The lawyers weigh in [Was: Re: [funsec] Everyone on FD is now
gary at intrepid.com
Mon Jan 9 20:38:41 CST 2006
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Fergie
> Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 5:29 PM
> There's a pretty substantial legal thread on this (actually from
> lawyers) over on Boing Boing:
I realize my reply and questions may be too serious for what is
in fact a frivolous thread, but ... here's an excerpt from the
In a comment to my co-blogger's post, I point out problems with Declan's
article. I write: Declan's article is misleading. The provision extends a
telephone harassment law to apply to email. Declan describes the provision
as applying whenever a person "annoys" another: "A new federal law states
that when you annoy someone on the Internet, you must disclose your
But that's not what the law says. Instead it provides: "Whoever...utilizes
any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or
other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by
the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy,
abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the
communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than
two years, or both."
Isn't the author splitting hairs? I agree that it seems the law doesn't say
have to provide your real name/identity when annoying someone (as Declan
suggests), nor does it say you will be penalized if you annoy someone
anonymously, but rather you will be penalized if you have the _intent_ to
someone and then do so anonymously.
Guaging intent should be interesting. Still, if one were to
take this law seriously, Declan's characterization doesn't seem too far
wrong as a form of advice.
A few questions arise:
1. What does it mean to be "anonymous"? Isn't MrAnnoying at hotmail.com
enough to identify me, or must I provide my full legal name and SSN
for good measure?
2. The "threaten, or harass any person ..." language is interesting because
it does seem to include any and all members of a mailing list for
example, which lines up pretty well with another comment made by
Declan regarding Usenet losing some of its "character".
3. How will this square with recent interpretations of the law that
support the idea that anonymous bloggers might (with intent?) annoy
public figures with impunity?
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