The Long Arm Of Internet Law
The new digital society brings up lots of questions and existing law doesn’t always answer them. In cases where it does, the answer doesn’t often make sense. It’s as though, if law wasn’t complicated enough, governments are going to have rewrite their legal code from the ground up.
So as that painful process continues—my guess is for at least the next 40-50 years—the law and the Internet are clashing with increasing frequency. To follow are just six (out of dozens) of recent examples.
Texting From the Witness Stand
A Florida civil case erupted into controversy when the plaintiff was busted sending text messages to a witness while he was on the stand under oath. The communications were attempted while the judge was conferring with counsel in a side bar conversation. Just in case you’re not familiar with the ways of how court is conducted, that’s a no-no. The judge declared a mistrial.
The FCC Can Search Your House?
A spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission said the regulatory agency had the right, granted under the Communications Act of 1934, to search your home sans warrant if they detect a wireless signal—kind of like the one emitting from your wireless internet router.
The law was originally intended to bust unlicensed radio and TV stations using radio spectrum. As you might imagine, lawmakers in 1934 likely never imagined this might apply to private citizens using spectrum for personal use in their own homes. The provision’s constitutionality was never an issue until this century, hence why it’s never been tested in court.
Tweeting Can Get You Arrested?
In Guatemala it can, especially if you badmouth a bank. Jean Anleu Fernandez was arrested for telling his followers on Twitter to withdraw their money from Banrural as punishment for alleged corruption. Fernandez could face three years in jail for potentially inciting financial panic and undermining confidence in the banks.
Big Entertainment Twists Knife Into Pirate Bay
It wasn’t enough to win the case, which involves a $4 million fine and jail time doled out by an industry-friendly judge. The Entertainment industry doesn’t think that’s stiff enough punishment and is seeking to triple the fine. As we know already, Big Entertainment is above the law, above the courts, and above any government industry, so it can do as it pleases. For example, in addition to securing a biased judge in the initial case, they’ve got another ace in the appeals court. Suppose it’s just another reminder to be nice to the new mafia.
Perfect 10 Keeps Perfect Goose Egg Record
Since Google came on the scene, porn mag Perfect 10 has been fighting search engine image indexing, and has lost every single fight in court. When Perfect 10 couldn’t take Google down directly, the magazine went after Amazon for syndicating Google image search results. They’ve now lost that case, too.
Social Fuzz Undercover Isn’t As Fun As It Sounds
Should we be alarmed the FBI is hanging out on Second Life? They’re just putting up most-wanted signs and creating better ways to get tips on fugitives. But other cops, like in New Jersey, are creating fake Facebook profiles to get themselves added to teen party circuits so they know where and whom to bust. Whether or not that’s really legal—Lori Drew just got convicted for impersonating someone online—it’s definitely a violation of Facebook policy.