(10771) Fri 21 Feb 92 11:57a
By: Langston Goldfinch
To: John Souvestre
Re: Re: In-Transit netmail
@MSGID: 1:396/17 29a54241
@REPLY: 1:396/1 29a44bdb
Dear John, et all:
The following is excerpted from the Dec 91 issue of Boardwatch Mag.
LEGALLY on LINE by Lance Rose
The CompuServe Case - A Federal Court Recognizes Sysop Rights.
(excerpts as apply to our current discussion)
In October a Manhattan Federal Court ruled that CompuServe was not absolutely
responsible for libelous statements made by others in public areas. CS was held
to be a "distributor" of the materials in question not a "publisher." As such
CS does NOT need to MONITOR all material made available on its system. This is
because the burden of monitoring would seriously slow down or perhaps destroy
the business. (the details had to do with a newsletter carried on CS. lg.)
This ruling protects Sysops and BBS' and would apply to:
1. Electronic newsletters carried by the BBS but published by others.
2. Files, especially text, image, and database, transferred through the system.
3. Shared public message systems such as FidoNet (etc) where the system does
not control content but merely helps distribute to users and other BBS'
4. E-Mail sent within and through the BBS.
The ruling holds the person who uploads the material to be responsible. It
refutes those who would treat the BBS as scapegoats for the illegal or
irresponsible acts of those who perpetrate them.
Not all questions were resolved. BBS' that maintain internal message bases
where the Sysop freely deletes or moves messages to promote certain kind of
discussions. Use of a heavy editorial hand can make the message area look like
it is PUBLISHED by the BBS rather than "distributed". First amendment rights of
publishers are different from those of distributors. (especially liability and
The court went on to suggest that programs (executable files, most shareware)
were not in the same category as database, text, and image files with greater
first amendment concerns. Executable files are more like "hardware" in their
distribution rights. There is little first amendment protection for hammer and
It is hoped that future cases will clarify and protect the rights of Sysops and
other BBS users.
--- GoldED 2.31p+
* Origin: --> New Orleans, Louisiana. <-- (FidoNet 1:396/17)