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Friday, December 25, 2009

No more naked pics on yahoo problem with pornography

Yahoo defends against suit for posting pics of a naked lady!

Yahoo defends against pics of naked lady

Should Yahoo be liable if someone posts nasty pictures of an x-girlfriend?

Normally the answer is no. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, popularly known as the Communications Decency Act, says the web service is not liable for objectionable material posted to it's service if they 1. allow outside postings also known as interactive postings; 2. the service is named in the law suit as the publisher of the material; and 3.the server did not post the specific objectionable material, an interactive user posted it.

In short, the communications decency act says a web host is not liable for pornography if it was posted by one of the users and not the web service itself. There are exceptions to the law including illegal material like child pornography.

What happens if the interactive service provider, in this case Yahoo, promises to take the pics off the net but does not do it. Should it be liable then?

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken's applied the standards to a case filed by Cecilia Barnes when her ex-boyfriend posted pictures of her in various states of undress. Ms. Barnes complained to Yahoo and the service provider agreed to remove the offensive photos.

At the same time, Yahoo contacted a television reporter who was doing a piece on non-responsive service providers who left objectionable material on the server. Yahoo told the reporter it had taken the pictures down. Yahoo wanted to diffuse the effect of the reporters claims.

Unfortunately for Yahoo, the popular Internet service provider didn't take the pictures down. Ms. Barnes sued. Finally, the pics came off of Yahoo's server, but it took the lawsuit for Yahoo to take action.

So what to do? Judge Aiken dismissed the case based upon the Communications Decency Act. Ms. Barnes appealed and the appellate court agreed in part and disagreed in part. The appeals court agreed Ms. Barnes did not have a case for negligence. However, the appeals court said Ms. Barnes did have a case for breach of contract when the agreed to take the pics off of the net and did not do it.

What is the moral of the story?

If you have an interactive computer service like yahoo and someone posts pictures of a third party unclothed or in compromising positions, remove the pictures quickly if some one complains. In the alternative, make no promises and take no action. Just leave the pics as they be. Until Yahoo made the promise to take down the pics, Yahoo was protected under the communications decency act. Their mistake was in making the promise to take the pics down and then not taking the pics off of the net!

The law could have a chilling effect on service providers that allow their users to post what some users call erotic art and others call pornography. The right of free press is a precious one, and censureship of one man's art leads us down the slippery slope to censureship of every man's art.

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