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<nettime> Portscanner Plug Pulled/tactical and legal bugs between minor/
knowbotic.research on Thu, 16 May 2002 10:43:16 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Portscanner Plug Pulled/tactical and legal bugs between minor/mass media

After the NYTimes article: Matt Mirapaul: Museum's Cyberpeeping Artwork Has 
Its Plug Pulled

RE NYTIMES article: Sven Robert Hillman writes:
Hey there,

Though, I'm based in Canada, I do keep a regular eye on the New York Times, 
and I couldn't help but notice the article Matthew Mirapaul wrote, Museum's 
Cyberpeeping Artwork Has Its Plug Pulled which outlined how this work had 
been closed down by the New Museum.

I wondered if any of the artists, or in fact the curators (who I understand 
were acting independently of the New Museum), would like to comment on this?
Christian Hübler of Knowbotic Research is quoted as saying that
"because when I work with the border as an artist, I want to know at least 
what the border might be."

This comment made me wonder what kind of legal investigation had preceded 
the installation of the work - on behalf of the artists, and the curators, 
and in fact the museum?
As a native of Europe (I'm originally from Denmark), I couldn't help note 
Mirapaul's comment, that "European digital artists are more politicized 
than their American counterparts ...".

Aside from the fact that this is a fairly meaningless generalisation 
(though not strictly 'artists' as such, one can't help reflecting on the 
fact that RTMark are US based, as are the collective, RSG, who feature in 
the exhibition with their 'cultural' version of the FBI software, 
Carnivore), how do the curators view this comment? [See also Alex 
Galloway's comments to this effect.--SD]

Is there a paucity of intellectual political debate in the public artistic 
sphere, on issues around privacy, secuity, and open information?
If so, why is this the case?
As a colleague of mine pointed out to me as we read the Times this morning, 
one can't help remembering the overwhelming array of US-based events and 
movements which have promoted the open exchange of information, and have 
highlighted the insecurity of electronic networks. To mention but a few, 
the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was founded in the US, Phil 
Zimmerman released his PGP book from there, PGP was invented there, the 
free softwaee movement came from the US, the main PGP encryption 
algorithims (RSA/Diffe Helman) were invented in the US to promote public 
encryption, and the first big hacker cases were in the US.
These things have been major issues in the Public Domain. Have they not 
impacted on art discourses in the States at all? And if so, why has this, 
rather minor technical and legal issue come as such a surprise, causing 
such a fracas? Is the new media artworld in the US so new/naive to these 
discourses, that a minor activity such as port scanning could cause such a 

I'd be interested in the responses of both the artists, and the curators, 
on these points.

Sven Robert Hillman
Winnipeg, Canada
svenrobert2 {AT} yahoo.ca

RE2: NYTIMES article: Alex Galloway (RSG [walkerart.org])

more fun with the media...

 >European digital artists are more politicized than their >American 

naw, this is too vague to mean anything. proof: Critical Art Ensemble and 
Electronic Disturbance Theatre (who together invented the concept of 
electronic civil disobedience), Paul Garrin, RSG, RTMark/Yes Men, Institute 
for Applied Autonomy, BIT, etc, etc.

 >But "Minds of Concern" is also the only online work in the exhibition to
operate in a legal gray area. packet sniffing is definitely in a legal
gray area. it is illegal when used for covert surveillance. but like most
technologies it's de facto legal for private use ... plus legal for the
FBI w/ a court order (under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy
Act.) also CAE's performance was banned from the show opening because it
operates in a legal/lethal gray area (Monsanto etc). in fact a judge in
Georgia found port scanning to be *legal* in 2000
(http://online.securityfocus.com/news/126 [securityfocus.com]).. not sure
if the law has changed since then.. but don't let 'em think that the
Knowbots are the only outlaws ;) +
http://1000journals.com/733/images/733bigs.jpg -> Rhizome.org RE:3 NYTIMES
article: Knowbotic Research

Sven, Alex,
replying to: 
 > Is there a paucity of intellectual political debate in the public 

artistic sphere, on issues around privacy, secuity, and open information?
Don't let us get into a 'i'm more illegal than you are' discussion. alex's 
point is in a way valid, and it shows that mirapaul's article is imprecise, 
but that is not a problem, so long as people don't start discuss the mass 
medias truth value - the point of Mirapauls article (and of his questions) 
was directed at the *news value* of the story.

if the discussion is supposed to go a for me challenging direction, it 
needs to continue the analysis of the relationship between technology, art 
and legality.

There was no real problem until now with the New Museum, they let our 
project go to articulate the legal bug, it would have been a mistake not to 
make the legal bug visible after we had met him. Therefore we decided not 
to portscan from Europe after our legal US port
scanner was shut down. So here is the string i would like to suggest, let 
us enact the legal bug:

Wendy Seltzer, http://openlaw.org

Your experience here is actually a very interesting part of the project. It 
demonstrates how private parties can exert control of the public domain 
well beyond what the law requires. Even with institutional support for your 
installation, you are often at the mercy of other economic actors -- the 
ISPs whom the museum and you depend on for connectivity, who in turn depend 
upon higher-up ISPs to preserve their connections to the Internet. Any 
player in this chain has the ability to break the connection and prevent 
you from displaying and contributing to the public discussion, based on its 
own feelings, contracts, and interpretations of the law, before any judge 
is called in to determine whether the activity is legal.

Steve Dietz:
The fact that Minds of Concern is potentially undermined by the legal 
system in the form of a standard or "shrinkwrap" license the New Museum has 
with its ISP is not insignificant. It is precisely a legal bug and the 
strategy by which so much of the public domain in the U.S., at least, 
escapes Constitutional and other legal protections by entering into 
[voluntarily?] contractual agreements that void and/or supercede these 
supposed rights.

Commment Mailing List Lachlan Brown:
Indeed, the distinction between assumed rights and legal guarantee of 
rights, public and private, residesin an interstitial state. Not a 'grey 
area' to be filled in between the public and private by new conditions for 
cyber' space, but a contest in which like a Venn Diagramme the public and 
private vie over the terrain they both occupy.
Add to this the interests of several dozen States, thousands of public 
service institutions hundreds of thousands of companies and millions of 
users, well... . What would we call it? War? Wrestling? or Seduction? A 
Million times a million contests. Cultural confusion.These webs of the law 
are durable and have easy translation to the new media distributive 
terrain. Despite word play or administrative/bureaucratic assumptions of 
power. The really interesting fact is that States, institutions, companies, 
individuals, but not collectivities like artists, writers, coders, primary 
producers and so on, are beginning to 'stand-off' this terrain. We might, 
after all, consider a return to the question of the aesthetic, and then of 
policy, and thenof law over several years. It will become clear as we do so 
that we NEED insitutions, new institutions perhaps, that are able to host 
the work you do.

 >This comment made me wonder what kind of legal investigation had preceded 
the installation of the work - on behalf of the artists, and the curators, 
and in fact the museum?

I worked with Wendy Seltzer on the legality of the portscanning in the US 
after the patriot act. The value of being legal as an artist in an art show 
was set at highest priority from the curators of the Open_Source_Art_Hack 
show and the New Museum and was the condition of being part of the show. 
Critical Art Ensemble brought the legal letter from their lawyer to stay in 
the show, Knowbotic resisted bringing this letter but we blocked 
information in the net.publication of the analysed security lacks of the 
NGO servers (we were displaying the security wholes, but we were hiding the 
relating IP adresses). With this tactical step we coud make the Public 
Domain Scanner going, and locate more precisely the dimensions of the 
actual legal questionable dimensions of the net.public domain and thus hit 
the legal(?) authority of private, economic actors (providers) . As you see 
2 different artistic tactical styles inside the same museum show.
Let us look forward on the project of Critical Ensemble, the performance 
scheduled on the last day of the exhibition.


projectpage http://unitedwehack.ath.cx
documenation http://www.krcf.org/krcfhome/1MoC.htm

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