Harlan Ellison's Misguided Claims Against AOL

from the let's-step-back-and-think-for-a-second dept

Famed writer Harlan Ellison is doing everything he possibly can to blame AOL for something it has nothing to do with, and doesn't seem to want to listen to anyone who might tell him he's got the story wrong. He's driving himself into the poorhouse, and doesn't seem to care. He even says, that in order to continue the case he would "hawk my house. I would sell my children into bondage." So, let's look at the details. A few years back, a friend pointed out to him that someone had posted one of his stories to Usenet. For some reason, Ellison decided it was AOL's fault - because he could access Usenet via AOL (not realizing, I guess, that you can access Usenet from any internet service provider). When AOL didn't respond within 1 week, he sued them. AOL later did block access to those Usenet groups. Now, as has been discussed multiple times here, service providers are not liable for things that their users do. Saying that they are would basically kill the internet. It would mean that someone from AOL (and every other ISP) would need to review every piece of content before it could go online. In this case, it's even more ridiculous, because it wasn't even on AOL, but on Usenet (and that's not even mentioning the self-imposed 1-week deadline). This is the equivalent of someone suing an airline for flying over their house at 30,000 feet, allowing a passenger to snap a photograph. I've never read any of Ellison's works, and he's just convinced me that I never will.
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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 22 Jul 2003 @ 1:24pm

    Re: hmmmmmmm

    If AOL didn't "control" the usenet group in question ... how could it block access to that group. In essence, it proved by blocking access to those groups that it has control over the content in those groups.

    No, AOL just blocked AOL users from accessing the group. It's the same thing as if AOL decided to block Techdirt. They could, and their users would no longer see it, but it would keep on publishing, and anyone outside the AOL universe could still see it.

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