Theft of computer services and other matters


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Matt Giwer
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Message 1425392 - Posted: 7 Oct 2013, 20:03:12 UTC

SETI may not choose to be a part of this issue in any way and I have no problem if this post disappears in moderation. That is a legitimate position which I can fully understand.

In the US theft of computer services is a federal felony regardless of the value of the service. This is because an actual estimate of the "cost" of what was stolen would be limited to electricity and depreciation if only actual costs could be counted. It also acknowledges the value of the talent of the system administrators having value. I would be quite surprised if there were not similar laws in most countries.

When one engages in a contract even for intangibles a value is assumed as the computer services were solicited in this case with a quid pro quo. The Milkyway party did solicit the use of my computers in return for something. And when I delivered they delivered. So while one may argue thefts in cyberspace, such a battle ostriches, are intangible the computer services are quite tangible and theft of them is very felonious.

To remind you the entire point of Seti@Home was to solicit computers services to accomplish analysis' which otherwise could not be done. The services could therefore be argued as being of inestimable value should the analysis result in Hello Humans.

Now there was a simple, lawful action. No more soup for you! No more WUs that is. But taking away the contracted item is a violation of contract and was of course totally unnecessary. It was cheap and petty.

Further it is unethical to use data from unacknowledged sources. It is unprofessional to arbitrarily exclude data without proper scientific justification. Hell unprofessional, it is unscientific.

Is there anything else?


To that let me add that as I did notify the university head as well as its legal department the accusation encompasses the university and the department not merely the ever changing "team" which runs the project.

The quid pro quo of credits for time is advertised on the project website without condition other than the processing of WUs. Further everyone who does complete WUs is given an established number of points in return therefore it is also usual, reasonable and customary which covers even non-contractual items. This is clearly fostering an expectation. When one orders a hamburger one expects beef not pork or dog or horse even it not explicitly stated. One has grounds, pardon the pun, for complaint even if the menu does not state beef hamburger.

Additionally the concept of computer time for points is a concept intrinsic to the use of BOINC. Look at the options on the BOINC manager menu. Click the statistics tab. All the project websites I have seen openly encourage competition for points. One can go to statistics only websites and see that all projects offer points.

"They have solicited your donation, nothing more. You freely chose to donate your services. If they decided that you are not the type of person they want to have crunching for them, they have every right to remove you.

There is no contract involved that guarantees you credits. Any time you donate something, you run the risk of having a "falling out". You do not have the right to demand any sort of reparations for your work, in this case your electric bill or your Systems Administration.

While you may have an argument about "unethical" or "unprofessional" behavior (that discussion we can have in another thread), you have no leg to stand on when it comes to allegations of criminal or felonious practices."

A pure solicitation as in charity would offer nothing in return but "how you will feel inside knowing ..." and such.

As to the type of person it is amusing that someone took the time to troll through the 3.2GB of material on my website and find a couple things they did not like and then screamed about it. Be that as it may there is NO stated "type of person" or any other such qualifier on the Milkyway website nor on any other project website nor on the BOINC website. It is no different from saying "we don't want Blacks" but not spelling it out at the time participation is solicited. The same computer time could have been expended on other projects without secret rules. By implication that steals from other projects and the entire BOINC community.

As to having a falling out certainly that might apply to project related matters. Back in the beginning the boys in Redmond used their own much faster FFT routines in place of the SETI software and were racking up points (points again) much faster than anyone else. Those credits were removed as I recall. That is a falling out based upon the project.

This is purely a "falling out" based on irrelevant criteria such as skin color or religion or national origin.

While one may sympathize their the implied intolerance of the project I noted there was a simple, equitable, and lawful solution. No more WUs for you. Game over. Everything satisfied. But no. Petty, vindictive, juvenile governed the bigots running the project whose arbitrary and capricious action was supported, i.e. not corrected, by the university. Just as I have the unfettered right to stop processing WUs at any time so also the project side has the unfettered right to cease sending them for processing. It happens all the time.

Of course no prosecutor except maybe a TEA Party type might be interested and then only because the university also teaches evolution. And as a civil matter I do not have the funds to reach down to this low priority issue. However the merits of such a case not different from any other theft of services cases nor from any other violation of contract case.

As they gave a reason in the court of public opinion in a political dislike of my website so also I present my position to the court of public opinion. I am doing as they did.


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Message 1425425 - Posted: 7 Oct 2013, 22:05:07 UTC

What are you talking about? Please give a specific example or two.
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Message 1425429 - Posted: 7 Oct 2013, 22:18:16 UTC - in response to Message 1425425.

What are you talking about? Please give a specific example or two.


This happened years ago. I happened to mention it in another topic. A follow up post about it lead me to start new topic to reply to it.

The long version of the remark is that I was up to around 250,000 points. Someone decided to troll through the 3.2GB of material on my website and find a few articles they disliked and started screaming about it in one of the discussion groups. The OP is what followed. This was maybe four years and three heart attacks ago. It is not a burning issue or anything.

Now that it has come up it is not to make any project court shy. No more WUs but leave the credit is the trivial and obvious solution which comports with normal conduct in every day affairs.

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Message 1425431 - Posted: 7 Oct 2013, 22:21:03 UTC

To that let me add that as I did notify the university head as well as its legal department the accusation encompasses the university and the department not merely the ever changing "team" which runs the project.

Petty, vindictive, juvenile governed the bigots running the project whose arbitrary and capricious action was supported, i.e. not corrected, by the university.

I think you owe the Seti Team an apology for your little rant. I hope the Mods do close this thread, it serves no good purpose that I can see. Oh and BTW your website is a hate filled diatribe. You have a previous bad reputation on Seti, why have you come back?

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Message 1425437 - Posted: 7 Oct 2013, 22:40:07 UTC - in response to Message 1425392.

This is purely a "falling out" based on irrelevant criteria such as skin color or religion or national origin.


Hmmm.
Interesting.

As for "leaving the credit [as?] is", just no more WUs? While this seems fair, I have to wonder what had to be done in the coding to enforce no more WUs being sent. Could the loss of credits been an unfortunate side-effect of not being able to send any more WUs? Perhaps assuming the removal of credit was childish, petty and vindictive indicates a paranoid delusion?

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Message 1425443 - Posted: 7 Oct 2013, 23:17:43 UTC - in response to Message 1425431.

To that let me add that as I did notify the university head as well as its legal department the accusation encompasses the university and the department not merely the ever changing "team" which runs the project.

Petty, vindictive, juvenile governed the bigots running the project whose arbitrary and capricious action was supported, i.e. not corrected, by the university.


I think you owe the Seti Team an apology for your little rant. I hope the Mods do close this thread, it serves no good purpose that I can see. Oh and BTW your website is a hate filled diatribe. You have a previous bad reputation on Seti, why have you come back?


I have been in public debate since 1980 with an Atari 800 and 300 baud modems. I enjoy it. As long as I do not break the posting rules I do not see a problem. Do you?

As for hate-filled, damned if I see it. Hate is an emotion and undefined, simply a currently popular pejorative that did not exist twenty years ago. It gives a negative connotation of material people cannot refute but do not like for personal reasons. And I further note the pejorative is applied to one subject and one subject only. One would expect something real to apply across the board such as the topic here on the five myths of Jesus and pro-evolution and such.

As to my website, have you reviewed all 3.2GB of it? What percentage do you have a problem with and why? My guess is you have a problem with less than one percent of it. That does not justify the broad allegation.

As to the thread itself, I did call it to the attention of the moderators as you can see in the top line. I would agree completely were it removed and in fact it was immediately blocked. I presume to take the time to read it. I believe I am aware of the sensitivity of the subject and proceeded appropriately.

As to an apology, for what? Recitation of fact and a layman's legal opinion of those facts? That is certainly not a diatribe even by the loosest definition of the word. I do not see how that warrants an apology.

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Message 1425455 - Posted: 7 Oct 2013, 23:32:23 UTC - in response to Message 1425437.

This is purely a "falling out" based on irrelevant criteria such as skin color or religion or national origin.


Hmmm.
Interesting.

As for "leaving the credit [as?] is", just no more WUs? While this seems fair, I have to wonder what had to be done in the coding to enforce no more WUs being sent. Could the loss of credits been an unfortunate side-effect of not being able to send any more WUs? Perhaps assuming the removal of credit was childish, petty and vindictive indicates a paranoid delusion?


While I have never worked as a programmer per se I taught myself Fortran in 1967 and in the early 80s had tech cog on computerizing the AN/SQS-53 sonar which included the 2nd largest software development in the US Navy at the time. Considering the CS Dept. was also part of the MW team I can't imagine it being other than a trivial modification to do it in the simple way I suggest. There are certainly other ways such as making the database points unchangeable.

However difficulty does not change the nature of what was done other than make it less petty perhaps. Difficulty is not a consideration. If it could not be done at all then simply do nothing or just ask I cease participation. There are certainly other things which would have been acceptable and would have avoided the additional condition of unethical or unprofessional.

I would love to read the paper with the footnote, Some data excluded for political reasons.

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Message 1425518 - Posted: 8 Oct 2013, 1:43:22 UTC - in response to Message 1425392.
Last modified: 8 Oct 2013, 2:04:46 UTC

In the US theft of computer services is a federal felony regardless of the value of the service. This is because an actual estimate of the "cost" of what was stolen would be limited to electricity and depreciation if only actual costs could be counted. It also acknowledges the value of the talent of the system administrators having value. I would be quite surprised if there were not similar laws in most countries.


You volunteered your services. Your account was deleted along with your credits. Nothing was stolen. The theft of computer services only applies when you've inappropriated computer services for which you did not own, such as running a program on someone else's computer and/or server. Hence, since you voluntarily installed BOINC on your own machine and voluntarily added MilkyWay@home, nothing was stolen. It is no different than having your Facebook account deleted; you voluntarily added stuff to the website, so if things were to go missing after deletion, it is not a theft.

When one engages in a contract even for intangibles a value is assumed as the computer services were solicited in this case with a quid pro quo. The Milkyway party did solicit the use of my computers in return for something. And when I delivered they delivered. So while one may argue thefts in cyberspace, such a battle ostriches, are intangible the computer services are quite tangible and theft of them is very felonious.


Any assumed value is one you voluntarily agree to donate. Having credits deleted does not qualify as theft in the same way as copying a digital song is not theft but copyright violation.

The quid pro quo of credits for time is advertised on the project website without condition other than the processing of WUs. Further everyone who does complete WUs is given an established number of points in return therefore it is also usual, reasonable and customary which covers even non-contractual items. This is clearly fostering an expectation. When one orders a hamburger one expects beef not pork or dog or horse even it not explicitly stated. One has grounds, pardon the pun, for complaint even if the menu does not state beef hamburger.


This is still of voluntary action. Having credits deleted does not classify as theft as no one has "stolen" them - they were not put in another's possession. Your hamburger analogy does not apply as you were not given anything else in place of your order. Your order and order history were deleted and they have refused service to you.

They have solicited your donation, nothing more. You freely chose to donate your services. If they decided that you are not the type of person they want to have crunching for them, they have every right to remove you.

There is no contract involved that guarantees you credits. Any time you donate something, you run the risk of having a "falling out". You do not have the right to demand any sort of reparations for your work, in this case your electric bill or your Systems Administration.

While you may have an argument about "unethical" or "unprofessional" behavior (that discussion we can have in another thread), you have no leg to stand on when it comes to allegations of criminal or felonious practices.


A pure solicitation as in charity would offer nothing in return but "how you will feel inside knowing ..." and such.


Credits were only designed to foster competition. There is no reasonable expectation that you will always keep them. If any project were to shut down completely and delete all user account info, the same objective would apply. In your case, your postings and credits have been removed, and has caused at least one project to refuse service to you. A right which they retain.

Of course no prosecutor except maybe a TEA Party type might be interested and then only because the university also teaches evolution. And as a civil matter I do not have the funds to reach down to this low priority issue. However the merits of such a case not different from any other theft of services cases nor from any other violation of contract case.

As they gave a reason in the court of public opinion in a political dislike of my website so also I present my position to the court of public opinion. I am doing as they did.


With the given evidence, I'm certain that even if you were to take this to court, you would lose. You have not experienced theft of credits, theft of services, nor theft of any other kind. You simply had your account deleted, which every website that offers services of any kind retain the right to do so.

Again, it may be questionable, or unprofessional, but it is certainly not criminal or felonious.

[Edited for clarity]

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Message 1425536 - Posted: 8 Oct 2013, 2:51:12 UTC - in response to Message 1425518.

In the US theft of computer services is a federal felony regardless of the value of the service. This is because an actual estimate of the "cost" of what was stolen would be limited to electricity and depreciation if only actual costs could be counted. It also acknowledges the value of the talent of the system administrators having value. I would be quite surprised if there were not similar laws in most countries.


You volunteered your services. Your account was deleted along with your credits. Nothing was stolen. The theft of computer services only applies when you've inappropriated computer services for which you did not own, such as running a program on someone else's computer and/or server. Hence, since you voluntarily installed BOINC on your own machine and voluntarily added MilkyWay@home, nothing was stolen. It is no different than having your Facebook account deleted; you voluntarily added stuff to the website, so if things were to go missing after deletion, it is not a theft.


If one claims the purpose is to foster competition and if on reasonably assumes competition is desirable -- see the SETI newsgroup where this was discussed extensively in the early years -- then one reasonably expects the credits which is the basis for competition. You cannot dissociate the two concepts after the fact when it is implicit and explicit in the entire concept.

As to facebook there are rules for use of facebook. Deletions are for violation of those publicly available and agreed to terms of use. There was nothing equivalent on the MW website nor is there on SETI for example.

You are arguing against the existence of a quid pro quo when there is a specific item offered in exchange. That is a quid pro quo.

I dare say none of the BOINC projects or the original SETI would have ever gone passed the wishful thinking stage were it not for the credits.

Granted one can say it was voluntarily added but in response that addition was because of false and deceptive assertions which did in fact offer credit for work performed. Now if someone has simply said Please Help and offered absolutely nothing you would have a point. Then it would be as with a charity. If your position is correct it is fraud in the criminal sense. It is an action designed to obtain something of value in expectation of remuneration without the intention of providing that remuneration.

When one engages in a contract even for intangibles a value is assumed as the computer services were solicited in this case with a quid pro quo. The Milkyway party did solicit the use of my computers in return for something. And when I delivered they delivered. So while one may argue thefts in cyberspace, such a battle ostriches, are intangible the computer services are quite tangible and theft of them is very felonious.


Any assumed value is one you voluntarily agree to donate. Having credits deleted does not qualify as theft in the same way as copying a digital song is not theft but copyright violation.


Same problem. There was no request for a donation there was an offer of an exchange for processing WUs. I would have to look it up on MW but most project websites has a specific URL which does solicit donations as a separate activity. Depending upon the tax status of the university and such an actual donation could be tax deductible. If deductible then the value of the computer services would also be deductible and everyone could construct their own costs. Some of us have had decades of experience with computers and could construct the deduction based upon the fair market value of our computer related services which would be tens of times higher than the actual skill level required. It is difficult to see how a university would like getting into the middle of that.

Thus donations are handled differently. Services are not handled as donations.

The quid pro quo of credits for time is advertised on the project website without condition other than the processing of WUs. Further everyone who does complete WUs is given an established number of points in return therefore it is also usual, reasonable and customary which covers even non-contractual items. This is clearly fostering an expectation. When one orders a hamburger one expects beef not pork or dog or horse even it not explicitly stated. One has grounds, pardon the pun, for complaint even if the menu does not state beef hamburger.


This is still of voluntary action. Having credits deleted does not classify as theft as no one has "stolen" them - they were not put in another's possession. Your hamburger analogy does not apply as you were not given anything else in place of your order. Your order and order history were deleted and they have refused service to you.


My friend if I promise you a new Mercedes for $1000 and you send it to me you have done so voluntarily. Am I blameless if you do not get a car? Or if I come and take it back? After all, the car is no one else's possession.

They have solicited your donation, nothing more. You freely chose to donate your services. If they decided that you are not the type of person they want to have crunching for them, they have every right to remove you.

There is no contract involved that guarantees you credits. Any time you donate something, you run the risk of having a "falling out". You do not have the right to demand any sort of reparations for your work, in this case your electric bill or your Systems Administration.

While you may have an argument about "unethical" or "unprofessional" behavior (that discussion we can have in another thread), you have no leg to stand on when it comes to allegations of criminal or felonious practices.


A pure solicitation as in charity would offer nothing in return but "how you will feel inside knowing ..." and such.


Credits were only designed to foster competition. There is no reasonable expectation that you will always keep them. If any project were to shut down completely and delete all user account info, the same objective would apply. In your case, your postings and credits have been removed, and has caused at least one project to refuse service to you. A right which they retain.

Of course no prosecutor except maybe a TEA Party type might be interested and then only because the university also teaches evolution. And as a civil matter I do not have the funds to reach down to this low priority issue. However the merits of such a case not different from any other theft of services cases nor from any other violation of contract case.

As they gave a reason in the court of public opinion in a political dislike of my website so also I present my position to the court of public opinion. I am doing as they did.


With the given evidence, I'm certain that even if you were to take this to court, you would lose. You have not experienced theft of credits, theft of services, nor theft of any other kind. You simply had your account deleted, which every website that offers services of any kind retain the right to do so.

Again, it may be questionable, or unprofessional, but it is certainly not criminal or felonious.

[Edited for clarity]



And so forth. While you make arguments which a defense attorney might raise you gloss over the explicit quid pro quo and claim it does not exist. It does. You have a construction of theft of computer services which claims theft by deception is lawful.

As to retaining that right again, where is that in writing? Even the infamous EULAs have some gimmick which requires you leave a trail indicating you have read it which should be a very big hint to you. BOINC projects have no such thing.

It would be an interesting case. Almost certainly with the filing of a lawsuit and an offer to drop it for return of credits I would receive them in the blink of an eye and I could claim victory. So also if a prosecutor were to make preliminary inquiries and again victory.

And that would alleviate the ethical and professional cloud hanging over the project. Again using uncredited data or eliminating data for political reasons.

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Message 1425567 - Posted: 8 Oct 2013, 3:55:07 UTC - in response to Message 1425536.
Last modified: 8 Oct 2013, 4:09:35 UTC

If one claims the purpose is to foster competition and if on reasonably assumes competition is desirable -- see the SETI newsgroup where this was discussed extensively in the early years -- then one reasonably expects the credits which is the basis for competition. You cannot dissociate the two concepts after the fact when it is implicit and explicit in the entire concept.


Indeed, and you received that credit. I never attempted to disassociate the two, rather I've argued that nothing was stolen.

As to facebook there are rules for use of facebook. Deletions are for violation of those publicly available and agreed to terms of use. There was nothing equivalent on the MW website nor is there on SETI for example.

You are arguing against the existence of a quid pro quo when there is a specific item offered in exchange. That is a quid pro quo.


No, I am arguing that you received your credits at the time your account was in good standing. The service has decided to refuse further association with you, and has chosen to delete your credits and your account.

Granted one can say it was voluntarily added but in response that addition was because of false and deceptive assertions which did in fact offer credit for work performed. Now if someone has simply said Please Help and offered absolutely nothing you would have a point. Then it would be as with a charity. If your position is correct it is fraud in the criminal sense. It is an action designed to obtain something of value in expectation of remuneration without the intention of providing that remuneration.


I find your position of fraud a curious one. While I can understand your view from an ethical standpoint, I still find it hard to agree with you in a legal sense of the term.

Same problem. There was no request for a donation there was an offer of an exchange for processing WUs. I would have to look it up on MW but most project websites has a specific URL which does solicit donations as a separate activity. Depending upon the tax status of the university and such an actual donation could be tax deductible. If deductible then the value of the computer services would also be deductible and everyone could construct their own costs.


The request for donation of your computer time has been implicit since the dawn of distributed computing. This donation is not eligible for tax deduction status as only monetary donations and certain other physical objects fall into this category, regardless of a cash value associated with nearly everything in our society. Electricity, in the majority of cases is not tax deductible unless used directly by the tax-exempt entity (and not by third-parties), and manpower is almost never tax deductible.

My friend if I promise you a new Mercedes for $1000 and you send it to me you have done so voluntarily. Am I blameless if you do not get a car? Or if I come and take it back? After all, the car is no one else's possession.


Presuming this Mercedes actually existed and I gave you $1000 for it and you never gave it to me, you would still be in possession of said vehicle, unless you were to transfer ownership to a third party even after taking my money.

This is the mistake many people make when comparing digital goods with physical goods as they are not directly comparable.

This analogy also does not apply as you were not offered anything physical in return for your donated computer time, nor your personal energy for upkeep and running of the computers. You were offered credits which were given to you, and have since been deleted. Again, possession of these credits no longer exists; no one has possession, nothing was stolen.

And so forth. While you make arguments which a defense attorney might raise you gloss over the explicit quid pro quo and claim it does not exist. It does. You have a construction of theft of computer services which claims theft by deception is lawful.


I think you have immediately jumped from digital goods to physical goods and assumed the same laws apply. While there was a quid pro quo during your processing, you were paid for your processing with the credits you received in your account.

As to retaining that right again, where is that in writing? Even the infamous EULAs have some gimmick which requires you leave a trail indicating you have read it which should be a very big hint to you. BOINC projects have no such thing.


It is implied that any service has a right to refuse anyone for any reason. Any reasonable person can understand that if you upset that service, they can take away their resources from you, including and up to deleting your data that exists in their servers. See the Mega-Upload service and the subsequent deletion of user data with no possibility for their data to be returned to them.

It would be an interesting case. Almost certainly with the filing of a lawsuit and an offer to drop it for return of credits I would receive them in the blink of an eye and I could claim victory. So also if a prosecutor were to make preliminary inquiries and again victory.


Being that all BOINC projects are in the not-for-profit category, I would think they would require legal services Pro Bono. Given the claim, I would hope any lawyer willing to take on an easy case would inquire were it to be necessary.

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Message 1425572 - Posted: 8 Oct 2013, 4:08:34 UTC

I dare say none of the BOINC projects or the original SETI would have ever gone passed the wishful thinking stage were it not for the credits.


Seems highly unlikely.
I knew, and cared, nothing of the credits when first joining S@H, about 6 years before BOINC.
I only really started to care, via use of optimized apps for example, when joining a team amd using the message boards here and there.

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