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Aaron Swartz Case: Deja Vu All Over Again For MIT 175

Posted by timothy
from the still-want-an-mit-shirt dept.
theodp writes "On Saturday, questions for MIT's Aaron Swartz investigation were posted on Slashdot with the hope that MIT'ers might repost some to the MIT Swartz Review site. So it's good to see that MIT's Hal Abelson, who is leading the analysis of MIT's involvement in the matter, is apparently open to this workaround to the ban on questions from outsiders. In fact, on Sunday Abelson himself reposted an interesting question posed by Boston College Law School Prof. Sharon Beckman: 'What, if anything, did MIT learn from its involvement in the federal prosecution of its student David LaMacchia back in 1994?' Not much, it would appear. LaMacchia, an apparent student of Abelson's whose defense team included Beckman, was indicted in 1994 and charged with the 'piracy of an estimated million dollars' in business and entertainment computer software after MIT gave LaMacchia up to the FBI. LaMacchia eventually walked from the charges, thanks to what became known as the LaMacchia Loophole, which lawmakers took pains to close. 'MIT collaborated with the FBI to wreck LaMacchia's life,' defense attorney Harvey Silverglate charged in 1995 after a judge dismissed the case. 'I hope that this case causes a lot of introspection on the part of MIT's administration. Unfortunately, I doubt it will.'"
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Aaron Swartz Case: Deja Vu All Over Again For MIT

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  • LaMacchia Loophole (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @09:24AM (#42714397)

    Is that a loophole?

    Surely a copyright violation SHOULD be charged under copyright acts, not interstate wire fraud.

    WIRE FRAUD?? Really? Intentional deception of others to personally gain from them? Where? How? Who? did that happen.

    Wallstreet junk assets, dressed as prime sold to banks under deception = criminal fraud, yes I can see that. And I was happy to see the heavy criminal sentences handed down to the Wallstreet bankers who lied about assets to sell them onto to their clients. Hold on, I've got confused, I meant the heavy wads of cash handed down to Wallstreet bankers who lied about assets....

    At least could you charge those bankers with copyright infringement? Maybe a parking fine?

  • by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Monday January 28, 2013 @09:55AM (#42714573) Homepage

    To the dispassionate and disinterested outside observer, a mentally disturbed man committed suicide.

    No. To a dispassionate and disinterested outside observer, someone was being punished much more harshly than whatever he deserved.

    It's simply really. Murder should carry the harshest punishment, whatever "harshest" means in a given culture. Anything that caused less severe damage should be punished less severly, in roughly this decreasing order: a) murder; b) physical damage to another person, c) physical damage to another's property, d) no physical damage to anyone.

    Moral issues arise when one does something at 'd' level, but the law (and those enforcing it) are so sick they want to punish him at 'c+' level. Swartz case is a prime example, and clear symptom, of this very sickness.

  • Re:Petty (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @10:00AM (#42714611)

    No, they weren't vengeful at all. LaMacchia graduated and no internal disciplinary charges were filed. They should have reviewed his case internally and expelled him. LaMacchia was running a warez site, on machines in an MIT cluster, and much like Swartz got the access revoked repeatedly and kept putting his illegal and resource consuming services back into MIT's networks. The amount of warez downloaded through his site for which he was charged was only a few days' traffic, he'd been running that thing for *months*.

    LaMacchia, and Swartz, went beyond all reason in their consistent abuse of network resources and were interfering with other resources. LaMacchia was bumping up MIT's external network traffic bills, and that cost real money from a very limited pot that MIT's network people have to fight and struggle for every year. LaMacchia was also hosting warez, costing commercial software businesses a lot of money (though that's not immediately damaging to MIT). Whether he accepted cash for them or not, he was acting as a fence for these stolen goods, and he damn well knew it. The "LaMacchia Loophole" was that he didn't take money for it. Swartz screwed up JSTOR access for everyone at MIT and repeatedly took down JSTOR servers, interfering with other labs and schools.

    They both belonged in jail. Too bad they were both too privileged, pretty white boys to serve even a day.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @10:11AM (#42714667)

    "Approximately 30 students gathered yesterday afternoon to protest the administration’s handling of controversies involving students. While the majority of the protest was focused on the Star A. Simpson ’10 arrest, the discussion also touched on administrative reactions to the sodium fire on the Charles River and the felony charges filed against hackers found in the MIT Faculty Club.

    The protest, which took place outside of Pritchett Dining in Walker Memorial, consisted of students carrying signs such as “Question the Media,” “Wait for the Facts,” and “Support Your Student.” Students also carried a protest letter that had been circulated across the campus."

    http://tech.mit.edu/V127/N41/protest.html

  • by sribe (304414) on Monday January 28, 2013 @10:44AM (#42714929)

    Don't get your life ruined. Fair deal.

    Where of course by "breaking in" you mean "opening an unlocked door" and by "company" you mean "a university with an open campus and extremely liberal access policies". I wonder if there are job openings in Carmen Ortiz's office?

    He did trespass, and he deserved to be punished for it. A $100 fine, or maybe a small amount of community service in lieu.

    He did commit some copyright violation, and although the amount of stuff downloaded was massive, he didn't do anything with it, and so the damages to JSTOR were non-existant. So for that one, maybe $1,00 fine, 100 or 200 hours of community service, and a suspended sentence.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @11:20AM (#42715245)

    "install a laptop, script file downloads,"
    You know those two things are legal don't you?

    The fuck is he smoking? You're telling me that if I entered your private property and hid a laptop in your closet and attached it to your router and started retrieving everything sent across or hosted locally and then retrieved it at a later date, that would not be illegal?

    Wow, Slashdot is really scraping the bottom by modding that drivel up.

    What he was charged with, was copyright infringement (possibly trespass), written up as hacking and wire fraud.

    What's the matter you couldn't take the time to read the docket? Go ahead and say that the prosecutor was seeking overreaching charges but for fuck's sake, people, a lot of the things he did should still be crimes!

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:49PM (#42716315)

    You can't total up times that way. It isn't merely unlikely that he would have received such a sentence, it is impossible under federal sentencing guidelines. Saying that he faced a "maximum sentence of 65 years" is wrong, plain and simple. To put it differently, people who actually get 65 years usually face a maximum sentence of hundreds of years.

    Swartz actually faced a maximum sentence of about three years. He had been offered a deal of six months in a minimum security prison by the prosecutor. Realistically, that's also about the maximum term a court would have imposed anyway.

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