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.”


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