The Raid on Steve Jackson Games: 20th Anniversary

As nice local pre-event to the upcoming SXSW insanity starting Friday, I attended a 20th anniversary panel on the secret service raid of Steve Jackson Games last night at Independence Brewing. If you’re unfamiliar with the landmark case in cyberlaw, Steve Jackson maintains a page about the case on his company’s web site and Bruce Sterling’s book, The Hacker Crackdown, was written in 1992 and has been available as an ebook (also here) since 1994. The raid led to the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The panel was hosted by EFF-Austin (The original idea was to have local chapters of the EFF, but that never panned out. The Austin chapter has continued on independently since then.), attended by Steve Jackson, Bruce Sterling & Pete Kennedy, and moderated by Jon Lebkowsky. The panel went over the basics of the case and why it’s important, followed by a Q&A session. Sterling became pretty impassioned during the talk. He said that he’d thought he was over his anger with the issue, but the two hour panel brought it all back. Pete Kennedy was very measured. Steve Jackson looked back on it with a bit of humor, but 20 years ago, it nearly killed his business. Kennedy brought up the interesting trial detail that the government’s main basis for the sealed search warrant executed on SJ Games was a local security professional affiliated with UT who wouldn’t corroborate half of the things that the federal government alleged. Sterling thinks that the Chicago US attorney at the time, William J. Cook,  had career ambitions that made him reckless. He also brought up the Obama administration’s current cyber security czar, Howard Schmidt, served under Cook at the time of the raid. Sterling also contends that we missed an opportunity at the time to be the standard for law on the Internet and that things are much worse now.

As a aside, I’m kind of a beer snob and haven’t been a very big fan of the Independence Austin Amber or Bootlegger Brown, but I had the opportunity to try their Stash IPA last night and liked it quite a bit. I’m partial to IPA’s anyway, but still. I think it’s only available on draft right now, so check with your local beer pub.

It sounds like EFF-Austin plans to become more active than it has been lately, so be on the lookout for more events from them.

2 Comments so far

  1. Tim (unregistered) on March 11th, 2010 @ 10:34 am

    Man, wished I’d known about this. Would have walked over there with you.


  2. ttrentham on March 11th, 2010 @ 10:43 am

    Steve Jackson Games is having an open house for SXSW on Saturday. They’re also just a few blocks from us (basically around the corner from Independence). The Boy and I are planning to go if you’re interested.



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