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Archive.org 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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Archive.org Sued By Colorado Woman

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  • by John3 ( 85454 ) <john3@@@cornells...com> on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:23PM (#18386421) Homepage Journal
    This [profane-justice.org] appears to be it.

    Oh, and Ms. Shell, 1996 called. They want their website design back.

    PS - By clicking on the link above you are agreeing to all the stuff Ms. Shell posted on her site.

  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BJH ( 11355 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:26PM (#18386475)
    Gotta love it:


    This notice is posted (where else?) on her web site...
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:46PM (#18386659)
    It's not about keeping something private. To demand that people not look at unprotected webpages would indeed be ludicrous (although it has been tried more than once.) It's about making copies for other people: You can't go around the web and copy other people's websites. If you don't believe me, register a domain and make a copy of cnet.com.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:48PM (#18386677) Homepage Journal

    Worse, when you click the policy link, this nutjob asks you (without swowing the policy) whether you agree. Then, if you click cancel, it tells you that by even looking at this site, you have already agreed, and the only option is "Ok", after which it takes you to the page where you can actually see what you just agreed to.

    As such, even if contracts were binding upon spiders (which they should not be), this is not a legitimate contract because it is not possible to read the contract prior to agreeing to it. IMHO, all the archive.org people should have to do is videotape someone clicking the policy link and show it to the judge, and she will be thrown out of court on her you-know-what.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:53PM (#18386707) Homepage Journal
    Call it, then replay a message including:

    "If you don't agree, say 'NO', otherwise we consider you agree to our contract."
    [short silence]
    "Thank you. You have agreed to our terms and conditions. We will send you the invoice in..."

    (and proceed.)

    Since agreement to her conditions is supposed to be implied by a visit of a second party, human or not, agreement from side of the second party, human or not, containing correct reply (or correct lack of thereof - implied consent like in case of her license) is just as valid legally.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jrockway ( 229604 ) <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:55PM (#18386721) Homepage Journal
    The case isn't about copying, it's about the act of spidering.

    Also, if copying is illegal, what about copying the website to your browser cache when you display the page? Let's ban that; that will be GREAT for the web.
  • by Diordna ( 815458 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:57PM (#18386729) Homepage
    Oh, don't worry, there's more on page 2 (emphasis mine):

    In 1974, when Suzanne Shell was seventeen years old, her father punched her in the face...despite being a straight-A student, a cheerleader and a member of the marching band at her Minnesota high school, she was labeled an "out-of-control teenager" and placed in a foster home for her entire senior year...At seventeen, she also gave birth to a daughter that she gave up for adoption.
    I find it interesting how information is used selectively here. She is cast as the victim in the second and third paragraphs, with the standard foster home sob story. She was supposedly a wonderful person, but then we find, buried in parentheses a paragraph later, the bolded text above. Hmm, pregnant...cheerleader...

    It also looks like her own kids reported her for child abuse and went to live with their father, and she's pretty ticked about that.

    She wonders why she's disliked by the court system. Well, the evidence is all over the article:
    • "Every phone call that goes in or out of my house is recorded."
    • She's with the "pro-spanking, home-schooling, families-first forces."
    • "Shell urges her readers not to cooperate with the child-protection system at any level."
    • "If you see a child whom you suspect of being neglected or abused, you probably shouldn't report it...since the kid could be victimized further in foster care."
    • "Tape everything. If it looks like the brutes might try to remove your precious dumplings from the home, hide them. If they snatch Junior anyway, plant a bug in his teddy bear so you can monitor what goes on in the foster home."

    And look how effective she is!

    "I don't think I've ever had a case where she's been involved where we have not ended up terminating parental rights," says Rocco Meconi, Shell's nemesis in Fremont County.
    Heck, this belongs on Fark not Slashdot.
  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:11PM (#18386839)
    As a devil's advocate, though, what enforcement is there of robots.txt?

    I could easily write a program that runs on my workstation and completely ignores it. In fact, I have a offline-browser that downloads sites and *does* completely ignore it while spidering for which pages to download (I won't name names.) There's nothing technical requiring spiders to honor it, presumably there's no legal system to honor it, it's all just trust.

    Next time this comes up in court, the case might be a much more interesting, "I had a robots.txt file, but [search engine] ignored it!"
  • Anyone notice.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shaltenn ( 1031884 ) <Michael.Santangelo@gmail.com> on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:14PM (#18386855) Homepage

    IF YOU COPY OR DISTRIBUTE ANYTHING ON THIS WEB SITE, YOU ARE ENTERING INTO A CONTRACT. SEE COPYRIGHT NOTICE & SECURITY AGREEMENT (READ BEFORE ACCESSING THIS WEBSITE) - Copyright 1996- 2007, Suzanne Shell and individual contributors where appropriate. The content if this web site is intended to generate income, it is not free if you intend to archive, copy, print or distribute anything electronically fixed herein.

    Which of course implies this is a commercial website.

    However, if you go to the contact info page, we can see her PGP key (...) contains:


    Version: PGP 8.1 - not licensed for commercial use: www.pgp.com

  • Re:robots.txt (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:14PM (#18386863)
    I suppose she expects us (programmers) to rush out and perfect natural language processing so all our spiders can read her stupid notice.

    No, I think that if you spent about 5 seconds reading her web site, you'd see that she's mentally ill. I don't think it's appropriate to bash people like this, when they clearly don't have a good grip on reality.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:17PM (#18386877) Journal
    While I agree with you in principle, the law suggests that she did post the notice correctly, since (from what I gathered FTFA) the law doesn't make any distinctions between a human eyeball and a robot eyeball.

    Except that if you don't agree to it (pressing Cancel when the javascript tells you that if you continue, you agree to it) you're taken to a page that says that you have agreed to it.

    I wonder if duress (compelling the user to agree regardless of their wishes) is grounds for a lawsuit by itself, or if you have to wait until the contract you entered under duress causes some damage to you.
  • by failedlogic ( 627314 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:26PM (#18386967)
    Lets forget for a second the person suing Internet Archive. Lets also forget the quality of her website and that she may or may not have included a proper robots.txt file.

    Suppose you're a teenager or college student. You do some silly prank and it includes a picture of yourself and your friends. You tell your friend you don't want the picture going on the net. For whatever reason, he/she posts it up anyways. Nothing illegal. Or suppose the names of a doctor's patients were to leak onto the Internet. Or that you're a company and an ex-employee posts information that is defamous or incorrect about your company. Or that you post an angry rant on the net, you've grown past it and then delete from your site. In all cases, wouldn't some or all this information be cached on Google or Internet Archive?

    My point is we're all human. Wether our activities are simpy stupid, embarassing, or could affect a company's ability to do business, some or all of us have said or done some of these things. It could affect our relations and our ability to find work. The problem with the Net is its very easy to find this information and it becomes widespread. We've all embarassed ourselves, at the least. We can sue the person responsible for posting the information. But it is, as I understand, very difficult to have the information removed from caches on search engine and archive sites.

    Rather than sue, sue, sue, shouldn't there be an easier way to remove this information?
  • i wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phoenixwade ( 997892 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:32PM (#18387025)
    Would it be worthwhile for this to go to court to get a ruling on it? Would there be any application to SLA's? it seems like the crux of this issue is whether or not you can enter into a contract blind by opening the website, or something like that. I also wonder about caching - what about networks (AOL for example) that use a caching system/proxy server to provide more efficient data to their users?

    I suspect a win for the website owner here would turn a lot of the systems we currently use on it's ear.....
  • by proberts ( 9821 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:35PM (#18387061) Homepage
    If you act responsibly, then you have nothing to fear. If you don't, why are you so worried about people finding out who the "real" you is? The real problem is people not taking responsibility for their actions.

    If there was an "easier way to remove this information" it'd become the most massive denial of service vector available on the Internet. Unscroupulous individuals would use it to remove information about their competitors or negative information about themselves. Can you imagine the consumer rating sites which actually help people avoid scanners being deluged by rip-off artists wanting to remove their negative ratings?

  • by Blue Stone ( 582566 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @01:42PM (#18387125) Homepage Journal
    Interesting. From her copyright page:

    "Copyright 1996- 2007, Suzanne Shell
    The content if this web site is intended to generate income [...]"

    But from her contact us page, her PGP signature:

    "Here is our public key for encrypting messages to us.

    Version: PGP 8.1 - not licensed for commercial use: www.pgp.com [snip]"
  • by NIckGorton ( 974753 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:01PM (#18387305)
    I can see why she wouldn't want to get indexed. She's basically providing information for people trying to resist intervention from child protective services. She suggests taking your children and hiding them out of state if CPS tries to contact you. She also suggests (and sells an ebook about) teaching your children to never talk to a social worker or answer questions... you know like 'does anyone ever hit you?' and 'what did you have to eat yesterday?' and 'do you have a doctor to go to when you are sick?'

    Of course CPS and child abuse reporting in general is imperfect. I'm an ER physician which makes me a mandated reporter. This means if I simply suspect abuse or neglect, I am required by law to report it. The system is set up to favor false positives over false negatives. That means that CPS investigates many cases for every real abusive situation they find.

    This is NOT a bad thing. There are 1500-2000 reported deaths from child abuse every year in the US. One in twenty kids in the US is physically abused in any given year and most of those victims are under age 6. Most of these cases of abuse never come to the attention of authorities because child abuse is woefully under-reported (which is why we have mandated reporter laws.)

    Most of the instances of 'think of the children' posturing are conservative unthinking crap. However advocating outdated ideas of parental property rights over the rights of children to not be abused goes beyond simple whack-job well into the realm of pure evil.

  • Re:What contract? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by proberts ( 9821 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:01PM (#18387307) Homepage
    "Way past fair use" is a matter for the courts to decide- however the since it's an archive, their defense is likely argued under the "Reproduction rights of libraries and archives" provisions of 17USC108, in whcih case fair use doctrine really doesn't come in to play. Since fair use is for subsections of copyrighted content and not the entire content I think that's not where this is headed. Caches may argue under fair use, since the excerpt is per-page not per-site (though it gets tricky if the site has one page.)

    Here's the relevant text:

    "Except as otherwise provided in this title and notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement of copyright for a library or archives, or any of its employees acting within the scope of their employment, to reproduce no more than one copy or phonorecord of a work, except as provided in subsections (b) and (c), or to distribute such copy or phonorecord, under the conditions specified by this section, if -- "

    Section (b) generally refers to an unpublished work- making your site available to the public on the Internet likely kills that clause. Section (c) deals with replacing damaged copies or works which also doesn't seem to apply.

    As far as I can see, only the copyright owner's right to control distribution applies, and since archive.org removed the content at the copyright owner's request, I can't see any damage suffered and I doubt a court will either.

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and I don't play one on the 'Net.
  • by ckedge ( 192996 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:05PM (#18387347) Journal
    Then we need to get the laws changed to explicitly indicate the machine readable protocols (robots.txt) that must be used on the internet to opt out of archives, spiders, and caches. Yes I'm saying that we should put into law the precept that anything put on the internet (or maybe just the web, maybe just http/text/static-images) is in and of itself an explicit act of allowing others to do what google and internet-archive are doing. (How we nicely fit this together with copyright law is an excercise left to the reader - but afaiac how things are in effect working now is fine by me, the only problem is codifying it.)

    Internet Archive and Google provide such a HUGE benefit that to in effect make them illegal due to one single person out of 500,000,000 being a hardass-bastard is totally not acceptable.
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @02:16PM (#18387457) Homepage
    "But certainly, that "well understood" robots.txt file that gets you oozing in your shorts, could be used for opt-in as easily as the advertising parasites, I mean the search engines, want it to be used for opt-out."

    Now there's a thought. If no robots.txt, no opt-in. I like it, if only for the fact that millions of personal and junk pages will be thrown out of the search engine's results, making useful content easier to find.
  • Yes, I caught the pregnancy thing, too. Way to slant coverage.

    As I've been doing research related to homeschool laws and homeschooling my daughter, I've become very distrustful of child services overall. In many areas, they ignore the law, tromp all over parental rights (such as illegal search and seizure, due process, etc.), and, unless you can afford litigation, the only way to work with the system is to confess and "cooperate". They seize children or harass parents based on ideological differences and ignore subjects of real abuse. I have also directly seen cases where prejudice leaves children in foster care when close relatives are willing and able to care for children (children mixed race, white relatives). I know a woman who has been in and out of drug rehab and prison for years now and had abusive boyfriends and the system keeps trying to give her kid back to her, but they find time to harass parents who want to give their kids a good education. There are good people in the system, but they are extremely overworked and it doesn't take many zealots to drag things down.

    That being said, Shell is an extremist and a freak who does much more harm than good. There are other advocacy groups who are better organized, less militant, and more effective, such as the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

    Children need to be protected, but parents need to be free to pursue differences in religion, ideology, parental practices, and so forth without reprisal and child protection needs to take children away from abusive drunks and drug addicts, not to mention cut down on abuse in schools (by other children and adults).

  • Preemptive strike (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BillX ( 307153 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @03:04PM (#18387953) Homepage
    By this logic, it seems like all the spider would have to do is add its own counter-contract right in the HTTP request.

    GET / HTTP/1.1 By responding to this request, you agree that SpiderCo's Spider does not speak English and, being written only two years ago, is not of legal age (18 in most jurisdictions) to enter a contract. By continuing to serve content in response to this request, you agree that any contracts contained in such content are null and void. Thank you and have a nice day.
  • Re:This is so stupid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Doddman ( 953998 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @03:07PM (#18387975)
    One reason I love mozilla firefox so much is the NoScript plugin. Because I was never presented with such a dialouge (because I had javascript blocked), and therefore never agreed to it, am I still bound as such?
  • Re:Posted notice? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BakaHoushi ( 786009 ) <Goss,Sean&gmail,com> on Saturday March 17, 2007 @03:29PM (#18388187) Homepage
    I think this needs to be in a pamphlet delivered to... everyone in the world. The Internet is a public place. Yes, you may have rights over a part you've designed/created, but it's still supposed to be for public viewing. Like an artist "owns" the work he gives to an art gallery, but can't tell people how to look at or think about it. He can't deny people the right to be inspired by said work. Much how you can tell someone they can't copy your website to make an identical website and claim it as his own. But that's not what Archive.org does. It merely records what WAS there. It doesn't create a new website. It doesn't claim to own the material. Web crawlers can't tell what websites want to be crawled and they can't negotiate contracts.

    And one thing still bothers me. I consider there to be justified and unjustified lawsuits. A justified lawsuit is when someone is actually damaged in some way by the actions or inactions of another that could have and should have been avoided (as an example, my father took a nasty fall 2 years ago when a regular customer of his failed to mention the work that was being done on the floor inside. HE stepped in and fell right onto his shoulder, requiring massive amounts of surgery and time to heal, putting us out of business for quite some time. He was never notified of this work, and, in fact, my father was not even the first one to fall. We were forced to sue to pay for medical costs and to cover the expenses of being out of work).

    In this woman's case... okay, so a crawler has been copying old copies of her webpage. So what? Who gives a fuck? I know there needn't be an actual bit of damage for a lawsuit, but the fact that people can and WILL sue when nothing bad has happened to them... it just makes me sick.
  • by D'Sphitz ( 699604 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @06:21PM (#18389891) Journal

    looks like archive.org aren't the only one's she's tried to extort:

    http://nextfriend.christiancommonlaw-gov.org/nextf riend.us//mail/Cease%20and%20Desist2.eml [christianc...aw-gov.org]

    ...Second. . .you and/or your agents have stolen content from my web site, circumventing copy protections in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and posted the stolen content on another web site (thetruthistold.com). Fair use is predicated upon first legally obtaining the copy from which you quote. You did not obtain the content legally. According to the terms published on my web site for use of that content, for failure to prepay for the first copy, you owe me $250,000 plus $50,000 penalty and treble damages. I will enforce these terms in a court of law. This is a demand for payment, jointly and severally. I'll give you 30 days. I highly recommend you make payment or arrangements with me immediately. Mr. Wiseman is name because he designed the web site and circumvented the protections and acted at the direct of Mr. Stewart and Mr. Kiefer. Mr. Stewart also owns the domains and/or web site. Mr. Kiefer is the subject of the stolen content and therefore directed the misappropriation....

    Lots more on this bitch here:
    http://nextfriend.us/mail [nextfriend.us]
    http://thetruthistold.com/Shejjll.htm [thetruthistold.com]

  • by lorcha ( 464930 ) on Sunday March 18, 2007 @12:25AM (#18391977)
    Woman with an abusive boyfriend/spouse/shackup/whatever.

    Boyfriend beats her up. She doesn't feel too good. Got a bad headache now and her vision is blurry. She wants to go to the ER, but she knows if she does, her boyfriend will go to jail again. Does she go seek medical attention? Should she have to weigh her health against her boyfriend being taken away? Against what he'll do to her when he's out on bond?

    Now maybe you or I think boyfriend belongs in jail, but that's beside the point. The point is she probably doesn't. After all, she's still with him. She still goes back to him again and again.

    The reasons women come back to abusive boyfriends are also beside the point. The fact is they do. And they don't want their abusive boyfriends in jail. And the pete's sake, their health shouldn't be sacrificed because of it. They should be able to seek medical attention without fear of repercussions.

    That is why I am against mandatory reporting. Health and medical treatment should be a private matter between doctor and patient. If the victim wanted the police involved, she would have called 911 already.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI