First it was Reddit v. Digg, now it’s Reddit v. Gawker. Over the past several weeks, the two websites have been at war over an online privacy kerfuffle. Redditors are upset that a Gawker author outed the identity of a redditor who actively participated in a section on the website called “jailbait”; the folks over at Gawker are upset that Reddit has some questionable sub-sections, like “jailbait.” And now a lot of people are asking “is doxing illegal?”
r/Jailbait and r/creepshots: Online Privacy v. Fighting Misogyny
The question of what constitutes free speech on the Internet is a hotly debated topic. And for Web platforms that rely on user generated content, it’s a tough call. On the one hand, no respectable platform wants to be associated with certain undesirable communities – like ones that take scandalous pictures of unsuspecting women and then post them online (r/creepshots). But on the other hand, free speech is a slippery slope. As such, many websites have to draw a sometimes uncomfortable line: so long as content is not technically illegal, it gets to stay.
Since, according to available reports, no women under the age of 18 were ever found to be posted on reddit’s r/jailbait thread, then the participants didn’t technically break the law. The legality of the creepshots section was a little less clear. For a while, Reddit stuck to a “free speech is free speech, even the stuff we don’t like” stance. But eventually, the community’s opinion won out and both r/’s were closed.
But then a journalist for Gawker decided that shutting down the sections wasn’t enough punishment, did some investigating, and published the name of the jailbait moderator, calling him “the biggest troll on the Web.”
Redditors Don’t Take Kindly To “Doxxing”
The Gawker author committed a cardinal Reddit sin: “doxing.” Doxing is when you out a person, who uses an online alias, on the Internet. Many redditors view doxing as a dangerous form of vigilante justice. More than that, the platform has always taken pride in being a “safe haven for anonymous users.” Doxing doesn’t mix well with those ideals.
To show their displeasure with Gawker, many Reddit moderators have banned Gawker links – and the battle is playing out on tech blogs and websites across the globe.
Is Doxing Illegal?
Wondering if doxing is illegal? Well, there is no simple answer. Each situation is different. For example, doxing can result in a messy lawsuit if the name of the person released is wrong. The person who makes that kind of mistake can take it to the bank that they’ll be slapped with a defamation lawsuit.
In this instance, however, a retired FBI agent told CBS News that neither party engaged in illegal acts.
Need to speak with an attorney that deals in Internet law matters? Contact Aaron Kelly.
Officials in the United Kingdom have made a bold move in the Internet copyright infringement and online piracy battle; they’ve ordered broadband providers to block infamous torrent search engine, The Pirate Bay.
But many feel the High Court’s decision will do little, if anything, to thwart pirates’ online piracy plans.
What Is The Pirate Bay? Why Do Officials Consider It Such An Online Piracy Threat
Nearly every article about online copyright infringement law mentions ubiquitous torrent site, The Pirate Bay. One of the most well-trafficked websites in the world, The Pirate Bay consistently ranks in Alexa’s top 100 worldwide.
Now you may be wondering, “well, if it’s a known site for online piracy, why can’t governments shut them down easily?” The legal crux is in the nature of the website itself. You see, The Pirate Bay does not host any illegal torrents on its servers; it simply acts as a search engine for said torrents. And since many countries legally prescribe to the precedent that linking to material alleged to be in violation of intellectual property statutes is not illegal, it’s tough to find a way to shut down these sites without walking dangerously close to the censorship line.
High Court’s Online Piracy Decision
Despite the fact that The Pirate Bay only acts as a search engine, and does not host the actual infringing content, Justice Arnold of the England and Wales High Court decried that the website “actively encourages copyright infringement” on a “grand scale.” The judge also chastised the site’s operators, saying that they treat “any attempts to prevent [copyright infringement] with contempt.” He also opined that The Pirate Bay was undermining new British musical talent.
And then Judge Arnold dropped the bomb and passed an edict that broadband companies must block The Pirate Bay.
TalkTalk, O2, Virgin Media, Everything Everywhere and Sky have all announced their plans to comply. BT is still reviewing the proposal, but are expected to fall in line as well.
According to various reports, the broadband companies will be using technology similar to pornography blocking software.
Will The UK High Court’s Ruling Effectively Combat Online Piracy?
The question is, though, will the UK High Court’s decision actually succeed in combating online copyright infringement? Most tech-savvy people are saying, “probably not.”
After all, those who actively use torrent sites also know how to block their IP address and other handy illegal downloading tricks of the trade. In fact, TorrentFreak.com has already published an article explaining how users can take advantage of programs like i2p TOR, and other VPN options; they also advocate switching to an open DNS. The UK pirate party has also announced plans to operate a “proxy workaround.”
Moreover, analysts point out that by taking such an extreme action against online piracy, the court has inadvertently made the pirates Robin Hood-esque heroes. Not to mention that this ruling puts the cost onus on the ISPs, not the infringers.
And as they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Since the news broke about shutting down The Pirate Bay in the UK, operators of the site say they have seen 12 million new visitors to the site.
Bottom line: blocking access to torrent sites is going to do very little to stop online piracy. And we can chase the problem with laws all we want to no avail. The truth is that some of these media distributors should probably start looking for more innovative ways to deliver content to the masses more quickly. After all, it’s the Internet-age, and I bet the movie studio or record label that first figures out a way to satiate our instant gratification needs, at a “new economy” price-point, will reap significant financial rewards and turn a large portion of the online pirates into paying customers.
Today, Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed Arizona House Bill 2729 — a piece of legislation concerning firearm freedoms. Being an Internet law firm, though, we’re more curious to see if Gov. Brewer will use the same veto power on Arizona House Bill 2549.
A few weeks ago, the Arizona Legislature angered First Amendment advocates and freedom-loving netizens. Copper State officials poked the “hive mind” by passing Arizona House Bill 2549 – an Act intended to thwart cyberbullying and stalking, has instead caused consternation in free speech circles.
Arizona House Bill 2549 Basics
When you divorce Arizona’s new Internet law from legal analysis, its administrative purpose is to update section 13-2916 of the Arizona Revised Statutes – the state’s long-standing telephone harassment law.
A one-and-a-half-paged piece of legislation, all 2549 does is redact the words “telephone” from the statute and replaces it with “any Electronic or digital device.”
Sounds simple enough, right? After all, everyone agrees that laws need to catch up to our new-fangled communication tools, correct?
Well, not everything is as simple as it seems.
The Language of Arizona House Bill 2549: Harmless or A First Amendment Threat?
Though the ostensible intent of 2549 is noble, the problem with the bill is its lack of definitions. While the updates address the outdated “telephone language,” the surrounding verbiage remains unchanged, and the result is causing a few raised eye-brows amongst legal eagles.
The excerpt attracting attention:
“It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend to use a telephone or any electronic or digital device and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.”
The Internet is the last bastion of free speech…and if there’s one universal online mantra, it’s “what’s crude and lewd for you, may not be crude and lewd for me.” Hence, the concern over Arizona’s new Internet Conduct Law.
Arizona House Bill 2549 also says that “disturbing the peace, quiet or right of privacy of any person at the place where the…Communications were received” is a class 1 misdemeanor; it makes threatening online stalking a class 5 felony and online death threats a class 8 felony.
Arizona’s new Internet Protection Law also defines “immediate family members” as any person who regularly resides with the person in the household within the past six months. A measure undoubtedly included to allow parents to bring charges, on behalf of their children, against cyberbullies.
Proponents Say Speech Is Protected In Arizona Bill 2549
But are the free speech advocates screaming fire when there’s little cause for concern? Advocates of the bill point out that 2549 explicitly states: “’constitutionally protected activity or other activity authorized by the law’ cannot be prosecuted under this statute.”
That said, when it comes to drafting laws, little wiggle room exists. When you change “telephone” to “electronic communications” without definition, the scope of the act widens and falls dangerously close to infringing on personal freedoms. Before, if you were using the telephone to harass someone your target was a specific person. With the Internet, there’s a greater chance that bystanders could view it and be offended. As such, the statute should focus more on the intent, as opposed to the action. The language of the bill should be tweaked to include language surrounding the concept of “harassment.”
For those interested in law redundancies, take note that Arizona already has a computer harassment statute on the books – A.R.S. 13-2921 – which makes illegal “a communication with another person by verbal, electronic, mechanical, telegraphic, telephonic or written means in a manner that harasses.” Makes one wonder: Do we really need two online harassment laws?
The Future Of Cyberbullying Legislation
When asked, state representative and co-sponsor of 2549, Steve Farley, said the intention of the bill was to protect stalking and cyber bully victims. Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, elaborated by explaining he was a “defender of the Constitution like anyone else, but the First Amendment doesn’t give you the right to harass and terrorize someone.”
The clamor surrounding Arizona Bill 2549 has prompted officials to pull-back and tweak the language. When the updated version is released, we’ll see if they listened to objections and incorporated the necessary changes.
And most importantly, we’ll see if Gov. Brewer’s veto pen will get some more exercise.
SOPA is the big online copyright legal story of the year thus far. Which got me thinking about the good ‘ole Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) — the current work-horse of Internet intellectual property law.
In this article we’ll briefly review each bill. So grab a cold one and settle in as we de-construct the various intellectual property laws currently in the news and try to make sense of it all in plain English.
Comparing DMCA and SOPA: What the Heck is DMCA, Anyway?
DMCA, for those of you who don’t obsessively follow the law, is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Thanks to anti-circumvention statues in the bill, the DMCA is the US copyright law that makes it illegal for you or I to manufacture devices or services meant to access or reproduce copyrighted material.
Comparing DMCA and SOPA: Enter SOPA, Y’all
On October 26, 2011, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced as a US bill by Texas (R) Rep. Lamar S. Smith. The bill’s purported original intention was to round up and remove rogue websites from the Internet’s virtual “phone book.” If a site was targeted as “rogue,” the act, as it was written, would make it legal to quickly remove the site from the domain name system — and poof, gone! Now you see ‘er, now you don’t.
Lamar’s plan also included, if necessary, the issuance of court orders to keep payment facilities and advertisers from doing business with the likes of Google, Wikipedia, Facebook. Under SOPA, they would be forced to remove any links to offending websites that allowed any copyright infringing. If they continued to link to those websites that harbored the infringing material, they’d be in danger of being closed down and prosecuted, too.
Comparing DMCA and SOPA: One Bad Apple Don’t Spoil the Whole Bunch!
If one bad apple infringes upon copyrighted material and posts it on a website, the DMCA currently allows “safe harbor” protection to Internet sites from any liability based on the actions of that one bad apple. With that in mind, opponents to SOPA claim the proposed bill threatens innovation and free speech. The enforcement of the laws would block access to entire Internet domains because of one posting on a blog or webpage.
Even libraries have expressed concern that they could be exposed to prosecution. The specters of First Amendment violations and censorship suddenly arise.
You Say You Want a Revolution: Anti-SOPA Day
On January 18, 2012, Reddit, Wikipedia and 7,000 of their closest website friends either closed their doors or otherwise illustrated their protest of the SOPA. They did so with protest banners on their websites in an effort to raise public awareness.
On January 19, self-proclaimed members of Anonymous (a “hacktivist” group) imposed their wills and skills on several pro-SOPA websites like RIAA, CBS.com and more. They shut those bad boys down or slowed them up a bit with denial of service attacks in retaliation for the D.o.J. (Dept. o’ Justice) shutting down Megaupload on that same day.
SOPA: The Post Script
To clarify, rectify and mollify, an aide to Rep. Lamar Smith insisted that an individual posting a video on YouTube of their adorable child adorably singing a copyrighted song would not be considered a felon. Suspiciously, however, the aide did not address the issue of singing parrots, a burning question on the minds of many.
In December, 2011, both bills were tabled indefinitely. It would appear that intellectual property rustlers and renegade rogue websites will have their way with us for now. The DMCA, the prevailing law of the land, will have to stand on its own as the sole guardian to our intellectual property. If history has taught us one thing, however, it is that eternal vigilance is our duty. While it certainly is our God-given right to be naive, it only makes us look bad. Keep your eyes to the skies, the rogues are out there.
On January 18, 2012, thousands of folks settled into their desks for the day, only to find out that many popular websites weren’t working. Even Google had a special message on their homepage. And it all had to do with the Stop Online Piracy Act, a.k.a., SOPA.
The Internet didn’t break that day. It was anti-SOPA day — and many high-profile websites “went dark” for 24 hours to protest against the far-reaching online intellectual property bill that was swiftly making its way through the government.
Like most political issues, there were two sides to the SOPA story — those that fiercely defended the measures, and those who fiercely opposed them. But unlike many political issues, SOPA was not a fight being fought along party lines. Instead, it broke down to Internet businesses, Constitutional watchdogs, the public, and a group of elected officials, against the Motion Picture Association of America, a few other elected officials and a smattering of special interest groups. The first group felt that SOPA threatened Free Speech, and, if passed, would have ushered in an era of online censorship, while the second group felt the bill was necessary to protect American jobs and intellectual property.
Eventually, lawmakers pulled the proposal and that was the end of SOPA. That said, officials are still hard at working trying to craft an online intellectual property law.
The SOPA, Rotten Tomatoes Analysis
SOPA views from opinion makers around the Net. A tomato represents an anti-SOPA standpoint, and the splats…well…you know what the Splats mean.
This one comes to you from the “WTH Files” and Internet censorship in Thailand is the topic at hand…
If you’ve ever seen “Broke Down Palace” or are on team-Schapelle-Corby, then you know how easy it can be for unsuspecting westerners to find themselves in an unfamiliar (and often unforgiving) Thai prison. Traditionally, drugs are to blame when the unlucky land behind Bangkok bars; but this time around, a U.S.-based blogger, Joe Gordon, awakened the ire of the Thai government and is now doing hard time in Thailand.
Internet Censorship in Thailand: Joe Gordon, Defendant
Fifty-four years ago, Joe Gordon (Thai name: Lerpong Wichaicomma) was born in northeastern Thailand. But for about the past 30 years, Joe has been a legal resident of the United States.
This past May, when back in Thailand visiting his place of birth, Joe was arrested by Thai officials. Unlike many western adventurers who, when traveling, find themselves on the wrong side of Thai law, Mr. Gordon’s detainment didn’t deal with drugs or prostitution; instead he was essentially booked for defaming the Thai King on the Internet.
And believe you me, in Thailand, online lese-majeste offenses are taken seriously – so seriously that offenders can be locked up for five plus years!
Internet Censorship in Thailand: King Rama IX, Et Al., Offended Parties
What’s all this lese-majeste stuff about, you ask?
In 2008, lese-majeste (public criticism of a ruling monarchy) regulations were enthusiastically embraced by the Thai government, which invigorated the island nation’s Internet censorship efforts.
Currently, the Royal Thai Police, Communications Authority of Thailand, and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) all monitor online activity concerning pornography, Thai royals, and government officials. And while an official blocked IP-Address list is made available to the public, reports indicate that a list of criteria by which websites are judged is not as readily available.
Who is Thailand’s Lese-Majeste-Fighting Monarch?
Meet Bhumibol Adulyadej, aka “King Rama IX,” or simply “Lek” to his close friends and family.
Some interesting Jeopardy facts about King Bhumibol: he’s the world’s wealthiest monarch (with an impressive financial portfolio estimated at 30 billion), he’s been on the Thai throne since 1946 and he’s generally well-loved by his subjects. Interestingly enough, for the past two years, King Rama IX has been confined to a hospital bed – but his longstanding illness sure isn’t affecting his battle against alleged online defamation.
Internet Censorship in Thailand: Joe Gordon Trial and Verdict
What, exactly, was the Internet act that landed Joe Gordon in a steaming pile of defamation, you ask?
Gordon posted several excerpts from Paul M. Handley’s book, “The King Never Smiles” on the Internet. Handley’s manuscript is one which Thai censorship watchdogs deem critical of King Rama IX, and therefore posting translations of it on the Net is illegal in Thailand.
In any event, back to Gordon. Thai censorship workers made note of the online defamation infringement, and when Gordon traveled to Thailand for a visit this past May, cops were waiting to make an arrest.
At first, Gordon denied the charges. But after several months of protesting, the US-national plead guilty.
Arnon Nampa, Gordon’s lawyer, explained the decision matter-of-factly: “We all have to choose between the rule of law or freedom.” Nampa went on to explain that his client eventually realized that no matter what, fighting the case would have automatically landed him another year in jail without bail – and jail time is something Gordon is trying to reduce at all costs.
Internet Censorship Lawsuit Sentencing
Last Thursday, Gordon was sentenced to two years in jail. Presiding Thai judge, Tawan Rodcharoen, explained that if it hadn’t been for Gordon’s guilty plea, it would have been a five-year sentence.
Elizabeth Pratt, consul general of the U.S. Embassy, called the verdict “troubling” and voiced concern about the severity of the sentence. In a statement published by the NYT, Pratt was sure to mention her “full respect for the [Thai] monarchy,” before concluding that “freedom of expression,” is an “internationally recognized human right.”
According to the same article, Gordon has applied for a royal pardon, and as a result, can’t speak much about his Internet censorship lawsuit with reporters.
Do you need legal assistance or a professional opinion with an Internet censorship issue? If yes, contact Kelly Law today. To keep up with the latest in Internet censorship news, sign up for our newsletter.
India’s got some new, draconian Interne law rules. Netizens and human rights advocates are slamming it as an attack on free speech.
India’s Free Speech-Unfriendly Blog Laws
Under the new guidelines, anyone — private citizen or political party — can request bans on websites that contain “objectionable material”. The criteria for objectionable content include, but are not limited to:
- Threats to the sovereign integrity of India,
- The security of the state,
- Friendly relations with foreign states, and
- Public order.
Sweeping Law Language Leads to Free Speech Infringement Fears
In theory, the move seems justified, but actual practice unearths many of its problems. For starters, objectionable content is 100% subjective, which means it can be used to censor or prohibit topics. The move also severely limits bloggers’ ability to post unpopular opinions, or to jump start a good debate.
Worse, web content is often taken down without any explanation, leaving site owners with no recourse to defend themselves, or gain third party adjudication for their case. Social networking sites like Facebook or YouTube, for example, must take down what Indian law has declared unfit for web surfers within 36 hours — and the web content owner can’t appeal.