Evolution of Laws in the IT world.


Watch the movie first:

(movie retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCwjDuoJK0E 3/4/2016)


I’m going to start off by introducing you to this weeks topic in ITC501, The internet’s Own Boy, The story of Aaron Swartz.

The Internet’s Own Boy is a documentary released on June 27th of 2014. The film is about the life of Aaron Swartz, an programming prodigy and information activist who took his own life at the young age  of 26.

(picture retrieved from here on 3/4/2016

As a student studying information technology, this documentary blew me away! In my opinion, this film is pure evidence that as computer technology  is ever changing, the laws regarding the use of computers need to change with the technology.

After watching this documentary, I’m sure you will also share my point of view.

Here are some interesting questions out tutor asked us to answer after watching the film.

Q1: What did he do that got him into trouble?

Aaron did a few things that got him into trouble with the law, people will argue that what he did was good or bad, depending on who’s side they’re on. According to the documentary, The two main things that Aaron did that got him in trouble were ‘hacking’ into JSTOR (an online Academic Library) through MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and downloading millions of Academic Journals and papers, and ‘hacking ‘ into PACER (pubic access to court electronic records) and downloading millions of federal court documents.

Aaron was caught on camera  hardwiring his Acer laptop into the MIT network to download the entire archive of academic records from JSTOR. He was caught and arrested on the 6th of January 2011.

Q2: What were the possible motives mentioned in the film for his so called “crime”?

There are two possible motives for his so called crime, and they are both unprovable as Aaron took his own life before a motive for these possible crimes could become certain.

  • To start a new website to compete with JSTOR and sell the documents for profit.


  • To liberate the information and make it free to access for everyone. As he suggests it should be in his “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” blog post.


Q3: What does each motive imply from a MOREL and LEGAL point of view?

From a moral point of view, I totally understand where Aaron was coming from. He wanted public access to the public domain, another words, Aaron wanted everyone to be able to have access to information that SHOULD be free.

On the other hand, I understand from a legal point of view that what Aaron was actually doing was theft.  He stole the “property” of JSTOR, and if he had the intention to sell it he would be selling fraudulent copies of stolen files.

Q4: Why were understanding his motives so important ?

Because understanding his morals really make this case so interesting! If Aaron had the intention of selling the academic Journals and papers then he was absolutely in the wrong. However, upon understanding his morals and points of view that information such as the information he ‘stole’ SHOULD be free, you start to see why this case is so interesting.

Was he going to sell the documents or was he going to ‘give’ them to the people?

After reading his manuscript, I’m sure many of you , like myself, will believe Aarons intentions were to do good, and not sell them fraudulently.

Q4.1: How many charges did this end up giving him?

Aaron faced a total of 13 charges, 2 charges of Wire Fraud and 11 charges for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act 1986 (CFAA) which could have landed him up to 35 years imprisonment and a fine of up to one million US dollars.

Q5: What was wrong with the SOPA bill ?

The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) was a controversial United States bill that was introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith. The aim of the bill was to combat online piracy and if successful, the bill would enable the US government and rights holders the ability to effectively shut down websites relating to copyright infringements.

The US government and rights holders would have the right to seek court orders against any site accused of “enabling or facilitating” piracy. This could theoretically involve an entire website being shut down because it contains a link to a suspect site.

(Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-16596577   3/4/2016)

In short, if passed, the bill had the potential to literally break the internet!

Q6: Why did It look like the bill would be impossible to stop from passing?

Because in a country where the deciding factor on whether or not a bill will be passed, is normally money, SOPA looked like it was a sure thing. It was being backed greatly by a majority of members of US congress as well as large entertainment companies. These people have a lot of power and influence.

Q7: What were some of the significant factors that helped raise awareness for dismissing the SOPA bill?

In protest to SOPA, people organised protests, rallies and petitions. Others called congress to voice their opinions about the proposed act. The most significant factor I believe in bringing awareness  for dismissing the SOPA bill was a  coordinated “Service Blackout” on January 18, 2012. Websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit showed their support for dismissing the SOPA act by going ‘black’.

Q7.1 What’s the important message about this victory to those of us in the “new world”

The message is clear, even if we as a majority face obstacles that look impossible to beat, if we stick together we can rise and conquer.

Q8: “Bringing public access to the public domain”, “books are our cultural legacy”.  What do these statements have to do with Aaron Swartz’s passion?

Since Aaron was a small child he loved to read books and learn, He knew that reading was a great way to attain knowledge. As written in Aaron’s  Guerilla Open Access manifesto, he believed information is power, and there are people out there who want it to be keep for themselves.

(Snip retrieved  from Aaron Swartz’s ‘Guerilla Open Access Manifesto 3/4/2016. The full document can be found here


Q9: What does q8 have to do with Jack Andraka?

Jack Andraka is known for his award-winning work on a potential method for detecting the early stages of pancreatic and other cancers, he discovered this method by studying free online Academic Journals. If jack couldn’t gain access to online free academic journals, he would not have been able to make the discovery!

Q10: What’s the most important question on this list. Why?

When there’s a whole list of equally important questions, to pick just one to be the most important is a difficult task. However, if I have to narrow id down to just one, I’d say question 9 is the most important, the reason being simply the fact that someone was able to discover a possible method to discover early signs of some cancer due to having access to FREE online academic journals!

Now image what we as humans could achieve by simply…..sharing! It truly makes you wonder, imagine what else we could achieve if we shared a lot more than just online academic journals!





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