Home > Arron Swartz, cdnpoli, CDNTech, Copyright, Politics > Lessig on MIT Taking a Neutral Stance in Swartz Case

Lessig on MIT Taking a Neutral Stance in Swartz Case

Law Professor, lawyer and creative commons founder Lawrence Lessig has an excellent post on how MIT in the US took an unwarranted neutral stance in the copyright case involving Arron Swartz.  Swartz committed suicide this year after huge pressure from the US Legal system and government to put him away for copyright infringement. Lessig wrote:

The point the report makes in criticizing the prosecutors is that they were at a minimum negligent in not recognizing that under MIT’s open access policies, Aaron’s access was likely not “unauthorized.” As the report states (at 139):

As far as the Review Panel could determine, MIT was never asked by either the prosecution or the defense whether Aaron Swartz’s access to the MIT network was authorized or unauthorized—nor did MIT ask this of itself. Given that (1) MIT was the alleged victim of counts 9 and 12, (2) the MIT access policy, its Rules of Use, and its own interpretation of those Rules of Use (including the significance or “materiality” of any violation of those terms) were at the heart of the government’s CFAA allegations in counts in both indictments, and (3) this policy and these rules were written, interpreted, and applied by MIT for MIT’s own mission and goals—not those of the Government— the Review Panel wonders why. (p139)

But that criticism goes both ways — if indeed MIT recognized this, and didn’t explicitly say either privately or publicly that Aaron was likely not guilty of the crime charged, then that failure to speak can’t be defended by the concept of “neutrality.

Emphasis added.

It seems like misusing the term “neutrality” when it comes to copyright isn’t just a Canadian problem.  It’s unfortunate in this case that the failure to speak on innocence lead to over and above harassment by the legal system in the US on Swartz, so much so that he took his own life.

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