Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dozier Internet Law: The Sky is Falling?

As usual, John Dozier, leading Internet Attorney - writes very interesting articles and Blogs. Yes, things are changing in Cyberspace -more and more people will be held accountable for their keystrokes - whether they are text messages, or IM's - get ready - a change is coming.

Source: Dozier Internet Law - by John Dozier

I keep seeing briefs from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Citizen, and a lot of apparently ill-informed "professors" imploring the Judges to, in effect, agree with them in cases or the Internet will collapse. At Dozier Internet Law we even have a name for them..."chicken little briefs". So before the sky falls, let me point out that these free speechers and civil libertarian types keep submitting briefs advising of our imminent demise if they do not win. Has anyone mentioned to them that they keep losing, but the Internet is still here?

The sky is really falling? Now this mantra has been carried out into the non-lawyer public arena and people are actually repeating this jibberish. The MySpace Suicide conviction is a good case on point. The argument is that if you allow a website to dictate the terms of use of its site, and criminalize the unauthorized "outside of terms" uses, it will cause everyone to stop using the web because of fear of criminal prosecution. This power to establish terms is without precedent, the argument goes.

Therefore, the Courts should take the law passed by Congress and signed by the President and change it. Considering the roles our branches of government play this is a philosophically corrupt argument. It also makes no sense whatsover. Without precedent??? Are you kidding me? Okay, I can accept the fact that EFF, ACLU and Public Citizen have an agenda and bias and prejudice is expected. But these "law professors" should know better. Here's why:

If you break your rental car agreement and don't return it, you have violated the rental car company's "terms of use". Who reads those things? And it is grand larceny.

If you buy a software program, copy it and begin selling copies contrary to the license terms (which no one reads), then it is criminal copyright infringement.

Those are just two of what could be a long, long list. Because "unauthorized use" is a basic element that is often used to show the "mens rea" (latin for "guilty mind") in order to convict someone. So, the MySpace suicide conviction is nothing more than a continuation of the law. This is pretty elementary and is usually covered in the first year of law school. But then it hit me..."law professors" with enough time on their hands to interject themselves into pending cases all around the country probably aren't teaching first year law school classes.

People are still renting cars the last time I checked. Apparently software programs are still being used too! Is everyone worried that if they violate the "terms of use" (contracts or licenses) they'll end up in prison? No. Because decent, law-abiding people know that if they don't act in a reckless, outrageous, grossly irresponsible way they will be safe. And that belief works just fine.

Well, the verdict is in and the defendant has been convicted. I don't see any panic online. Websites are still processing Christmas orders. Dozier Internet Law clients don't seem besides themselves with fear.

I did notice, though, that Friday night the moon was really bright and large. And I thought, just maybe, the sky was falling! I can picture 1,000 years ago..."chicken little" characters running through a town creating widespread panic with doomsday declarations and imploring the masses to run for the hills..."imminent catastrophic demise is upon us-the sky is falling!", they would cry.

Sounds familiar.

Fortunately there is a very logical, rational explanation...I saw online that it was the lunar perigee. Happens every 15 or 20 years. And I then imagined a learned astronomer going into the panicked streets of long ago and telling everyone that there is no emergency, "doomsday is not upon us, so take off your boots and forget about climbing those hills, the sky is not falling, there is no catastrophe, and you can all safely return to your homes."

He turns, wipes the sweat off his brow, gives me a wink, shakes his head in disapproval of the situation, and as he is greeted by his colleague I hear him whisper..."it's just those damn professors again".