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Running a BBS
- Subject: Running a BBS
- From: JERRY OLSEN
- Date: 10 Jul 1991 1:31:00
Though I've followed the subject during the last couple of years, I
can't cite the "specific cases" and the like you request from memory.
But as I believe I've mentioned, several well-documented files are
available on a BBS I run in the A3: ("GENTEXT") directory. To access,
call The Advocate/NOWAR, 312.939.4411, 24 hrs., 8/n/1, 300/1200/2400,
I can, however, point out a couple of variances between the
arguments you raise and current law. First, the most common analogy
used by the courts is that of a periodical. I.e., a sysop is argued to
be an "electronic publisher." While I concur to some extent, I think
the analogy breaks down sooner than the courts like to admit. (The
courts still seem to be groping in the legal dark to a fair degree when
it comes to BBSes, like other "modern" technologies.) As a publisher,
the courts tend to hold that a sysop is culpable for illegal exchanges
because of the control he or she purportedly has over the system.
Consider a classified message in a publication which lists stolen
credit card numbers. The courts view the publisher (electronic or
otherwise) as partially responsible for the dissemination of that
illegal info. In fact, this particular example seems to be a prime
target of court cases--esp. telephone credit card numbers.
Secondly, you focus on a responsibility to *report* the illegal
activity. I don't think any court has disagreed with your opinion as
far as it goes. But the courts *do* find legal fault if you, in alleged
control of the system, fail to stop such a msg before it is "published"
and read by others. For this reason, msgs on many systems aren't
available to subsequent callers until cleared by the sysop.