Great Entrepreneurs Break the Law

Or at least bend the rules…  It has to do with the very nature of innovation; pushing the boundaries, trying new things, doing it different, living outside the box. But the tragic death of 26-year-old hactivist, Aron Swartz, have highlighted some very interesting perspectives on the relations between law and regulation on one hand, and innovation and entrepreneurship on the other. As it turns out, three of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time,  Steve JobsBill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, start by innovating near the edge of the law.

“The word “hacker” has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers. In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done.”

Mark Zuckerberg

swartz

And the fact is, if these titans of industry had faced the same sort of overly aggressive prosecution that the late Aaron Swartz did, they could have been threatened with being locked away and branded felons before ever starting AppleMicrosoft, or Facebook. They might have even faced a ban against their use of computers, rather than using them to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. 

Steve JobsBill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg. All three are credited with creating some of the most successful businesses in the history of the Internet, but they also have something else in common: they got their start by doing something that probably would have been classified as “illegal” by the same authorities that threatened Aron Swartz with 35 years in prison and drove him to commit suicide.

In the aftermath of the Aron Swartz’ death, several online communities have joined a campaign that aims to reform the US computer law – known as the CFAA.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a driving force behind the campaign, and according to the EFF  the CFAA and other computer crime laws shouldn’t allow overzealous prosecutors to lock away the next Steve Jobs or Aaron Swartz for years, or even to threaten to do so in order to force them to plead guilty.

“In all of their names, it’s time we bring some proportionality back to computer crime laws, both in their scope and in the penalties they provide,” Trevor Timm at EFF.org writes on their website.

“The CFAA can (and should) reach serious computer intrusions that cause real damage, as should related laws criminalizing identity theft, stealing trade secrets, or engaging in massive fraud. But the law needs to recognize the difference between commercial criminals and those who are merely “testing the boundaries” or engaging in youthful indiscretions. Right now, it hands prosecutors the same sledgehammer regardless.”

EFF.org have also made some interesting comparement between the greatest IT entrepeneurs of our time – Steve JobsBill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg.

The conclusion is even more interesting: If they had been subjected to the same treatment as Aron Swartz, there would be no Apple, no Microsoft or no Facebook today.

FULL POST@Rational Arrogance

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2 Comments

Filed under International Econnomic Politics, Laws and Regulations, National Economic Politics, Technology

2 responses to “Great Entrepreneurs Break the Law

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