lawsuit against ISP by Software Publishers' Association

Dan Tebbutt Dan_Tebbutt@acp.com.au
21 Oct 96 12:19:04


[an interesting case about ISPs' liability for clients actions]
---------------------- Forwarded by Dan Tebbutt/ACP on 21/10/96 12:18 PM 
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Date:    Sun, 20 Oct 96 01:02 CDT
From: Cu Digest (tk0jut2@mvs.cso.niu.edu)  <TK0JUT2@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU>

Computer underground Digest    Sun  Oct 20, 1996   Volume 8 : Issue 74
       Cu Digest Homepage: http://www.soci.niu.edu/~cudigest

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Date: Mon, 14 Oct 1996 11:24:01 -0700 (PDT)
From: sameer@c2.net
Subject: File 2--COMMUNITY CONNEXION SUED IN FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT

Fwd from:  fight-censorship@vorlon.mit.edu
    COMMUNITY CONNEXION SUED IN FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT

For release: October 14, 1996
Contact: Sameer Parekh 510-986-8770

Oakland, CA - Community ConneXion, Inc, dba C2Net, condemns the
lawsuit served by Adobe Systems, Inc., Claris Corporation, and
Traveling Software, Inc. as a frivolous lawsuit. "As near as we can
tell," said C2Net President Sameer Parekh, "we are being sued for
being an Internet Service Provider."

C2Net is an ISP, providing shell accounts and web hosting
services. But the company is primarily a software vendor, selling
Stronghold, one of the most popular secure web servers on the
market. "We were looking into joining the Software Publisher's
Association, who filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs," said
Parekh, "but it's not very likely to happen at this point."

The lawsuit appears to charge C2Net with liability based upon
allegations that C2Net's customers provide links to pirated software
on other machines and "cracker tools" that allow users to beat
copy-protection mechanisms like software serial numbers.

"It's completely outrageous that the SPA has nothing better to do
than to file frivolous lawsuits against hard-working Internet Service
Providers," said Parekh. "We are not aware of any such links on our
pages or our customer's pages, and if our customers are breaking any
laws, we want to know about it so we can terminate their accounts."
(The lawsuit provides no specific examples.)

The lawsuit was apparently filed after a single attempt to contact the
company with a form-letter e-mail. The copy of the alleged e-mail
included as an attachment to the suit shows the SPA's real
motive. "They want us to sign a 'Code of Conduct'," said
Parekh. "Among other things, we'd have to agree to routinely monitor
our customer's web pages, which we won't do. We deal with complaints
about our customers on a case by case basis, and we have a firm and
clear policy against illegal activity of any sort. We've shut down
accounts for less than what they're alleging in this lawsuit."

"This is clearly a frivolous lawsuit," said Terry Gross, counsel for
C2Net. "The plaintiffs know that an ISP can only be liable if it
participates in and has knowledge of the improper activity, and it is
clear that they have no such basis."

Although the lawsuit does not mention the "Code of Conduct", it
appears that most ISPs who received the e-mail ended up signing it,
largely to avoid legal action from the much-feared SPA. Those that
didn't kowtow got sued.

"The terms of the 'Code of Conduct' are completely unacceptable," said
Parekh. "It basically gives the SPA the right to go on an ongoing
fishing expedition through our customer's files, and requires us to do
the same as their agent on a regular basis.  The Code would classify
us as 'publishers', and we would become responsible for everything our
customers do. We've built this business on a solid foundation of
respect for our customer's privacy. Monitoring their activities
without grounds for suspicion is completely inconsistent with
maintaining their privacy."

"This lawsuit is grossly unfair, and it's going to cost us a lot of
time and money, but we don't have any choice but to fight it," said
Parekh. "What we have here is three giant software companies and their
well-funded bag of lawyers trying to bully a smaller software company
into adopting costly policies that invade customers' privacy."

A coalition is currently being formed to fight this case and make sure
that this form of legal terrorism does not occur in the future against
internet providers. The coalition will probably include the three companies
that have been served in the suit and other organizations with a stake
in creating a rational legal enviroment for ISPs and their customers.

C2Net provides high-security encryption solutions for the Internet
worldwide.  More information about C2Net's products are available at
https://stronghold.c2.net/. Information about the forming coalition
may be found at https://www.c2.net/ispdc/.

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End of Computer Underground Digest #8.74
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