Taylor McLaren on 20 Sep 2000 04:07:37 -0000

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<nettime> Reality check on Sundevil.

MEEP! Julian Dibbell <julian@mostly.com> wrote:
>And I'm only mildly
>scandalized to see the media joining in by framing the poor kid in the kind
>of reportage usually reserved for drug smugglers and pedophiles. But man,
>did they join in with gusto.
It's been a while since I last saw Reefer Madness, so you'll have to excuse
me if my witch-hunt sensors aren't quite as finely-tuned as they should be,
but what exactly was it about the Reuters piece that sounded so hysterical?
Other than the bit about the "computer forensic specialist" -- which really
just sounded like overkill and/or RIAA-grovelling on the university's part
-- it read like fairly impartial copy to me.
  Given that it's only been a couple of months since anything to do with
the word "Napster" became front-page material (at least online... I'm not
sure if I saw anything about it outside of the Entertainment section and
the editorial pages in the local papers...), and a couple of *days* since
the MTV hoopla that confirmed the controversy's Certified Meme(tm) status,
it doesn't seem out of place to see a news item on criminal charges being
slapped down on an individual whose only connection to an organization (the
legal status of which is still up in the air) is that he is a register user
of that organization's services. If there's anything worth getting worked
up over here, I think it's that it might suddenly be possible (or even
desirable, from the viewpoints of Certain Parties with Certain Agendas) to
prosecute individuals for doing things that aren't criminal yet when acted
out by corporations. Or is that another thread that I'm getting this mixed
up with?
  I'd be interested to know what people think of the potential precedents
that could be set here. On the one hand, gun manufacturers are very rarely
held accountable for the actions of the customers; on the other, tobacco
companies have taken it in the shorts thanks to several class-action
lawsuits over the last decade or two. Does Napster's network amount to
being enough of a *product* that either of these analogies could hold up in
one way or another in court?If it doesn't, could that explain why it's
easier (or perhaps more effective) for law-enforcement agencies and
lawsuit-happy content-mongers to go after end users than it is to shut down
the network that those users sponge off of? And if so, does that say
anything useful at all about how to best deal with larger-scale
corporations and the not so desirable effects of letting them tinker with
global economics? (I'm probably stretching a bit with that last question, no?)


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