From The Dialy Oklahoman Newspaper, September 27, 1993, Page 1: COMPUTER PORN CASE TRIGGER

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From The Dialy Oklahoman Newspaper, September 27, 1993, Page 1: COMPUTER PORN CASE TRIGGERS LEGAL QUESTIONS By David Zizzo, Staff Writer Is talking to Anthony Davis hazardous to your health? In a manner of speaking, that's what numerous people with computers and modems apparently have been worrying about since late July. That's when Oklahoma City police raided Davis' software publishing firm and confiscated his sophisticated commercial computer bulletin board system. Authorities allege Davis was selling pornographic computerized materials on CD-ROM and through files downloaded over phone lines. Names of everyone who signed onto Davis' bulletin board service, those who downloaded or uploaded graphic files depicting sexual acts and those who didn't are in the hands of investigators. After the arrest, Earl Faubion, a police officer who runs a law enforcement oriented computer bulletin board system, got numerous inquiries from worried users. "There are a lot of people concerned," Faubion said. Many who used Davis' system for months and have been asking, "Am I in trouble?" Faubion, who ironically channeled much of his computer system's private mail through Davis' system before it was shut down, tells users that's out of his area of expertise. Bill Holmes, Davis' attorney, said bulletin board system operators fear their computers will be seized along with the electronic mail inside. The Davis bust sent a chill throughout the national computer community, said Jack Rickard, editor and publisher of Boardwatch magazine, a bulletin board newsletter published in Littleton, Colo. "It's causing chaos," he said. Rickard said Oklahoma City is being viewed "a little bit like clown city" in computer circles, since the explicit material Davis offered can be purchased in nearly every computer magazine and is carried by numerous bulletin boards. "This is off the shelf," he said. "It's considered pretty mundane stuff." Widespread availability is not a defense, however, attorney Holmes said. The allegedly illegal material was contained on four read-only memory compact discs and represented only a fraction of information offered by Davis. Oklahoma City police referred questions on the Davis case to the district attorney's office. An assistant prosecutor handling the case referred questions to District Attorney Bob Macy, who did not return several phone calls. The bust will test Oklahoma laws on "community standards" regarding pornography, said Mike Godwin, attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Washington, D.C., advocacy group is funded by donors that include large software companies. "When you talk about community standards, who's the real community?" Godwin wonders. "Is it the city or ... the community of people on-line?" Holmes, a former Cleveland County prosecutor, calls Oklahoma's pornography law "an extremely broad statute." "I'm not sure it wouldn't include Playboy or Penthouse type publications," he said. Legal experts say Oklahoma's law appears aimed against sale or distribution of pornographic material. That leaves some to wonder whether passing a free copy to a friend constitutes distribution. Part of the law also appears to make possession a crime, but U.S. Supreme Court rulings have backed an individual's right to own such material, Holmes said. Also, free speech guarantees likely would protect those who use words to describe pornographic acts, he said. Explicit materials depicting children are covered under much stricter laws, but Davis' CDs contained no such material. Apart from the pornography question is the issue of electronic mail seized with Davis' computer equipment, correspondence most legal experts say is protected by federal law. Davis' computer was part of a large electronic mail system that shuttled messages across the country. Critics of the bust say likely lawsuits over the mail might show the government "has bitten off more than it can chew." They point to a case in Austin where the owner of a computer won a $50,000 damage award over E-mail seized by the Secret Service. The government also was liable for $1,000 for each user of the E-mail. In Davis' case, that could be up to 2,000 clients, or $2 million. "The city of Oklahoma City could be on the hook for that," Rickard said. Critics also say police over reached in grabbing Davis' entire system, shutting down his pay-for-play computer service, because of four CDs. Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of the system, which includes a 13 gigabyte memory unit and 10 high speed modems. "They don't have to seize it any more than they have to seize the building when they confiscate a bookstore," said Godwin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


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