Joly sez, "On March 4-5 2013 the Internet Society's North America Bureau webcast the Freedom to Connect 2013 conference in Washington DC. One keynote speaker was Glenn Greenwald, who has recently come to international attention as the journalist who broke the NSA surveillance story. In his hour long speech, he talks about Aaron Swartz, the imbalance of justice, the growth of the surveillance state, the nature of power in the digital age, and its implications for Internet freedom. There are a couple of small glitches in the recording, for which we apologize."
VIDEO: Glenn Greenwald keynote at Freedom to Connect 2013 #f2c #netfreedom #prism
Noah Swartz writes, "Aaron Swartz was the 'answer' to the final 'question' in the 'Techie Dropouts' category on last night's episode of Jeopardy
, preceded by other famous techie drop outs like Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg."
Hacking Politics is a new book recounting the history of the fight against SOPA, when geeks, hackers and activists turned Washington politics upside-down and changed how Congress thinks about the Internet. It collects essays by many people (including me): Aaron Swartz, Larry Lessig, Zoe Lofgren, Mike Masnick, Kim Dotcom, Nicole Powers, Tiffiny Cheng, Alexis Ohanian, and many others. It's a name-your-price ebook download.
Hacking Politics is a firsthand account of how a ragtag band of activists and technologists overcame a $90 million lobbying machine to defeat the most serious threat to Internet freedom in memory. The book is a revealing look at how Washington works today – and how citizens successfully fought back.
Written by the core Internet figures – video gamers, Tea Partiers, tech titans, lefty activists and ordinary Americans among them – who defeated a pair of special interest bills called SOPA (“Stop Online Piracy Act”) and PIPA (“Protect IP Act”), Hacking Politics provides the first detailed account of the glorious, grand chaos that led to the demise of that legislation and helped foster an Internet-based network of amateur activists.
Alan sez, "Demand Progress, part of Aaron Swartz's legacy, has been working for a while on a collection of essays and thoughts
by people including Aaron, Lawrence Lessig, Techdirt's Mike Masnick, and Kim Dotcom. The collection is now available in ebook and paperback form. You can even pay in bitcoins, if that's how you roll."
Read this if you want to stay out of jail.
When my friend Aaron Swartz committed suicide in January, he'd been the subject of a DoJ press-release stating that the Federal prosecutors who had indicted him were planning on imprisoning him for 25 years for violating the terms of service of a site that hosted academic journals. Aaron had downloaded millions of articles from that website, but that wasn't the problem. He was licensed to read all the articles they hosted. The problem was, the way he downloaded the articles violated the terms and conditions of the service. And bizarrely -- even though the website didn't want to press the matter -- the DoJ decided that this was an imprisonable felony, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes it a crime to "exceed your authorization" on any online service.
The DoJ reasoned that if the law said that doing anything "unauthorized" was a crime, and if the long, gnarly hairball of legalese that no one reads before clicking "I agree" set out what you were allowed to do, then violations of that "agreement" were a felony.
Aaron's death galvanized some Congresscritters to do something about this oversight. The ancient CFAA predated the widespread use of terms of service in everyday activities like hanging out with your friends, reading the newspaper, getting an education or signing up for a dating service. Congress did not intend to create a situation where companies that provided services could put any unreasonable condition they wanted into an "agreement" you might never see ("By using this website, you accept all terms and conditions") and then ask the DoJ to put people in prison for decades if they violated them.
The reform to CFAA was welcome and long overdue. But the DoJ has asked some members of the House Judiciary Committee to make it worse.
Read the rest
The entire editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration resigned en masse. Board member Chris Bourg wrote publicly about the decision, and an open letter elaborates on it, stating that their difference of opinion with publisher Taylor & Francis Group about open access, galvanized by Aaron Swartz's suicide, moved them to quit.
“The Board believes that the licensing terms in the Taylor & Francis author agreement are too restrictive and out-of-step with the expectations of authors in the LIS community.”
“A large and growing number of current and potential authors to JLA have pushed back on the licensing terms included in the Taylor & Francis author agreement. Several authors have refused to publish with the journal under the current licensing terms.”
“Authors find the author agreement unclear and too restrictive and have repeatedly requested some form of Creative Commons license in its place.”
“After much discussion, the only alternative presented by Taylor & Francis tied a less restrictive license to a $2995 per article fee to be paid by the author. As you know, this is not a viable licensing option for authors from the LIS community who are generally not conducting research under large grants.”
Pretty amazing that Taylor & Francis thought that they could convince authors -- who weren't paid in the first place -- to cough up $3000 for the right to use their own work in other contexts. Talk about being out of step with business realities of publishing!
Tim Wu's New Yorker piece on Aaron Swartz and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act explains how Obama could, with one speech, fix the worst problem with the worst law in technology. The CFAA makes it a felony to "exceed your authorization" on a computer system, and fed prosecutors have taken the view that this means that if you violate terms of service, you're a felon, and they can put you in jail. As Wu points out, Obama doesn't need Congress to pass a law to fix this, he could just tell the DoJ that they should stop doing this. There's plenty of precedent, and it would be excellent policy.
When judges or academics say that it is wrong to interpret a law in such a way that everyone is a felon, the Justice Department has usually replied by saying, roughly, that federal prosecutors don’t bother with minor cases—they only go after the really bad guys. That has always been a lame excuse—repulsive to anyone who takes seriously the idea of a “a government of laws, not men.” After Aaron Swartz’s suicide, the era of trusting prosecutors with unlimited power in this area should officially be over...
There is a much more immediate and effective remedy: the Justice Department should announce a change in its criminal-enforcement policy. It should no longer consider terms-of-service violations to be criminal. It can join more than a dozen federal judges and scholars, like Kerr, who adopt a reasonable and more limited interpretation. The Obama Administration’s policy will have no effect on civil litigation, so firms like Oracle will retain their civil remedies. President Obama’s DREAM Act enforcement policy, under which the Administration does not deport certain illegal immigrants despite Congress’s inability to make the act a law, should be the model. Where Congress is unlikely to solve a problem, the Administration should take care of business itself.
All the Administration needs to do is to rely on the ancient common-law principle called the “rule of lenity.” This states that ambiguous criminal laws should be construed in favor of a defendant. As the Supreme Court puts it, “When choice has to be made between two readings of what conduct Congress has made a crime, it is appropriate, before we choose the harsher alternative, to require that Congress should have spoken in language that is clear and definite.” So far, at least thirteen federal judges have rejected the Justice Department’s interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If that’s not a sign that the law is unclear and should be interpreted with lenity, I don’t know what is.
Fixing the Worst Law in Technology
Thomas "Command Line" Gideon came out for the DC stop on my Homeland tour, at Busboys and Poets, and mic'ed me up for the event. He's mastered the audio and posted it. It's a 40 minute talk about the promise of technology to improve our lives, the risks from allowing technology to be used to surveil and control us, and the contributions Aaron Swartz made to this cause and to the book. There's also about 20 minutes of Q&A.
TCLP 2013-03-13 Cory Doctorow on the Themes of “Homeland”
Subscribe to Command Line podcast (RSS/XML)
According to Aaron Swartz's defense team, federal prosecutor Steve Heymann (star of Quinn Norton's extraordinary piece on the prosecution) illegally withheld evidence that would have exculpated Aaron:
In the document, Peters argues that Heymann withheld exculpatory evidence. At issue was whether the federal government had properly obtained a warrant to search Swartz' computer and thumb drive. Peters argued that the government failed by waiting more than a month to obtain the warrant. Heymann countered that he couldn't get a warrant because he didn't have access to the equipment. But an email in Heymann's possession, which was written to Heymann himself, showed that assertion to be untrue.
In an email that was not provided to the defense team until the last minute, Michael Picket, a Secret Service agent, wrote to Heymann on Jan. 7, “I am prepared to take custody of the laptop anytime after it has been processed for prints or whenever you feel is appropriate. As far as I know no one has sought a warrant for the examination of the computer, the cell phone that was on his person or the 8gb flash drive that was in his backpack." It would be more than a month before Heymann obtained a warrant -– far too long, in Peters' estimation, which means that the evidence found on the laptop could have become inadmissible.
Peters' complaint, which was filed in late January but has not been previously reported, makes additional charges that cannot be revealed because the government fought for a protective order that keeps case information secret. Peters is attempting to have that order lifted.
Aaron Swartz Lawyers Accuse Prosecutor Stephen Heymann Of Misconduct
Michael B. Morgan, CEO of Morgan & Claypool Publishers, writes:
In 2009, we invited Aaron Swartz to contribute a short work to our series on Web Engineering (now The Semantic Web: Theory and Technology). He produced a draft of about 40 pages -- a "first version" to be extended later -- which unfortunately never happened.
After his death in January, we decided (with his family's blessing) that it would be a good idea to publish this work so people could read his ideas about programming the Web, his ambivalence about different aspects of Semantic Web technology, his thoughts on Openness, and more.
As a tribute to Aaron, we have posted his work on our site as a free PDF download. It is licensed under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA-NC) license. The work stands as originally written, with only a few typographical errors corrected to improve readability.
Aaron Swartz's A Programmable Web: An Unfinished Work
A Programmable Web:
An Unfinished Work (PDF)
Bunnie Huang's seminal book "Hacking the Xbox" is now a free PDF, released thus by the author in honor of Aaron Swartz. "Hacking the Xbox" is the "Our Bodies, Our Selves" of reverse engineering -- a brilliant and accessible text setting out the case for and the practicalities of reverse engineering and taking control of your devices.
I agreed to release this book for free in part because Aaron’s treatment by MIT is not unfamiliar to me. In this book, you will find the story of when I was an MIT graduate student, extracting security keys from the original Microsoft Xbox. You’ll also read about the crushing disappointment of receiving a letter from MIT legal repudiating any association with my work, effectively leaving me on my own to face Microsoft.
The difference was that the faculty of my lab, the AI laboratory, were outraged by this treatment. They openly defied MIT legal and vowed to publish my work as an official “AI Lab Memo,” thereby granting me greater negotiating leverage with Microsoft. Microsoft, mindful of the potential backlash from the court of public opinion over suing a legitimate academic researcher, came to a civil understanding with me over the issue.
It saddens me that America’s so-called government for the people, by the people, and of the people has less compassion and enlightenment toward their fellow man than a corporation. Having been a party to subsequent legal bullying by other entities, I am all too familiar with how ugly and gut-wrenching a high-stakes lawsuit can be. Fortunately, the stakes in my cases were not as high, nor were my adversaries as formidable as Aaron’s, or I too might have succumbed to hopelessness and fear. A few years ago, I started rebuilding my life overseas, and I find a quantum of solace in the thought that my residence abroad makes it a little more difficult to be served.
While the US legal system strives for justice, the rules of the system create an asymmetric war that favors those with resources. By and far one of the most effective methods to force a conclusion, right or wrong, against a small player is to simply bleed them of resources and the will to fight through pre-trial antics. Your entire life feels like it is under an electron microscope, with every tiny blemish magnified into a pitched battle of motions, countermotions, discovery, subpoenas, and affidavits, and each action heaping tens of thousands of dollars onto your legal bill. Your friends, co-workers, employers, and family are drawn into this circus of humiliation as witnesses. Worse, you’re counseled not to speak candidly to anyone, lest they be summoned as a witness against you. Isolated and afraid, it eventually makes more sense to roll over and settle than to take the risk of losing on a technicality versus a better-funded adversary, regardless of the justice.
An open letter from bunnie, author of Hacking the Xbox
Happy Mutant (and EFF-Austin co-founder) Jon Lebkowsky has a great piece in the new Austin Chronicle about Aaron Swartz, privacy, copyright, and the future of computers:
It's an odd predicament, seeing your customer as the enemy. Attempts by the music industry to protect its control of distribution have risked alienation of a customer base that has a multiplicity of channels for free and low-cost alternatives via cyberspace, including a bazillion "Internet radio" channels; online services like Pandora, Last.FM, and Spotify; savvy artists distributing their own tunes online; and, of course, various file-sharing sites like the Pirate Bay. Even with the "pirate" sources out of the way, record labels would be hurting, because they no longer control distribution. The same is true for all media. Distribution channels are more ad hoc, product is abundant, it's cheap or free, and competition for whatever dollars are still flowing is fierce.
Invaluable Information: Technology, privacy, hacking, and legislating in the new digital age - Screens - The Austin Chronicle
On Naked Capitalism, The Unknown Transcriber has transcribed the full text of Lawrence Lessig's Aaron's Law talk, which was one of Larry's finest moments.
So Aaron was a hacker. But he was not just a hacker. He was an Internet activist, but not just an Internet activist. Indeed, the most important part of Aaron’s life is the part most run over too quickly – the last chunk, when he shifted his focus from this effort to advance freedom in the space of copyright, to an effort to advance freedom and social justice more generally.
And I shared this shift with him. In June of 2007 I too announced I was giving up my work on Internet and copyright to work in this area of corruption. And I’m not sure when for him this change made sense, but I’m fairly sure when it made sense for me. Happened in 2006. Aaron had come to a conference, the C3 conference, the 23rd C3 conference in Berlin, and I was with my family at the American Academy in Berlin and Aaron came to visit me. And we had a long conversation, and in the course of that conversation Aaron said to me, how are you ever going to make progress in the areas that I was working on, copyright reform, Internet regulation reform, so long as there is, as he put it, this, quote, “corruption” in the political field. I tried to deflect him a bit. I said, “Look, that’s not my field.” Not my field. And he said, “I get it. As an academic, you mean?” And I said, “Yes, as an academic, that’s not my field.” And he said, “And as a citizen, is it your field?” As a citizen is it your field?
And this was his power. Amazing, unpatented power. Like the very best teachers, he taught by asking. Like the most effective leaders, his questions were on a path, his path. They coerced you, if you wanted to be as he was. They forced you to think of who you were and what you believed in and decide, were you to be the person you thought you were? So when people refer to me as Aaron Swartz’s mentor, they have it exactly backwards. Aaron was my mentor. He taught me, he pushed me, he led me. He led me to where I work today.
Transcript: Lawrence Lessig on “Aaron’s Laws – Law and Justice in a Digital Age”: Section I
Quinn Norton -- who was romantically involved with Aaron Swartz for a long time, and was also his close friend -- has written a brutal, honest, infuriating, and brave account of her dealings with Steve Heymann, the prosecutor who hounded Aaron over his downloading of scientific journal articles. Heymann is a terror among Aaron's friends. Everyone I know who has met him has described him as a vicious, vindictive, authoritarian thug who destroys lives for giggles and notches on his bed-post.
Quinn's piece sheds light on the awful cruelty of the system, for which Aaron's case was a microcosm. America imprisons more people than any other country in the history of the world. 97% of those indicted by federal prosecutors are intimidated into pleading guilty, which means that if a prosecutor like Heymann decides you should go to jail, 97% of the time, you will be coerced into prison without even getting a chance to make a defense (the coercion relies on threats of decade upon decade of prison and bankruptcy for you and all you love should you try to fight).
At first they didn't ask me about Aaron. They were questioning me, trying to get me to admit I knew something. They made me retell everything Aaron had told me, but it was all taken directly from their own arrest record. The harsh questioning about me threw me off balance.
They leaned in and loomed over me physically, calling me a liar, scowling and pausing and narrowing their eyes at me. I was cowed. Much of the time I spent telling them the same things, that I didn't know what he'd been doing, that I never asked what the arrest was for when he called me. They told me that was unnatural; they didn't believe me. I wanted to say, "Of course I wouldn't ask! There was a chance I'd be dealing with you people."
They said I must have known something because I was connected with hackers. They knew this, they told me, because they'd read everything I'd ever written online. I bit my lip. I fought the urge to say "If I'd known, we wouldn't be here. There's no chance you would know a thing."
They said they knew we were close because they'd found a car seat in his apartment. I really did look at them like they were idiots at that point. We'd been together for years. A simple google query would show more than a car seat.
Life Inside the Aaron Swartz Investigation
Larry Lessig's Harvard Law address, "Aaron's Laws - Law and Justice in a Digital Age" is a riveting, bittersweet talk on the state of Internet law, and law in general, and, always, corruption, money and the abuse of power. If you want to understand how our world got to its present messed-up state, look no further. Then do something about it.
Lessig on "Aaron's Laws - Law and Justice in a Digital Age"