[TUHS] Happy birthday, Morris Worm!

Don Hopkins don at DonHopkins.com
Fri Nov 3 02:43:45 AEST 2017


I just ran across this in my old email archives, Mike Godwin’s reaction to Philip Dorn’s Final Word column in the November 11 issue of Information
Week ("Morris Got What He Deserved"):


Return-Path: <eff-news-request at eff.org>
Reply-To: eff-news at eff.org
Precedence: bulk
To: eff-news at eff.org
From: Rita Marie Rouvalis <rita at eff.org>
Subject: EFFector2.02
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 91 15:25:23 EST


########## ########## ########## |                    THE GREAT WORK:|
########## ########## ########## |               By John Perry Barlow|
####       ####       ####       |                                   |
########   ########   ########   |            HACKER MANIA CONTINUES!|
########   ########   ########   |   Excerpts from the Geraldo Circus|
####       ####       ####       |                                   |
########## ####       ####       | DID MORRIS "GET WHAT HE DESERVED?"|
########## ####       ####       |               A Letter to InfoWeek|
=====================================================================|
EFFector Online           November 27,1992         Volume 2, Number 2|
=====================================================================|

IN THIS ISSUE:
THE GREAT WORK by John Perry Barlow
GETTING WHAT HE DESERVED? by Mike Godwin
MCI FRIENDS & FAMILY by Craig Neidorf
GERALDO! HACKER! MANIA! CONTINUES!

[…]

                   -==--==--==-<>-==--==--==-

                   GETTING WHAT HE DESERVED?
              An Open Letter to Information Week
                        by Mike Godwin
                       mnemonic at eff.org

Information Week
600 Community Drive
Manhasset, N.Y. 11030

Dear editors:

Philip Dorn's Final Word column in the November 11 issue of Information
Week ("Morris Got What He Deserved") is, sadly, only the latest example
of the kind of irrational and uninformed discourse that too often colors
public-policy discussions about computer crime. It is a shame that Dorn
did not think it worthwhile to get his facts straight--if he had, he
might have written a very different column.

The following are only a few of Dorn's major factual errors:       He
writes that "It is sophistry to claim [Internet Worm author Robert]
Morris did not know what he was doing--his mistake was being slovenly."
Yet even the most casual reading of the case, and of most of the news
coverage of the case, makes eminently clear that the sophists Dorn
decries don't exist--no one has argued that Morris didn't know what he
was doing. This was never even an issue in the Morris case.      Dorn
also writes that "Any effort to break into a system by an unauthorized
person, or one authorized only to do certain things only to do certain
things, should per se be illegal." This is also the position of the
Electronic Frontier Foundation, which Dorn nevertheless criticizes for
being "out of step with the industry." Yet the issue of whether
unauthorized computer access should be illegal also was never an issue
in the Morris case.

Dorn writes that "Those defending Morris squirm when trying to explain
why his actions were harmless." No doubt such defenders would squirm, if
they existed. But none of the people or organizations Dorn quotes has
ever claimed that his actions were harmless. This too was never an issue
in the Morris case.

Dorn makes much of the fact that Morris received only "a trivial fine
and community service." But the focus both in the trial and in its appeal
was never on the severity of Morris's sentence, but on whether the law
distinguished between malicious computer vandalism and accidental
damaged caused by an intrusion. EFF's position has been that the law should be
construed to make such a distinction.

Dorn writes that "To say that those who intrude and do no lasting damage
are harmless is to pervert what Congress and those who drafted the
legislation sought to do: penalize hackers." Indeed, this would be a
perversion, if anyone were making that argument. Unfortunately, Dorn
seems unwilling to see the arguments that were made.      "It is
sickening," writes Dorn, "to hear sobbing voices from the ACLU, the
gnashing of teeth from Mitch Kapor's Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF), and caterwauling from the Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility--all out of step with the industry. They seem so
frightened that the law may reach them that they elected to defend
Morris's indefensible actions." Dorn's distortions here verge on libel,
since we neither defend Morris's actions nor are motivated out of fear
that the law will apply to us. Instead, we are concerned, as all
citizens should be, that the law make appropriate distinctions between
intentional and unintentional harms in the computer arena, just as it
does in all other realms of human endeavor.

A more glaring factual error occurs one paragraph later, when he writes
that "The Supreme Court says intruders can be convicted under the law
because by definition an intrusion shows an intent to do harm. That
takes care of Morris." The Supreme Court has never said any such thing--after
all, the Court declined to hear the case. Even the lower courts in the
Morris case made no such claim.

What is far more "sickening" than even Dorn's imaginary versions of our
concerns about the Morris case is his irresponsibility in making
unsubstantiated charges that even a cursory familiarity with the facts
could have prevented. In the course of his article, Dorn manages to get
one thing right--he writes that "The law is not perfect--it needs
clarification and reworking." This has been our position all along, and
it is the basis for our support of Morris's appeal. It is also public
knowledge--Dorn could have found out our position if he had bothered to
ask us.

Mike Godwin
Staff Counsel
EFF


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://minnie.tuhs.org/pipermail/tuhs/attachments/20171102/18407a7f/attachment-0001.html>


More information about the TUHS mailing list