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What is YOUR take on the Aaron Swartz case?

Computer forensics discussion. Please ensure that your post is not better suited to one of the forums below (if it is, please post it there instead!)
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What is YOUR take on the Aaron Swartz case?

Post Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:33 am

I would like to know what you as a forensic professional think about the Aaron Swartz case.

If you don't know about it, read about it and then comment please.

No, this isn't some post solves a forensic problem, rather it's an important part of computers, the internet, and our legal process which some members as investigators may be on both sides of.

Thank you for checking this post out.
Why order a taco when you can ask it politely?

Alan B. "A man can live a good life, be honorable, give to charity, but in the end, the number of people who come to his funeral is generally dependent on the weather. " 

Senior Member

Re: What is YOUR take on the Aaron Swartz case?

Post Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:35 pm

I think it is sad that this person who was certainly bright, yet apparently mentally unstable, felt that killing himself was better than taking responsibility for his actions.

However I think it is ludicrous that people are proposing making hacking less of a crime or not a crime.

The case is fairly clear, Swartz stole the work of others and posted it on the Internet so that others could steal that work without compensating the authors.

Now Swartz believed that knowledge should be set free (or whatever the exact phrase he used was). However that is not the way it works. When people do work, they get compensated. If they get compensated by people buying a subscription, then going around the subscription model to get free access is in essence stealing.

Our beloved Harlan is a great example. He does research and writes a book and would like people to buy the book. He also writes programs which he distributes for free asking for nothing more than feedback in return. If someone takes a copy of his book and posts it online because knowledge should be set free, that is wrong.

I would ask, how is that just because you believe a crime is not a crime does that make the crime not a crime?

In the US there are some people that believe selling/having/smoking marijuana should not be illegal, and even some states where the people have voted so, but it is still against federal law to do so. Again just because a person does not believe something is illegal does not diminish the crime.

In the Swartz case there are those that say there was overzealous prosecution. And now there are stories surfacing that the amount of jail time reported was overblown. Do we know everything about the case? No. But on the surface I think making hacking less of a crime is not the solution.  

Senior Member

Re: What is YOUR take on the Aaron Swartz case?

Post Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 8:09 pm

With all due respect, the similitude you make does NOT apply/stand much to what Aaron Swartz actually did.

I guess that if you read the details (and the actual papers):

you would agree that NO Author's right were actually "stolen", as the (probably intended) re-distribution of the downloaded material did not take place.
Point #31 of the superseding indictment, on page 10.

There is nowhere that I can find the exact number of documents that were downloaded (references are to "well over 4,000,000", "major portion of archive" "substantial portion of total archive" ).

If someone would convince 90% of all last year enrolled (to limit ourselves to the MIT which obviously is NOT the only Uni in the world pre-paying a flat fee to JSTOR):
4,503+6,686=11,189 * 90%=10,000
to download 1 article per day (or 45% to download 2, etc.) in less than one year (presumably the period for which JSTOR gets the flat fee) the same "well over 4,000,000" articles would be downloaded without the Authors or Publishers getting even a single dime more and in a perfectly legal way.

The "crime" that was actually committed (I am talking here about the financial consequences) was not connected to damage to the Authors or Publishers and their copyrights, it was - in case - damage to the JSTOR network that was brought to it's knees and conversely to MIT (and to the people working/studying there) that were cut off for a few days from accessing those files.

It seems to me like the actual offenses, that are summed up in chapters:
  • Wire Fraud
  • Computer Fraud
  • Unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer
  • Recklessly damaging a protected computer

are all "hacking related" offenses, and nothing actually connected to Copyright infringements.

- In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is. - 

Senior Member

Re: What is YOUR take on the Aaron Swartz case?

Post Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:30 am

I rather be discussing the tangential topic of scholarly or research articles kept behind outrageous pay-walls.  

Senior Member

Re: What is YOUR take on the Aaron Swartz case?

Post Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:16 pm

it is sad he died, but for those calling for less or no penalties for actions like Aaron's, where does it stop?

Too many people think they should be exempt from consequences if their actions are, in their mind, altruistic, or for the right reasons.

he was smart enough to write programs others bought from him. he was smart enough to write a program to evade MITs rules. He should have been smart enough to look into the federal statutes which outline the penalties for the actions he knowingly took.  

Senior Member

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