Tuesday, July 06, 2004

NYT article on US v. Coucilman

Here is a New York Times article on US v. Councilman.

The case in Boston involved an online bookseller, now called Alibris. In 1998, the company offered e-mail accounts to book dealers and, hoping to gain market advantage, secretly copied messages they received from Amazon.com. In 1999, Alibris and one employee pleaded guilty to criminal wiretapping charges.

But a supervisor, Bradford C. Councilman, fought the charges, saying he did not know about the scheme. He also moved to have the case dismissed on the ground that the wiretapping law did not apply. He argued that because the messages had been on the hard drive of Alibris's computer while they were being processed for delivery, they counted as stored communication. The wiretap law bans a company from monitoring the communications of its customers, except in a few cases. But it does not ban a company from reading customers' stored communications.

"Congress recognized that any time you store communication, there is an inherent loss of privacy," said Mr. Councilman's lawyer, Andrew Good of Good & Cormier in Boston.

In 2003, a federal district court in Boston agreed with Mr. Councilman's interpretation of the wiretap law and dismissed the case. Last week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-to-1 decision, affirmed that decision.


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