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Re: "Matchcode" technology sparks privacy flames.....



On Tue, 23 Sep 1997, Declan McCullagh wrote:

> 
> At 14:02 -0400 9/23/97, [email protected] wrote:
> >> Which law, specifically, would gossiping with (or about) your neighbors
> >> violate?
> >
> >Slander.
> >
> >Were I to maliciously spread a rumor, and you got fired, or suffered
> >economic loss because of my gossip, you could sue me.
> 
> Not quite. Truth is an absolute defense against slander and libel. If the
> gossip is true, which was my hypothetical, what's the cause of action?

Truth was not mentioned specifically.  Gossip is rarely true after the
first few iterations.  You are correct that if the gossip can be proven
true that the position is defensible (but I would have to check some legal
references if it is absolute).

> >I can be damaged by information - which may be either wrong or out of
> >context.  Should I have no right to recover or correct such things?  If no\
> 
> No, you should have no right to "recover" what I know about you. This is a
> common beginner's misunderstanding. What you seem to be arguing for is
> property rights in information. But that is misguided. To grant you such a
> right would be to let you muzzle others who say truthful things, violating
> their free speech rights.

Technically, I am arguing for property rights in reputation.  Patent and
copyright are already recognized property rights in information.

As far as recovering information, I may have no right, but if I contract
with my doctor or lawyer, he has a duty to protect my records.  Perhaps I
could not sue you, but I could sue the people who released the information
to you, and those who had a duty to protect those records.

The "raw" FBI files Livingstone got are an example - they contain lots of
unverified rumor and gossip and could be used to damage the people they
are about.  Did Livingstone do anything wrong, and would there be a
problem posting such information on the internet?

How about personal information such as credit card or social security
numbers or even tax records - you are saying if I can get them, I should
be able to publish them. 

And who determines "truthful"?  This gets back into the ratings scheme.
Movie critics would be in trouble if you leave this caveat in.

> That is why many "privacy laws" are censorship in disguise.

Then on the same basis, are copyright laws.  If I can get a copy of MS
Office, should I be able to publish that?  Copyright does not directly
prevent me from obtaining the information, but it does prevent others from
publishing the information without my permission.  Even cracking a copy
protection scheme does not entitle me to publish the now unprotected
information freely.

I would simply argue that some personal information is functionally
copyrighted by that person without going through the formality (if I
remember right the Berne convention says something is still protected even
if no formal steps have been taken).  Some personal information can be
made public domain - who I appear in public with, what I wear in public,
what I post here, etc. but lots cannot be obtained without commiting some
form of trespass or theft.  You are effectively saying that if you get
something that was stolen, you still should be able to own it (and if you
publish it, have a copyright and own that same information).

If you are arguing that there should be no legal protection for
information of any sort (including patent or copyright) I think you have a
point.  We then would have an equal opportunity for information piracy.