cr> civil lawsuits — another censorship threat


Richard Moore

Date: Tue, 16 Jan 1996
Sender: Henry Huang <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cr> On responses to CDA

Continuing the current thread on the legal implications of the CDA ...

There's a nice article in the current edition of the GNN Web Review,
on the implications of civil lawsuits on Net speech.  The author
states that "threats of criminal prosecution are not the only clouds
on the virtual horizon. Civil litigation, or the threat of civil
litigation, can be an effective tool for chilling free speech. It's a
fact that gets very little publicity, but one which is having a
profound effect on our society."

Under his scenario, the threat of lawsuits would drive large providers
to deliberately restrict *any* offensive speech under threat of lawsuit,
and would drive smaller providers out of business since they don't even
have the money to defend themselves.  End result: fewer and larger ISP's,
less freedom of speech.

The URL is:

Anyone who'd like to explain/refine the author's arguments is more than
welcome to do so.  The differences between criminal and civil suits
have been overlooked in the rush to question the CDA's Constitutionality,
and I'd personally like to hear more on the implications.



Moderator Note:

        In this regard, recall the the Church of Scientology
copyright-infringement actions that have plagued various ISV's/BBS's
bigtime.  The opportunity for harrassing actions was abundantly
demonstrated.  The concerns expressed by the Wiesenthal Center could easily
find expression as civil actions as well.  Also keep in mind the campaign
for stricter copyright enforcement, which has appeared as a thread on this
list before.

        It's not just "offensive" material that we need to worry about.
Copyrighted product information might be construed to prevent public
discussion of product defects (this is very parallel to the CoS case).
Could copyrighted news stories somehow be construed to delimit discussion
of news subjects themselves?

        The point I'm making is that powerful lobbying interests are
pushing aggressively for a strict "information is property" paradigm for
cyberspace.  The net's prairies are to be fenced in.  It's difficult to
predict the details of how this will proscribe cyber freedom-of-expression
and -association.  Just to explore one possibility, as an example,
employees might be required to sign over copyrights to their employer of
anything they say related to work or that uses any corporate hardware or
email system.  Quite an impediment to whistle-blowers.



 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 Materials may be reposted in their entirety for non-commercial use.