From Boardwatch Magazine, written by Jack Rickard OKLAHOMA BBS RAIDED ON PORNOGRAPHY CHARG
From Boardwatch Magazine, written by Jack Rickard
OKLAHOMA BBS RAIDED ON PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES
The legal assault on bulletin boards continues this month with a raid by
Oklahoma City Police Department Vice Division on Tony Davis's OKLAHOMA
INFORMATION EXCHANGE BBS and his associated Mid-America Digital Publishing
About 4:00 PM on July 20, four officers of the Oklahoma City Police Department
arrived at the offices of Mid-America Digital Publishing with a search warrant
for "pornographic CD-ROMs." Davis was arrested on suspicion of the sale and
distribution of pornographic CD-ROM disks. Of the 2000 CD ROM disks available
on site, they confiscated about 50 disks, and an estimated $75,000 worth of
equipment Davis runs his 10-line OKLAHOMA INFORMATION EXCHANGE BBS on. The
equipment including two computers with gigabyte hard drives, two Pioneer
6-disk drives, four single CD ROM drives, 10 High Speed Hayes modems, Novell
network software and associated hardware, etc.
Apparently, an undercover agent had contacted Mid-America Digital Publishing
on two occasions and purchased CD-ROM disks containing adult material from the
company. At the raid, Davis cooperated with the police showing them whatever
they wanted to see, and even removing four disks from CD-ROMS on the BBS
machine and showing them to the police. Curiously, these were standard
off-the-shelf CD ROM collections NOT published by Davis, including "Busty
Babes", "For Adults Only #2," "For Adults Only #3", and "Storm II". More
curiously, the police themselves put the disks BACK into the BBS in order to
video tape callers accessing the files on the disks.
Videotape seemed to play a major role in the raid. Department employees
filmed the entire raid, and released the film to the press which played it on
all three local tv network affiliate stations.
Despite Davis' notification, none of the specific procedures required by
federal law (Privacy Protection Act) when serving search warrants on
publishers was followed, and no acknowledgement or even apparent cognizance of
the Electronic Communications Privacy Act made when notified of the electronic
mail for some 2000 BBS users available on the system. OKLAHOMA INFORMATION
EXCHANGE carries some 750 FidoNet conferences, an additional 750 Usenet
Newsgroups, and offers callers private FidoNet mail and Internet mail and
actually hubs mail for other bulletin board systems as well.
Ironically, Davis DID have a thriving CD-ROM publishing business that produces
the Magnum series of CD-ROM's including "Magnum 1," "Magnum Games and
Windows," and "Magnum Sight and Sound." But NONE of Davis's own titles had
ANY adult material on them at all - they are entirely "G" rated titles. The
CD-ROMS of interest to the Oklahoma City Police were all titles by other
publishers that Davis resold.
Davis was released on bail of $4500 and faced arraignment on August 3rd. No
formal charges were brought on that date, and the prosecutor asked for a delay
with no specific new date brought. One complication that has already arisen,
aside from the blatant infractions of the PPA and ECPA, was that the warrant
was fairly specific about CD-ROM discs. The seizure of the BBS equipment
appears to be outside the scope of the warrant - a perhaps unfortunate
improvisation by the officers at the scene.
And Davis may have been the wrong person to pick as a test case. A fairly
mature, strong willed individual with some financial resource, Davis is
represented by Attorney William R. Holmes. While we could not entice him to
speak directly to the case, he did not seem a happy camper, and didn't seem
too cowed by it all at this point. With the very public televised bust, the
city appears to be in the difficult position of now wishing it would all go
away without a lawsuit, and no real way to get there from here.
All possible charges relate to Oklahoma State statutes against obscenity.
Located in the heart of the Bible Belt, this could be serious. A penalty of up
to $5000 and 5 years in prison per infraction is possible. If you count each
file on a CD-ROM as an infraction, Mr. Davis could in theory be facing over a
100,000 years in jail and nearly a $100 million in fines - another contrast
between technological reality and our legal system. From what we understand,
in Oklahoma, it is technically illegal to actually BE naked at any time when
not actually getting wet somehow, and some legal theorists posit that HBO and
Showtime cable television channels are actually infractions under the state
laws as written.
The future of Oklahoma Information Exchange BBS is unknown, and Davis himself
was unable to comment on the arrest. Mid-America Digital Publishing, 1501 SE
66 St., Suite E, Oklahoma City, OK 73149; (405)677-6136 voice; (405)677-9663
fax; (405)670-6900 BBS.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank