Community Zone => Chatter => Topic started by: shnozzola on January 19, 2013, 05:13:35 PM

Title: Aaron Swartz
Post by: shnozzola on January 19, 2013, 05:13:35 PM
Most everyone has heard of the suicide of hacker Aaron Swartz.
On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by federal authorities in connection with systematic downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR. Swartz opposed JSTOR's practice of compensating publishers, rather than authors, out of the fees it charges for access to articles. Swartz contended that JSTOR's fees limited access to academic work produced at American colleges and universities.

On the morning of January 11, 2013, Swartz was found in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment where he had hanged himself.

 When I first read a newspaper article about this new thing called napster, years ago, I went wild downloading free music, even at that unbelievably slow speed.  I thought of it as recording a song I liked from the radio onto a cassette.  I now do agree that the copyright on the internet must be respected, even if the genie seems to have escaped from the bottle.

I can understand there is an argument to be made for sharing, much as lending a friend a book or a movie, or of getting a library book out.  But the libraries (taxpayers) still must pay the publisher/author for the book.  At the end of the argument, Aaron did steal, but I wish the process of prosecution could have allowed common sense options that did not cause the pressure that lead to his suicide.

Title: Re: Aaron Swartz
Post by: Seppuku on January 20, 2013, 11:21:16 AM
For me, this demonstrates how unjust the justice system is, I'd say both in the US and UK, because I'd argue we're guilty of it too.

What kind of sentences do rapists and murderers get? Aaron Swartz was getting 35 years in prison and that's a big sentence, left for some pretty severe criminals.

Copyright Law on the other hand manages to make severe criminals out of lesser crimes. Because, at the end of the day *theft* is a lesser crime, unless of course that theft has greater consequences, for example, if it results in a person's death (and then the crime would be theft AND manslaughter). When it comes to law it seems money plays a value to the crime committed, stealing £5000 from a poor man struggling to feed his family could have more dire consequences than stealing £5million from a billionaire, but which thief would get off the worst? The same applies when it comes to damages in copyright law. For example, a woman running a private WoW server managed to make $3million, now that wasn't stealing $3 million from Blizzard, it was earning money from offering in game services on their private server they were not legally permitted to do. By all means, punish her, it's a crime and she shouldn't have committed it. However, she was fined a certain amount per user of the server, which amounted to around $88 million. That's a debt most normal people couldn't afford to pay in a lifetime. Did it leave Blizzard in a difficult situation? Not in the least, sure they lost some potential subscribers, but it was barely a scratch on their financial success as a business.

If the lady was running a highly successful business, it would have been easier to deal with the loss and successful companies will break patents if they can afford to do so, for example, the mobile phone markets, companies are constantly suing each other over broken patents (mainly Apple) and their business is successful enough to deal with it so though they were paying royalties instead of breaking law. So arguably, the law in this respect is not proportionate. Blizzard can fuck over somebody who runs a private server whilst companies like Samsung happily remain in business and thrive in it because they're rich enough for Apple to not destroy them. What bothers me more is that people complain more about Apple suing other companies than other companies suing people who can't afford it. Sure there's still outrage, but when was the last time you heard somebody accuse Blizzard of being greedy? Or making fun of the fact they sued somebody? Or accuse them of being unethical as a business? I hear people say things like that about Apple all the time. 

I like to tell the story of a local drunk driver, he ran down an 18 year old girl on Christmas eve one year, he got 5 years, served 3 of them. He was allowed his freedom, and yet a girl lost her life, parents lost a daughter and others a friend. It is anecdotal, but people do get shorter sentences for such crimes. Then I read about 'victims' of piracy and copyright and try to imagine how those victims are worse off than that girl and family.

To me it suggests that in the eyes of the law money is more valuable than life.
Title: Re: Aaron Swartz
Post by: ParkingPlaces on January 20, 2013, 12:40:12 PM
Keep in mind that most of what he was "stealing" was research paid for by taxpayers. To access it through JSTOR, one has to pay them to let you have it. Not the authors, not the institutions, but the storage facility. And all of that storage could be done practically for free rather than for profit.

MIT students were able to download for free while on campus using the campus system. MIT keeps it's wifi open for all. Aaron set a computer in a closet at MIT and had it start automatically downloading those documents.

He was doing it in protest, not to steal it for money. He was a firm advocate of free information, and thought that the system that allowed JSTOR to make money off of a non-product was unfair and caused information to be less freely available. Almost everything he did as a computer geek was aimed at keeping the Internet free of oppressive regulation. He was the founder of Demand Progress, which led the charge to keep the Internet censorship laws known as SOPA/PIPA from being passed. Hell, if you use RSS feeds, he helped create the RSS standard when he was 14 years old.

One person said, after his death, that just about the only thing he was ever wrong about was killing himself. A Harvard law professor who knew him said that when he, as a lawyer and a professor, wondered if something was right or wrong, he would ask himself "What would Aaron do?" as he tried to figure out the morality of something.

Aaron was impressive, he suffered from depression, and overzealous prosecutors appear to have put career and big-business paranoia ahead of common sense. Hence the story is sad. It could have had a better ending. Hopefully something good will come out of all of this.

Title: Re: Aaron Swartz
Post by: Graybeard on January 20, 2013, 01:58:51 PM
I have difficult with this idea of not downloading songs/tunes/etc. There are many songs that are merely ephemeral – you want to listen to them today, but will never listen to them again. You might download something, as I have done, listened to it and freed up the disk space by deleting it.

Then there is “Did I really want it?”

There’s a lot in what Homer Simpson said about how he wished that there weren’t so many good programs on the TV – people who download by the thousand, are suffering from unrestrained addiction to collecting (not listening to) songs because of peer pressure or some irrationality – why should they have to pay for this? No harm is done other than no one has taken advantage taken of their vulnerable condition. And who created the addiction?

But who benefits from thousands of downloads? Surely, the artist, whose name is made prominent. Here is the advantage. Their songs are publicity of their careers and will be in proportion to the number of records they actually sell.

There is a new paradigm and the record industry is not grasping it – in the past, as Quesi said, recording from the radio seemed fine, recording at home from a record and having that on a cassette, seemed fine; the music industry wants the internet, but not all the internet – they want your money like in the past.

Those who download to sell, are reprehensible – they know it is not theirs to make a profit out of.
Title: Re: Aaron Swartz
Post by: Seppuku on January 20, 2013, 05:54:25 PM
Downloading music is a definite way of trying out bands you've never heard, but thankfully there are legal ways these days like Spotify and Grooveshark, also MySpace. YouTube has channels of record labels with access to music videos. Also last.fm is a great way of discovering new bands, better than regular radio or TV IMO, because it tailors to your tastes. But back in the days of Napster you didn't have access to anything like that. Some bands have the attitude that they have no problem with illegal downloads if it means they pay to come to gigs and support them in person and even buy merchandise.
Title: Re: Aaron Swartz
Post by: Nam on January 20, 2013, 08:24:16 PM
I have never in the 11 years I have been on the www paid to download a song, book, film, or anything. There's so much free things (legally) out there that to pay for anything seems ridiculous to a point.

However, in saying that I would rather have a CD, DVD, or book. Call me old-fashioned. I don't nor have I ever had an mp3 player,or similar. I still have a portable CD player.

Title: Re: Aaron Swartz
Post by: Seppuku on January 21, 2013, 04:19:51 PM
I still buy DVD's, CD's and books. In fact, I don't think I've ever bought a book or CD digitally, I did buy a TV series on DVD and watch Netflix. I do then convert my CD's digitally so I can listen to them through my computer or through my smart phone. Grooveshark and Spotify are great ways to properly listen to new bands at least and I use them for that purpose. And with books, well, nothing beats holding them in your hand...saying that, my bookshelf is kind of over flowing.

Keep in mind that most of what he was "stealing" was research paid for by taxpayers. To access it through JSTOR, one has to pay them to let you have it. Not the authors, not the institutions, but the storage facility. And all of that storage could be done practically for free rather than for profit.

I would say he committed the crime for the right reasons and that's enough for me to respect the guy and give him kudos for taking that risk and I am sure he was aware when caught there'd be consequences, though I suspect he didn't expect them to be so severe. I don't think anybody's above the law and whilst I support the idea of protesting against what JSTOR were doing (profiting off of people's work without paying them for it), there needs to be consequences for breaking the law. I am sure there were others ways of making his protest, but legally. Perhaps he wanted to be made a martyr, but probably didn't expect it to screw himself over that much, who knows?
Title: Re: Aaron Swartz
Post by: Nam on January 21, 2013, 09:53:59 PM
I have a room over-flowing with 2,228 movies on DVD, over 1,000 CD's, but only about 50+ books. I got rid of some last month. Okay, a lot. I didn't need them anymore, and frankly: they are a lot of maintenance.