[MUD-Dev] AOL lawsuit

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Thu Sep 6 00:13:32 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Sat 01 Sep, Matt Mihaly wrote:
> On Sat, 1 Sep 2001, John Robert Arras wrote:

> A quote from the prosecution's lawyer:

>   "In light of the growing significance of the Internet, a public
>   chat room should fall within this category as a place of
>   entertainment and therefore should be free of harassment,"

I am not a lawyer, but even I can shoot this argument full of holes.
The most significant being that it is not the job of the manager to
keep the "place of entertainment" free of harassment. That job does
fall to the police.  The fact that the internet (it does not deserve
capitalisation ;) is increasingly significant has no bearing on the
case.  Given the mechanics of the internet a public chatroom is just
that.  Public.  There is no good way (in fact there is no way at
all) for the manager of a chatroom to control who enters. In that it
is more like a public street.  While those, too, should be free of
harass- ment, there is no argument that you can not take the city
council to court over infractions.  There is severe doubt that a
chatroom is a place of entertainment, which is a crucial conjecture
in this lawyer's case.  In what res- pect does the chatroom offer
entertainment?  As far as I can see it does not. The chatroom is
passive and is merely a means to exchange messages between people.
Of course there might be a juridical term involved here, but in that
case the concept is so broad that every- thing is a 'place of
entertainment' and any claim that can be deri- ved from labeling
something as such is meaningless.

> Almost all MUDs fall into the same category.

Actually muds are more a place of entertainment, but they are also
more like a club. There is a membership (however informal) and some
rules of conduct. The problem as always is in enforcing them.

Personally I think the whole lawsuit serves to illustrate once a-
gain how totally messed up the american juridical system is. People
and companies are sued on spurious grounds, are convicted for ludi-
crous fines (how many billion did the latest "victim" of the tobac-
co industry get?  For insisting on a habit that was known to be not
healthy for well over twenty years?).

Why was AOL sued?  Not because anybody was so concerned about these
chatrooms, but because some lawyer hopes to get famous (and rich)
and some idiots are talked into believing they can get a lot of mo-
ney out of this case, at minimal risk to themselves.  Considering
that any jury is likely to be even more ignorant about the internet
and chatrooms than the prosecution I expect a lot of emotions and
fear-mongering, and very little facts in this case. And the general
consensus on the jury that AOL is a big company and they can afford
to pay.

Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

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