Computer underground Digest Sun July 31, 2020 Volume 6 : Issue 69 File 1--Memphis convicts Calif. (Am Action) BBS of "Porn" File 2--Response to AA BBS Verdict (fwd) File 3--AP bungles my AA BBS comments :) File 4--The Internet Reacts to the Am. Action BBS (fwd) File 5--Some Thoughts on the Amateur Action Verdict File 6--it's not just computer porn either ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Sat, 30 July, 1994 22:18:43 CDT From: CuD Moderators Subject: File 1--Memphis convicts Calif. (Am Action) BBS of "Porn" ((MODERATORS' NOTE: Robert and Carleen Thomas, operators of Amateur Action BBS in California, were tried and convicted of sending "pornography" across state lines by a Memphis jury. Relevant case documents, including the original indictment, can be found in CuDs #5.33, 5.35, and 5.53. We thank the posters who send over the following two press reports, which emphasize the sticky problem of "local standards" applied to the Net)). Source: Chicago Tribune, July 29. Sect 1, p. 6 COUPLE GUILTY IN SALE OF PORN VIA COMPUTER A husband and wife were convicted of distributing pornography via computer Thursday in a case that raised questions about how to apply federal obscenity law to the information superhighway. ((The story notes that Robert and Carleen Thomas, of Milpitas, California, were each convicted on 11 counts of transmitting obscenity over interstate phone lines on the members-only BBS. They can be sentenced to up to five years in prison on each count and a $250,000 fine)). During the weeklong trial, jurors were shown photographs carried over the Thomases' bulletin board featuring scenes of bestiality and other sexual fetishes. The images were available, for a fee, to computer users around the world. ((The story mentions that a postal inspector testified he joined the Amateur Action BBS under a fake name and received sexually explicit pictures on his Memphis computer. The defense, says the story, argued that the prosecutors "shopped around" for a place to try the case where a "conservative jury might be found")). "This case would never have gone to trial in California," said defense attorney Richard Williams, who plans an appeal. Assistant U.S. Atty. Dan Newsom said the trial was held in Memphis because pictures carried on the bulletin board were received here. In this age of international computer networks, the federal trial raised questions about a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that obscenity must be judged according to local community standards. ((The story describes the opinion as designed to let local citizens determine community standards)) "But it may not work anymore," he said from his office in Washington. Under that standard, federal juries in the most conservative parts of the country could decide what sexually explicit images and words get on the information superhighway, Bates said. Ultimately, the issue will probably wind up back at the Supreme Court. ================================================================== Wire story circulating on Usenet: MEMPHIS, Tenn -- A federal jury convicted a California couple Thursday of transmitting obscene pictures over a computer bulletin board. The case has raised questions, in this age of international computer networks, about a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that defines obscenity by local community standards. "This case would never have gone to trial in California," defense lawyer Richard Williams said. Prosecutor Dan Newsom, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the trial was the first he knows of for computer bulletin board operators charged under federal law with transmitting pornography featuring sex by adults. Robert and Carleen Thomas, both 38, of Milpitas, Calif., were convicted of transmitting sexually obscene pictures through interstate phone lines via their members-only Amateur Action Bulletin Board System. The Thomases were convicted on 11 criminal counts, each carrying maximum sentences of five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Thomas was acquitted on a charge of accepting child pornography mailed to him by an undercover postal inspector. The Thomases refused to comment after the verdict. They remain free on $20,000 bond to await sentencing, for which no date was set. Williams said his clients will appeal, arguing the jury was wrongly instructed on how to apply the Supreme Court's standard on obscenity. The trial raised questions of how to apply First Amendment free-speech protections to "cyberspace," the emerging community of millions of Americans who use computers and modems to share pictures and words on every imaginable topic. Williams argued unsuccessfully before trial that prosecutors sought out a city for the trial where a conservative jury might be found. During the weeklong trial jurors were shown photographs carried over the Thomases' bulletin board featuring scenes of bestiality and other sexual fetishes. Williams argued this was voluntary, private communication between adults who knew what they were getting by paying $55 for six months or $99 for a year. Their conviction also covers videotapes they sent to Memphis via United Parcel Service. The videotapes were advertised over the bulletin board. ------------------------------ Date: 28 Jul 2020 22:12:20 -0500 From: karl@MCS.COM (Karl Denninger) Subject: File 2--Response to AA BBS Verdict (fwd) In article <>, H Keith Henson wrote: >CNN this noon had a report that the Thomas' were found guilty. As I >understand it, not on all charges. Will get the results and post them >as soon as I can get the data. Keith Correct. They were found guilty of 11 counts, each carrying a 10 year jail term and a $250,000 fine! That's 2.5 MILLION dollars and 110 years! Even with time off for good behavior and all, if this case stands they're both finished and, IMHO, so is much of the erotica available on the net in the US for those sites which are interstate. The *only* count which they got off on was the kiddie porn charge. This is a serious case folks. We're going to be talking to the lawyers IMMEDIATELY here, as the ramifications of this may be that we can no longer sell accounts to users across state or even local boundary lines -- or we may have to drop all the erotic material on the net! Within Chicago what is on the net wouldn't violate community standards, especially given what I can rent at the local video store (I live and work in the middle of Lakeview, which is known to some as "boys town". Draw your own conclusions.) :-) In Memphis, on the other hand....... NETCOM in particular is in bad shape on something like this, what with their presence nationally...... NOT good. Very, very not good. And some of you thought Copyright was a problem? Try *this* on for size! ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 31 Jul 2020 19:02:26 GMT From: (Lawrence Foard) Subject: File 3--AP bungles my AA BBS comments :) The AP wire finally arrived on world. I wish they would e-mail for clarification before releasing them, in one place they have me as an anonymous person from Boston, another place as a person from Brookline Ma, who runs a BBS :) I was going to be running an internet POP for someone, but decided not to because of this, I don't presently have a BBS. Unfortunitly it also failed to bring up the reason for the concerns. The reasons why this is a concern: 1) A BBS operator in any area of the country now must limit the contents of the BBS to that which is acceptable in the most backward area of the country. This makes BBS operators answerable to officials which they had no say in electing, and laws which they have no say in through the democratic process. If BBS operators are to be held to the laws of all towns and states at the very least they should be allowed to vote in all of them. (no out of state sales tax...) Its completely impractical, something which appears totally harmless one place might be illegal someplace else. Lets say that the use of an electro-ejaculator (sp?) for getting semen from bulls is discussed on a farm BBS. In another state this could be painted as sex with an animal, and a farmers story of doing this might be enough to land him in jail. 2) The operator of the BBS didn't cause pornography to cross state lines, the user in Tenn paid for the phone call and entered the commands which caused it to cross state lines. The user should be responsible. Because an electronic connection could cross several networks, there is no hope of being able to know where the end user is. Even with caller ID its possible that the person is using a local dialout from a long distance data carrier. On the internet its even more difficult since someone can easily cross several machines in many states or countries. 3) There is no precedent at this time (that I'm aware of) protecting an internet provider. Unlike a BBS operator internet providers cannot control the content of what users acquire through the net. While it can be hoped that this lack of control will provide protection, there is no guarantee that it will (Mike?). A person could download every bit of pornography available anywhere in the world, and then turn around and charge the internet provider with 1000's of counts, amounting to 1000's of years in jail. To provide internet access at this time is effectively playing russian roulette, if you lose you might as well be dead. 4) In the case of really illegal porn, kiddy porn etc. where children are exploited to make it, action should be taken against those and only those who upload/post it in the first place, it is impossible for anyone else on the internet to prevent the transmission of data. The volume of data traveling on the net is beyond the ability of any one human, or even dozens to filter through. In the case of kiddy porn the only responsibility of sysops should be to provide log file etc. to law enforcement, so that they can trace it to the source and hopefully ultimately catch those who made it. In other words internet providers should be treated the same way a long distance phone carrier is, since neither can or should regulate the content of the data they carry. 5) The standards by which something is judged to be obscene are absurd, the first amendment says nothing about making exceptions for material which some may find offensive. I think many religious broadcasts could easily be found offensive by the standards of the Castro area in SF, why can't Pat Robertson go to jail in CA for transmitting obscene material (by local standards) into the Castro? Current obscenity laws violate the freedom of speech and the freedom of/ from religion because they only consider things offensive to certain Christian sects to be obscene. Kiddy porn is wrong because children are hurt when it is made, but I can see no rational reason why any pictures/stories/info of any sort made by consenting parties should be restricted. I hope the supreme court will one day realize the absurdity of this loophole. AP reporters: Please feel free to use any of this, but if there is anything that you have the least doubt about please e-mail or post questions instead of publishing incorrect or incomplete info. ------ Call the skeptic hotline 1-900-666-5555 talk to your own personal . \ / skeptic 24 hours/day. Just say no to victimless crimes. . . \ / High quality Linux application development available. . . . \/ Violence is a lousy substitute for sex and drugs. . . . . ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 31 Jul 2020 16:12:55 PDT From: Anonymous Subject: File 4--The Internet Reacts to the Am. Action BBS (fwd) **Here's the summary of an AP wire story for CuD readers** Hours after a couple was convicted of sending images of bestiality and sexual fetishes over a computer bulletin board, the Internet was humming with warnings and protests. "If this case stands, you can bet there will be a hell of a lot more prosecutions on the same basis in extremely short order," Karl Denninger of Chicago wrote Friday on the computer network. ((The story summarizes the case)) Even an 8.0 earthquake shaking the entire U.S. would do less damage to Internet than the ruling, a Boston user wrote in an anonymous message. Many users wondered on-line about what the 1973 Supreme Court rule allowing local communities to define obscenity means in cyberspace. ((The story notes that some people say the decision is inapplicable)) "This case. . .has one community attempting to dictate standards for the whole country," wrote Mike Godwin, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a think tank in Washington. One man said he planned to end the bulletin board he produces for a fee because the ruling makes it the legal equivalent of playing Russian roulette. "I'm pulling out of it as of now, and believe me I need the money. ...but it would be safer to rob a bank. I might get out of jail before I'm 140 years old," wrote Lawrence Foard from Brookline, Mass. ((The story notes that BBSes are usually small scale businesses or hobbys carried on a larger system like the internet, which is a factual error, but what the hey.)) Although most are free, some sexually oriented ones require a fee paid by credit card to attempt to screen out users under 18. ((More case summary)) The case bodes ill for any American computer system that carries any sexually related material at all, many users said.