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The Vectorian Lounge => The Lounge => Topic started by: rbistolfi on January 14, 2013, 11:43:15 am

Title: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: rbistolfi on January 14, 2013, 11:43:15 am
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/technology/aaron-swartz-internet-activist-dies-at-26.html
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: MarkGrieveson on January 14, 2013, 02:01:03 pm
I was really sad to read this.  Reminds me of Ilya Zhitomirskiy.  High ideals butt heads with today's seeming reality of unstoppable corporate supremacy.
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: nightflier on January 14, 2013, 06:36:59 pm
Sad, indeed. And frustrating, if not infuriating.
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: sledgehammer on January 15, 2013, 07:59:52 am
Rodrigo,

Thanks for the link.  Good article, containing a good quote:  “Access to knowledge and access to justice have become all about access to money,"  The article is careful to call the suicide "apparent." 

John
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: M0E-lnx on January 15, 2013, 08:54:26 am
I read somewhere he was about to get popped for hacking.
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: nightflier on January 15, 2013, 05:52:59 pm
Yes, he was under indictment for "hacking" activities. The government wanted to put him in jail for 35 years and fine him a million dollars.

Many consider "political activism" a better description of what he did. He wanted to set information free. That makes powerful people nervous.
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: retired1af on January 16, 2013, 04:08:57 am
Yes, he was under indictment for "hacking" activities. The government wanted to put him in jail for 35 years and fine him a million dollars.

Many consider "political activism" a better description of what he did. He wanted to set information free. That makes powerful people nervous.

Phooey. Political Activism is just an excuse to justify illegal behavior.

If more cretins were hammered as hard for that type of thing, we'd see a whole lot less of this BS on the Interwebz. It's time to take off the kid gloves and start treating these idiots as a threat.
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: rbistolfi on January 16, 2013, 01:34:17 pm
And to charge the public to produce public domain knowledge and then hide that knowdledge behind a paywall is legitimate?
BTW, these "idiots" were 14yo while writing the RSS specification.

EDIT: Also, in general is accepted that some punishment was deserved, even when the Aaron's cause was noble. What is being put under question is the proportionality of the penalty (35 years). The publisher didnt want to prosecute Aaron and many inside MIT were considering the same. For some reason the attorney didnt think that way (I am not an US citizen so I will leave the considerations of those reasons to you) and that played -according to the family- a key role in Aaron's decision.
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: retired1af on January 16, 2013, 02:10:20 pm
I also read he was offered a plea deal (6 months) which he turned down.

Edit -- Yup. He rejected the offer.

http://boston.com/metrodesk/2013/01/14/mit-hacking-case-lawyer-says-aaron-swartz-was-offered-plea-deal-six-months-behind-bars/hQt8sQI64tnV6FAd7CLcTJ/story.html
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: rbistolfi on January 16, 2013, 03:44:52 pm
I also read he was offered a plea deal (6 months) which he turned down.

Edit -- Yup. He rejected the offer.

http://boston.com/metrodesk/2013/01/14/mit-hacking-case-lawyer-says-aaron-swartz-was-offered-plea-deal-six-months-behind-bars/hQt8sQI64tnV6FAd7CLcTJ/story.html

Well yeah but whats the point of the whole thing if you accept the charges
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: retired1af on January 16, 2013, 04:42:00 pm
That's what a plea deal is. You tell the judge you're guilty and you receive the reduced sentence.

There's an entire class of individuals out there who feel that it's OK to do anything they can do to further their ideals, including breaking the law. I, for one, am sick and tired of spending an hour each morning going through security logs and firing off emails because that group of individuals feel they're doing nothing wrong. It's time to start throwing the book at them. The judicial system has been far too lenient in the past, and perhaps making an example out of a few folks will give the rest pause before they continue with their agenda.

There's a right way to create change, and a wrong way. Breaking into systems is the wrong way.
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: rbistolfi on January 16, 2013, 05:13:45 pm
That's what a plea deal is. You tell the judge you're guilty and you receive the reduced sentence.

Right, I know what it is, and in some cases is not acceptable. My point is why one would accept charges and set a precendent when you believe exactly the opposite.

Quote
There's an entire class of individuals out there who feel that it's OK to do anything they can do to further their ideals, including breaking the law.


How could one know what people "feel"? And why is that relevant?

Quote
I, for one, am sick and tired of spending an hour each morning going through security logs and firing off emails because that group of individuals feel they're doing nothing wrong.

Use regular expressions? ;D

Quote
It's time to start throwing the book at them. The judicial system has been far too lenient in the past, and perhaps making an example out of a few folks will give the rest pause before they continue with their agenda.

That sounds like an agenda, and no. Thats how a system gets broken. You cant use people as an example. You have to make justice for each case.

Quote
There's a right way to create change, and a wrong way. Breaking into systems is the wrong way.

Thats a naive point if view. Some times there is no other option than "appeal to heaven", thats how nations started iirc


Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: nightflier on January 16, 2013, 06:05:51 pm
Some may say "good riddance", but I disagree. I think the charges were way out of proportion. Mr. Swartz would have been better off committing manslaughter, which has a lesser maximum sentence.

As I understand, the "hacking" consisted of automatic discovery of links and downloading them, which would have been legal if done manually with a browser. No systems were breached.

Accepting the plea bargain would have left Mr. Swartz a convicted felon, which pretty much is guaranteed to ruin anyone's future.
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: rbistolfi on January 16, 2013, 06:26:08 pm
Some may say "good riddance", but I disagree. I think the charges were way out of proportion. Mr. Swartz would have been better off committing manslaughter, which has a lesser maximum sentence.

As I understand, the "hacking" consisted of automatic discovery of links and downloading them, which would have been legal if done manually with a browser. No systems were breached.

Accepting the plea bargain would have left Mr. Swartz a convicted felon, which pretty much is guaranteed to ruin anyone's future.

Exactly.

Anyway, even when I think the particular case is important, one doesnt have to shut down the debate about how a well produced by the public ends behind a paywall. Internet was once thought to be a medium through which people around the globe could join efforts to solve the most interesting and difficult problems. To some degree it is a success, and the fact that one can read SICP (http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/full-text/book/book.html)1 online, perhaps the greatest work in CS ever made, proves it. Would be really cool to bring that spirit back.
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: retired1af on January 17, 2013, 05:24:23 am
Some may say "good riddance", but I disagree. I think the charges were way out of proportion. Mr. Swartz would have been better off committing manslaughter, which has a lesser maximum sentence.

As I understand, the "hacking" consisted of automatic discovery of links and downloading them, which would have been legal if done manually with a browser. No systems were breached.

Accepting the plea bargain would have left Mr. Swartz a convicted felon, which pretty much is guaranteed to ruin anyone's future.

He hid a notebook in a janitor's closet, used a guest account, and then set the notebook to get around the limitations imposed for guest users. He didn't access it as an authorized user, he purposely attempted to get around the limits imposed by the university.

You have people crying about "open access" to the documents stored on university systems, yet how does the university pay for this stuff? Sure, it's open for students who are currently enrolled, but why should EVERYONE be allowed free and unfettered access? Universities are finding it increasingly difficult to pay the bills and students fly into a rage whenever there's talk of raising tuition rates. So how DOES the institution pay for that?

Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: rbistolfi on January 17, 2013, 06:16:35 am
Some may say "good riddance", but I disagree. I think the charges were way out of proportion. Mr. Swartz would have been better off committing manslaughter, which has a lesser maximum sentence.

As I understand, the "hacking" consisted of automatic discovery of links and downloading them, which would have been legal if done manually with a browser. No systems were breached.

Accepting the plea bargain would have left Mr. Swartz a convicted felon, which pretty much is guaranteed to ruin anyone's future.

He hid a notebook in a janitor's closet, used a guest account, and then set the notebook to get around the limitations imposed for guest users. He didn't access it as an authorized user, he purposely attempted to get around the limits imposed by the university.

You have people crying about "open access" to the documents stored on university systems, yet how does the university pay for this stuff? Sure, it's open for students who are currently enrolled, but why should EVERYONE be allowed free and unfettered access? Universities are finding it increasingly difficult to pay the bills and students fly into a rage whenever there's talk of raising tuition rates. So how DOES the institution pay for that?



Well the point is that a lot of that research was supported by public funds and already under public domain.
If you ask me, we could have an entirely free education system and a way more fair publishing system funded by just the benefits of bringing knowledge to a wider public. Check how open source created value and how education works in another countries.

As I said before, nobody says that Swartzs acts were all fine. Probably we dont want people breaking into MIT just for fun (again there are attenuations in this particular case, network was open, a homeless was living in the laptop's room even, documents could be accessed anyway, etc. Check the defense arguments for a longer list.)

Sorry last night I was a bit phony. The plea deal issue is part of what is being put under question. The threat of a huge maximum penalty can be used to obtain a conviction. This work the same in my country so we are allowed to discuss this in general.
Looks like a lot of things will change after this. A reform of the law is being propposed so a violation of TOS wouldnt constitute a felony anymore: http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/16njr9/im_rep_zoe_lofgren_im_introducing_aarons_law_to/

About your network being attacked,nobody says that cracking should be legal. Do you have any evidence that your network is being attacked by activists? There are a lot of pranks also.

Some words from an expert from the defense: http://unhandled.com/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/


Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: sledgehammer on January 17, 2013, 06:47:30 am
Rodrigo,

Thanks for the link.  It is very good.  And good discussion.

As I see it, suicide (if that is what happened to Aaron) should never be used to make anyone feel guilty.  Suicide is the coward's way out.

But to the degree Aaron was attempting to address the problem of information availability, coward or not,, he may have been right. 

There was a time when, once a new book came out, one could go to the library and read it.  For free.  Basically anywhere in the country, for every city has a public library.  Or, instead, if one wanted to read it in the comfort of his home, he could go to a bookstore and buy it. 

I don't know whether one could go to the library in any city in this country and read the JSTOR stuff Aaron downloaded for free or not.  That, to me, seems to be the question.  If one had to travel all the way to MIT to read the stuff he downloaded, then Aaron was right.  To preserve freedom, the public must have free access to knowledge.  Tom Jefferson and many others have made that clear.  An educated population is necessary to a free society.  And extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.  We should never confuse illegality with immorality.

John
Title: Re: R.I.P. Aaron Swartz
Post by: nightflier on January 17, 2013, 03:48:29 pm
There is no denying that some rules were broken in this case. My argument is that the punishment was excessive.

As far as suicide goes, I won't label anyone as cowards without having been in their shoes. Tibetan monks have used self-immolation to draw attention to their plight. The US administration called suicides at Guantanamo "acts of terrorism". It is possible that someone could feel that "the ultimate sacrifice" would give their lives more meaning if it spurred changes in society.