dgplug Newsletter #5

released Friday, July 6, 2018

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Worlds Apart

The introduction of information technology has ever since challenged lawmakers and lawyers, as it is in many aspects not comparable to anything else our world has seen before. Suddenly, you can copy information and media of arbitrary types infinitely and without noteworthy cost.

As one of the earliest groups to see the potential computers and their implications on our lives, early hackers defined some general rules that evolved into the Hacker Ethic, that promotes freedom of information and its sharing.

At the same time, lawmakers have been constantly trying to control and restrict these new freedoms; The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act CFAA is a somewhat dated and impresicisely worded but nevertheless active law, that, if used according to the letter, can criminalize many of our every day activities. Among others, it prohibits violations against Terms of Service of websites. As a prominent example, Aaron Swartz was accused of multiple terms of service violations before he committed suicide in 2013. In 2018 a US court now decided, that automatic webscraping of publicly available information is not a crime, even if stated differently in the terms of service.

While this is a small victory, it is still ridiculous how lawmakers and terms of service restrict our freedom, obstruct research and lock away knowledge.

John Perry Barlow (JPB) was an American political activist and founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Kushal wrote a blog post about the symposium held after JPBs death earlier this year. However, being American may not have been the way JPB would have described himself. In his Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace he rather declares cyberspace as a non-physical space, not bound to political or geographical borders, nor bound by their laws. He declares himself and us as citizens of this cyberspace. Given the unique nature of this digital world, that so significantly differs from the physical and political world, the declaration states, that we will create our rules in this space respectively, as this shall not be incumbent on any government.

While we all are citizens of both worlds we should make the effort to harmonize their relationship. Being hackers, laws that are in conflict with our ethical codex should be opposed.

Recent activities of #dgplug members

Further reading

Did we miss something?

Since this project is still in its infancy, we may have overlooked content that you would like to have included. We will work on constantly improving this letter and review external sources. If you think there is something we've missed, feel free to add your ideas for the next issue.