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Yahoo Sued over Yahoo Groups Content
Brett_Tabke

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 10:30 pm on Aug 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

[usatoday.com...]

A California lawyer who has waged an ongoing battle with Yahoo over personal attacks made against him on Yahoo message boards has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the company.

 

christopher w

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 12:03 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

The suit proposes as a class any California resident who has been targeted by abusive messages on a Yahoo board, who tried to get such messages stopped or learn the identity of the message poster, and who had such requests denied within the last four years. It seeks restitution, a permanent injunction and other forms of relief.

Goodbye to the anonimity of the Net if he has his way ;)

Teknorat

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 4:05 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

From the Yahoo! Massage Boards TOS:
You understand that all information, data, text, software, music, sound, photographs, graphics, video, messages or other materials ("Content"), whether publicly posted or privately transmitted, are the sole responsibility of the person from which such Content originated.

End of story.

I have a lot more to say about Mr. Stephen Galton but I'll respect your ToS Brett. :)

4eyes

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 6:28 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

End of story

Sadly, it is not the end of the story. It doesn't work like that. You can't contract your way out of your own legal responsibilities.

Teknorat

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 6:54 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yahoo has no legal responsibilities in this regard. They provide a free service. If this "overly robust geezer that makes a living walking behind the elephant with a shovel" of a lawyer gets anywhere with this case it has big implications for me and millions of others. These kind of cases make me sick.

[edited by: rogerd at 3:30 pm (utc) on Aug. 6, 2004]
[edit reason] No specifics/URLs, please... [/edit]

TheDoctor

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 9:19 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

You understand that all information, data, text, software, music, sound, photographs, graphics, video, messages or other materials ("Content"), whether publicly posted or privately transmitted, are the sole responsibility of the person from which such Content originated.

Which is not much good if the person responsible cannot be identified.

Far be it from me to defend a lawyer, but, as I understand the story, there would have been no complaint had Yahoo had decent moderation and kept personal abuse out of its groups.

I had a recent case in a forum I run, when I removed a post that personally abused a Nazi. Now I am all in favour of political attacks on Nazis, and you can use as much much webspace of mine and as much bandwidth of mine that you want to attack them. I'll give you it freely, and press more on you. But political attacks. No personal abuse.

Maybe people had criticisms of Stephen H. Galton, but I can't see how describing him as an "overly robust geezer that makes a living walking behind the elephant with a shovel" could actually move the debate forward.

dcrombie

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 10:59 am on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

What can Yahoo! really provide other than the IP address and perhaps an email address of the poster. Neither of which is conclusive proof of identity. Mr Scooper would then have to file suit against the users ISP to try and identify them a la RIAA.

Jimmy Turnip

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 1:54 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think someone who has to sue after a little name-calling must be very insecure.

He should watch the end of "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" instead...

alain_bonaf



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 2:49 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

>I think someone who has to sue after a little name-calling must be very insecure.

>He should watch the end of "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" instead...

I fully agree even when counting the number of times I've been victim of name-calling by fascists if I attacked them in court for name calling I could fill an entire prison :D.

BReflection

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 4:27 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yahoo has no legal responsibilities in this regard. They provide a free service. If this "overly robust geezer that makes a living walking behind the elephant with a shovel" of a lawyer gets anywhere with this case it has big implications for me and millions of others. These kind of cases make me sick.

There is always the pragmatic point of view. A computer owned by Yahoo is storing physical bits of inflammatory information about a person. Yahoo are then spreading that information to their users. I think there is a reason that the website we are on has such a strict TOS and such active moderation. It is only a matter of time before a judge adopts the pragmatic point of view. As you said, it will have big implications for the world. There are two ways to look at change. You can embrace it and make the most of it, or you can run under the couch. Bottom line: The anonymity of the Internet is causing peoples rights to be violated, therefore, it is only an eventuality that some of that anonymity will go away in order to protect people. And I think that's a good thing.

alain_bonaf



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 4:42 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

>There is always the pragmatic point of view...

I don't see what problem there are: I have a yahoo egroups it suffices that me the owner of this group has a button to moderate: Yahoo just doesn't provide this possibility technically.

So why generalise to speak about identities problems? It's just the same kind of pretext used by communist or dictatorship countries snipped to control their citizens!

I suppose that they just need one day of programming to add this simple function and that it would "only" cost 10000$ to the shareholders so it's really worth the investment to preserve a democracy :D.

[edited by: DaveAtIFG at 7:49 pm (utc) on Aug. 11, 2004]

4eyes

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 5:14 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yahoo has no legal responsibilities in this regard.

Doesn't matter how many times you say it, you are still wrong.
You are taking an over-simplistic view.

They have responsibilities for anything on their servers and can't contract their responsibilities away that easily. If it were as simple as you seem to think, why do you think Google jumped through hoops to comply with the DMCA removal requests.

FWIW, other countries that are generally less litigious than the US have supported similar legal action [news.bbc.co.uk], and that in an action brought by a Canadian over libel posted in USENET and carried on the ISPs servers.

Nice article here [abanet.org] that gives a good overview of why this is not an open and shut case.

[edited by: 4eyes at 5:32 pm (utc) on Aug. 6, 2004]

soapystar

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 5:31 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

of course we are talking about maintaining inflammatory material AFTER it has been brought to Yahoo's attention.....this is already covered in the UK......

roscoepico

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 5:40 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

I just went and posted some nasty comments about myself, do I qualify for this suit? ;)

rbacal



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 6:44 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

I rarely comment on such issues, but as a list owner AND user who has been actively involved in encouraging yahoogroups to enforce their terms of service over the last years, I had to.

The problem isn't limited to nasty messages. IMHO, the real problem relates to yahoogroups apparent indifference or inability to enforce its terms of service on almost all issues.

Over the last two years, a particular yahoogroup has infringed on copyrights, forged messages under various real people's names, spamming to get people to subscribe, and a host of other sins, clearly linked to the owner of the list. The list now has over 4,000 members, so this isn't a minor list that nobody sees.

Literally dozens of people have complained about this list to yahoogroups. In total probably over 200 complaints sent to them. Most don't receive a reply or trouble ticket number. We've even tried phone calls and faxes to senior execs.

That's fairly typical. So, while I'm somewhat accepting of nastygrams, the real problem lies with yahoogroups continued inaction on almost any complaint.

I was a list owner before yahoo bought egroups, and I can say that in those days, the egroups staff were exceedingly responsive to TOS violations.

If this law suit encourages them to improve their responsiveness regarding illegal activities to TOS activities, then I hope they get pinned to the wall.

Fairla

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 8:52 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

If a group is infringing copyright, try sending a DMCA complaint to Yahoo. I did this when a group owner posted one of my articles on his group and refused to remove it.

Yahoo deleted the article, but the group owner left the article on his own personal website, along with references to the fact that he had originally distributed my article through Yahoo. After I pointed this out to Yahoo twice, Yahoo deleted the entire group. (Yahoo probably had received other complaints about this group, as many of the posts were nothing more than copyrighted articles from other sites.)

My point is that the DMCA gives you a lot of power to enforce your copyrights, and although Yahoo is amazingly difficult to contact and very unresponsive, if you are persistent you may get results on copyright issues.

rbacal



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 11:12 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Farla:

Theoretically, what you say is correct, but in practice the DMCA/yahoogroup combo is a major barrier.

First, the list is restricted and membership requires approval of the individual responsible for the mail forging and copyright infringements. A significant amount of the infringed material has had the copyright notices removed. In any event you have to be approved to view both the messages and files.

Second, DMCA disallows third party involvements. So, for example, if I find 100 infringing documents on yahoogroups, I, as a third party, have no standing to file a DMCA complaint unless they belong to me.

That means identifying owners, contacting them, explaining how to file a DMCA complaint with yahoogroups. The process is hugely timeconsuming, particularly when there are hundreds of files to go through...

Yahoogroups simply would not investigate the large scale theft reported to them, since they used the DMCA as a sort of shield,.

Because of the restricted access, the hassles involved and the desire for most of the copyright owners to basically try to avoid additional effort, I'm guessing that few actually filed DMCA complaints. I know speaking to a number of those infringed that they were prepared to consider it "over-exuberance" on the part of the infringer. That's another problem -- that when you steal one thing from a lot of people, rather than a lot of things from one person, most people don't see it as a big deal, and ignore the overall pattern.

I can understand yahoo not wanting to inspect every little thing, but I would expect that ONCE THEY ARE NOTIFIED, that they would look into something like widespread infringement on their own.

But isn't that the focus of the law suit re: abusive messages? Inaction?

lovethecoast

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 1:33 am on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm on both sides of the fence here. On one side, the web is becoming an economic powerhouse and I cannot imagine starting a website these days without also thinking about how it can make money.

On the other side, I have used usenet since before the whole web thing came along. The whole reason behind this "internet" thingie was to foster communication. Hell, look how it (the internet) has literally opened up borders. Anonymity is something that has allowed that communication to foster. We've all seen message boards where lots of people came together and while we didn't know each others names, we created community -- we shared information, we laughed and cried and discussed the current topics (oh wait... just like THIS board).

I'm sure most lawyers would want people living in glass houses as it makes their jobs easier -- which is kind of odd considering most charge by the hour. On the other hand, having access to tons of information means they can just increase the number of tort lawsuits fired -- let's face it, a certian subset of lawyers loves digging through trash and creating a case where one probably wouldn't have existed elsewhere.

I'm sure Stephen Galton will be "lawyer of the year" in a few circles.

S

rbacal



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 2:18 am on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

Lovethecoast:

I go back to commodore64 days, and like it or not, those days of community ended when the Internet became woven into our economic and business systems.

In the old days, anonymous nasty posts couldn't do anyone much or any economic harm, since so few people accessed those posts. Not now.

My take on the lawsuit from the limited info in the article is that it is saying that yahoogroups has a terms of service, which involves implied obligations which they may not be keeping. And that they are legally obliged to keep those obligations.

What it is aimed at is trying to create a situation where yahoogroups is held accountable. To me all this means is that we ask of yahoogroups what we get on webmasterworld or other reputable forums. That there be a TOS which is enforced.

I don't know about others, but I doubt that webmasterworld would be worth a plugged nickel if it stopped moderating and allowed an anything goes approach. We can't rely on EVERY individual user to act fairly and responsibly, given the damage that can be done by disseminating false accusations, for example.

If webmasterworld can do it voluntarily, then shouldn't we expect the same of yahoogroups, particularly when it is a virtual monopoly in its field? (not an illegal one, but for all intents and purposes, it has only a few competitors, if that.)

I don't expect yahoogroups to work miracles, but I do expect reasonable effort, reasonable attempts to make filing complaints easier (rather than hiding the forms to do so under layers of their site), reasonable attempts at policing their lists, and so on.

Fairla

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 7:28 pm on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

Rbacal, it sounds like a real hassle for you. If I were you, I wouldn't try to notify all the copyright owners, but try to find one or two who are "big guns," ie, big companies who already know all about copyright law and have an interest in protecting their rights. That would be more effective than notifying dozens of little fish.

I agree that some companies are using the DMCA as a shield to avoid really policing their own content. And Internet companies are not going to be taken seriously as real businesses until they start acting like real businesses -- providing adequate contact info, monitoring content to make sure it's appropriate -- quite simply, presenting a professional face to the world.

Teknorat

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 6:18 am on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Where Yahoo! Stands is up to them, here's where I stand.
The below is my opinion.

1> I will never give out users information in a situation like this, take me to court and bankrupt me if you like, I'll wipe the hard drive before I let you near it.

2> Anonymity is a right on the internet.

3> Freedom of speech extends to personal attacks, if someone calls me an elephant cleaner their post may be deleted under the sites TOS. However I don't think I should have any legal entitlement to then take that person to court.

4> This guy deserved all the spam I sent to his email.

5> I am not debating any of the above opinions.

4eyes

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2605 posted 7:39 pm on Aug 11, 2004 (gmt 0)


1> I will never give out users information in a situation like this, take me to court and bankrupt me if you like, I'll wipe the hard drive before I let you near it.

I'd do the same

2> Anonymity is a right on the internet.

Sadly its not - maybe it should be, but its not.


3> Freedom of speech extends to personal attacks, if someone calls me an elephant cleaner their post may be deleted under the sites TOS. However I don't think I should have any legal entitlement to then take that person to court.

Unfortunately, what you (or I) think is irrelevant - its what the court decides that matters. Where freedom of speech ends and slander or libel starts will depend on the jurisdiction hearing the case.
A canadian based in the US was 'succesfully' sued in a UK court for Usenet postings. Of course, getting the money off him was a different matter - but it illustrates the absolute mess that 'the law' makes of internet issues (guess he won't be attending the next pubconf in London, though).

The best protection is to ensure your own anonymity by technical means.


5> I am not debating any of the above opinions.

Aw, go on, debate... ;)

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