Cato’s Timothy Lee’s conflict of interest with regard to Aaron Swartz?

So, let’s walk through this interesting defense-via-faint-damnation of Aaron Swartz by Timothy B Lee.

  • Timothy B. Lee’s article, summed up, is as followsAaron Swartz was right to hack into JSTOR and take all those articles without paying for them, but he went about being right very, very stupidly by physically breaking into things while stealing downloading other people’s articles. [Somebody on Twitter made the objection that double-quotes suggest a direct quote, instead of me just summing up Lee in a mean and vicious manner.  Being magnanimous in victory and all that, I’ll be nice and ‘fix’ it. – ML]  This is a standard telecommie (one of my readers at MoeLane.com prefers ‘infosocialist,’ which works too) defense; which is… interesting.
  • Well, who is Timothy B. Lee?  Well, his Forbes profile says that, among other things, he’s an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.
  • And when you go over to Timothy Lee’s Cato Institute profile, it notes there (but not on his website’s disclosure statement) that Lee “was the co-author of RECAP, a software project that promotes public access to federal court records.” (more…)


Telecommie* Aaron Swartz’s federal indictment (and unpersoning by Larry Lessig).

The formal indictment of PCCC/Reddit** co-founder (and Demand Progress Executive Director) Aaron Swartz is available [link fixed], and you will find it compelling reading, if only because it shows the level of stubborn disregard for other people’s property and needs that can be exhibited by a telecommie geek who is simultaneously convinced of the rightness of his cause, and not especially overburdened with a sense of conventional ethics.  Essentially, if this indictment is correct, then Swartz physically broke into MIT’s computer network, inserted a virgin laptop into that system, deliberately spoofed the network into believing that the laptop represented a legitimate (guest***) user of MIT’s JSTOR online journal database account, immediately began massive downloads of JSTOR data in flagrant violation of JSTOR and MIT policies, spent several months playing steadily-increasing games of digital cat-and-mouse with MIT’s anti-piracy forces, then attempted to retrieve the physical evidence for all of this while trying to disguise his identity.  The indictment lists several occasions where Swartz’s behavior hindered the ability of legitimate MIT users to access JSTOR, and at least one where MIT users were outright prohibited from accessing JSTOR at all.

Lastly, please note this passage from a Boston Globe article on the crime.

Swartz allies claim the prosecution was launched over the objections of JSTOR.

“That is not the case,’’ said Heide McGregor, vice president of marketing and communications for JSTOR. “We were interested always in making sure the data was secure and the data was not disseminated. So we were happy we got to that result.”



PCCC/Reddit cofounder Aaron Swartz indicted for mail fraud.

PCCC stands for “Progressive Change Campaign Committee,” which was a group that rose to fame last year for its stellar record in taking progressive campaign cash and turning it into mocking, pathetically broken dreams; Reddit is of course the popular news source that none of you use because the liberals on it will downvote you to death if you try; Aaron Swartz is a co-founder of both, as well as the Executive Director of Demand Progress*; and ‘mail fraud’ is a shorter way of saying “A Harvard University fellow studying ethics has been accused of using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s computer network to steal nearly 5 million academic articles.” Specifically, Swartz is being charged with hacking into and stealing from JSTOR – which is pretty much the source for online academic journal articles.

The AP says that said articles were physically hacked, apparently involving wiring closets being broken into and so forth. How much of that is the AP just wishing that life was more like Mission: Impossible is unclear; but what is clear is that Aaron Swartz – who has one of those resumes that may not be amenable to a standard unpersoning – has been indicted for allegedly ripping off JSTOR and allegedly planning to redistribute them to filesharers. Or, as Demand Progress is currently calling it, “allegedly downloading too many scholarly journal articles from the Web.”

How funny is this? It’s so funny that I’m going to break a rule and link to all of these sites – and Huffington Post, for reasons that are about to be obvious. You see, Reddit is already pushing back on the New York Time’s reporting that Aaron Swartz is a cofounder of their website… which is interesting, because they didn’t seem to care when Swartz claimed that status on both HuffPo and Demand Progress. Oh, and look. Here’s the Wayback Machine, faithfully reproducing an article from 2006 where Alexis Ohanian embraces Swartz as a cofounder! But that was before the mail fraud, of course. (more…)

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