October 05, 2012

Aaron Swartz "JSTOR" case Defense Begins

[Not an echo! News from the filings!]

For people interested in following the details of the Aaron Swartz "JSTOR" case developments, the legal defense has begun. There are now filings such as a motion to dismiss "wire fraud" charges, and many "suppress" motions (i.e. challenging the legality of the collection of various pieces of proposed evidence).

One reason I'm hesitant to get too much into the popular case discussion is that the punditry tends to revolve around concepts people have regarding the overall morality of various supposed actions. Now, that's a valid discussion, involving topics ranging from Open Access, the appropriate conduct of activism, and proportional prosection response. But it's a different one than whether the charges brought are supported by the applied law and the legal evidence. And the costs (in several senses) of fighting, of maintaining the specific charges are not supported by the alleged law and evidence.

One of my favorite commentaries on this topic is from the Cyber Patrol break FAQ, about the lawsuit aftermath of two programmers who reverse-engineered censorware and published research and software about their results:

When we published the essay I didn't expect a lawsuit, but I had also thought, "Well, if there is a lawsuit it won't be a problem, because there are organizations that take care of things like that." I fondly imagined that in case of legal silliness, someone would just step in and say "We'll take it from here." What I found out was that those organizations, through no fault of their own, were able to give me a lot of sympathy and not enough of anything else, particularly money, to bring my personal risk of tragic consequences down to an acceptable level, despite, incredibly, the fact that what I had done was legal. Ultimately, I couldn't rely on anybody to deal with my problems but myself.

Some people learn that lesson a bit less impressively than I had to.

Note that particularly money phrase. As well as personal risk of tragic consequences. It matters. The sort of detailed and thorough legal argument in all those defense motions is not something that's going to be data-mined from a forum discussion thread, or lifted from a semi-plagiarized Wikipedia article.

Note: Aaron Swartz Legal Defense Fund. Disclosure: I know him socially, and have admired his work.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on October 05, 2012 05:53 PM | (Infothought permalink)