"Illegal content" (Re: Megaupload.com seized)

Marshall Eubanks marshall.eubanks at gmail.com
Fri Jan 20 11:47:33 UTC 2012

On Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 5:48 AM, Carsten Bormann <cabo at tzi.org> wrote:
> On Jan 20, 2012, at 11:25, Robert Bonomi wrote:
>>  Public distribution without the permission of the copyright owner is
>>  illegal.
> This is veering off the purpose of this list, but maybe it is operationally significant to be able to use the right terms when a law enforcement officer is standing in the door.
> Mark Andrews was pointing out that content being file-shared is rarely illegal.  By itself.  Examples of "illegal content" might be hate speech, child pornography, lèse-majesté, blasphemy, with the meaning of these terms depending on your jurisdiction.
> What you are pointing out is that distribution of content may be illegal.  That does not make the content itself illegal.  The legality of transfer under copyright is bound to many legal issues, such as fair use, right to personal copies, and of course licensing, again depending on your jurisdiction.  But all this is divorced from the content.  Content is never illegal with respect to copyright.  (It might have been copied illegally, but once it's sitting somewhere, it's not illegal by itself.  A license would suddenly make it legal.)
> The point is important because a lot of idiots are running around shouting "he had all this copyrighted material on his computer!".  Of course he had!  There are very few computers that don't carry copyrighted material, starting from the BIOS.  Without examining the legal context, such as purchasing histories, supreme court decisions etc., it is sometime really hard to say whether all of it got there in a legal way, and its presence may be an indication of previous illegal activity.  But (at least wrt copyright law) it is never illegal while sitting somewhere on a computer.
> So the next time somebody says "illegal content", think "hate speech" or "child pornography", "lèse-majesté" or "blasphemy", not copyrighted content.  Almost everything on a computer is copyrighted.

There is a lot of disinformation in this area, with loaded words with
no legal meaning being used to make political points
or engender desired reactions. I am not a lawyer, and this is
certainly not legal advice,  but in the US copyright infringement is
not theft, the shear possession of infringing material is not illegal,
nor is listening / watching / reading such material in private, and
the terms "piracy" and "intellectual property" are not to be found in
US copyright law. That you would not know this reading the press
releases is a feature, not a bug. And, since 1976, registration is not
required for copyright and almost everything written, sung, videoed,
etc., including these emails, is copyrighted from the time it is

But, indeed, this is far the purpose of this mail list.


> Now let's return to the impact of this heist on network utilization...
> Grüße, Carsten

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