By the way

Date: Fri, 7 Aug 1998
From: Dan Johnson <dan.johnson_at_cruzio.com>
Subject: By the way

Rico, I know you were having some, uh, challanges with Costco,
so as a satisfied Costco Soulmate customer and a young
eager-beaver law student, I did a little bit of research on
your behalf...

I found this on Perkins Coie's own web site.  It is a landmark
case that decided that a provider is not responsible for the
content of its users over which it has no editorial control:

Zeran v. America Online, 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 11/12/97),
affirming 958 F.  Supp. 1124 (E.D. Va., 3/21/97), cert.
denied.: America Online (AOL) was not liable for allegedly
defamatory postings by one of its subscribers. Plaintiff
maintained that AOL was negligent in permitting anonymous
postings by an AOL subscriber accusing plaintiff of publishing
materials "glorifying" the Oklahoma City bombing. The court
affirmed that the claim was preempted by Section 230(c)(1)
of the Communications Decency Act, immunizing Internet service
providers from "distributor liability." Such liability would
create a disincentive for providers to review content for
potentially objectionable material, and would thus frustrate
one of the CDA's chief aims. If service providers were subject
to liability upon merely being notified of allegedly improper
material, it would place upon them a burden of investigation and
judgment far greater than that required of traditional print
publishers -- an impossible burden in the Internet context,
and a clear invitation to third parties to foment lawsuits and
leverage settlements by merely sending notice and demanding
action. This was not the intention of Congress.

Furthermore, you might want to point out that The Onion 
frequently has stories that parody not only real companies
but real people (Microsoft, Bill Gates, etc.)

Thought you'd want to know if it came up in the future.

Dan

 

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