Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
typodupeerror Sued By Colorado Woman 797

An anonymous reader writes "The Internet Archive is being sued by a Colorado woman for spidering her site. Suzanne Shell posted a notice on her site saying she wasn't allowing it to be crawled. When it was, she sued for civil theft, breach of contract, and violations of the Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations act and the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. A court ruling last month granted the Internet Archive's motion to dismiss the charges, except for the breach of contract claim. If Shell prevails on that count, sites like Google will have to get online publishers to 'opt in' before they can be crawled, radically changing the nature of Web search."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted. Sued By Colorado Woman

Comments Filter:
  • by Red Cape ( 854034 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:16PM (#18386347) Homepage Journal
    she should have put a password on it.
  • robots.txt (Score:5, Informative)

    by knothead99 ( 33644 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:17PM (#18386367) Journal
    TFA clearly states that there was no robots.txt file. I suppose she expects us (programmers) to rush out and perfect natural language processing so all our spiders can read her stupid notice.
  • Um...robots.txt?! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Franklin Brauner ( 1034220 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:20PM (#18386395)
    The article states that a crawler can't read, but they can -- robots.txt.
    Franklin Brauner
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Informative)

    by spellraiser ( 764337 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:20PM (#18386399) Journal

    No, she didn't post the notice properly:

    Her suit asserts that the Internet Archive's programmatic visitation of her site constitutes acceptance of her terms, despite the obvious inability of a Web crawler to understand those terms and the absence of a robots.txt file to warn crawlers away.

    The case should be thrown out, period. She should just have learned her lesson and used a proper robots.txt file next time. If you're going to post stuff on the Internet and don't want it to beb indexed or archived, you should know what you're doing. If you don't, it's your problem. The lawsuit is frivolous and inane.

  • by shark72 ( 702619 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:26PM (#18386457)
    She's quite a a firecracker. From tempt/ []:

    She's been ejected from courtrooms by judges and attacked in a hallway by a convicted child molester she was trying to capture on film. She's been arrested in Wisconsin for refusing to turn over her video equipment to a police officer and detained at the Colorado Springs Airport because she forgot to remove a .380-caliber pistol from her carry-on items.
  • by xSquaredAdmin ( 725927 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:32PM (#18386537)
    She did request that they did, and they did so. Then she asked them for $100,000 in compensation for copying in the first place. You can read more here [].
  • Statute of Frauds (Score:4, Informative)

    by gravesb ( 967413 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:32PM (#18386547) Homepage
    I'm not in Colorado, so I don't know their particular statute of frauds, but in general it requires a contract, signed, in writing for things over $500. Since, according to the contract on the bottom, one page is worth $5,000, I would argue they need my signature to imply that I agreed to the contract. Also, basic contract law requires a meeting of the minds and an agreement. There isn't one with a crawler. Finally, I don't think you can eliminate fair use rights in the manner that she is doing. That's a basic part of the law. She's trying to extend copyright in a manner that definitely isn't settled, and may have sufficient precedence against to make this a forgone conclusion. I hope that the judge didn't dismiss the claim so that he can establish some precedent on the matter, showing how stupid it is, and prevent future law suits of the same kind.
  • by Sabotage ( 21481 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:33PM (#18386553)
    It appears her site is at []

    Check out this article here: e456.cfm []

    According to this, she requested that the site be removed from the Archive in December, 2005, and they complied. They're actually countersuing her. They moved to have her claims dropped for various reasons, but the court chose to only drop the ones related to conversion, civil theft and the RICO claims. The issue of breach of contract and copyright infringement still apply.

    I think it's absolutely ridiculous that this can go forward, especially when there are two established methods to stop the Archive's activity: The opt-out, which will remove history, and robots.txt (which she didn't use and appears to still not use), which will prevent that spider from ever archiving her site again.

    Her site shows up in Google, I wonder why she hasn't sued them? Could it be that she likes the exposure of the big search engine, but doesn't want any history of her site archived by the Internet Archive?
  • by Looke ( 260398 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:45PM (#18386647)
    Technically speaking, yeah, sure it's a "copy". You don't have the copyright for it, so you're not allowed to re-publish it. That's what is doing.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:14PM (#18386857)
    The inaccurate Slashdot description would make you believe that, but actually she has this on her webpage: "IF YOU COPY OR DISTRIBUTE ANYTHING ON THIS WEB SITE, YOU ARE ENTERING INTO A CONTRACT".
  • by ginotech ( 816751 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:17PM (#18386885)
    If it ignored robots.txt, she'd have some sort of a case. the whole point is that she didn't even have a robots.txt

    i'd also like to point out that the spam prevention word for this post was "sucked"
  • Re:GRRRRRRRRRR (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:24PM (#18386949)

    Women doubly so

    Please. Let's try not to live up to the "geeks are frustrated male misogynists" stereotypes, shall we?

    Also, robots.txt is a pretty silly standard(much like the similar practice of using favicon.ico for website icons, using magical filenames here makes the process obscure and unintuitive), a (de-facto) standard though it is. While I agree that people who care as much about spidering as Suzanne Shell obviously does should learn about robots.txt, it's not something you can expect every non-technical person who operates a website to know about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:39PM (#18387099)
    Suzanne Shell is a family rights activists who has published 3 books and a website advocating on behalf of the fundamental human right of family association. This activism largely applies to government intrusions into the family under child abuse/neglect investigations and court actions. She has been active in this arena since 1991 and is nationally recognized as an expert in this arena.

    She is advertised by: []

    An example of her work: []

    She urges interested parties to contact her via her contact address or phone number on the letterhead in above PDF.

    Let her know what you think!
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Informative)

    by binford2k ( 142561 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:52PM (#18387211) Homepage Journal
  • SITE SLASHDOTTED (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:09PM (#18387383)
    Suzanne Shell
    14053 Eastonville Rd.
    Elbert, CO 80106

    For those looking to share your views, Suzanne has asked that we continue to contact her organization at her official "non-web" addresses.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:17PM (#18387473)
    robots.txt is a nice convention, but its absence doesn't allow anyone to break copyright. Where does that idea come from??

    It isn't just a "nice convention". It's a sufficiently reasonable precaution available to plaintiff to effectively avoid the inadvertent disclosure of copyrighted documents. Failure to provide a simple robots.txt file evidences a lack of reasonable precaution and undermines plaintiff's claims to redress in a court of law.

    In her defense it seems she probably needs the money after being fined $6000 in a Colorado state court a few months ago for a contempt violation (unauthorized practice of law) [] after she participated in three separate Colorado court cases under a power of attorney when she had no prior involvement- after having been warned on a prior occasion that this was illegal in the state of Colorado. In fact it's illegal everywhere except Slashdot. But of course it's lies, all lies!

    I did not give legal advice to anyone. I did not use powers of attorney to represent anyone or give legal advice to anyone. As I testified, and which was not refuted, I used Powers of Attorney because I was previously accused of forging signatures on release of information forms. I started using powers of attorney to access the DHS records under an existing Colorado Children's Code statutory provision recognizing powers of attorney for that purpose, legislation which I influenced.
    She needs a good spanking.
  • Re:This is so stupid (Score:4, Informative)

    by Skreems ( 598317 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:49PM (#18387805) Homepage
    No, but I'm pretty sure the contract isn't valid if you decline. Her statement that "by doing x you are entering a contract" shouldn't hold up in any reasonable court. Even with shrinkwrap licenses on software you have to click a button or hit a checkbox that says "I agree to the contract shown here", and those are on shaky ground as it is. While all the normal copyright laws still apply to her content, the only way to enter into a contract is still to explicitly agree to the contract.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @03:03PM (#18387939)
    Upon request, can and most probably will remove the copy from their site.

    I'll verify do remove content quite quickly. A friend of mine was being stalked, and while she'd removed the pages on her site that had more information than she'd wanted about herself online publicly (a mistake she made in 1999 putting the pages up), kept a copy. According to their FAQ, putting a denial in robots.txt would not only stop her site being crawled, but remove old archived pages from their archive - so she added a relevant robots.txt entry that denied access, and submitted her site to their crawl engine again.

    Within minutes a horde of bots from different crawl servers descended on her site, reading that robots.txt file. Within 15 minutes some searches for her domain came up with their "We're sorry, access to $SITENAME has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt" message, and after 24 hours and more crawls, all searches came up negative. Now, checks robots.txt daily, and crawls no further than that.

    There's no guarantee of getting rid of anything you publish online of course, whether it be a webpage, newsgroup post, email or IM, but do the right thing there, automatically and quickly.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @03:46PM (#18388377) Homepage Journal

    ROTFL. I didn't even see that part. Since it was buried below text talking about copying/printing, the assumption is that it is a continuation of that content, but it really isn't. More on why this text is also an illegal contract a little later.

    But first, the obvious flaws: the content formatting is so unreadable that it's easy to miss. And then, there are the spelling and grammatical errors in their "license" notice.

    For example, "The content if this website is intended to generate income, it is not free if you intend to archive, copy, print or distribute anything electronically fixed herein." Let's see. Run-on sentence, missing serial comma, misspelled a two-letter word.... Could someone explain to me why someone incapable of writing a very simple English sentence without tons of very basic 2nd grader mistakes is trying to make money on the internet?

    And then, there's the fact that this woman lacks a basic fundamental understanding of computers. "Permission and limited, non-exclusive license to reproduce this web site, by any method including but not limited to magnetically, digitally, electronically or hard copy, may be purchased for $5,000 (five thousand dollars) per printed hard copy page per copy, in advance of printing." Where to begin.... Magnetic, digital, and electronic reproduction do not involve printing! Oh, yeah, and missing a serial comma, an extra comma after "this web site", I think it needs a comma after "by any method", but I'd have to see what Strunk & White say on the subject. And "per printed hard copy page per copy" is redundant. A printed hard copy page is a single copy by definition.

    But my favorite part is this: not only is there no robots.txt (still), but also nowhere in the page source are there any meta tag to indicate that the document should not be cached, so by viewing the page, you are committing an act which the license claims would require payment of $5,000, and by viewing it through AOL, you also cause AOL to commit an act (caching) which the license claims would require payment of $5,000. And by viewing it through AOL using the Google cache [], you cause both companies to owe $5,000. Just in case you think that she might have been smart enough (yeah, right) to set it in the headers, here are the headers for the web page:

    HTTP/1.1 200 OK
    Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2007 19:25:33 GMT
    Server: Apache
    Last-Modified: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 16:15:52 GMT
    ETag: "10d27b-f53b-45fac2b8"
    Accept-Ranges: bytes
    Content-Length: 62779
    Content-Type: text/html

    Notice anything missing? Like a Cache-Control directive?

    Here's a hint: this woman is a nearly computer-illiterate neophyte who posted tons of content online without any real understanding of how the internet works, and now is pissed off because of her own carelessness. Ignorance of the way the net operates is not a defense, folks.

    There. I've copied a portion of the site contents. She'll probably sue me, too. I'm glad we have SLAPP laws here....

  • by ocdude ( 932504 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @03:55PM (#18388467)
    Robots.txt is a simple file one can put on their site to not have it crawled. even posts what to put in a robots.txt file to prevent their bot from crawling one's site:

    User-agent: ia_archiver
    Disallow: /
    If robots.txt is not an option, they have instructions on how to contact them to have your site removed from their indexes, found here []. There really is no excuse for having content that you want not to be crawled open to be crawled nowadays.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:3, Informative)

    by SnowZero ( 92219 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @04:26PM (#18388769)

    She essentially uses the same fiction that underlies the GPL: If you copy, you are assumed to have agreed to the license terms.
    And you demonstrate a commonly held, yet totally incorrect misconception of the GPL. You can copy GPL'ed code all you want, as it is only a limit on DISTRIBUTION, not COPYING. If that's a fiction, then a copyright notice with "All rights reserved" is also meaningless. Why don't you try to sell that view to the RIAA/MPAA?

    This woman seems to be angry just at the mere fact that it's been copied, and not with any occurrence of distribution. In a GPL violation case, one normally asks for compliance or a cessation of distribution, trying to work something out before launching into a lawsuit. That's because the violation may have been totally accidental (as it would be with a spider with no robots.txt present), and even if you "won" the lawsuit, your tiny award would not cover the costs. So, if she didn't first ask to remove the material, she'll have a difficult time showing she was acting with any good faith.
  • Her web pages appear to be HTML.

    Wow, look at that. Right in the damn HTML4 spec:

    The robots.txt file

    When a Robot visits a Web site, say [], it firsts checks for []. If it can find this document, it will analyze its contents to see if it is allowed to retrieve the document. You can customize the robots.txt file to apply only to specific robots, and to disallow access to specific directories or files.

    robots.txt, and the meta tag defined later in the same document, are indeed rules.

  • She's basically providing information for people trying to resist intervention from child protective services.

    In some places, I think that's entirely appropriate. I might have agreed with you until I watched a friend get accused of sexually abusing his kids by his crackhead ex wife. He's complied with ever detail of the law, and even though no evidence exists against him, he'll still probably not see his kids again unless they decide later in life to contact him.

    Frankly, he would have been in far less trouble had he simply killed his ex and disappeared with the kids.

    While I'm not saying that CPS is universally bad, I do know that I'll never again live in Missouri after seeing how they routinely shred the constitution "for the children".

  • Re:This is so stupid (Score:3, Informative)

    by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <> on Saturday March 17, 2007 @05:39PM (#18389495) Homepage
    Plus there are very well known ways to prevent spiders from spidering you. Robots.txt does the job very well.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:3, Informative)

    by supersat ( 639745 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @05:58PM (#18389681)
    Reading the order to dismiss [], a few things come to light:

    1. After she sent the Internet Archive an email demanding payment of $100,000, the Internet Archive sued to have their actions declared legal.
    2. She is proceeding pro se, most likely because she got caught off-guard by the Internet Archive's legal action. Still, you can't go around demanding $100,000 without expecting a legal response.
    3. One of her counterclaims was for copyright infringment. However, the Internet Archive did not move to have that counterclaim dismissed.
  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @06:41PM (#18390015) Homepage
    Except that the rules are different for libraries and archives, and the Internet Archive is a non-profit, registered member of the American Library Association, primarily funded by the Smithsonian Institution. Libraries routinely make copies for archival purposes (i.e. transferring newspapers to microfiche), and their right to do so is spelled out in the copyright laws. What she's done is the equivalent of putting "Anyone who reads this must pay the author five dollars" at the beginning of a book, then suing a library which carries a copy of that book. (Or, for a slightly closer analogy, placing a classified ad in a local newspaper with a notice that anyone who copies it must pay you, and then suing the local library for their microfiched copy of the newspaper.)

    If she were to sue anyone, she should have sued Google, who, as a for-profit information service selling advertisements, cannot claim to be a public library, and whose copy of her site is every bit as much a re-publication as the Archive's, but without the defenses spelled out in copyright law that the Archive has.
  • by StrangerX ( 832852 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @08:05PM (#18390521)
    part of ongoing battle between and church of scientology. the legalese is there to help in court, the lack of robots.txt to get the paged archived so scientology can sue again. Suzanne Shell has been affiliated with the church of scientology for quite a while, a google on scientology and suzanne shell gives you everything you need to know.
  • It's OK (Score:5, Informative)

    by djtack ( 545324 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @10:19PM (#18391391)
    It's OK now - after negotiating with Ms. Shell she agreed to place the contents of her site into the public domain. Here's a copy of our contract:

    GET / HTTP/1.1
    User-Agent: By accepting this HTTP GET request you agree to release into the public domain the entire contents of this web site.
    Pragma: no-cache
    Accept: */*

    HTTP/1.1 200 OK
    Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2007 02:11:09 GMT
    Server: Apache
    Expires: Thu, 19 Nov 1981 08:52:00 GMT
    Cache-Control: no-store, no-cache, must-revalidate, post-check=0, pre-check=0
    Pragma: no-cache
    Connection: close
    Transfer-Encoding: chunked
    Content-Type: text/html
  • semiPro Se too... (Score:2, Informative)

    by vague_ascetic ( 755456 ) <> on Sunday March 18, 2007 @12:36PM (#18394695) Homepage Journal

    US Court of Appeasls for the Tenth District (html doc online) []

    • Suzanne Shell, Plaintiff,
    • and
    • April Fields, Plaintiff-Appellant,


    • Rocco F. Meconi, individually and officially;
    • Fremont County Colorado Department of Human Services, officially;
    • Steve Clifton, individually and officially;
    • Dawn Rivas, individually and officially;
    • Todd Hanenberg, individually and officially;
    • Dan C. Kender, individually;
    • Anna Hall Owen, individually and officially,
    • Defendants-Appellees,


    • Fremont County District Court,
    • Defendant.
    • No. 04-1133
    • (D.C. No. 03-RB-743 (MJW))
    • (D. Colo.)
    • No. 04-1155
    • (D.C. No. 03-RB-743 (MJW))
    • (D. Colo.)
      • I. Background

        Ms. Fields's daughter was the subject of a dependency and neglect proceeding initiated by the state of Colorado in January 2003. In connection therewith, the state provided Ms. Fields a court-appointed attorney, Mr. Kender, but Ms. Fields also hired Ms. Shell, a journalist who researches and documents child protection agencies' practices, to act as an expert consultant. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Fields executed a power of attorney naming Ms. Shell as her agent. Ms. Fields also agreed to be included in Ms. Shell's documentary video project concerning child protection services.

        On April 16, 2003, Mr. Meconi, the Fremont County DHS's attorney, filed a motion in state court to make Ms. Shell a special respondent in the pending dependency and neglect action. The motion sought to prevent Ms. Shell "from contacting the minor child or [Ms. Fields] . . . and from otherwise being involved in the proceedings . . . , including, but not limited to, acting as counsel for [Ms. Fields] or otherwise engaging in the unauthorized practice of law."

        [. . .]

        On May 9, after a hearing on the motion to make Ms. Shell a special respondent, the state court issued an order granting the motion, vesting legal custody of Ms. Fields's daughter with the Fremont County DHS, and scheduling a jury trial. In making Ms. Shell a special respondent the court observed that Ms. Shell, "in the guise of acting as the agent" for Ms. Fields, has "essentially been providing legal advice to [Ms. Fields]." The state court further ordered Ms. Shell specifically prohibited from:

        1. Preparing, providing or otherwise generating any legal documents;

        1. Providing any legal advice to [Ms. Fields], regardless of whether she (Suzanne Shell) characterizes it as legal advice or counseling;

        1. . . . having any relationship or contact with [Ms. Fields] at all; [and]

        1. . . . exercising, in any way, the rights or authority expressed in the power of attorney given to her by [Ms. Fields] . . . .

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern