Scrupuli

blunt essays with sharp points

Aaron Swartz broke into a library

by Scrvpvlvs
Jul 19, 2011 2:29 PM–Why are we supposed to pat him on the back?

As I read the indictment, the offenses include breaking in to a wiring closet, wiring devices to the MIT network without permission, performing a high-volume copy that brought several servers down and caused service interruptions and unnecessary labor, as well as the theft of IP.

The theft of IP is analogous to taking too many books out of the library. But the analogy breaks down as soon as you consider that he broke agreements with MIT and JSTOR that are like agreements you make with a library before they will lend you a book.

So perhaps the apt analogy is that he broke in to a library stockroom, borrowed whatever he could carry off without checking anything out, left a big mess that resulted in the library incurring repair and cleanup expense, and caused the library to have to close its doors to patrons for several hours while it cleaned up.

Yes, IP is controversial. Perhaps Aaron Swartz was engaging in civil disobedience. But David Segal’s characterization of it as taking too many books out of the library is a lie. People who are supposedly acting in the interest of truth and ethics shouldn’t do that.

Internet Activist Charged in M.I.T. Data Theft

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