Tag Archives: Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Case of Steve Jackson Games, or how Discordianism helped the U.S. Secret Service inspire the birth of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Case of Steve Jackson Games, or how Discordianism helped the U.S. Secret Service inspire the birth of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a draft excerpt from the forthcoming Chasing Eris by Brenton Clutterbuck over at the Historia Discordia blog.

“March 1, 1990: Steve Jackson Games is unexpectedly raided by members of the United States Secret Service, accompanied by Austin police and at least one civilian expert from ‘the phone company.’ The Steve Jackson Games webpage says agents cut locks, tore open boxes, and forced open footlockers. They confiscated four computers containing GURPS Cyberpunk files, two printers, and other hardware and files.

Steve Jackson Games was told they would get their computers back ‘tomorrow.’ In later statements, a judge said that the Secret Service could have duplicated the material they needed in between a couple of hours and eight days. Rather than the next day as promised, or eight days, the majority of confiscated material wasn’t returned for a whole four months. The majority of the GURPS Cyberpunk manual had to be reconstructed from snippets, planning and memory. Steve Jackson Games was impacted by the raid, and had to lay off nearly half their staff. Later, Judge Sam Sparks would seek to dispute the assertion that Steve Jackson Games had been nearly bankrupted by the raid.

Why did Secret Service agents target Steve Jackson Games?

The key was Loyd Blankenship. Agent Timothy Golden had based the raid of Steve Jackson Games on the fact that Loyd Blankenship was working there, ran a bulletin board system popular with hackers from his home, and also ran a completely separate BBS at Steve Jackson Games.

In response to the Steve Jackson Games case and other similar cases, John Gilmour, John Perry Barlow, and Mitch Kapor founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990. They would later, in 1993, support Steve Jackson Games in a legal battle seeking damages from the Secret Service.” [via]