Using BugMeNot Probably Not A DMCA Violation

from the in-case-you-were-wondering dept

While there haven’t been any lawsuits brought against anyone for using BugMeNot to use someone else’s username and password, TechLawAdvisor is pointing out that a recent decision seems to make it clear that using someone else’s username and password does not violate anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA — mainly because there’s no circumvention. Of course, the details from where Kevin got this story are behind a (you guessed it) password protected website — which doesn’t appear to have a BugMeNot workaround. Google, however, turns up the decision he appears to be talking about. It’s an interesting case with a few different legal issues. In a different lawsuit where participants were told not to write about the case online, an expert witness did discuss the case — but in a password-protected section of his own website. The lawyers for the other side got a working username and password and found the quotes, eventually getting the expert witness into some trouble. He sued using a few different laws, but the DMCA claim is probably the most interesting. Of course, it could be that there are other laws you’re violating in taking someone else’s username and password — but it’s apparently not a DMCA issue.

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Comments on “Using BugMeNot Probably Not A DMCA Violation”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

I use BugMeNot every day; I even have the great Firefox extension. It never even occurred to me to worry about it being illegal… the passwords and user names are freely given and shared. It’s not illegal to do anything remotely similar in the “offline” world … something about the Internet scares people and lawmakers into thinking you give up your basic civil liberties by going online.

Scott says:

Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

No offline equivalent? The username and password are equivalent to a key, therefore if I give you the key to my workplace(secure datacenter), there is nothing illegal happening? I am under contract to secure my key and you are not authorized to be in my building(most agreements with online sites have you agree this is for your and only your use.) While I agree bugmenot is a great tool, it can be abused, and abused in a manner that is illegal.
This is not the fault of bugmenot however, it is the user who should not have put that info into it.

Anon says:

BugMeNot can withstand any litigation

In any lawsuit, BugMeNot will clearly prevail. This is simply because of two key principles. First, all information is given, not hacked. So, there is noone who is having their actual information stolen by submitting a login. Second, sites are given the option to inform BugMeNot that they are a pay-per-view site, and be delisted. This means that all other sign ups on BugMeNot are for sites that are open to the public.

So, there is simply no plaintiff that can raise suit. No information on either side is priviledged. The New York Times, for instance, can never claim that a public sign up account being used by others is stealing some type of non-public, private data.

That, and they do not want to stir up a story in the news and calls for stricter regulation of what type of information can be required of online users. It’s bad PR to come out and say you have the legal right to collect millions of people’s personal data for absolutely no good reason.

Newspapers have long talked on other sites about the possibility of suing BugMeNot. Do you know why none have? They all realise the exact same things. First, that if a site has a lot of visitors using BugMeNot, then they are obviously asking too much of their visitors. And second, that if they try to force BugMeNot to not list on their site, then their user databases will simply fill up with the same people inputting fraudulant data because they will still refuse to give out their personal information.

And so, BugMeNot is actually a service for these sites. With it there, they can point to why private data collection online doesn’t need extra regulation, and they keep out excessive bogus account signups.

FireMonkey says:

Re: BugMeNot can withstand any litigation

“Second, sites are given the option to inform BugMeNot that they are a pay-per-view site, and be delisted”

I agree that BugMeNot is safe from prosecution, but the above logic is utter crap. That reminds me of how Google gave publishers a way to opt-out of having their works scanned, rather than allowing them to opt-in for inclusion in the index. They were still copying copyrighted works.

Let’s have an extreme example:
I collect and publicly display ill-gotten garden gnomes. Last week, I posted on my website that anyone who does not want their gnomes added to my exhibition should contact me and have their gnomes removed from my list of “candidates”. I also state that by NOT informing me of your anti-display desires, you give me permission to take and display your gnome. Can I be prosecuted for taking your gnome? According to your logic, no. You passively gave me permission by not opting out.
In the real world? I’d be wearing some very tiny gnome-sized handcuffs.

haggie says:

No Subject Given

If a website can successfully sue BugMeNot, wouldn’t it also imply that an individual could be sued for doing the same thing? If I register at a registration required website and then give my user name and password to my girlfriend, can I be sued by the website?

Anyone want to bet that anti-BugMeNot language starts showing up in website registration EULAs in the very near future?

Greg (user link) says:


I still fail to see how BugMeNot can come under any fire from any websites unless they are pay websites (which could easily block off visitors being refered to the site from bugmenot with a quick edit of their .htaccess file). Basically the people with user names and passwords to these sites are the same people that are putting them on for everyone else to use. It’s not like BugMeNot is doing anything malicious to gain access to these password protected websites. It’s basically just a middleman to gain access to these sites, pretty much just like word of mouth (people telling other people their username and password to access the site), but just on a bigger playing field.

Bernard says:

BugMeNot is a PROBLEM !!!

It seems like many people consider BugMeNot not to be a problem.

Well, that’s a problem for me. I’m managing and moderating an important online community where the members can interact with each other. And some people sharing these accounts and using these shared accounts from BugMeNot have very bad intentions and are disrupting the activities of the community and bothering the members.

Moreover, BugMeNot terms of use are making it illegal for me to use their service.

I just can’t let this happen…

George says:

Sensitive data

I know this is a bit of stretch, but consider:
What about an intern or a fulltime employee that works at a research center where they research diseases. There would be information on the internal site of such a corporation, that could be used to create biological weapons. Now that information is classified and ‘for your eyes only’. Is a free pass to such information not a danger to the society and illegal?

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