LA Times Embarrasses Itself With Kozinski Coverage

from the digital-dumpster-diving dept

Last week we wrote about the hoopla surrounding some racy images and videos Judge Kozinski had accidentally made public on his personal web server. This week, it was announced that a panel of federal judges will be investigating Kozinski's conduct. I don't understand why an investigation is needed because it's pretty clear what happened, and that Kozinski did nothing wrong. My colleague Jim Harper links to a defense of Kozinski by Larry Lessig. I share Lessig's conclusion that the treatment of Kozinski has been disgraceful, but I don't think the analogy Lessig uses is especially apt. Lessig analogizes the situation to a man who climbs into Kozinski's den through a poorly-secured window and makes copies of the materials he finds within Kozinski's house. He also uses the term "hack" to describe the process of accessing Kozinski's files. I don't think this is quite right. It was a public web server; the files were readily available without a password to anyone who went looking for them. What was done to Kozinski was unsavory, but it wasn't illegal, and it's not analogous to breaking and entering.

A better analogy is dumpster diving. What happened was the digital equilvalent of somebody combing through Kozinski's trash and discovering an issue of Playboy. No respectable respectable newspaper would publish a front-page story about finding porn in a federal judge's trash. It's no more newsworthy that Kozinski inadvertently made some racy images available on his personal website. Kozinski's wife, Marcy Tiffany, wrote a letter about the affair that's well worth reading in full. She claims (and others agree) that the files were unearthed by an attorney with a grudge against Kozinski, who obtained the files months ago and has been shopping them around to different newspapers ever since. The LA Times apparently had this story months ago, but waited until Kozinski had finished the grueling work of impaneling a jury for a big obscenity case (it's hard to find a dozen people willing to watch hours of defecation and bestiality videos) before putting the story on its front page.

Even worse, the LA Times coverage appears designed to cast the material on Kozinski's computer in the worst possible light. For example, it describes one video as depicting "a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal." This description prompted a number of follow-up reports, including one in the San Francisco Chronicle, to describe the contents of the video as "bestiality," despite the fact that the video in question obviously doesn't depict bestiality. (The Chronicle story was here, but the word "bestiality" has since been deleted) The LA Times really ought to apologize to Judge Kozinski for needlessly dragging his reputation through the mud.

Filed Under: alex kozinski, coverage
Companies: la times


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  1. identicon
    Ima Fish, 20 Jun 2008 @ 8:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "In actuality this is not what the judge did."

    It was an analogy. By its very definition an analogy is not what actually happened. If I made up a story of what actually happened it would not be an analogy, but a retelling of the event.

    We're talking about a webserver that hands out documents to any member of the public who asks for them.

    But all webservers are not open to the public. For example Westlaw's webserver require a password to enter. Accessing that site without permission is hacking and would be analogous to trespassing.

    No member of the public is invited on to anyone's private property.

    A person's webserver is private property. However, if it is connected to the internet without any restricts, I agree that it is open to the public.

    If you're a visitor at an exhibition and an organiser rep...

    Your analogy is great!

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