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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."
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  • Posted notice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:14PM (#18386335)
    Did she post the notice properly, though? There are laws about how you must post a 'no trespassing' sign on physical properties.

    Similarly, there are ways to post that notice on your website as well. robots.txt comes to mind. If she didn't bother to post the notice correctly, the case should be just thrown out.
  • by Billy the Impaler ( 886238 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:20PM (#18386389)

    And even if they did, why the fuck didn't she use a ROBOTS.TXT file? Isn't that what it's for?
    Clearly she should have. However, she didn't and that's the issue at stake here. Is ignorance of the procedure an excuse?
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by modecx ( 130548 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:26PM (#18386461)
    What a stupid bitch. I'm ashamed to live in the same state as her.

    The way I see it, there are certain ways to make sure spiders don't index your pages, and we should agree that if one is smart enough to put a web site on the net, one should also be smart enough to learn how these work. Good spiders like any of the major search engines and will restrain themselves if you setup a robots.txt file (or meta tags) that tell them they aren't welcome.

    If she really didn't want her data to be copied, she should have stuck it in a password protected directory, and she could have made her nifty copyright exclusion/contract agreement to apply after users entered the supplied passwords.

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:27PM (#18386483) Journal
    Clearly she should have. However, she didn't and that's the issue at stake here. Is ignorance of the procedure an excuse?

    No it's not an excuse. By placing her information on the internet, she must comply with the standards of the internet. The important thing is that there was a legitimate way to prevent this which she could have implemented, but she didn't. Just as the cartoon advertisement got in a shitload of trouble in Boston. It's not that they weren't allowed, but rather they simply needed to file the proper form.

    If you were to use a felt tip marker to put your copytight notice on a braille flyer, but didn't put the notice in braille, and someone who read the braille and was incapable of reading the marker then sent that notice to their friends, I suspect they would not be in violation of the copyright notice.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jrockway ( 229604 ) <> on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:29PM (#18386497) Homepage Journal
    A case should be thrown out even if robots.txt was ignored. What if robots.txt contains a parse error or was temporarily inaccessible?

    If you want something published on the public internet to be private, require viewers to enter a password or present a cryptographic certificate. Everything else is public.
  • by Splab ( 574204 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:31PM (#18386521)
    ' 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."'

    No that would only change the nature of the web for US citizens, just like the online internet gamble thingie, the rest of us will shrug and move about our businesses as usual.
  • Send her love. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:43PM (#18386639) Homepage Journal

    wget -r -l0 --delete-after []

  • Big deal? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <> on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:48PM (#18386675) Journal
    Ok so lets say the judge rules in her favor. Would it be so difficult if robots.txt becomes opt-in. Meaning the no robots.txt equals no spiders. If you want your website on a search engine you have to put in a robots.txt. It would alter the equation for sure, but things would continue working.
  • by Magneon ( 1067470 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:59PM (#18386745)
    I wish I could sue this woman for inane stupidity. Seriously, when I was 12 I made a website, and it had robots.txt. Sure, for no particular reason, but it had the file. If this woman overlooks a simple web protocol that a 12 year old can understand and implement, how can she hope to offer advise in anything online? And for that matter, the site is an eyesore.

    By putting material on the web, it is understood that any publicly accessible material is copied multiple times every time the page is viewed. The ISPs get it, the browser gets it, the disk cache gets it, the user reads it. The internet is a *protocol* for copying data. To put a silly notice with insane demands at the bottom of the page is not simply futile, but laughably ridiculous. To sue over having content copied from a webserver (which to put it in terms that she might understand is basically like a public photocopier with her webpages permanently installed for every passerby to simply push *copy* and read the material) is like suing people for having a picture of that happens to have your billboard in the background. You put the data out to be seen, but as soon as it's not exactly where you want it, you get angry.

    Above and beyond that, it is clear that is not trying to steal her profit. You can opt out. You can tell it not to archive in the first place. You can even make a simple script that blocks access to the rest of the site until you click "I agree" to the terms. None of these solutions would take more than 5 minutes.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:08PM (#18386821) Journal
    If you want something published on the public internet to be private,

    Then don't post it on the internet. Just like if you don't want people to see you in your underwear you should stand in your front yard in just your underwear holding a sign saying "Don't look at me". The space might be private, but the view is public.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sabernet ( 751826 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:19PM (#18386903) Homepage is archiving websites. All credit to the author, etc... remain. Equally, is not profiting from the mirrored copy. Upon request, can and most probably will remove the copy from their site.

    As has been stated before, you save a copy of all websites you visit. It's called cache. could be seen as a computer browser with a robotic viewer and a bigass cache folder.

    Equally, the internet works on the premise that the information is -out there-. If the site existed only in a local intranet, then that would be a different story. This site was published to be seen and, by extension, copied, as so long as the rights of the content provider are upheld.

    If you don't want your site copied, DON'T PUT IT ON THE INTERNET. Or, at the very least, put some level of protection on it. A human-only readable notice does not protection make. Otherwise, you are defaulting to a "copy me" state, as that is the default state of http. She has the right, however, as the copyright holder, to ask that all copies be purged.

    To use a real world analogue. Say you go golfing. While golfing, you hear "FORE!" but keep playing. A golf ball smacks you in the head and you get a concussion, the extent of which prohibits you from going to work that week. Can you sue the golf course or the golfer(assuming he wasn't maliciously attempting to zing you across the skull)? No. You did not have a reasonable expectation not to be around flying white harbingers of pain. If you go golfing at a golf course, any reasonable person knows that there will be other golfers. So you accept the possibility and the consequences.

    When you publish to the internet, your site will be copied. If someone you don't like does it too, you have no right to bitch about it. You published it out to be seen by the world. It's out there now. Too bad. However, as the copyright holder, you reserve the right to approach one of the copiers and ask, "I wish for you to delete that." The copier may have fair use defenses for it or may end up deleting it out of respect. Equally, as the copyright holder, you can definitely say, "That copy you have, you can't make money off it or take credit for it or deface it in any way or hide its source." is not doing anything of the sort.

    This, of course, is ignoring the fact that this woman more then likely has used a search engine at least once in her life. As a result, should she attest that these activities are illegal, it means she willingly participated in a query of a database doing that which she believes is wrong. That is not only hypocritical, but downright vile and questionably as illegal as that which she is alleging.

    I'm not quite sure if you were playing devil's advocate or are actually an RIAA-worthy ignorant copyright Nazi, but either way, you definitely didn't put much thought into your post.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:37PM (#18387075) Journal
    I can claim that if you speak to any words containing vowels to me that you're entering into a contract. It doesn't make it the slightest bit so.

    Either she has the world's dumbest lawyer (RICO charges? please), or she's filing pro se (see previous about world's dumbest lawyer). In either case she's an ideal test case for the webcrawlers, because she will almost certainly get completely demolished in court.

    She might have a copyright claim, but she couldn't even get that one up the steps. Did she even file for infringement?
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sabernet ( 751826 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:04PM (#18387335) Homepage
    Then copyright is inherently contradictory to the modern internet. By publishing my content, I fully expect and depend on that content being distributed. And in the internet world without paper, that means copied data. Anyone using an accelerator, site guard for children, VNC client, thin client, etc... are effectively viewing sometimes reprocessed but invariably republished version of the site the parent machine looked up.

    If an agent of the RIAA were to blanket a whole block with one of their songs, they do not have the right to collect royalties or payment from the denizens who resided within that block had they not agreed to the blanketing in the first place. That is broadcast law. But they do have the right, as copyright holders, to disallow anyone from making a tape of said broadcast.

    Now, if the RIAA broadcasted their song with a sign saying, "RECORD ME", they lose that right to take the one guy with a tape recorder(and bad taste in music) to court.

    The Internet is a defaulted "RECORD ME". Unless you don't want it seen by anyone. At which point you're in intranet territory. But even there, you would be stating RECORD ME to all persons within the intranet.

    I won't lie and state that copyright law as it is has any clue in the modern world of information exchange. But certainly, this isn't blanket copyright infringement. And apparently, the legal system agrees:

    A court ruling last month granted the Internet Archive's motion to dismiss the charges

    However, she isn't even challenging on the basis of copyright infringement. She is suing pertaining to a shrink wrap EULA of, "By viewing this site, of which you must be viewing to read this, you agree to the following..." which have been thrown out in the past in the cases of Microsoft and Symantec software licenses anyways.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jlarocco ( 851450 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:15PM (#18387451) Homepage

    No, that's exactly what it means. Especially in the day of publishing on the web, where when you decide to stop pulishing, it's gone. If you publish a book and sell it, whoever bought the book can come back to it over and over. If you remove your webpage it's gone -- unless some asshat corporation (non-profit or otherwise) comes along and decides to republish your content without your permission., Google, etc. are massive copyright violators. It's not for you to dictate to me the method I have to use to tell you not to violate my rights. Being indexed should be opt-in. Just like being spammed. Being employed. Being in a relationship. Being called by telemarketers.

    Oops! Looks like somebody doesn't understand the internet.

    Robots.txt is the way to block web spiders from your site. That's not somebody "dictating your rights", that just the way it fucking works. It dictates your rights the same way a steering wheel dictates the way you have to steer your car. You don't have to use it, but your solution probably won't work, and you'll look like a moron. When you have a blank or non-existant robots.txt, it's understood by billions of people on the internet that you don't mind if web spiders crawl your site and add it to their index, make cached copies, etc. That's the way it was designed, and that's the way its worked from the very beginning. It's not rocket science.

    Also, every person who visits your site gets a complete copy of the pages they visit in their browser cache. Once your page is cached in my browser, I have that information forever. I can delete it, view it, save it to CD, make a PDF, etc. Just like the person who owns a book that's no longer published. There's not some magic "delete fairy" who goes around deleting everyone's browser cache when you decide to delete a page.

    Maybe not everyone knows about their browser cache or robots.txt, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. You can't change the way the internet works because a bunch of morons failed to do even the most basic research before throwing their crap on the web.

  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:21PM (#18387493) Homepage
    A robots.txt file is not a contract or a technical restriction, but rather the standard means of communicating behaviors that contradict the inherent technical structure of the internet. If someone ignores your robots.txt file, that in and of itself is not a violation of anything. But it does mean that you have properly stated your policy. Your policy may not have the force of law (and by many accounts, it shouldn't), but if you don't state that policy in the proper form it can be assumed to have no force, rather than just that the enforcability of the policy must be examined.

    As an example, having a website is like having a store. If you leave the front door of your store open, with the lights on, and someone inside, entering is not a tresspass. If you put a small lock on that door, no matter how easy to pick, entering that store becomes tresspass. If you put a huge sign on the door that says "door lock is broken, private property, KEEP OUT," then entering that store is very probably tresspass, unless you're blind. Putting up a huge sign on the door that says "DO NOT ENTER", but doing so in braille, will probably not count as sufficient warning.
  • So, um... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by linefeed0 ( 550967 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:22PM (#18387507)
    how exactly does it help "freedom to acquire useful knowledge" to stop people from being able to acquire and use against her in court useful knowledge of what a scumbag she is?
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by General Wesc ( 59919 ) <> on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:52PM (#18387839) Homepage Journal

    As has been stated before, you save a copy of all websites you visit. It's called cache. could be seen as a computer browser with a robotic viewer and a bigass cache folder.
    Yes, I save a copy on my computer for my own use. doesn't just have a single robotic viewer. It also has thousands of human users. It's a bigass public cache folder.
  • by bradkittenbrink ( 608877 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @03:51PM (#18388423) Homepage Journal

    While I understand the importance of web searches, would it be so hard to change the nature of web crawlers so that they didn't spider a site unless they were specifically allowed?

    Yes, it would be hard. However the technical problems would certainly be solvable for a company like google. The real problem is that this would serve to further entrench google's monopoly on search. I love google as much as the next guy, but I certainly don't want to start introducing measures that will make it more difficult for a google-killer to arise.

    You know, like you don't generally walk into somebody's house or cube at work and start rummaging through their stuff just because the door is open.

    That's the worst analogy I've ever heard that didn't fulfill Godwin's Law. The web was designed to be a public place for the sharing of information. Trying to think of it like the inside of someone's house is just going to lead you in the wrong direction. A much better analogy would be that information posted on the web is like a campaign poster or some other notice posted on someone's lawn. Yes, it's hosted on private property and the information posted there belongs to the person posting it, but it is displayed publicly and acting as if it weren't is just silly.
  • by zotz ( 3951 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @03:55PM (#18388473) Homepage Journal
    "While I understand the importance of web searches, would it be so hard to change the nature of web crawlers so that they didn't spider a site unless they were specifically allowed?"

    I guess you could, you could just as easily put terms in the licenses of web servers that state that by using the web server software, you agree to let all your documents be crawled except where you deny that with .... wait for it .... robots.txt.

    That wouldn't be too hard either would it?

    all the best,

    drew []
    UFO seen in skies over Winton!
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by julesh ( 229690 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @04:15PM (#18388679)
    She filed pro se.

    Idiot for a lawyer and an idiot for a client. It's not going to go well for her, is it?

    I mean, just how did she figure she'd get away with charges for "civil theft" (generally defined as "taking property with the intent of permanently depriving its rightful owner of its use") or "conversion" (which also relates to taking property) when no property was taken? And RICO without a racket?

    The contract claim will clearly fail -- reading between the lines of the document you link, it was essentially only not struck out at this stage because the court wasn't allowed to consider the evidence presented by Internet Archive that they hadn't seen the notice of the contract.

    That leaves only the copyright claim, and I think it's pretty clear that Internet Archive's use is fair use.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @06:42PM (#18390027)
    Actually, unless I am googling the wrong person, it appears Suzanne Shell and her site are connected with Scientology. This would be a big surprise, as they never launch nuisance suits or otherwise harrass!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @08:20PM (#18390639)
    Who's supposed to grow up? The attention whore that filed suit, or the person trying to fulfill her wishes?

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger