Re: Ms harrassment

Rohit Khare (
Mon, 7 Jul 1997 11:38:17 -0400 (EDT)


Fascinating article on the prevalence and 'suppression' of Anti-M$ sites.
Cool bit on 'Team Gates' flaming, too.

Major point:

ISPs and Web hosts, such as GeoCities, have little to fear legally,
said William Turner, a San Francisco lawyer who teaches First
Amendment law at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School
of Journalism.

In fact, he said, they are protected from libel suits by an obscure
provision in the Communications Decency Act. The provision, which was
not affected by the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the
"indecent material" clause of the CDA, states: "No provider or user of
an Internet computer service shall be treated as the publisher or
speaker of any material provided by another content provider." If
someone publishes a Website that defames someone else, the publisher's
ISP is not liable.

This part of the act, Turner said, was designed to overturn the 1995
Stratton Oakmont vs. Prodigy decision, in which a New York court found
and Prodigy was liable for defamatory statements made on one of its
bulletin boards.

Eliminating the ISPs from the equation removes one of the key
incentives to sue -- money.

"It eliminates the deep pockets," Turner said. "Nobody is going to
bother to sue Joe Bozo who does a Website."

Furthermore, the Web gives people and corporations the ability to
reply instantly to allegations made against them. Because of these
factors, Turner said defamation suits based on online material should
be rare.

On the other hand, copyright and trademark infringement may be
another matter, said Eric Schlachter, a lawyer who teaches cyberspace
law at Santa Clara University in California.

There are no clear rules to "right to publicity," online, Schlachter
said. So there is a slight chance that a judge might find that
someone's use of, say, a Microsoft logo in an unflattering light,
interferes with Microsoft's right to compete in the marketplace. In
this case, an ISP might not be protected by the CDA.

Either way, Schlachter said, there is another factor at work, which
is the cost of defending oneself if challenged by a giant corporation.

"ISPs don't have funds for legal expenses," he said. "As a profit
maximizer, the choice is very clear: Take it down and ask questions