Civil Wrongs In Cyberspace (Minimising the risk of a claim in ...


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Civil Wrongs In Cyberspace (Minimising the risk of a claim in ...

  1. 1. Civil Wrongs In Cyberspace (Minimising the risk of a claim in Tort) Chris Patterson Barrister [email_address]
  2. 2. What is a Tort? <ul><li>Civil wrong other than a breach of contract or trust </li></ul><ul><li>A person does harm to another without committing a criminal offence </li></ul><ul><li>Examples </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Defamation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trespass </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Negligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intentional infliction of harm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Harassment </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Defamation <ul><li>A person is liable in defamation if: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They make a defamatory statement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The statement relates to the defendant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The statement is published </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A defamatory statement is: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally; or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tends to cause himher to be shunned or avoided; or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Causes the person to be exposed to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>False and discredits a person </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Form of Statement <ul><li>A statement may be in the form of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Words </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pictures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual images </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gestures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other form signifying meaning </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Publishing <ul><li>Liability arises from the publishing of a defamatory statement to another person other than the defendant </li></ul><ul><li>The internet has created additional mediums upon which a statement can be published </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Webpages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emails </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Newsgroups </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A plaintiff is entitled to sue each publisher </li></ul>
  6. 6. Case Examples <ul><li>Rindos v Hardwick </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Defamatory statement posted on a bulletin board hosted in Western Australia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plaintiff awarded $40,000 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Macquarie Bank v Berge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>NSW Supreme Court refused to grant an injunction relating to a defamatory website hosted in the US due to jurisdictional argument </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Case Examples Cont <ul><li>Godfrey v Demon Internet Limited </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Plaintiff wrote to the ISP complaining that a usenet group “soc.culture.thai” contained a message that defamed him </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The message was not willfully removed by the ISP </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Court held that each message posting constituted a publication. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Case Examples Cont <ul><li>Cubby v CompuServe </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Court held ISP not liable as it was only a distributor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No editorial control exercised by ISP </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Oakmont Inc v Prodigy Services </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Could held the defendant liable for a defamatory statement on one of its bulletin boards because it held itself out as exercising editorial control </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Case Example cont <ul><li>O’Brien v Brown </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The defendant posted an allegedly defamatory statement in a newsgroup </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plaintiff is claiming $85,000 in general damages and $55 in punitive damages </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Innocent Dissemination Defence <ul><li>US – Community Decency Act </li></ul><ul><li>NZ – section 21 Defamation Act a distributor or processor has a defence if </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Person did not know of the defamatory statement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Person did not know the matter was of a character likely to contain defamatory material </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The person’s lack of knowledge was not due to any negligence </li></ul></ul><ul><li>ISP inclusion in section 21 removed from ET Bill </li></ul>
  11. 11. Electronic Trespass <ul><li>Generally speaking the tort of trespass provides the owner of property with the right to exclusive possession and use of that property </li></ul><ul><li>Electronic Trespass could apply to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Spamming </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Web crawling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Denial of service attacks </li></ul></ul><ul><li>US Courts not requiring any direct physical interference has expanded the tort beyond its traditional scope. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Case Examples <ul><li>eBay v Bidder’s Edge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Court granted an injunction preventing Bidder’s edge from crawling eBay’s auction site for information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bidder’s Edge’s bots accessed eBay 100,000 per day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>eBay claimed BE’s activity constituted up to 1.53 percent of processed requests and up to 1.10 percent of total data transferred </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Case Examples Cont (eBay) <ul><li>2 factors to support a claim in electronic trespass: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The defendant intentionally and without authorisation interfered with the plaintiff’s interest in its computer system; and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>That the defendant’s use resulted in damage to the plaintiff </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The court held that damage did occur because BE deprived eBay of the ability to use the proportion of its servers and resources for its own exclusive purposes </li></ul>
  14. 14. Case Examples Cont <ul><li>Ticketmaster Corp v </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ticketmaster was seeking an injunction to restrain from using bots to crawl its site. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Court declined to grant the injunction because: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>There must be some physical harm or obstruction of its basic function neither of which could be established on the evidence presented. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Case Examples Cont <ul><li>Parker v CN Enterprises </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Court granted an injunction restraining the defendants from using the plaintiff’s “or anyone else’s” domain name in spam mailing. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Defendants had sent spam emails using the plaintiff’s domain as the return address </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The plaintiff received, as a result of the spam, over 5000 irate messages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Court held that defendants unauthorised use of the plaintiff’s address constituted both nuisance and trespass </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Negligence <ul><li>Elements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Existence of a duty of care </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Breach of that duty resulting in damage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The damage being sufficiently proximate to the breach of duty </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Internet is hierarchical in structure ranging from vBNS to end users. </li></ul><ul><li>Ones direct neighbour is the controlleruser of the next link. An ISP may have several million neighbours at one time </li></ul>
  17. 17. Negligence continued <ul><li>ISPs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Negligent non delivery of email or loss of data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Negligent loss of data as a web host </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Viruses and Worms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Negligent filtering, monitoring or failure to warn </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Computer Economics estimated that the “love bug” virus cost in excess of $10 billion </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Harassment <ul><li>Online harassment can occur through a number of mediums including: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Email </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>IRC </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Websites </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The internet has the following characteristics which encourage harassment: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Disproportionate presence of men online; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anonymity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>One dimensional communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Type of individual who uses the internet </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jurisdiction (“Bell and La Rue”) </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Harassment and related Torts <ul><li>The English Court of Appeal have held that harassment is a separate tort and can be relied upon when seeking relief against actions that constitute prosecution but not threats </li></ul><ul><li>The Harassment Act 1997 includes the right to obtain injunctive relief only in civil actions </li></ul>
  20. 20. Harassment and Related Torts <ul><li>Related Torts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Breach of statutory duty (Employment Relations Act, Human Right Act and Health and Safety in Employment Act) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nuisance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intentional infliction of emotional harm </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Relief is primarily injunctive however, damages not covered by ACC bar in non physical injuries </li></ul>
  21. 21. Recent NZ case <ul><li>Author Rhonda Bartle of New Plymouth was reported last week as being the victim of “Cyber-terrorist stalking”. </li></ul><ul><li>The alleged stalker, Peggy Phillips 84, a former Broadway publicist has had a trespass order taken out against her and Mrs Bartle has laid a complaint with Californian police about the harassment which included emails. </li></ul>
  22. 22. [email_address] © 2001