PFF Says BU Helps Terrorists By Not Handing Over Students To RIAA
from the today's-shill-brought-to-you-by... dept
I really try to avoid reading the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s intellectual property blog, because it just raises my blood pressure with a near constant stream of highly misleading arguments or just purely ridiculous claims. However, Tim Lee points out that Tom Sydnor is up to his usual tricks of taking some bit of news, twisting the context around completely, leaving out fairly important details and coming up with a conclusion that doesn’t even add up from his own twisted reasoning. This time, it’s about the recent story where a judge correctly dropped RIAA lawsuits against some Boston University students after the school noted that it could not identify who the alleged infringers were with certainty.
This set off quite the rant from Sydnor, who claims that this now means that BU’s network is a “safe harbor” for “terrorists, pedophiles, phishing-scheme operators, hackers [and] identity thieves” by giving them a “get out of jail free” card. This is similar to those silly and easily disproved arguments from years ago that open WiFi would allow criminals to all get away with any online crimes they wanted.
This makes two faulty assumptions that Sydnor either knows and ignores, or is ignorant about (neither of these are good options). First, it assumes that all of those other activities wouldn’t leave any other trail. That, of course, is ridiculous. Your network usage is hardly the only bit of information all of those other criminal uses leave. Second, it assumes that every person on a network is easy to identify. In fact, it’s quite difficult to establish, with any degree of certainty, who a particular IP address belongs to. Thanks to a variety of different factors, an IP address is not at all a good identifier of who is doing something online. This has been one of our problems with lawsuits relying on such info. It’s notoriously unreliable, leading to many bogus charges (collateral damage to supporters like Sydnor, apparently, but not to those of us who believe in actually having evidence before accusing someone of a crime). It also does not mean, as Sydnor claims, that BU network administrators are “incompetent.” It just means they’re honest.
But, rather than face up to any of those facts, Sydnor skips over them and goes for the emotional charge:
Perhaps the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security should explain the broader implications of this ruling to BU before clumsy efforts that coddle student piracy help get someone defrauded, molested, or killed. BU’s IT Department might also consider the potential legal implications of acts that tend to conceal the identity of lawbreakers.
Yes, or perhaps anyone with a bit of common sense could explain to Sydnor how networks work and the difference between not being able to identify a user vs. “concealing the identity of a lawbreaker.” Apparently, based on Sydnor’s twisted reasoning here, any network operator who cannot identify each and every user on its network may be guilty of being an accessory to a crime. Sydnor, who rushes to point to legal precedents supposedly (though often not really) supporting his position at every opportunity, somehow misses out on the right to anonymity which has been established many times in court. But why let little things like facts and reality get in the way of claiming that a reasonable response from BU sysadmins is going to lead to a safe haven for terrorists and pedophiles and criminal charges against BU network operators?