Web Law

Today I want to talk about content on the web. I plan to look at: should individuals be held responsible for what they publish on the web, what about vendors’ user-supplied content sites, a case about web law, and how it all relates to me. I want to start with two laws.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Communications Decency Act (CDA) are the major laws that apply to the questions that I want to answer today. The DMCA is all about copyright; it states that once something tangible is created the creator has a copyright on that content. The section of this law that applies to today’s questions is Section 512(a), which talks about how free-sites are not held responsible for the user-posted content on their sites. Section 230 of the CDA states that if free-sites receive a request to remove the content they most comply or they could become libel for that content.

I think that individuals with less knowledge about the laws surrounding publishing on the web should be held to the same standards as those with more knowledge. Just because an individual doesn’t know the rules doesn’t mean they don’t have to follow them. I think if individuals are using the web everyday then they should learn the rules.

Let’s say an individual is posting content on a free-site that host user-submitted content and they are copyrighting or sharing illegal content should that site be libel? According to Section 512(a) the answer is no. If the site has not received a request to remove the illegal content then they are not libel, but if they receive a request to remove the content and do not then they may have a lawsuit on their hands.

Now I want to talk about a web law case.

A.B. v. State is about a middle school student posting comments on a MySpace page about the school principal. This whole case got started in February 2006 when an individual that created a fake MySpace page, pretending to be the middle school principal, was discovered by the school principal. This webpage had posts about the assistant principal like this one:

“Hey you piece of greencastle shit.

What the fuck do you think of me [now] that you can[‘t] control me? Huh? Ha ha ha guess what I’ll wear my fucking piercings all day long and to school and you can[‘t] do shit about it! Ha ha fucking ha! Stupid bastard! Oh and kudos to whomever made this ([I’m] pretty sure I know who). Get a background.” (A.B. v. State, 863 N.E. 2d 1212 (Ind. Ct. App. April 9, 2007))

On March 2, 2006, the State filed a delinquency petition alleging A.B. committed acts that, if committed by an adult, would have constituted identity deception, a Class C felony, and harassment, a Class B misdemeanor. (A.B. v. State, 863 N.E. 2d 1212 (Ind. Ct. App. April 9, 2007))

The case went to juvenile court and A.B. got sentenced to nine months probation. The case was appealed to Indiana Appeals Court and they took the case. The judge ruled A.B. was not guilty of harassment because the posts where protected by political speech. The judge believed that the posts were similar to speaking out about a political candidate and the charges where dropped.

In conclusion, all the above information has really opened my eyes about who is responsible for what content on the web. I post on a free-site and my ass is on the line not the owner’s of the site. I think that I will be more concerned with what I post and comment on the web. I think that the behaviors that I will have to keep in check are what’s on my Facebook and how I comment on Facebook. I will try to improve my censorship on the Web in general with all the information that I have learned.


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