welcome a ban: fuck that.

Too bad because I'd be happy to open your eyes a bit more, I think that's more productive.


That 'crap' is grounded in a deep dissatisfaction with the way this case has been handled, by people at varying levels of power, including some in government.

Off topic, but ftr the record "the way this case has been handled" is what has me angry. This "crap" has been happening for thirty years, but no one in the tech community (except perhaps Aaron Swartz) cared when it has happening to poor, mostly minority folks.

Have you been paying attention at all?

Yes. For a very long time.

edit: fixed error pointed out by jacquesm


> This "crap" has been happening for thirty years, but no one in the tech community (except perhaps Aaron Swartz) didn't care when it has happening to poor, mostly minority folks.

You probably meant 'cared' not 'didn't care'.

I think lots of people care, but they are not capable of marshalling a significant amount of noise in the press. The press doesn't really do its job as the fourth estate when it comes to issues like these.

> Yes. For a very long time.

So have I, but I was stupid enough to get side-tracked somewhere along the line. I'm re-visiting that now, whatever it was that I did it resulted in me throwing my principles overboard thinking that I wasn't able to change things so I had better go with the flow. Worst mistake of my life, but not too late to fix.


I think lots of people care, but they are not capable of marshalling a significant amount of noise in the press.

Right now they have created a significant amount of noise in the press. And what we're mostly hearing is "fire Ortiz," "fire Heymann," "punish MIT," "punish JSTOR, and "reform CFAA" with "reform prosecutions for all" a distance sixth, if mentioned at all. Taren spoke about reforming the justice system, but only after the above list. And the press (at least NPR) has been talking about plea bargains in the context of drug and inner city crime and the leverage prosecutors have on defendants life.

I'm fully on board with trying to fix the problem for all. I'm not down with trying to only fix the problems for friends of Lessig, Tufte and O'Reilly.


> I'm fully on board with trying to fix the problem for all. I'm not down with trying to only fix the problems for friends of Lessig, Tufte and O'Reilly.

That I agree with, this is a symptom of a much larger issue and that's what needs fixing. I don't even think you can fix the one without the other.

But, even if it isn't the main push everybody involved in this saga needs to introspect and determine their part in it and whether or not they were acting properly. Categoric denial is simply stupid and invites endless repetition without ever touching on reform or responsibility.


"I'm fully on board with trying to fix the problem for all."

Perhaps, then, you should reconsider the people (like me) who are saying that the application of copyright to academic publications must be ended. The reason, as far as I am concerned, is simple: expanding access to knowledge and to education is crucial for maintaining a just legal system in any democratic society. The better educated the general public is, the better able they are to keep politicians in check, to fix problems like overreaching prosecutors, to reform laws that make no sense, and to ensure that minor crimes do not bring overly harsh punishments.

We cannot claim that everyone has equal access to education if academic publications are prohibitively expensive. At one time, that was a situation that simply could not be changed, because the publishing industry was the best way to disseminate knowledge and we were better off monetizing that system. In the 1970s, that changed when global computer networks that could connect low-cost personal computers became a reality; today, we can rapidly disseminate textbooks, scientific journals, course notes, and recordings of lectures and discussions at low cost. Even the poorest schools and libraries in America have computers with Internet access, and could theoretically gain access to what would be the largest library in human history if we took the time to build it. It is just one piece of the puzzle, of course, but it is an important piece.

The only thing holding us back now is, ironically, copyright law -- the very legal system that was originally meant to ensure that knowledge could be spread far and wide has transformed into a system that cripples our ability to spread our knowledge. Instead of the Internet becoming home to the world's most expansive library, it has become a system for further restricting access to information. Instead of being able to read whatever published research we want, we are forced to navigate a maze of paywalls. Textbook publishers are now using their copyrights and the Internet to kill the used book market, and are experimenting with ways to create books that students can only read for a limited time before they must pay again.

If JSTOR does indeed provide a necessary service, if they are not just leeches taking advantageous of our anachronistic approach to academic publishing, let them prove it: end the copyrights on academic publications, and let JSTOR show us how important their search service truly is by charging for access to it. I have my doubts that a peer-to-peer search service would not be equally useful and much cheaper, but right now there is no way to test that theory. If you can name something important that academic publishers and companies like JSTOR do with the money they bring in that could not be done equally well or better using today's technology, please do so (note that, at least in the case of scientific articles, the writing, formatting, reviewing, and often even editing are not paid for by the publisher, and so you should not bother naming any of the above).

So if you want to fix a problem that affects everyone, perhaps you should be thinking about that problem.


Perhaps, then, you should reconsider the people (like me) who are saying that the application of copyright to academic publications must be ended.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5025852

I've been on board for some time now. However...

expanding access to knowledge and to education is crucial for maintaining a just legal system in any democratic society

Yeah, that sounds good, but realistically an open JSTOR doesn't stop five poor black kids in NYC or a shitload of poor kids in Chicago from facing jail time forced on them by aggressive prosecutors via coerced confessions.


There is no need to choose though, we can fix all those things.


JSTOR is actually relatively benign, the likes of Elsevier are the real problem.


I can understand why you are being down-voted here. The lad was being crushed by a machine that appears, to me, from outside the US, to be outrageously harsh.

I personally would say (based on decades of trade union membership and action), 'don't go alone, random, but instead organise and take it one collective action at a time'.

The young man in question may never have experienced collective action. It can be powerful.


Ironic that we're only seeing collective action now, when it's too late to help him. Though we can, maybe, move the needle a bit and make such things less likely to happen again.

I feel as if the tech community is still trying to figure out the collective action thing. Maybe it's because we don't have the history of unions* like many workers in hollywood/entertainment industry do. But when the tech community did act collectively to stop SOPA, it made a big difference. I hope we can do more of that.

(* which is fine -- I don't think you can make the economic case for having them in the highly competitive tech job market. Unionization is more strongly justified in cases of bad working conditions, or a single employer with an effective monopoly on that type of job in the region)


If I understand correctly, he was actively involved in the collective action against SOPA.




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