I ran across an excellent piece by Tom Sydnor (“Has Boston University Left Its Safe Harbor and Become Liable for Students’ Piracy?”) on the IP Central blog (which should be read regularly) discussing a recent ruling that Boston University apparently has shielded itself from legal liability according to a federal district court in Boston–by commiting acts that protect the identity of lawbreakers. Talk about your Chappaquiddick moment:
“[A] federal judge has reportedly held that Boston University (BU) is such an incompetent internet-access provider that it cannot disclose the identities of allegedly infringing users of its network….'[BU] has adequately demonstrated that it is not able to identify the alleged infringers with a reasonable degree of technical certainty.’
For those seeking to enforce federal laws or rights other than copyrights, this order is all bad news. London-Sire suggests that BU has made its campus network into a de-facto safe harbor for anyone using the Internet to commit any crime. It would seem that terrorists, pedophiles, phishing-scheme operators, hackers, identity thieves, and copyright pirates who can access the Internet through BU’s network now have a get-out-of-jail-free card–a judicial decision holding that any identifying data provided by BU is too hopelessly unreliable to support so much as the filing of a civil lawsuit….BU’s IT Department might also consider the potential legal implications of acts that tend to conceal the identity of lawbreakers. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 3, 4, 241, 307, and 2319.”
Once again, our government sanctions the cruel theft of labor value contributed by artists and songwriters–who are not asking for a bailout, although if anyone is entitled to one, it’s them. Compare BU’s treatment to that in Napster, where the company was told filtering to a certainty of 99 1/2 just won’t do. Talk about getting home towned.
Tom’s post gives a really first rate legal analysis of this bizarre decision and provides excellent context. It is precisely this kind of adjudicating, this lazy thinking, that must be criticized thoroughly if our culture is to survive the attack of the machines. Decisions such as this are negative externalities that use the government to impose costs on artists and songwriters to deny them their economic liberty.
Every time the government uses its mighty force to defeat artists and culture, the government denies the people and itself a key soft power tool to better our international relations and avoid conflict.
In the words of President Obama, “[o]ur economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”
What he said.