Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Government The Internet News

Attorney Mike Godwin Answers 'Cyberlaw' Questions 322

Posted by Roblimo
from the oldest-living-internet-lawyer-tells-all dept.
In this Q & A session, in which attorney Mike Godwin answers your questions, you'll see talk about many topics that get chewed up on Slashdot over and over again -- except this time the person speaking actually knows what he's talking about. Note especially the bit about liability for what you post online. A *lot* of people who post on Slashdot ought to read that part...
Is there any hope? - by griffjon

By the time your daughter grows up, do you think there will be any of our cherished freedoms on the Internet left, or will everything be wrapped in legalese and DRM? With the passage of laws from the DMCA to the PATRIOT act, I've been increasingly pessimistic about the US's ability to pass any sane legislation that interfaces with the Internet...


Godwin:

If I didn't have hope that freedom would ultimately prevail on the Internet, and in the world around us generally, I would have moved on to some other kind of work. My current work, with Public Knowledge, is deeply satisfying -- I think the action now is at the intersection of intellectual-property law, technology policy, and constitutional law, and I have a longstanding interest in all three.

I don't think DRM by itself is deeply significant -- I think it's part of an ongoing cycle by vendors of digital products to attempt to increase control, then to relax it when the marketplace resists that control. Badly crafted laws, such as the DMCA and the PATRIOT Act are worse problems, in a way -- there's a strong tendency in the legal system for laws to ratchet up restrictions that are then only rarely ratcheted back down. The key thing in response to such laws is to identify points of tension where the laws lead to absurd results, and to focus challenges there. That's what EFF and other activist groups try to do.

The worst problem is when badly crafted laws, such as the DMCA, intersect with DRM to lead to results that effectively deprive people of rights they otherwise have under the Copyright Act, or under other laws. But I don't think such problems are intractable -- I think they simply require an immense amount of long-term effort by reformers.

Lesser-known cases that have a big impact on law. - by Viperion

Mr. Godwin - Lots of /.ers follow the SCO case, followed the DeCSS, Napster, IP, CIPA, etc. What are some lesser known cases/laws that you forsee as having a large potential impact on 'cyberlaw' as we know it?


Godwin:

I think we've come a long way since the early 1990s, when key cases might be handed down that affect online rights and responsibilities without generating a lot of publicity. The cases you hear about now through Slashdot and through traditional news media are the leading cases.

Where the real focus needs to be, it seems to me, is on the efforts by content companies to get the Federal Commuications Commission to become, in effect, the arbiter over DRM and computer arhitectures generally. Some of this is occurring in the FCC's broadcast-flag proceeding, and some in the FCC's administration of "plug-and-play" compatibility for cable services. Right now, the content companies are hoping to steer consumer-electronics companies and computer companies against using analog interfaces, because analog interfaces aren't as easily subjected to copy-protection technologies. Never mind that analog connections may be a source of compatibility among a wide range of different technologies.

Another front in cyberlaw is the efforts of the movie companies to seek changes in state-level regulation that would prohibit you from hooking up your computer, or other "unauthorized devices," to services you're paying for, such as cable television service. What the movie companies would like is for it to be criminal for you to hook up any device that might be more flexible than consumer-electronics tools in capturing and playing back content. I understand their concern -- they're freaked out by the prospect of folks digitizing content and putting it up on their Internet -- but I don't think their concern should trump the general preference we have for convergence between consumer-electronics devices and information-technology devices. The fact is that, already for a lot of us, watching TV on computers is the preferred mode to view TV content. Ditto with movies.

Internet law, International law? - by heironymouscoward

How far do you think that the internet will be responsible for creating a de-facto international legal system? Property rights, shared criminal databases, shared economic systems,... it seems that the influence of TCP/IP packets has no limits on our society. Will we one day see a world government to enforce international law? And lastly, will this be the US?


Godwin:

Well, I can't dispute that there are some strong pressures to harmonize legal systems among nations. The Internet is certainly part of that, although the pressures predate the modern Internet. But, you know, the experience we've had in the United States has been that there have long been efforts harmonize law among the various states -- the result has been a greater degree of uniformity, but not complete uniformity, among the states. What I anticipate over the long run is that, due to the Internet and other factors, we'll see a greater degree of uniformity among the laws of various nations, with critical exceptions such as the United States's greater degree of tolerance for defamatory speech.

The key focus will coming up with standard rules for deciding which courts have jurisdiction over activities that occur on the Internet. For some kinds of cases, it will turn on where the Internet activity or communication originated; for others, it will turn on what kinds of effects the Internet transaction has had on a particular jurisdiction.

I think we're a long way from "world government." You need a greater degree of inter-cultural harmony than we currently have, if the world government is going to play a dominant role. I think the U.S. has created some credibility problems for itself with the war on Iraq that tend to undercut its moral authority in other spheres. Even without that problem, there is longstanding resistance among other nations to ceding to the United States too much influence or control

Internet Pollution - by iplayfast

It seems to me that most (if not all) spaming and advertising done on the Internet is simply polluting the lines of communication. Like any pollution, it reduces the stuff you want, by increasing the ratio of stuff you don't want, thereby making the whole environment unusable.

Is it possible that this view can be used in any legal way to go after Internet polluters?


Godwin:

While legal theories derive to a large extent from analogy, it's usually not quite on such a wholesale level. Plus, economists already have some useful analogies to deal with the problems raised by SPAM -- "the free-rider problem" and "the tragedy of the commons." (These concepts also have been applied to environmental pollution, by the way.)

Where the pollution metaphor departs from our legal system is that most SPAM is also speech (albeit frequently speech that is garbled in order to thwart Bayesian and other types of filtering). Prior to the Internet, we saw the development of so-called "commercial speech" doctrine in American constitutional law -- it was aimed at creating a framework that allowed regulation of speech that invites someone into a commercial transaction, without affecting all the other kinds of speech, but has never been fully laid out or defined. The SPAM problem may result in more development of this doctrine.

What most of us who complain about SPAM want, I think, is a world in which we never get unsolicited commercial email, or at least in which that email is kept to a minimum. Plus, we'd kind of like to get back the bandwidth that we think is being eaten up by the spammers. (Obviously, blocking spam at the user level -- which I more or less have to do, since my email address has been the same for a decade and a half -- doesn't address the waste of bandwidth due to SPAM.) I'm not sure I know how one properly addresses the problem from a legal standpoint; I'm pretty certain that mere technical solutions won't work, absent some major reworking of the architecture of the Internet (which I would disfavor).

What we say in Cyberspace - by MrIrwin

I have always considered comments that are said on newsgroups and forums to be personal opinions of the sort one might overhear in a bar, so if you say "Apple nicked all their ideas from PARC" you would not suddenly expect a summons from Apples legal department.

On the contary, if a site passes itself as an "eNewspaper" site, an eMag or whatever, and it publishes mistruths, then I would expect it to be sued as any pulp publication would be.

Are there any legal precedents or specific laws on this?


Godwin:

First of all, make no mistake -- you can be held legally responsible even for things you say in a bar! Our law addresses the kinds of reputational damage that one can do in a bar conversation; we call that area of law the law of "slander" -- that is, the law of spoken defamation.

There's also already plenty of law on the books with regard to defamation on the Internet. Generally, the analysis is that because the scope of Internet communication can be much greater than that of overheard-in-the-bar conversations, libel law (generally speaking, reputational damage attributable to publishing in a mass medium) is more applicable than the law of slander.

You're right that Internet publications that edit their content before making it available to the public probably fall under the same rules as any publication on "dead trees." What was harder for the legal system to grapple with in the early 1990s was the BBS/Compuserve problem -- how do you treat systems that reserve the right to edit or remove stuff, but don't normally do so? I spelled out what I thought was the answer to that question in articles I published back then, later collected and reworked in my book CYBER RIGHTS: DEFENDING FREE SPEECH IN THE DIGITAL AGE.

I think I came up with "the right answer," applying existing libel-law principles, but my prescription about how to handle libel on the Internet was trumped by the Communications Decency Act, which later was incorporated into the 1996 omnibus telecommunications legislation. In the runup to the CDA, service providers negotiated an legal-liability exemption for themselves for cases in which their subscribers (rather than, say, magazine editors) originated the content. Needless to say, this was not a part of the Communications Decency Act that we challenged in Reno v. ACLU, the case in which the Supreme Court upheld a lower-court's finding that the CDA's ban on "indecent" content on the Internet was unconstitutional. One of the nicer outcomes for service providers and for the rest of us was that the ISP exemption remained even when the guts of that law were struck down. (I also talk about this case at length in CYBER RIGHTS, by the way.)

DMCA - by JoeBaldwin

Do you see the DMCA as a law that can truly benefit the world as a whole, or just a tool of the big corporations (MPAA, I'm looking at you) or whatever?


Godwin:

Well, I think it's primarily a tool of copyright-holding companies, who continue to be terrified (with justification) about the impact the digital world is going to have on their ways of doing business. For two or three centuries, depending on how you count, publishers and distributors have relied on the technological happenstance that making a copy of a creative work was difficult. The digital world makes copying easy and cheap, which undercuts a basic assumption behind copyright law, which is that unauthorized copying is generally so expensive that only bad guys with commercial motives would bother to do it. Suddenly, computers and the Internet have created a world in which ordinary, otherwise-law-abiding people are empowered to make unauthorized copies for free, and to share those 100-percent-perfect copies of creative works with other people -- maybe millions of other people.

Now, one response to this is just exactly what we've seen -- the copyright industries have been trying to shore up the existing copyright framework by DMCA lawsuits (either against Internet service providers or against individual users), by seeking architectural changes over computers and the Internet (to make copying harder), by classifying noncommercial copying as a criminal or civil wrong, and so on. And because these are well-moneyed copyright holders who do in fact employ lots of people and contribute to the economy, they have a lot of influence with policy-makers.

The problem here isn't merely that the copyright industries are trying to demonize peer-to-peer file-sharing, and digital copying of content generally. Instead, it's that they don't realize (or don't care) that they're attempting to roll back or otherwise restrict what can only be understood properly as design features of computers and of the Internet itself. Digital technologies at some fundamental level are about the making of perfect copies of information (whether that information is your content or someone else's). It's very hard to put technological hobbles on computers and the Internet that distinguish between lawful copying and unlawful copying -- if you want to throw out that bathwater, you're going to end up throwing out the baby as well.

A better approach, it seems to me, is that suggested by, among others, law professor Jessica Litman in her book DIGITAL COPYRIGHT. In the last chapter of her book, which I recommend to anyone interested in the DMCA and related digital-copyright subjects, Litman suggests that as we revise copyright law in the digital age, we try to make it as much like pre-existing law as possible. I agree with that -- my major criticism of the DMCA is not so much that it serves only one set of interests but rather that it prohibits circumventing copy-protection technologies even if you have an otherwise lawful reason to do so.

I have one other thought on this subject that's been on my mind lately, and it's this: just as much as peer-to-peer file-sharing is a basic feature of the Internet, music sharing (and the sharing of other treasured creative works) is a basic feature of human culture. We want to share the songs we love, the books and movies we love, and so on. I think what we've got to aim for is a legal system that preserves the goals of the Copyright Act while accommodating, to the extent possible, the human impulse to share the cultural creations we love.

Future Lawyers - by Fros1y

As a computer science student graduating college and hoping to head to law school, I wonder if you have any particular advice about what training, if any, will help to prepare me for "cyber-law". Many schools seem to have programs focusing on this aspect of the law, but I've often thought that the generalist approach to a field yielded better results.

Are there any experiences you'd advise a young prospective attorney interested in this field to seek out?


Godwin:

My belief is that the generalist approach is the right approach. The best lawyers in this field, I believe, are generalists -- people not only comfortable with a wide range of areas of law, but also with as wide a range as possible of technologies, creative cultures, and so on. Fortunately, any good law school has the resources to give someone a good general background on the legal side; as to the technological and cultural stuff, basically you have to make an extra effort to keep up that side of your training as well.

I never took a copyright course, or any course in intellectual property law, but I haven't found them particularly hard to acquire as a working lawyer. That's partly because the legal training I did receive enabled me to learn new stuff in a hurry. So, aim for the best legal training you can get, and don't give undue weight to the question of whether the law school has a program in cyberlaw or not.

There was, of course, no cyberlaw course being taught anywhere in the late 1980s when I was in law school, and I haven't felt the lack.

Spyware and its legal status - by medication

While I find spam as annoying as the next person, I'm more interested in the legal status of spyware. What are the rights of the individual when he visits a site? What rights to the individual's machine does the site have? Is permanently altering a user's browser a legal operation? What constitutes permission with regard to this type of manipulation?


Godwin:

The general answer is, if you give knowing consent to let this stuff be installed on your system, the spyware company is off the hook. "Knowing consent" probably means something like "did you have a chance to reading the licensing terms before clicking 'Agree'?"

Most of the companies that want to install stuff on your system that monitors what you do or otherwise takes over some of the cycles of your CPU for their own purposes will put such waivers up front in the installation process. Those that don't fully inform you about what they're doing, or that simply install stuff secretly, may be running afoul of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (or a state-law equivalent).

Making DVD Copies - by iammrjvo

Is it legal to make and edit copies of commercial DVDs for personal use? What about loaning out the edited copies to friends?


Godwin:

Personally, I happen to believe that making copies of your own DVDs for your own personal use ought to be understood as legal. Ditto for edited copies, to a limited extent. But beware -- the further you get from personal use, the more copies you make, and the more people you loan the copies to, the more likely it is that some movie company will try to classify you as an infringer and get you sued or prosecuted. (This risk is even greater if you've been editing the DVD content.)

We're living in a time in which there is a lot of pressure from content owners to put harder and ever more restrictive limits on what you can do with commercial content -- even content that you've lawfully obtained. Until the next paradigm shift occurs (and I don't know when that will be), you need to be alert to the prospect that your seemingly innocent, noncommercial behavior with digital content will set off a tripwire in some copyright lawyer's office somewhere.

What makes the net so special? - by jdunlevy

Why is it that there "have to be" laws specific to the internet? If a spammer sends an e-mail using forged headers, why doesn't the law go after him (or her) with good old-fashioned anti-fraud laws? Does the main failing of these kinds of old laws lie in ingorance that makes law enforcement unable or unwilling to enforce the laws without further clarification, or is something else going on here?


Godwin:

I've never been one for Internet-specific laws. I like to think our law works best when we incrementally change existing law to accommodate new situations. That's what happened with the law of common carriage, for instance -- a branch of law that dealt with carrier liability when the carrier was likely a stagecoach or a locomotive ultimately was adapted to apply to the telegraph and telephone, and the outcome of that incremental growth was liberating, both commercially and socially.

There may, however, be areas of law where something Internet-specific (or computer-specific) needs to be specifically developed. Take SPAM, for example -- the problem with SPAM may be understood as the fact that there are few inherent economic limitations on filling people's mailboxes with unwanted email. (By comparison, junk-mailers have to pay postage, printing costs, and the like.) So maybe the fact that there are no economic disincentives for spammers to flood your mailbox means there should be legal disincentives. Similarly, computer viruses are a kind of noxious hazard that does not have a precise counterpart in the non-Internet world, so it seems appropriate to address virus-writing miscreants with computer-specific or Internet-specific laws.

In general, though, I like applying old rules in new ways. My book takes this approach as one of its themes -- I try to show how traditional, well-understood principles of free-speech law can be adapted relatively straightforwardly in the digital world.

Privacy and domain names - by Tablizer

Do you feel that one should have to make their (human) name and street public information to receive a domain name? It is perfectly possible to keep such information private except to law enforcement under request. The debators on both sides seem to see it as an all or nothing situation: open to everybody or open to nobody.


Godwin:

I'm not a big supporter of mandatory self-identification, whether it comes to domain names or anything else. Our culture, including our legal system, has established a pretty high tolerance for anonymous speech, and I'd hate so see that tradition abandoned, whether in the course of fighting spam, or preventing terrorism, or whatever the evil of the day is.

Question (continued):

Godwin:

For that matter, what are the legal barriers against having a single "recipient number" for all types of communication so that one can move and still keep the same number? Email, phone, paper mail, etc. can then be redirected to such a number, and internal lookup tables would supply physical locations or addresses for final delivery. But to senders or callers, it is just one stable number.

There's no restriction on keeping your same email address, so long as you keep the same provider, so far as I know. (Your provider may have policies that restrict your ability to do this, but I know of no general legal restriction.) The key thing for the Internet is DNS -- the domain name in your email address tells mail servers something about where to route your mail. I don't know for certain, but my instinct is to believe that email addresses are not going to be portable anytime soon in the way that (thanks to regulation and deregulation) cell phone numbers are, and landline phones may someday be. At least not until we see some successor to the domain-name/IP-address model, which I wouldn't look for anytime soon.

GNU General Public Licence - by Vexware

I have written some software and have decided to distribute it under the GNU General Public License. I then find out some established/incorporated company has modified the software without redistributing their modified version freely, that they are making a profit out of the modified undistributed version, or that they are redistributing the software without pointing out that what they are giving is not the original version of the software. What exactly are my rights? Is it worth taking the company to court, or is this too risky? To come to the point, is the GPL actually a license which has some value in the courts of justice?

Godwin:

I'm not an expert on the intricacies of applying the GPL -- for that expertise I'd refer you to Eben Moglen at the Columbia University law school, since he's thought more deeply about GPL problems than I have (not least because he developed the current version of the GPL in consultation with RMS). My short answers are:

A. Yes, I believe the GPL is actually a license that has value in court.

B. I can't tell you whether it's an appropriate business decision for you to pursue some legal action against some company that has violated the GPL that accompanied the code with which you provided them. I do think folks at the Free Software Foundation and other free-software/open-source advocates would likely take an interest in a case like the one you describe, so it wouldn't hurt to contact them for advice if this problem comes up.

Groklaw - by robslimo

What effects, positive or negative, do you think sites like the popular Groklaw have/will have on corporate technology litigation? Do lawyers pay any attention to the research and opinions of amateurs and the general public?


Godwin:

I think sites like Groklaw provide valuable information as well as (occasionally) entertainment for those of us, lawyers and nonlawyers alike, who want to track certain kinds of computer-, Internet-, and technnology-related issues. I don't have any strong sense that lawyers who represent the big corporate players give routine attention to what people say on the Net about their cases -- for them, as for the rest of us, the Internet may well be what Vernor Vinge memorably termed "the Net of a Thousand Lies." That said, history suggests that if there's enough of a groundswell of opinion, positive or negative, about what a company is doing, the company ultimately pays attention to the reaction (with the CEOs paying attention perhaps more quickly than the lawyers do).
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Attorney Mike Godwin Answers 'Cyberlaw' Questions

Comments Filter:
  • by garcia (6573) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:53AM (#8769871) Homepage
    Privacy and domain names - by Tablizer

    Do you feel that one should have to make their (human) name and street public information to receive a domain name?

    Godwin:

    I'm not a big supporter of mandatory self-identification, whether it comes to domain names or anything else. Our culture, including our legal system, has established a pretty high tolerance for anonymous speech, and I'd hate so see that tradition abandoned, whether in the course of fighting spam, or preventing terrorism, or whatever the evil of the day is.


    Exactly! I have mentioned this particular tidbit before and have been roasted because your domain name shouldn't be considered something that is private.

    The more and more we find these little pieces acceptable the more ground we will lose in the future.

    Yes, it will make it difficult to prosecute spammers. It will also make it difficult for people to harass people minding their own business.

    Should we eliminate the privacy of 99% of the population for what the other 1% does? I don't think it should fly in this particular instance.

    Just my .02,
    • by spamacon (239531) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:03PM (#8769996) Homepage Journal
      My domain registrar (registerfly.com, not affiliated, bla bla bla) and others provide a service where they put some mangled address/telephone that they control so that any of my personal info is hidden. If anything comes to them for me, they would forward it to me. That seems like a way to get anonymity while still being able to follow DNS rules.
      tink tink (2 cents)
      • by garcia (6573) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:08PM (#8770037) Homepage
        and you have to pay for that... I should be allowed to protect myself w/o having to pay someone else.

        We are doing this because of 1% of the population that would find another way around it anyway.
        • Having to pay for privacy seems to be pretty standard. Last time I signed up for telephone service, they told me I'd have to pay extra to not get listed in the phone book.
          • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday April 05, 2004 @01:55PM (#8771167) Homepage Journal
            You can get a sort of 'unlisted' number for free...I got this from a girlfriend of mine that worked at the Phone Co.

            You can TELL them how you want your number listed. I have them list mine as first intial, and middle name. So, there is no listing with my real searchable name (first and last name). And a neat by product of this is, that if a phone sales/survey calls asking for Mr or Ms middlename, I know immediately they got the number from a scan of the phone book...and I tell them no one by that name resides here.

            They often list women's numbers by first intial and last name...I just didn't list my last name. No extra charge for this.

          • You can get free obscured domain registration in Canada: Privacy.ca [privacy.ca]. Of course, our new privacy laws are very strong and designed to protect the individual Canadian citizen at the cost of onerous business processes, etc etc.

            <joke>And, you can share mp3s</joke> ;)

        • I should be allowed to protect myself w/o having to pay someone else.
          Well, to follow Godwin's them of matching Internet law to the laws in the physical world, I'd like to point out that you pay someone else to run your house security/alarm system, you pay someone else to guard the streets (albeit a government agency, i.e. the police), and so on.
          Not to say you couldn't (maybe) do these things yourself, but that would take significant effort and skill.... not unlike creating your own domain&webhost with
          • by B'Trey (111263) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:21PM (#8772103)
            Your analogy doesn't hold water. I pay (directly or through taxes) security companies, police, the fire company, etc. for a service they provide. I don't pay them NOT to do something. I have to pay a particular registrar or the phone company NOT to publish my info. Police, FD, etc. are protecting me from the actions of other people. Registrars and the phone company are, in essence, "protecting" me from dangers that they theyselves cause. It's almost like a protection racket. "You pay us money or we're going to publish your info for everybody to see."

        • Well, for one your home telephone company gets away with charging you to have an unlisted number. People who do need to know your number in case of emergency (police, 911) just use caller ID to sniff your number anyway.

          The alternatives cover the whole range of costs. AFAIK cell phone carriers keep subscriber numbers unlisted (for now).

    • by MisanthropicProgram (763655) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:06PM (#8770014)
      Sir:
      A fucking men

      I'm a firm believer that personal privacy should be the prime criteria for most laws and regulations.

      For those of you who think - if you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about . Well, post your:

      Name

      Address

      Date of birth

      Social Security number (or eqivilant)

      Sexual preferance

      The last person you slept with

      Your politics

      Everything else...
      Yes, I have a lot to hide! All of it is legal --- for now!

      • I think you should have also requested shoe size and mother's maiden name.
      • I wish I had mod points right now...

        Not having done anything wrong does not mean not having anything to hide

        Simple as that.

      • by mritunjai (518932) on Monday April 05, 2004 @01:27PM (#8770873) Homepage
        Well I do have modpoints, but I'll reply instead!

        Here are three points, ponder over them-

        1. Can you buy property anonymously ? Do you think you should have right to know at least Name and Address of person living 2 doors next to you ? Don't you think you should have the right to know who else is living in your apartment ? Then why do you think you should be able to buy your virtual address anonymously ? You think real world law of free speech should apply in virtual world, then why not the custom that demands you give your name/address while getting a phone service/www service or a domain name ?

        2. Some things can (and are) classified as "none of your business (NOYB)" in certain circumstances. If a person in street demands your shoe number, you can tell him NOYB... but not to the shoe shop attendant! You name, address and phone number ARE NOT your secret assets... however, your SSN is! So learn to make difference... that is called "common sense".

        3. I'm from India, but know enough of privacy law stated in US constitution. It says you and your private property are protected from unreasonable searches. You DO NOT have right to be anonymous while communicating! (Heard of CallerID ? Telephone Directory ?)... and Internet is just another communication medium. No privacy here! Just because its easier to be anonymous on Internet does NOT mean you have RIGHT to be anonymous.

        Finally, if it bothers you, just don't do/say things that you won't in front of 2000 audience on a stage... or on phone with another person.

        - Akhilesh
        • by mamba-mamba (445365) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:01PM (#8771884)

          Amendment IV

          The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

          You are right that the 4th ammendment doesn't say anything about anonymity. But there is still a problem.

          In the old days, it was possible to be a pamphleteer, and have people pass out your works in the town commons. If you were careful, people might not ever connect you to the work. But nowadays, the internet has sort of become the commons, and to be a modern pamphleteer, you need to use the internet. So there should be some way for people to publish radical political works without disclosing their identity. I'm not saying that this principle is enshrined in the constitution, but it is still good policy and an important freedom.

          MM
          --
        • I can definitely buy property anonymously. You may perhaps mean real estate instead of property, in which case I presume I could not buy real estate anonymously.

          I do not think I have a right to know at least the name of a person living 2 doors next to me, though their address I can obviously obtain as I already have my address. It seems strange to me that you think I _do_ have a right to this information. Certainly, no such right is in the legal code of Canada (the owner of the house could be, and in th
        • Can you buy property anonymously ?

          I don't know real-estate law, but you can certainly buy property through a lawyer. If that's not 'anonymous' enough you could always go through a foreign lawyer and or foreign corporation.

          Do you think you should have right to know at least Name and Address of person living 2 doors next to you ?

          The address is a pretty silly example. I don't have any particular "right" to know the address, but all I need to do is open my eyes and look.

          As for knowing their name, do I h
      • First Name - Cro

        Last Name - Magnon

        Address - Hmm, let me see what's chiseled on my cave

        Date of birth - 9/5/1,000,000 BC

        Social Security number - What's a number?

        Sexual preference - The more the better!

        The last person you slept with - Um, does my saber-toothed tiger count?

        My politics - Kill the lawyers!

    • How would you feel if accurate information were required solely for those entities using the domain to conduct commercial matters, primarily sales but also for tech support and other such uses? This way, you could have your personal site at myname.tld with hidden or false information, but you would have to have proper contact information in place for mysalessite.com.
    • Should we eliminate the privacy of 99% of the population for what the other 1% does? I don't think it should fly in this particular instance.
      I don't think it should fly in ANY instance. The rights of the majority should not be infringed to punish a minority, nor should the rights of a minority be infringed to cater to the whim of the majority.
    • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday April 05, 2004 @01:40PM (#8770996) Journal
      My opinion is that anonymity should be allowed only for services that are "pull-only"---that is, services like web servers where someone actually requests your content. There should be no anonymity for "push" services where you are able to force your content on other people.

      It's just like in the real world with phone numbers. You can have your phone number unlisted, ensuring your privacy as long as you are only receiving calls. However unless you block caller ID, the second you make an outgoing call, somebody knows your number. Even if you block caller ID, if you use the number for evil, the source of the call can be reported to law enforcement (though the person you called won't see it).

      In much the same way, the only outgoing anonymity should be pseudoanonymous trust relationships, where you trust some third party to provide a pseudoanonymous account, i.e. that third party knows who you are, and agrees not to make that information known except to a court of law.

      Thus, a domain name could have bogus contact information, but in order to send email, the person running the mail server should have to register a legitimate physical contact address with a central authority, along with a host key used to sign each message sent from that host.

      Just my $0.02.

    • If registrars had any brains, they would realize that it really should be difficult to make a DNS record in two sections:

      a) Section a: public. Info for people that need/want to contact you about your site to file bug/complaint/etc reports. Should be optional - at least as far as personal info goes.
      b) Section b: private. Info needed for renewal requests, legal issues, emergency contact etc. Not optional, but not visible to the general public.

      WHY: Email addresses that are publicly available tend to end
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:54AM (#8769883)
    Since he really is a lawyer.
  • by MisanthropicProgram (763655) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:54AM (#8769892)
    Godwin answered our questions. I'm also grateful that he didn't preface his answers with - IAAL.
    • I glad that he didn't mention Nazis or the whole discussion would have imploded.

      Steven V.
  • Legally Correct? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ElDuderino44137 (660751) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:00PM (#8769958)
    I didn't have a chance to read the whole article ...

    But I'd just like to mention that ...
    There's a difference between the currently accepted legal position ...
    And right vs. wrong ...

    Too many times legality is mistaken for ...
    Morality.
    And the Judiciary is mistaken for a ...
    moral compass.

    I fear the notion of ...
    keeping someone from ...
    creating clothing ...
    that looks just like your line of clothing ...
    stamping your label on it ...
    and selling it.

    Has mutated into ...
    I am the only one w/ the right to sell clothes.

    Cheers,
    -- El Duderino
  • Spam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evilviper (135110) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:03PM (#8769993) Journal
    (Obviously, blocking spam at the user level -- which I more or less have to do, since my email address has been the same for a decade and a half -- doesn't address the waste of bandwidth due to SPAM.)

    [...]
    I'm pretty certain that mere technical solutions won't work,

    Well, I can't agree there. First off, the less-bandwidth-utilizing solution is simply to do the filtering on the SMTP server end. A simple blacklist (perhaps one erring on the side of caution) would take care of the large majority of spam with practically no badwidth wasted.

    However, even besides that, the solution can still be a technical one. All it takes is enough end-users blocking spam to start causing SPAM to be less profitable. Soon enough, the costs of bandwidth and pay checks are higher than the profits from idiots buying products through spam messages.

    There are even more solutions I could go through. Blocking e-mails, based upon the lack of a key in the subject line, would also be very easy on bandwidth if done on the server end. (eg. before downloading the message)

    My point being, there are lots of technical solutions to the spam problem. The only problem is the lack of adoption.
    • most spammers don't pay for the bandwidth they use - they slave other peoples machines, feed them a list of emails (short) and make them generate the emails (long) - thereby stealing other peoples bandwidth
    • Re:Spam (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Martin Blank (154261) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:34PM (#8770289) Journal
      That's because of the difficulty of adopting many of the changes. Filtering at the SMTP server does nothing to save the bandwidth already used in the transmission of the e-mail messages in the first place. Blacklists and whitelists both have been shown to be problematic at best for most instances.

      Spam filters are not the easiest thing in the world for most people to deal with. Sure, your average Slashdot junkie can install not only a Bayesian filter for his favorite e-mail client, but may well also have another filter sitting outside the e-mail client, and have his own configured on the server. But that's not even remotely common, and you have to factor in the fear of false positives. I've used a handful of solutions with varying success, from blacklists to Bayesian filters to peer-to-peer concepts like Cloudmark Spamnet. *I* can deal with the false positives, but non-techs I know get frustrated because the perceived promise is a complete removal of spam, which doesn't happen, with no false positives, which doesn't happen. It matters little at the moment whether or not they are told to expect a few things to slip in either direction. The simple fear of missing some critical e-mail is pretty hard to get past, and leaves most people grudgingly content with seeing 1000 spam messages rather than possibly having a critical message marked as spam. Is it logical? Not especially, but it's still often the truth.

      Recent clients have taken to not loading images or code from websites without specific permission. I think this is a big step because it means that addresses are not so easily validated, but I wonder how long it will last before spammers simply send off even more messages to cover the discrepancy.

      So what's the proper step? Most of the work lays with Microsoft. I think Microsoft is making an enormous leap with the new automatic firewall in XP SP2, as well as the semi-obnoxious messages about not having virus software installed. The two combined should help to decrease the number of systems constantly re-infected by the recent strains that look for existing infected systems to exploit, and by getting more people to use AV software. I think one other huge step could be taken by retrofitting the other supported e-mail clients (Outlook 2000 and XP, and Outlook Express 5.x and 6.x) with the download-prevention features in Outlook 2003. Even though I admit above that it might be a short-term solution, it's still workable for at least that time, and might whittle down the volume of addresses at least a little bit.
      • Blacklists and whitelists both have been shown to be problematic at best for most instances.

        Blacklists are fundamentally imperfect, but whitelists can work great with only some minor technical steps needed. The only additional requirement is some way for a non-whitelisted sender to get a message to you, by having additional transactional cost transfered onto her. Both micropaynments and computational time ("hashcash") have been proposed (by Bill Gates, amoung others), and either could work (with varying
        • Re:Spam (Score:3, Informative)

          by Martin Blank (154261)
          I've run into some cases where automated whitelists come into play with some friends that have changed ISPs, and really, I just didn't care to go through the hassle for it. In these cases, I had to go to some website, enter a code, wait for a confirmation e-mail, then respond, or something like that. I want to send an e-mail, not visit Fort Knox.
    • by CBravo (35450)
      Incompetence is also a factor not to forget. The guys at my work hardly know how a webserver works and I quote (&translate) "If I can't click it together in five minutes then things aren't efficient". These guys service 500 users LOL.

      They don't have time for linux because they have so much work to do, fixing their mailserver, terminal server, mail clients, etc etc. Fsckers.

      Blacklists are just a hassle to these people. They could care less about the user. "Yes Sir, just delete those spam e-mails, then
    • Re:Spam (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FallLine (12211)

      Well, I can't agree there. First off, the less-bandwidth-utilizing solution is simply to do the filtering on the SMTP server end. A simple blacklist (perhaps one erring on the side of caution) would take care of the large majority of spam with practically no badwidth wasted.

      However, even besides that, the solution can still be a technical one. All it takes is enough end-users blocking spam to start causing SPAM to be less profitable. Soon enough, the costs of bandwidth and pay checks are higher than the p

  • by Wingchild (212447) <brian@wingchild.net> on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:12PM (#8770064) Homepage
    After reading the responses to these questions, the thing that sticks with me is that there's a definite provision listed for libel and slander that allows someone to take offense to your otherwise Free Speech.

    The First Amendment (for those who aren't familiar and insist on going with hearsay instead of knowing their history) reads:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


    Shortened, `Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.`

    Here's a good site detailing how libel laws work [radford.edu]. Two key provisions involved that you should keep in mind:

    1) Libel requires that your statements be false. Be careful about carrying forth rumor and hearsay as truth, but know also that just because something is unverified doesn't make it untrue. If you're using that as your rallying cry, though, be prepared to offer up hard evidence for your statements; the burden of proof certainly won't lie with someone claiming defamation.

    2) Libel requires that Fault be proved.
    You must be intentionally malicious or negligent (the latter may be far easier to prove). If you're quoting a reputable source, they'd be guilty of libel - you may only be guilty of foolishness. However, if you're reposting unverified info via your "personal web site" that logs a few hundred thousand visitors each week, don't expect that provision to save you either.

    The linked site actually has a good rundown on what constitutes a defense, and what's not a defense - it might help to familiarize yourself with the rules before you opt to post flamebait on your heavily trafficed website (as you are a de facto news source and publisher).

    Here's another handy link for y'all - Computer Information Systems Law and System Operator Liability Revisited [murdoch.edu.au], dated Sept. 1994. It was written more for the forum/BBS era, but has some useful insights into legality.
    • Although that site is a decent summary, it misses a lot. One point in particular that I'd like to clarify from your post is the issue of truth.

      Truth is a possible defense to defamation, meaning that the burden of proving truth is on the _publisher_ of the statements in question. This means that if you write something on slashdot defaming me, and I sue you, and I show that it's more likely than not defamatory (which is a big issue in itself), YOU must then prove what you said is true in order to get off.

      • Truth is a possible defense to defamation, meaning that the burden of proving truth is on the _publisher_ of the statements in question. This means that if you write something on slashdot defaming me, and I sue you, and I show that it's more likely than not defamatory (which is a big issue in itself), YOU must then prove what you said is true in order to get off.

        In the US the burden of proving falsity is on the plaintiff, not the defendant.
    • A third provision to keep in mind is that damage must be shown. If I say that you had sex with a petrified Natalie Portman, while pouring hot grits down your pants in a comment on Slashdot, you would have a hard time proving libel, because no reasonable Slashdot reader is going to actually believe the statement and so no harm was done to your reputation.
  • by r.future (712876) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:12PM (#8770065) Homepage Journal
    ... but just in case you did not I'll toss it up here.

    Lawrence Lessing [lessig.org] (another lawyer who has done lots of writing about the internet, and been talked about on Slashdot often) posts what IMO is some very insightful information on "cyberlaw" at his blog [lessig.org] from time to time. If you enjoyed this interview, and have not cheked out Lessing's work.

    Here are some of the groups that Lessing is working / has worked with...
    creative commons [creativecommons.org]
    eff [eff.org]
    puclib knowledge [publicknowledge.org]
    fsf [gnu.org]

  • Just kidding. ;)
  • Godwin's Law, Godwin the Lawyer?

  • by DavidStewartZink (744924) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:16PM (#8770107)
    Also note that snailSpam is alleged the primary source of revenue to the USPS. So there's an economic incentive to NOT treat it like eSpam.
    • by red floyd (220712) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:37PM (#8770336)
      True, but snailSpam is also "sender pays", is easier to track back, and is subject to Mail Fraud laws. If $DUMBCORP snailSpams me for h3Rb41 V1@gr4!,
      1. $DUMBCORP is paying for it
      1. If I believe it's fraudulent, I can contact the USPS as a remedy

      Those two features of snailSpam make it markedly different from eSpam.
    • Also note that snailSpam is alleged the primary source of revenue to the USPS. So there's an economic incentive to NOT treat it like eSpam.

      You mean, the same USPS currently trying to get a government bailout on their $67 billion shortfall, resulting directly from their habit of giving business- and bulk-class mail huge discounts compared to actual individuals?

      Sorry, but that nicely provides its own evidence that even snail-spam has a cost - $67 billion to the taxpayers, in fact. Now, I don't like gett
  • On Viruses (Virii?) (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mikkeles (698461) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:24PM (#8770182)
    'Similarly, computer viruses are a kind of noxious hazard that does not have a precise counterpart in the non-Internet world, so it seems appropriate to address virus-writing miscreants with computer-specific or Internet-specific laws.'

    (ob IANAL)
    Why would existing laws on vandalism not cover this?
    On the physical level, the magnetic regions on one's fixed disc are altered in a manner not authorised by the owner and cause the system to not function correctly.
    I don't see this as differing (w.r.t. vandalism) from dropping a wrench in an engine or maladjusting the control knobs.

    • Vandalism (Score:2, Interesting)

      by baudilus (665036)
      While Merriam-Webster defines vandalism [m-w.com] as the "willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property," this definition is insufficient to describe the inherent self-propagating nature of computer virii, therefore the definitions are not one and the same.

      In order for the analogy to work, dropping the wrench into an engine would have to cause not only that engine to fail, but also have the same effect on any engines nearby and so on.

      The only circumstance that comes close would ha
      • Re:Vandalism (Score:2, Interesting)

        by John Macdonald (40981)
        The anology works.

        The wrench-dropping vandal is found responsible for more than just replacing the gear that was broken by the wrench, but also the consequent destruction of connected pieces of machinery, the material that is ruined because the machinery stops in the middle of an active step of the manufacturing cycle, the salaries of employees who are laid off during the repair, the salaries of repair people, lost profits for the company, etc. This might include such things as injury or manslaughter if t

    • Why would existing laws on vandalism not cover this?
      On the physical level, the magnetic regions on one's fixed disc are altered in a manner not authorised by the owner and cause the system to not function correctly.
      I don't see this as differing (w.r.t. vandalism) from dropping a wrench in an engine or maladjusting the control knobs.


      On the physical level, a computer virus author doesn't go anywhere near your hard disk. He just sends some signals to your computer, signals which if sent to perfectly-written
  • Spam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeBaldwin (727345) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:24PM (#8770186) Homepage Journal
    I was the guy who posted the question about the DMCA, and firstly I'd like to thank Mike for answering not just my question, but everyone's questions with excellent clarity and quality, unlike some interviewees that have gone before. Cheers Mike!

    Secondly, if I get what he's getting at with his reply to a question on Internet pollution, I totally agree with him. The changes have to come from the people changing (i.e Ralsky and his merry men being sent to-I hate to use these words-a federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison), and not the technology (Penny Black seems to me to be something that will crash and burn like a plane made of pentane-coated magnesium bricks). We also have to do something about this bullshit idea of "freedom of commercial speech". As far as I'm concerned, telemarketers and spammers aren't exercising their rights to free speech, they're pissing me off royally. The same argument for people changes as opposed to technology changes also echoes in his reply to my question: rather than removing basic functions of computers and restricting users' freedoms through Palladium and the rest of that crap, we need to be looking at the way the RIAA do business, and possibly getting them to see P2P in a modern light.

    I love the idea we could sue Gator if we didn't ask for their shit to be installed. Class action, anybody? :)

    Mike's response on DVD copying is definitely the truth. If you really are just using those DVDs for "personal use", then you have absolutely zero need to make more than one backup (let's face it, if you manage to destroy not one but TWO copies of the same DVD then you don't deserve legal rights to copy it again, you need a beating with a cluestick).

    As for anonymous domain names, I'm in favour of those so long as it doesn't stretch to tubgirl and goatse :)

    • ``let's face it, if you manage to destroy not one but TWO copies of the same DVD then you don't deserve legal rights to copy it again, you need a beating with a cluestick''

      There is no reason why you shouldn't be allowed to make as many backups as you please, and valid reasons for doing so. I think you should also be allowed to lend things to others, or even sell them (I think the RIAA at some point tried to collect royalties on second-hand sales), or give them away.

      It gets messy only when you increase the
    • The problem with class action lawsuits is that the lawyers settle, collect millions of dollars, and the petitioners get coupons on future software purchases from the violator! Buncha jerks, I tell ya's...

      -l
  • by WCityMike (579094) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:31PM (#8770256)
    The worst problem is when badly crafted laws, such as the DMCA, intersect with DRM to lead to results that effectively deprive people of rights they otherwise have under the Copyright Act, or under other laws.

    Quite, just as the Third Reich began to effectively deprive people of rights they otherwise had under existing legislation of the time ...

    [Reference [wikipedia.org], before someone without a sense of 'Net history mods me as a troll. ;-)]

  • by hot_Karls_bad_cavern (759797) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:32PM (#8770273) Journal
    "..Note especially the bit about liability for what you post online. A *lot* of people who post on Slashdot ought to read that part..."

    Including some of the editors ;-p
  • by bfg9000 (726447) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:40PM (#8770367) Homepage Journal
    He's a Nazi just like Hitler!
  • What about rights? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stevens (84346) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:45PM (#8770409) Homepage

    In commenting on legislation outlawing the use of general purpose computers to access digital, e.g., cable, content, he comments:

    I don't think their concern should trump the general preference we have for convergence

    I don't think laws should be weighing a "concern" versus a "preference" at all. I'm a little concerned that a lawyer isn't framing this as an issue of rights.

    I bought my computer; I bought a cable feed. In my own home, I'm going to do what I like with them, "concerns" be damned. And this isn't just a "preference", it's a right!

  • The GPL Question (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:45PM (#8770412)
    "I then find out some established/incorporated company has modified the software without redistributing their modified version freely, that they are making a profit out of the modified undistributed version..."

    This is a serious misunderstanding of the GPL. No one has to give their changes back to the community, and there is no limitation on making money via GPL'd software. If they distribute modified GPL software, then it all has to be GPL as well. That's it. If they don't distribute it, they can to anything they want with it.
    • They *do* however have to 1) indicate that the resulting product is covered by the GPL, and 2) provide source code to anyone that obtains the resulting product.

      Also, they may not restrict their own customers from further distributing the resulting product.
    • Re:The GPL Question (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CrosbieFitch (694308) *
      I was going to post what you said (I reckon it would have been verbatim), so thanks for saving me the trouble. :)

      Unfortunately, there seems to be a grey area around here. Some folk say that if you distribute it to anyone, that ipso facto any third party can demand a copy of the source.

      I disgree with that clause, but it would be good to find out if it's really part of GPL or not.

      The way I read it was that GPL only applied to the parties who legitimately received GPL binaries or source code thereof, i.e. i
  • Favourite response (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_twisted_pair (741815) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:54PM (#8770519)
    ...music sharing (and the sharing of other treasured creative works) is a basic feature of human culture. We want to share the songs we love, the books and movies we love, and so on. I think what we've got to aim for is a legal system that preserves the goals of the Copyright Act while accommodating, to the extent possible, the human impulse to share the cultural creations we love.
    What the man said. It's no small relief to hear the bigger picture is in mind.
  • Email "LNP" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cramer (69040)
    • I don't know for certain, but my instinct is to believe that email addresses are not going to be portable anytime soon in the way that (thanks to regulation and deregulation) cell phone numbers are, and landline phones may someday be.

    First, "landlines" have had local number portability ("LNP") for about 5+ years now. Cell phone LNP was mandated last year (earlier this year?) and is still being rolled out. At this very moment, a landline can be re-ported anywhere within the PSTN (or the telcos involved c

  • by Strange Ranger (454494) on Monday April 05, 2004 @01:14PM (#8770700)
    > I think [the DMCA]is primarily a tool of copyright-holding companies, who continue to be terrified (with justification) about the impact the digital world is going to have on their ways of doing business.

    "justification".. "Preserve the goals of the Copyright Act".

    This raises a big red flag for me. Like laws dealing with Guilds and Journeymen and apprentices, I think the goals of the Copyright Act MAY be totally obsolete. The same barrier of entry that no longer exists for the infringer no longer exists for the publisher either. Now anyone can be mass copyright infringers. Anyone can be a publisher.

    Maybe we should be concerned with author's rights, rights that by nature remain with the author, and do away with copyright holders altogether. I highly suspect that 'Copyright Holder' is an obsolete concept.

    hmmmm.
    • Under common-law systems, authors have interests in creative works called moral rights [harvard.edu], which are separate from copyrights.

      Your comment is interesting, but we still need to address whether an author's rights in his or her own works, whether moral rights or copyrights, are alienable property interests.

      If we decide that these interests are alienable (ie can be bought or sold), then it doesn't matter, for the purposes of determining the limits of copyright entitlement, whether the holder of the interests is

      • Hrm, so if I buy from you the moral right to claim authorship of your comment, would that mean I could make Taco change the comment to say it was from me? How about the copyright?

        -l

        p.s., I need an army of lawyers at my beck and call.
  • This says it all: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Afty0r (263037)
    When a qualified lawyer in a specialist field cannot give a yes/no answer to a very VERY simple question, it goes a long way to explaining why we have so many problems with laws like the DMCA etc...

    The question?

    Is it legal to make and edit copies of commercial DVDs for personal use? What about loaning out the edited copies to friends?

    Godwin:

    Personally, I happen to believe that making copies of your own DVDs for your own personal use ought to be understood as legal. Ditto for edited copies, to a lim

    • If you want a simple, one-word answer, then the answer is "No." The guy can't really be much of a lawyer if he can't answer that very simple question.

      Reasons: 1) when you make a copy, you break CSS, a violation of the DMCA; 2) when you edit a copy, you make a derivative work, a violation of 17 USC 106.

    • If I am "not allowed" to backup my movies that I purchased then I think the studios should have to offer lifetime replacement warranties if my disc ever becomes damaged.

  • by D.A. Zollinger (549301) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:51PM (#8771769) Homepage Journal
    I think what we've got to aim for is a legal system that preserves the goals of the Copyright Act while accommodating, to the extent possible, the human impulse to share the cultural creations we love.

    How many times have you sung, "Happy Birthday" to a friend or family member? Did you know that even though the person who wrote that song is long dead and gone and will never write another song, his estate is still collecting royalties on that song for every public performance? That is the reason why popular television shows, movies, even restaurants sing something other than "Happy Birthday" to celebrate someone's birthday. Even though the song has permiated every level of our culture, we are denied its ubiquitous use in our culture. The idea of copyright was to encourage the original author to create. If they are dead, how can they create? This is why I believe our copyright system is so messed up.

    I ought to copy Disney's "Snow White" onto DVD and sell it to the public. And when I have my day in court, tell the judge that I would be happy to pay any royalties to Walt Disney, if he would come to court to accept them.
  • understanding! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kompiluj (677438) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:55PM (#8772502)
    Applying existing law to Internet requires understanding of the technology that underlies Internet. And this might not be common among lawyers. So they try to find someone to help them with technology issues. And because they know no alternative to Windows, they think Microsoft is OK. And thus they accept laws designed by companies.
  • Get'em for Fraud (Score:3, Informative)

    by RedHat Rocky (94208) on Monday April 05, 2004 @05:26PM (#8773351)
    Why is it that there "have to be" laws specific to the internet? If a spammer sends an e-mail using forged headers, why doesn't the law go after him (or her) with good old-fashioned anti-fraud laws? Does the main failing of these kinds of old laws lie in ingorance that makes law enforcement unable or unwilling to enforce the laws without further clarification, or is something else going on here?

    Godwin's answer here indicates to me he doesn't understand the implication of email headers that are truthful. If I know whom an email is from, I can easily choose to no longer receive email from said source. The reason SPAM is such a serious problem today it that it is nearly impossible to do that same thing due to falsified headers. It is certainly within the technical realm to address the problem of false headers, the only thing holding us back is agreeing how it should be done.

    In the meantime, the powers that be should be using fraud as the tool to prosecute spammers, instead of waiting for new laws.

You are in the hall of the mountain king.

Working...