Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

California Senator Wants To Throw Ed Felten In Jail

from the sorry-Professor-Felten dept

While the headline might seem a bit extreme, it seems accurate. A California state Senator with ties to Hollywood has introduced a law that could mean jailtime for any developer of a file sharing application. That's right -- it's not about anyone who actually used the app to do something illegal, but whoever develops an application. This, despite the fact that courts have found repeatedly that you can't blame the application for the fact that some people misuse it. So why is Professor Ed Felten at risk? Well, he recently wrote a file sharing application in all of 15 lines of code. The purpose, of course, was to show that the concept of regulating file sharing by banning the creation of such applications was ridiculous and anti-innovation. By the way, if you're wondering where you've heard of State Senator Kevin Murray before, he's the politician who also made it illegal to send any media file in California anonymously. Despite the questionable basis for such a law (and the fact that it probably violates other laws concerning privacy -- especially with respect to children), it appears that Murray doesn't really care about the facts of the situation, but just that folks in the entertainment industry are happy with all the laws he's passed in their favor. Anyway, based on my reading of the actual proposal, it would also threaten to put anyone who has written FTP software and possibly even web browsers in jail. Maybe his next law will simply outlaw the internet, and force us all to watch broadcast content instead. That would really help, wouldn't it?

Reader Comments

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  1. identicon
    nonuser, 18 Jan 2005 @ 7:11pm

    I'm sure the governor will have the sense to veto

    Oh wait...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    nonstupid, 19 Jan 2005 @ 12:28am

    There is a difference...

    ... a difference between enforcing an existing, albeit INHUMANE & SAVAGE, law and creating a STUPID & IGNORANT law. Don't try to lump them together. It's not fair, and just as ignorant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Ed Felten, 19 Jan 2005 @ 6:57am

    gee, thanks

    You even have a "sorry-professor-Felten" department! My reaction to this item is at

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Brian Shock, 19 Jan 2005 @ 8:04am

    Look at the bigger picture

    Perhaps we should applaud this trend in legislation. If creators and manufacturers of software tools can face legal penalties when someone misuses their products, perhaps that will open the door to legal penalties for creators and manufacturers of misused hardware.

    Someone is shot by a handgun? Jail the handgun manufacturers. Someone dies from lung cancer? Jail the cigarette manufacturers. The tv evening news uncritically broadcasts presidential lies that lead to the death of hundreds of thousands? Jail tv executives as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    nonuser, 19 Jan 2005 @ 8:18am

    Re: gee, thanks

    WWW's emoticon vocabulary isn't sufficiently developed for the Professor to precisely modulate the meaning of his "gee, thanks"...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    z0idberg, 19 Jan 2005 @ 8:49am


    what about the developers of the operating system that the file sharing applications are run on? send Bill to the slammer as well!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    PhilTR, 19 Jan 2005 @ 10:13am

    Jail all 'em SOB's

    Christ, the lawyers are going multi-orgasmic over the thought.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Tim, 19 Jan 2005 @ 10:23am

    No Subject Given

    2 points for great headline writing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    DV Henkel-Wallace, 19 Jan 2005 @ 11:36am

    the real bad news

    The real bad news of this legislation, like all overbroad legislation, is that it is yet another opportunity for selective prosecution. After all, "don't worry, we'll only go after the bad guys."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Joel Kahn, 22 Jan 2005 @ 3:12am


    Take a look at this site:

    If Ed Felten is going to get into any trouble, then I should have been thrown in the slammer a long time ago. Why aren't the copyright defenders *really* doing their job & taking action against dangerous terrorists like myself?

    Joel Kahn
    Springfield, Missouri

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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