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


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Ima Fish, 20 Jun 2008 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re:

    "This wasn't a yard sale"

    You have no idea what an analogy is. By its very definition an analogy is not what actually happened. If I explained what actually happened it would not be an analogy, but a description of the event.

    "there was no "private" anything even though he thought it was private"

    Webservers are private. However, once you connect that server to the net without any protection, it at that time becomes public. Westlaw.com is on the net, but it is blocked to the public. Even though it is on net does not mean it is publicly accessible. If you access Westlaw's data on without permission you'd be hacking. Hacking is analogous to trespass as they both involve access without permission.

    "His yard sale analogy would work if he put all his stuff he wanted private on the sidewalk"

    You don't understand how the internet works. You don't just place information on the internet. You place data on webservers. The information that judge had was not "on the internet" but was placed by him on a webserver. That webserver was then connected to the internet and was configured to allow open access. Therefore, the data was still on the judge's (or an agent of the judge) property: the webserver.

    That's exactly what happened here. The judge took his porn and placed it in his back yard (his webserver is his yard). He then gave the public access to his yard (his webserver by connecting it to the internet and allowing public access). And then someone found porn in the backyard (A part of his website that was not linked to his homepage, but was still publicly available.)

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.