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The Best and Worst US Internet Laws 67

An anonymous reader writes "When a US legislator describes the Internet as a 'series of tubes' you just know that you're going to end up with some wacky laws on the books. Law professor Eric Goldman takes a look at the best and worst Internet laws in the U.S. Goldman offers an analysis of the biggies such as the DMCA, but also shines light on lesser-known laws like the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002. And he actually finds four Internet laws that aren't all bad."
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The Best and Worst US Internet Laws

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2007 @08:07AM (#18838817)
    An easier to read, all on one page version of the FA is here [].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2007 @08:13AM (#18838843)
    Aritcle headline incorrect.

    Should read:

    The Worst and Least Worst of US Internet laws
    • Although they covered the .kids issue, I was surprised to see .xxx not discussed, despite it never making it to law. Maybe I just read to fast. I think the comment about the 'hat trick' by Utah should earn them a 'badlawnobuscuit' award or something....
      • Ummm....ICANN isn't a law-making group; .xxx was a proposed ICANN change. Furthermore, the ICANN change was never enacted, and this article only looks at US laws that were actually enacted. Perhaps you do need to slow down when you read, your reading comprehension seems to be poor.
    • Re:Best and worst? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) * on Monday April 23, 2007 @08:39AM (#18838967) Homepage Journal
      Agreed. The NET Act is horrible public policy. Not only that, the guy himself says that "criminal sanctions do not deter warez traders", linking to this paper on warez trading and the law [], which "...discusses the motivations for warez trading, how criminalizing the behavior may counterproductively encourage it, and why legislators and prosecutors continue to target warez trading despite the counterproductive effects," in order to state his case, but then turns around and says that "[r]emoving warez traders from the Net, one by one, is a crude but ultimately effective method for curtailing warez trading" becuase "a couple of hundred warez traders have been busted by the law." (Whoop-de-doo!) So, uh, which is it? The law doesn't deter warez traders, or is the law effecting in curtailing them? You can't have it both ways.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nf1nk ( 443791 )
        The laws don't do anything, Law enforcement does.

        As with most laws, there was an old law that did the job and would have continued doing the job just fine if it had just been enforced. The fun part is that the new law will likely be enforced with all the vigor of the old law and the problem will continue unsolved.
        • by moxley ( 895517 )
          Good - they can keep their laws off my internets

            - lest I have to install a giant hamster exercise wheel at the main hub between the two largest connecting tubes to keep Johnny law chasing useless recycled information - or I could just reroute the tubes to Digg, where he'll find a level of discourse that isn't over his head.
      • Ironically that paper requires a subscription to read (paid?)
        Could you AC's go do your thing and warez a copy here? (seems only fitting given the content of the paper and all).
    • /agree 'nough said. When comparing opposing viewpoints, it isn't always "best" and worst. Mark the parent "insightful". They remarked on something most of us wouldn't have thought of.
  • by Odiumjunkie ( 926074 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @08:25AM (#18838907) Journal
    I strongly urge any European slashdot denizens to contact their MEP(s) and advise them to vote for amendments to IPRED2 on the twenty-fifth of April. There's a BoingBoing post about it *here* [], please don't let Cory's well-intentioned hyperbole sway you away from action.

    The ammendments would-

    * LIMIT the scope of IPRED2 to true criminal enterprises, involving copyright piracy and trademark violations done on a commercial scale, with malice and the intention of earning a profit from the enterprise, rather than criminalizing all intellectual property infringement as the current directive does; * AVOID creating an unprecedented scope of secondary liability for Internet intermediaries, ICTs, software vendors and a range of legitimate business activity, by removing the words "aiding or abetting and inciting" from Article 3. * PROVIDE LEGAL CERTAINTY by adopting precise and appropriate definitions of "on a commercial scale" and "intentional infringement" in Article 2 as commercial activity done with the intent to earn a profit directly attributable to the infringing activity.

    There's some more info *here* [].
  • by scsirob ( 246572 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @08:29AM (#18838923)
    I did read TFA, and it's just amazing how US lawmakers think they can govern the way Internet is being used and how it evolves, all from behind their desks. 10 out of 10 laws, good and bad, fail to take into account that these laws have no juristriction in other countries.

    How does a US legislator come up with a law that tries to regulate information that may be property of an Australian entity, that sits on a German server and links to a French database hosted by a Lithouanian ISP? These laws are totally useless. Defective-by-design. And contrary to what that guy in the White House may think, America does not rule the world.
    • by Lithdren ( 605362 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @08:36AM (#18838953)
      Its not about actually getting anything done.

      Its all about being sure you can say "Look, look what I did!" when re-election comes. Even if what you did, is completly idiotic, if it 'protects consumers/children/women/whatever' you get more votes, because people dont bother to research..anything, when it comes to things like this.

      Most, if not all, of the people in office realize this, realize these laws are utterly pointless, unenforceable, and overall useless. Thats why they're writing them. Easier then actually making something that WORKS.
      • While that may be the reason for their initial creation, the continued existence of these laws provides many overzealous individuals a legal base by which to perpetuate their myriad witch hunts.

        Too many politicians not only lack the knowledge to responsibly legislate on issues regarding the technical world, they lack the foresight to notice that these laws could be applied far beyond their originally intended scope. On a more sinister note, perhaps they just don't care and are far more concerned with the vo
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by heinousjay ( 683506 )
      While your rant is on target for a limited subset of the laws listed, it doesn't actually cover them all substantively.

      In particular, there are laws on the books regulating US Government behavior regarding the Internet, amongst other things, which is certainly within Congress's purview.

      I suppose knowing that wouldn't have stopped you from making your anti-US post, since in most circumstances that's worth an easy +2 to karma, but I hope you apply a little more understanding and a little less kneejerk reactio
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      " to take into account that these laws have no juristriction <sic> in other countries"

      Well, that is because most of the lawmakers are also lawyers, and are familiar with a legal concept called "Long Arm Jurisdiction" which allows a Federal Court to use the most relevant state's long arm statute to pursue foreign states. For example:
      "LOCAL INJURY; FOREIGN ACT. In any action claiming injury to person or property within this state arising out of an act or omission outside this state by the defe
    • by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @10:42AM (#18840131)

      10 out of 10 laws, good and bad, fail to take into account that these laws have no jurisdiction in other countries.
      I know this isn't news to anyone on slashdot, but as an European it never ceases to amaze me how American lawyers and politicians are misguided in over-thinking their importance.

      Pass dumb law in the US, and for the most part those of us outside your borders just point and laugh. The DMCA (as one example) is of no interest nor value to 90% of the World, and why it should be so absorbing to the other 10% is difficult to understand.

      There's not really any such thing as a sensible Internet law. Since for a law to be sensible it needs to be internationally enforceable - there are no laws whatsoever that currently meet that criteria.

      The only thing that going to work is adoption of something similar to International Marine Law.
      • There are sensible internet laws, and they don't have to be internationally enforceable to be that way. The problems are that you have to prosecute the receiver, not the supplier of information. In most cases this makes laws unenforceable because we're not willing to devote the effort necessary to prosecute individual internet gamblers (for example), or we're not comfortable with sentences harsh enough to be an adequate deterrent e.g. p2p and warez.

        An example where we are willing to invest the man power a
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The problems are that you have to prosecute the receiver, not the supplier of information.

          The trouble with prosecuting the receiver of information is you don't know what your getting until you load a page and even then you don't know everything you got unless your an expert and scan and identify every bit that comes in over your internet connection. Virtually anyone that uses default Windows setup for browsing and email and particularly those that open every email are going to have at some point child porno

      • The problem is, every country approached by the US for free trade agreements is asked to agree to certain things. These things include prosecution for things that are only a crime in America, and also to honour the American copyright and patent systems. This is why so much of the world has to pay attention to laws like the DMCA, since everyone seems to actually want free trade with the good ole US of A.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2007 @08:37AM (#18838957)
    Tubes! The naive old fool!

    Every geek on this site knows that the Internet is actually a series of pipes.

    In the case of the main backbones, great big fat pipes!
    • by enjerth ( 892959 )
      There's nothing wrong with using the term "tubes". It's a fine word to use for describing the function of the internet if you don't know any better.

      We're just scared when such uneducated people try to write laws about these "tubes".
  • Where's CAN-SPAM ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2007 @08:44AM (#18839003)
    I'm apalled that the author excluded CAN-SPAM from tfa. Easily #1 worst internet law in my books, for the fact that it is almost entirely unenforcable. (amongst many other enormous problems)
    • I've always wondered ... when they said 'CAN' in 'CAN-SPAM', which definition of 'can []' are they trying for?

      1. to be able to; have the ability, power, or skill to
      2. to know how to: He can play chess, although he's not particularly good at it.
      3. to have the power or means to: A dictator can impose his will on the people.
      4. to have the right or qualifications to: He can change whatever he wishes in the script.
      5. may; have permission to: Can I speak to you for a moment?
      6. to have the possibility: A
      • And here I was, thinking that CAN-SPAM was referring to a law prohibiting elderly Americans from going to Canadian websites to purchase SPAM, which is much cheaper than American SPAM and can be obtained from ever seeing a Canadian dietician or a Canadian food recipe... because we all know that American food industry must protect its market from the influx of cheaper, foreign-made SPAM which isn't made to the same standards as the US stuff... despite the fact that SPAMedi^H^H^Hcare and SPAMedic^H^H^Haid are
    • I have also wondered why this is missing. This regulation was only able to increase unsolicted email and create more problems.
  • by Aoreias ( 721149 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @09:02AM (#18839129)
    How could there be no mention in this article of Title 18 1029, 1030, 2510, and 2701, which, among other things, makes most of the following illegal in most circumstances
    • Possession of counterfeit credentials involving interstate commerce, such as credit card numbers
    • Accessing a computer in an unauthorized manner
    • Gaining privileges in excess of those otherwise granted
    • Unauthorized wiretaps
    While our ability to exercise certain rights is important, let us not forget that we also need the ability to restrict others from trespass and fraud.
  • by mikkelm ( 1000451 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @09:07AM (#18839163)
    .. have to be to use "series of tubes" as an analogy for the Internet? What's next? Buffering? Routing? Flow control? HAH! Ignorant politicians.
    • Flow control?

      You too? I notice at the end of the month my connection starts getting all testy and ornery. Then on the first, it's fine again. 30 days. Like clockwork.
    • Well, don't this sounds ignorant? At least funny it does :D

      Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got... an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday, I got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.

      [...] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something you just dump something on.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    From TFA:

    "The CDA (Communications Decency Act) tried to keep kids away from Internet porn, a reaction to a sensational 1995 article (the "Rimm Report") published in the Georgetown Law Journal that proclaimed that the Internet was awash in porn."

    Uhhhh, he said "Rimm". Huhuhuhuhuhuh.
  • by Burz ( 138833 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @09:29AM (#18839347) Homepage Journal
    ...have the right to play in the middle of the 'Information Superhighway' are almost always rotten.

    Handing over the keys to the car is something you do when your kid turns 15. There ought to be a similar ethic WRT Internet access.
    • by tshak ( 173364 )
      Handing over the keys to the car is something you do when your kid turns 15. There ought to be a similar ethic WRT Internet access.

      I agree that there should be a similar *ethic* in which parents enforce. I do not agree that a *law* is needed or that the analogy is valid. We have drivers licenses primarily to ensure that people are properly trained to use a device that is very powerful and can easily cause serious damange to others if used improperly. We don't require licenses because we're afraid of what ch
  • What would help me is a chart of the laws, who sponsored them, who voted for them and who voted against them. Granted, the "voted for" and "voted against" columns are rendered useless by porcine pork politics and the absurd nature of the American legislative process. All legislation receives the benefit of "earmarking" []. A truely bad bill may become law, not for it's primary purpose, but because of the attendant special interest amendments and good-ol-boy reach-arounds. How strange that HRBF George feels that the line item veto is a vital tool [] to combat ineffective laws, yet no-one believes that the Congress should be endowed with complementary powers, as in a line item vote. Legislators have the time to meet with the money (campaign contributors, special interests), construct loopholes, graft them onto other laws, and schmooze their compatriots, but do they actually have the time, as a body, to research and vote on each and every issue? Not likely.

    Still, knowing who sponsored the bills would be useful (yea, I could look it up myself, but I'm a complainer, not a doer).

  • 18 USC 2257 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by troll ( 593289 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @10:32AM (#18840013) Journal
    They missed one of the worst, 18 USC 2257, which makes a large chunk of internet sites impossible to run legally, like any site where people are uploading content or streaming video. This includes anonymous rateme sites like ratemyboobies, flashyourrack, and arguably even things like tinypic, flickr, and photobucket.

    Of course nobody will admit to hating it as it protects the children and if you dont like it you're a creepy pedophile.

    Impossible to hate the law because it makes distributors have to keep a copy of everything they distribute (technologically impossible for a cam site, not enough storage exists), makes pornstars give up a lot more personal info that all needs kept on file, even though they're usually the type that would want to stay anonymous or at least not have random guys able to come find and rape them, and makes it impossible for a girl to randomly post a tit picutre on a forum, imageboard, or whatever.

    Nope. None of those are valid complaints. Don't like the law = want to dick an 8 year old. Must be why it was left out from the article.
  • by kinglink ( 195330 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @10:56AM (#18840315)
    Ok, we can all agree that the government has not been able to understand the internet, and I think that's pretty sad, but I have a feeling that there has been more than 14 laws put into place about the internet. He even admits there's been 100s of laws passed. My problem is that we can only find 2 good laws, 2 questionable laws and 10 bad laws? This sounds like the article's writer has a bit of an axe to grind and decided to take it out on laws while pretending to maintain impartiality. He admits he's biased, but I could admit I'm biased and repeat some of the stuff that Venezuelan president Chavez says about out country and Bush. Doesn't make what I say news, or even worthy of a title "The good and bad of Bush".

    Personally I find this article to be subpar for our standards. Slashdot isn't a soap box, something we seem to have forgotten.
  • by merc ( 115854 ) <> on Monday April 23, 2007 @11:32AM (#18840851) Homepage
    The CAN-SPAM act is terrible legislation, not because of what it attempted to accomplish, but because of what it actually accomplished: Nothing. Even worse, it failed to criminalize spam, effectively legitimizing it.

    Aside from that the law has no real teeth. You can't seek redress from spammers unless you're an Attorney General or an ISP.

    Godwin's Law is a close second.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday April 23, 2007 @02:08PM (#18843001)
    The internet is something we know about, so we can interpret the laws. How many laws are out that that we do NOT know how it works, or is there a reason to believe Internet laws are different?
  • --Msg: 28501 of 28505 4/23/2007 6:17:36 PM Recs: 8 Sentiment: Strong Sell
    By: atul666 Send PM Profile Ignore Recommend Add To Favorites
    The REAL reason Ralphie hates open wireless

    Here's a curious thing. During the recent CP80 hearings in Utah, Ralphie proposed cracking down on local Utah ISPs, and anyone who offers open wireless access. The one witness in opposition quoted in the media was one Pete Ashdown, CEO of XMission, a local Utah ISP that would disproportionately bear the bru
  • Just because there are some stupid laws doesn't mean we don't need some public policy to encourage build out, prohibit redlining of certain neighborhoods, promote rural broadband development, protect consumers to make sure they are getting the speed and quality they are paying for. There are some examples of good public policy at []

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?