Computer underground Digest Wed Jun 28, 1995 Volume 7 : Issue 54 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: J

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Computer underground Digest Wed Jun 28, 1995 Volume 7 : Issue 54 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU Archivist: Brendan Kehoe Shadow Master: Stanton McCandlish Field Agent Extraordinaire: David Smith Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala Ian Dickinson la Triviata: Which wine goes best with Unix? CONTENTS, #7.54 (Wed, Jun 28, 1995) File 1--More information about the Wish Book BBS(fwd) File 2--Against Intellectual Property.. File 3-- 3,000 AOL Computer Users to be Raided File 4--Obscenity in Cyberspace File 5--Cato Study Release: Exon bill would "lobotomize the Internet" File 6--Cu Digest Header Info (unchanged since 19 Apr, 1995) CuD ADMINISTRATIVE, EDITORIAL, AND SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION APPEARS IN THE CONCLUDING FILE AT THE END OF EACH ISSUE. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 08:10:00 -0500 (CDT) From: David Smith Subject: File 1--More information about the Wish Book BBS(fwd) ---------- Forwarded message ---------- at #EMAIL Organization: The Wish Book BBS (602)258-7113/Phoenix, Az. Dear friends, This letter is to inform you of the ongoing saga of the State of Arizona against Lorne Shantz of The Wish Book BBS. PLEASE, repost this to anyone and everyone that you want to. Don't bother to ask permission, just do it! For moderators: if you see this message and it isn't in your conference and you want it there, please copy it over to that conference! As some of you may have already heard... There was a hearing to dismiss or remand the case on the 22nd June. The judge ordered the case remanded back to the Grand Jury. This means the county attornies office will have to start over! They will be able to use the same evidence but they have to go back to the grand jury. If any of you are unfamiliar with the AOP, as SYSOP's, should maybe become aware of what they are and who they represent. The Association of On-line proffesionals defends SYSOPS's. That is their claim to fame. From the capital, to local issues. Many don't know this. What follows is an article that Mr. Dave McClure is releasing in the AOP Newsletter. He can be reached at At the end of his news article is the defense fund info for any of you that may have missed it and would like to help us defend Lorne Shantz against this mess. The legal bills are staggering not to mention he is fired and hasn't been able to get a job. He NEEDS your help badly! ========================================================= =By Dave McClure IN OLD ARIZONA Lorne Shantz has spent the last 15 years as an Arizona State Trooper. He's a decent, law-abiding citizen who worked hard to build a popular, well run and legal BBS. What they're doing to him in Arizona is a crime. In Maricopa County, prosecutors are trying to convict Shantz on a variety of obscenity charges that could send him to jail for life. The outcome of the trial may be a moot point -- they've already ruined him financially, seized his system and gotten him fired from his job as an officer of the Arizona Department of Public Safety and pilot for three former governors. His reputation has been smeared almost beyond repair. Two years ago, the county opened the investigation based on the allegations made by a snitch. The allegations were that The Wish Book BBS Shantz has operated sicne 1988, had illegal copies of Microsoft software. The Investigation did turn up a copy of the MS mouse driver. Microsoft rightly requested that Shantz cease and desist, and he apologized for the oversight and removed the offending file. It should have ended there. But in a county with a prosecutor up for reelection, the case has taken a nasty turn. Based on other allegations, investigators went looking for obscene pictures. They didn't find any. Shantz had tough policies about uploads, restricted access by minors and generally did everything required to run a clean system. Not deterred by this lack of evidence, they raided the premises last November and seized the BBS. After carefully weeding through the 9 gigabytes or so of files, they still found nothing. Except some CD-ROMs. The Wish Book Had 20 of them online, the usual blend of shareware and adult pictures that can be purchased anywhere through leading computer magazines. The prosecutor found images on the CD-ROM that Shantz didn't even know were there. Beastiality files, defection files and a few of unidentified females whose thigh might belong to a person under the age of 18. Not many files, a few out of thousands. Most sysops run such CD-ROMS on their BBS systems. They do so in the belief that because CDs are openly sold everywhere, they offer some protection against undesirable or obscene content. Not so, in this case. What's disturbing about this case is that is isn't about obscenity or a major offense -- even the prosecutor's office characterizes the case as a minor point of law. It's about pride and reelection. They tried to bust the BBS for copyright infringement, and didn't have a case. They looked for obscenity on the BBS and came up dry. But after spending two years and untold thousands of taxpayers dollars, they can't afford to let it drop -- if they don't slam him with a major felony, someone is bound to ask why they are wasting dollars to prosecute this case instead of real crimes. Lorne Shantz isnt' a pornographer. He's not a panderer of obscenity, or kiddie-porn, or illegal software. He's a clean SysOp and a good cop whose reputation has been mangled by a snitch looking for a reduced sentence and a prosecutor too proud to do the right thing. Is the prosecutor's pride -- Or reelection -- worth a man's reputation? We don't think so. That's why AOP has decided to step into the case in support of Lorne Shantz. ============================================================= End of article The defense fund info for any wishing to help Lorne Shantz out: The defense fund is called the "Lorne Shantz Defense Fund." The address is c/o Jeff Adcock, P.O. Box 273, Litchfield Park, Az. 85340, or call Jeff Adcock (brother-in-law) at 602-877-9638. We accept money, checks, credit cards, anything. Please, we need your help and we need your support. (if you choose to use a credit card, you will need to go through the credit card door at the BBS numbers listed below) 602-258-7113 602-252-4472 ------------------------------ Date: 27 Jun 1995 16:07:17 +1000 From: "Brian Martin" Subject: File 2--Against Intellectual Property.. From--S. Keith Graham Date--Thu, Jun 22, 1995 8:47 ============================================================ Overall, your article appears to be fairly well researched and persuasive, but a couple of points: While trademarks can be abused, they are much narrower than any of the other forms of intellectual property. Much like the "Right of Attribution", trademarks provide the consumer some assurance of the quality and contents of a product. (And trademarks are fundamental in markets well afield of the "information marketplace.") Your essay didn't mention trademarks (outside of the initial list of types of property), so I don't have any idea where you stand on trademarks. (For whatever its worth, I've heard that the Former Soviet Union considers establishing a system of trademark to be a very high priority, because without it, competition in any marketplace is impossible.) I believe that, without a right of attribution/trademark, a marketplace simply can not function. Second, in the environment you suggest, I don't see how a movie like _Jurrasic_Park_ could ever get made. The large works, that require tens of millions of dollars to be "fronted", would not have a visible mechanism to reclaim their investment. (Well, it is possible that the theaters could be owned by the film producers, and every effort made by the film producers to prevent illicit copies being made; but this is applying physical copy protection which is counter to your proposals.) So how do you propose the money travel from those interested in seeing such a movie into the hands of those who (might) be making that movie in the future? Or how do you propose that the investors will regain their investments (plus a profit for risk) after release? (Similiar arguements can be made for other large, tightly coordinated efforts such as large, integrated software projects.) (A copyright of a few years would however, cover the initial release, home video sales, cable release, and public network release which comprises the majority of the profit related to your average movie. This might be a much better situation than the current "life+50". And it is more than sufficient for the lifetime of most software products.) Third, without all information producers being employees of the public, I don't see a method whereby money can get from the consumers to the producers. (And I believe that making information producers employees of the government is not in anyone's best interests.) Last, in a free economy, if "raw data" is equally available, non-entertainment data will be provided as close to "cost" (including labor of the preparers) as possible. If there is a market for hyper-text versions of the U.S. Code of Laws, several companies will each lower their prices until the net result is "at cost" information. This does assume, however, that the raw data is equally available. (And copyright does give them the ability to protect their investment in converting the raw data into useful information. Without that protection, the copier has a much lower cost than the producer, and the producer has no source of income since he can't eliminate that portion of his costs.) Again, since in most fields, "raw data" is quickly out of date, a short term copyright is sufficient. Last, the compensation of entertainers (and other works) should be representative of the *quality* of their work, just as in other fields. If the market judges an author's work of much higher quality, I have no objection to their being compensated at a much higher rate than others. (Similiary, I will pay more for a higher quality car than for a car from a company that is known for reliability problems.) And in a world with limited resources, I don't see any kind of serious social changes like the ones you suggest. All of your arguments based on such social changes are, unfortionately, overcome by that fact. However, shortening the copyright term (or otherwise altering the copyright law to encourage more free-flowing information) can be successfully argued from the current social model. If you choose to go for another round of revisions, I'd strongly suggest an approach based on the current economic model (and suggestions for changes that may perhaps influence that model) rather than looking for an "alternative history" of what might have been. Keith Graham ============================================================ ******************** Reply by Brian Martin Keith Graham raises some intriguing and challenging points concerning intellectual property. * He is quite correct that I concentrated on copyright and patents and not on trademarks, which are not such a source of exploitation. Just a few comments. Trademarks can used in ways that have little to do with quality assurance. For example, when the holders of the trademarks in the Olympic rings or Jurassic Park license their symbols for use with toys or hamburger chains, it says very little about quality. It's also amusing to see green groups scrambling to register "Green Party", as if holding the legal right to a word certifies a group's greenness. Peter Drahos made the point to me that trademarks are valuable to consumers when they indicate the origin of goods, but that trafficking in trademarks -- selling and buying them -- should be opposed. A movie like Jurassic Park be made without copyright laws? This is a tricky question since it assumes the value of the movie Jurassic Park and ignores the other movies that might be produced if such a large slab of money did not go to a single project. In other words, it ignores the opportunity cost of Jurassic Park. Another point is that Jurassic Park is more than a movie -- it is a marketing package. It is planned as a combined marketing operation involving movie, toys, T-shirts and all sorts of commercial spinoffs. It is by no means obvious that such an enterprise, which is built on intellectual property, is an efficient or wise way to allocate economic resources. There are other possible ways to imagine large investments in movie and other projects. For example, viewers of a previous feature or a short might be asked to contribute a small amount toward sponsoring a certain director or project. However, the most important point is that intellectual property benefits large corporations and large projects at the expense of others. Without intellectual property, there would be an enormous diversification of production, with many local and indigenous enterprises becoming viable. The difficulty is that it's only possible to see what is produced now, not what is *not* available now due to intellectual property. * Today, very few information producers make a living directly from their personal ownership of information. Almost all intellectual property is owned by large organisations (government or corporate). For those few writers or inventors who rely on royalties, it is possible to imagine a number of alternative economic models to provide a livelihood. One possibility is a guaranteed annual income (provided by government or by a local community). Another is for writers to rely more on journalism, which happened in the 1800s when there was no copyright in the US. Another is for authors to obtain payments based on the number of copies of their books in libraries, as currently operates in a number of countries; this "public lending right" scheme could also operate without copyright. Another possibility is for writers and inventors to request "subscriptions" to support work on their next project. This is the way many "alternative" journals operate today, depending as much on contributions as on subscriptions. * Today, some entertainers actually like pirate tapes of their concerts to be made and distributed. This increases their visibility, increases sales of future releases and increases audiences at concerts. * I agree that shortening copyright terms makes a lot of sense. For movies most of the money comes in during the first few weeks or months. For television and radio, post-broadcast sales usually are a minor consideration. So why have copyright terms been increasing? The most plausible explanation is that the institution of intellectual property is being used by vested interests against the common good. If rational reform was a reasonable prospect, then I probably wouldn't bother making a case against intellectual property. It is because intellectual property is so readily used to exploit those who can least afford it -- especially third world peoples -- that think that it would be better to abolish intellectual property altogether. * Peter Drahos, a lawyer who has studied the politics of intellectual property, things the term "intellectual property" is itself misleading. He thinks "monopoly privilege in ideas" is a better description of what's involved. It's by no means obvious that economic efficiency is best promoted by a legally guaranteed right of monopoly use over years or decades. * My view is that extension of property rights to information is neither inevitable nor necessarily beneficial. My case is against intellectual property altogether. If others want to push for shorter copyright terms and other such changes, that's fine too. There's no single correct answer or strategy. ------------------------------ Date: Mon, 26 Jun 95 16:48:35 EDT From: Jon Hagee Subject: File 3-- 3,000 AOL Computer Users to be Raided This might be a correction on the "30,000" to be raided story. Here's what I believe was mentioned on the Limbaugh show: * Today's USA Today has the following short story which Rush referred to before the hour: "The FBI intends to raid the homes and businesses of more than 3,000 people who are suspected of viewing child pornography on their computers, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The FBI began the investigation after discovering some America Online customers violated federal law by posting electronic-mail pictures of naked children, some engaged in sex acts with adults and animals. The FBI would not comment on the report. No date was given for the raids, expected within a few weeks." I didn't see the Cincinnati newspaper. You might want to check that out also. ------------------------------ Date: Thu, 22 Jun 1995 18:35:39 CST From: pmarks@CCTR.UMKC.EDU Subject: File 4--Obscenity in Cyberspace OBSCENITY IN CYBERSPACE [The following post is adapted from a paper on the Thomas AABBS case that has been well-publicized in CuD. I thought newer reader who are wondering might want to see what the issues are and what the fuss is about. Right now, we are facing serious threats to civil liberties brought on by near-hysteria over "bad things" net users might or might not engage in. The best way to guard against overreaction is to be well-informed and then act as watchdogs over the legislature.] [Oh yes. The following post does contain explicit language that may be offensive to some individuals .... if rash develops, discontinue use.] ABSTRACT In 1994, many users of the Internet were alarmed when a jury in Memphis, Tennessee convicted Robert and Carleen Thomas on charges of transmitting obscene images via computer modem from a bulletin board service they operated in Miltipas, California. The case sets a precedent in federal court and expands the definition of "local community standards" into the generally unregulated realm of computer based communications. This paper focuses attention on First Amendment freedom and the implications of this case in "cyberspace." INTRODUCTION Robert and Carleen Thomas, of Miltipas, California operated the Amateur Action Bulletin Board Service (AABBS) which offered sexually explicit images to members who filled out an application and paid a subscription fee. The images were stored on their BBS computer in Graphic Interchange File (GIF) format and could be transferred to a member's computer for viewing only by using a computer modem and standard telephone lines. The GIF files so obtained could be seen as images on a computer screen with the appropriate software. FACTS OF THE CASE In March of 1991, the San Jose Police Department conducted an undercover investigation of Robert and Carleen Thomas resulting in a search warrant alleging trafficking in obscene material and child pornography. On January 20, 1992 San Jose, California police raided the home of Robert and Carleen Thomas seizing all of their computer equipment, video tapes, and records. According to investigators Greg Gunsky and Mark McIninch, since no child pornography was found, all confiscated equipment was returned and no charges were filed. (CuD, Vol. 4: Issue 09, Feb. 28, 1992 and Vol. 6: Issue 33, Apr. 14, 1994.) On July 10, 1993, Postal Inspectors in Memphis contacted the AABBS by computer. They determined that the system operator (SysOp) was offering to sell computer GIF images of young girls via modem transmission over interstate telephone lines. [There appears to be a discrepancy here since by the wording of the affidavit for warrant, the investigation began in advance of the citizen complaint.] On July 26, 1993, Postal Inspectors in Memphis received a complaint from an unnamed citizen who identified himself as an avid computer "hacker." He stated that he had encountered a computer bulletin board system (BBS) offering photos and videos of nude children, named the Amateur Action bulletin Board System (AABBS). On August 20, 1993, Postal Inspector David H. Dirmeyer, in Memphis, using a computer contacted the AABBS using the phone number provided by the citizen hacker. Using the fictitious name Lance White, he mailed a completed application form to the California address indicated. On August 26, 1993, Dirmeyer (as Lance White) gained membership and began a standard "sting" operation. He traded messages with Thomas indicating that he had hard-core pornographic materials Thomas might be interested in. >From September 3 to October 19, 1993 inspector Dirmeyer downloaded the following GIF files from AABBS: AA-L2209.GIF "HE FUCKS A PIG! SHE FUCKS A DOG AND A HUGE PIG! KINKY" AA-12217.GIF "KINKY! HORNY GIRLS SUCK HORSES! BIG HORSE COCK IN HER TWAT!" AA-08589.GIF "SHE SUCKS HER SON'S COCK! FATHER IS FUCKING HIS DAUGHTER" AA-8278.GIF "FULL SCREEN VIEW! A HAIRLESS PUSSY NAILED TO A TABLE!" AA-7153.GIF "MOTHER IS WATCHING HER DAUGHTER FUCK BIG COCK! NO TITS!" AA-8682.GIF "HE MAKES HIS DAUGHTER SUCK COCK! SHE IS FISTING HER SISTER" AA-11935.GIF "HE FUCKS HIS DAUGHTERS HAIRLESS CUNT! SHE FISTS HER MOTHER!" AA-15198.GIF "BLONDE LOLITA HAS NO TITS! SUCKS HUGE COCK AND DRINKS SPERM!" AA-13216.GIF "PUSSY PENETRATION! HORNY BRUNETTE GETS FUCKED BY A HORSE!" AA-13517.GIF "HORNY BLONDE JACKS OFF HORSE! HORSE CUM ON HER HAND!" AA-13521.GIF "CLOSE-UP! BIG HORSE COCK IN HER CUNT! HORSE CUM ON HER LEG" AA-16587.GIF "SHE SUCKS THICK DOG COCK! DOG SPERM ON HER LIPS AND CHIN" AA-17623.GIF "YOUNG ASIAN HAS A THICK CLIT! DRINKS PISS FROM AN UNCUT COCK!" On January 6, 1994 Postal Inspector David H. Dirmeyer filed an affidavit for a search warrant of the property of Robert and Carleen Thomas. (CuD, Vol. 6: Issue 33, Apr. 14, 1994.) On January 15, 1994 in a conversation with H. Keith Henson of San Jose, California inspector Dirmeyer stated that it was a "normal investigative procedure" to send unsolicited child pornography to an investigation target and then execute a search warrant within minutes of its receipt. (CuD, Vol. 6: Issue 35, Apr. 19, 1994) On January 25, 1994 a Federal Grand Jury in Memphis Tennessee indicted Robert and Carleen Thomas of several obscenity charges including six counts of transporting computer generated images from California to Tennessee in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1465. On February 3, 1994 the Thomas's were arrested in California by US Postal Inspectors (Ducar, Frank L., US Postal Inspection Service News Release, San Francisco, CA, Feb. 3, 1994). On July 21, 1994 the Thomas' were indicted on separate child pornography charges in Salt Lake City, Utah. They were charged on eleven counts of sexual exploitation of minors involving the AABBS. (Conley, Chris. The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN, Jul. 23, 1994) On July 28, 1994 the Memphis jury told the District Judge that they split on two counts. The judge ordered them to deliberate for a third day on the remaining counts involving interstate transport of obscenity and child pornography. On July 29, 1994 Robert and Carleen Thomas were convicted on 11 counts of transmitting obscenity through interstate phone lines via their members-only computer bulletin board. Each count carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Thomases remained free on $ 20,000 bail. No sentencing date was set. (Corrigan, Patricia and AP. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Jul. 29, 1994) On December 2, 1994 Judge Julia Gibbons of Federal District Court sentenced Robert Thomas to three years and one month in prison. His wife, Carleen, received two and a half years. Federal sentencing rules require them to serve the full terms. (Associated Press. "Jail for couple over computer pornography" The New York Times, New York, Dec. 3, 1994, Sec 1: Page 9, Col. 3) THE FIRST AMENDMENT ISSUES The US Supreme Court decision in the case of Miller v. California, 413 US 15 (1973) established a three part test to determine if material is obscene and therefore not protected by the First Amendment: a. Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest. b. Whether the work depicts or describes in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct, which may be specifically defined by applicable state law and which may include but not be limited to: 1. Patently offensive representations or descriptions of ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated. 2. Patently offensive representations or descriptions of masturbation, excretory functions and lewd exhibition of the genitals. c. Whether the work taken as a whole lacks serious artistic, political, literary, or scientific value. The postal investigators used the local community standards of the Western District of Tennessee to meet tests (a) and (b) since that is the location where the transmitted images were received, and (c) was determined by the "reasonable person" test (once again, using the community standards of Memphis). This decision was in many was unsatisfactory because the court avoided the sticky issue of defining obscenity, instead, each local jurisdiction must establish its own standard. Obviously, standards vary widely from one community to another. The editors of the CuD expressed worry that "if a text, gif, or other file is legal in one state, what are the implications of such a file is accessed by someone from another state where the file(s) may not be legal? Given the permeable borders of cyberspace, can prosecutors apply local laws to other states and thereby invoke federal law enforcement power? If so, this could mean that the most restrictive laws in one jurisdiction are the de facto threshold of legal tolerance universally. (Thomas, Jim and Meyer, Gordon, eds. The CuD, Apr. 14, 1994, Vol. 6: Issue 33) In a CNN interview Robert Thomas and his attorney Richard Williams told correspondent Brian Cabell they felt the AABBS was singled out because it was one of the largest adult oriented BBS' and if the Feds could shut them down, they could "chill the First Amendment expressions of everybody else in [the computer pornography] business" (Cabell, Brian. Cable Network News, Jul. 27, 1994). The Thomas' case may well become a civil liberties/first amendment textbook example. The defendants offer for sale material that would be clearly objectionable to many (but not necessarily all) people. When investigated locally by the San Jose police, the material was not found to be obscene by San Francisco community standards. Not surprisingly, sexually graphic images with descriptions such as "SHE SUCKS HER SON'S COCK! FATHER IS FUCKING HIS DAUGHTER" were found to be totally offensive to the community standards of Memphis, Tennessee. The San Francisco Examiner opined that this was a case of prosecutors "shopping" for a venue The troubling question in the age of on-line communications is that material assessable by computer is virtually available everywhere in the world simultaneously. Anyone, anywhere, with a computer and a modem (and a credit card) can log on to a bulletin board service and download thousands of images. "Electronic communication has made earlier definitions of a community [standard] all but obsolete" (San Francisco Examiner Aug.. 24, 1994, 4th ed.). Christianity Today, however, applauds the conviction and warns readers that "cyberporn" is threatening to invade the American home. The National Coalition Against Pornography (NCAP) fears easy access to the information superhiway will expose children to unlimited sources of obscene and pornographic materials. "Antipornography advocates hope to stimulate greater public awareness and more prosecution of obscenity delivered by computer modem" (Zipperer, John. Sep 12, Vol. 38: No 10, pg. 42) In an interview on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," attorney Mike Godwin of the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) cautioned that anyone operating a system connected to the internet has reason to be concerned. Goodwin saw this decision placing the responsibility for complying with community standards expanded beyond the locality in which the system operates to include the standards of every conceivable locality in which the data can be accessed. Godwin sees two flaws with this. "You can either accept the idea of geographic communities; in which case, you say there's something wrong with Memphis dictating the standards of California. Or, you can say the whole idea of geographic communities is bankrupt and we need to revisit that reasoning in the Supreme Court. And I would be happy with either approach." Reporter John McChesney voiced the NCAP concern about computer literate children easily accessing pornography over the net. Godwin thought this danger was overstated. Most of the really hard-core material requires payment by credit card. So unless one can establish that children are getting their own credit cards and signing up on these systems, Godwin sees this as consenting adults in transactions with other consenting adults. (McChesney, John. "All Things Considered" National Public Radio, Jul. 29, 1994) IMMEDIATE EFFECTS The conviction has already had a chilling effect on the electronic community. Most major universities are connected to the internet, and carry millions of files on the usenet news groups covering every imaginable topic. Many of these topics are potentially offensive to some readers: Happiness is a warm puppy. Tie me, whip me, make me read the net! Cleansing the bowels as an erotic act. Sexual attraction to missing body parts. Robbing the cradle and the grave. Magazines with sticky pages The ins and outs of certain movies. Dead people as stimulus. Discussing attraction to children. Gigabytes of copyright violations. The oldest profession. Bondage for beginners. Strip clubs and exotic dancers Discussion of phone sex services A lot of lurkers in this group. It is even possible that individuals trading messages and files in such groups may even conspire to commit illegal activites, ie. exchange materials that are, in fact, obscene and illegal. To deal with this, many Usenet providers publish a standard disclaimer explaining that it is impossible to filter through gigabytes of data in order to eliminate files that may "contain material which could be in violation of federal, state, and/or local laws .... individuals posting newsitems are responsible for their content." The law may now hold the system operators liable for the content, and may use the community standards of the location in which the files are downloaded. Some system administrators, in the wake of the Thomas' conviction, made unilateral decisions to remove groups they felt might get them into trouble. One system removed "pictures.tasteless" with a message to users that "the conviction by a jury in a conservative town effectively imposed its community standards throughout the nation" ("New thought police patrol superhighway" Chicago Sun-Times, editorial, Aug. 3, 1994, pg. 37). Carnegie Mellon University's academic council temporarily stopped carrying Usenet groups that made any reference to "sex." This had the unfortunate side effect of eliminating groups devoted to scientific, medical, and social research as well as anonymous support groups for sexual abuse recovery. "The student council pointed out that the administration was restricting the reading matter of adults to what was acceptable for children. The American Civil Liberties Union complained that the ban was overly broad and included discussions of sexual matters that were clearly protected speech." The decision was finally reversed. (Elmer-Dewitt, Philip. "Censoring Cyberspace" Time, 1994) CONCLUSION The Thomas' case will undoubtedly go to appeal, and may establish new law in doing so. I question the applicability of the 1983 Miller decision for local community standards in the face of rapid technological advances. Crooks may use the telephone to plot a bank robbery, but the phone company is not considered to be an accessory to the crime. Perhaps the same analogy should be applied to an information carrier, so that they are not directly responsible for the information content. Otherwise, system operators face the daunting task of filtering every message or file and then determining if it might violate the community standards of any community with access to telephones. Even blocking certain area codes from access will not always work, because users can "telnet" through various providers so that the system they communicate cannot determine where the caller really originates from. By the standards established in the Thomas case, any major university could have been used as a sting target just as easily. ********************************************************************* REFERENCES CuD, Vol. 6: Issue 35, Apr. 19, 1994. Thomas, Jim and Gordon Meyer, eds. The Computer Underground Digest, Apr. 14, 1994, Vol. 6: Issue 33. Ducar, Frank L., US Postal Inspection Service News Release, San Francisco, CA, Feb. 3, 1994. Conley, Chris. The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN, Jul. 23, 1994. Corrigan, Patricia and Associated Press, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Jul. 29, 1994. Associated Press. "Jail for couple over computer pornography" The New York Times, New York, Dec. 3, 1994, Sec 1: Page 9, Col. 3. Cabell, Brian. Cable Network News, Jul. 27, 1994. San Francisco Examiner, Aug.. 24, 1994, 4th ed. Zipperer, John. Christianity Today, Sep 12, Vol. 38: No 10, pg. 42. McChesney, John. "All Things Considered" National Public Radio, Jul. 29, 1994. "New thought police patrol superhighway" Chicago Sun-Times, editorial, Aug. 3, 1994, pg. 37. Elmer-Dewitt, Philip. "Censoring Cyberspace" Time, 1994. ------------------------------ Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 08:10:50 -0500 (CDT) From: David Smith Subject: File 5--Cato Study Release: Exon bill would "lobotomize the Internet" ---------- Forwarded message ---------- (Thomas Grant Edwards) Subject--Cato Study Release--Exon bill would "lobotomize the Internet" Date: 26 Jun 1995 21:26:46 -0400 STUDY RELEASE June 24, 1995 Exon bill would "lobotomize the Internet," study says The Communications Decency Act, sponsored by Sen. James Exon (D- Neb.) and passed by the Senate 84-16 on June 14, could severely restrict the free flow of information that characterizes the digital age, says a new study from the Cato Institute. In "New Age Comstockery: Exon vs. the Internet" (Policy Analysis no. 232), First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere writes, "The law threatens to lobotomize the Internet by superimposing essentially the same legal standard that stifled the publication of literature in America for nearly 60 years under the Comstock law." Passed in 1873, the Comstock law prohibited the use of the mails to send any publication or photograph deemed "obscene, lewd, lascivious," or of "indecent character." Incompatible with free expression Corn-Revere says the bill is unnecessary and incompatible with a culture of free expression. After the Comstock law was passed, literature in America was severely censored for 60 years. Authors like Tolstoy, D. H. Lawrence, Theodore Dreiser, and Edmund Wilson were victims of the obscenity laws, and American readers were denied access to their books. FCC regulation of indecency has made the agency a "national censorship board," which has clearly had a chilling effect on broadcasters. Computers and modems offer parents much more control over access to material than do telephone or television. Online services and Internet providers are giving parents a range of options for blocking objectionable material. Why it matters The telecommunications bill now goes to the House, where Speaker Newt Gingrich has shown an understanding of the potential benefits and the requirements of the information age. The digital age offers unprecedented access to information and unparalleled opportunities for pluralism in speech and publishing. Government intrusion into the content available on the Internet can only impede that progress. The full text of this study is available at Cato's Web site. ( ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 19 Apr 1995 22:51:01 CDT From: CuD Moderators Subject: File 6--Cu Digest Header Info (unchanged since 19 Apr, 1995) Cu-Digest is a weekly electronic journal/newsletter. Subscriptions are available at no cost electronically. CuD is available as a Usenet newsgroup: Or, to subscribe, send a one-line message: SUB CUDIGEST your name Send it to LISTSERV@VMD.CSO.UIUC.EDU The editors may be contacted by voice (815-753-0303), fax (815-753-6302) or U.S. mail at: Jim Thomas, Department of Sociology, NIU, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA. 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