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TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: moreonth.txt

BBS taken down - court case




BULLETIN BOARD SYSTEMS
          August, 1985

NEW JERSEY HACKER CASE MAY BE A TEST
OF SYSOPS' FREE SPEECH PROTECTION 
 
     The attorney for one of seven New Jersey teenagers charged 
with conspiring to use their computers to exchange stolen credit card numbers 
and make free long-distance calls says he will argue that his client is 
protected by the constitutional guarantee of free speech. 
     Jeffrey E. Fogel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of
the American Civil Liberties Union, told BULLETIN BOARD SYSTEMS that he an
associate will defend a teenager who operated the Private Sector BBS. 
     "We are relying on his representation that all he did was run
a bulletin board, that he didn't make a calls or use stolen credit card 
numbers," Fogel said. If that is true, he added, "I don't think there is
any liability." 
     The defendants, all under 18, were charged July 16 with juvenile 
delinquency based on an underlying charge of conspiracy to commit theft.
Police confiscated the computers and software of some of the defendants.
     Middlesex County Prosecutor Alan A. Rockoff told reporters 
that the individuals exchanged information that would allow them to access
commercial computers without authorization and that some of them had codes that 
could cause communications satellites to ''change position.'' 
However, spokesmen for AT&T and other carriers said their 
systems are secure and denied that any satellites had been moved. 
     Rockoff said the investigation began in April when postal
officials informed police that someone using a post office box
under a fictitious name apparently had been using a computer
to gain illegal access to the computer of a Connecticut credit
company.
     Fogel said he believes that the prosecution will have to show that 
his client actually used the credit card numbers or telephone access codes
to prove his case. Allowing the information to be posted on his client's
bulletin board, he said, is not a criminal act. 
     "There's nothing illegal about those messages being there," he said. 
     "Let's say you find an AT&T calling card on the street and you put an
ad (listing the number) in the New York Times. I'm confident that the 
New York Times is not liable. 
     "Bulletin boards are the same as a free press," Fogel said. "They are
like electronic magazines in which the users can publish what they choose." 
     Fogel drew an analogy to two well-known free press cases: the
publication of plans for a hydrogen bomb in Progressive magazine and
publication of the Pentagon Papers by the Times.
     "What really gets me upset in this case is they seized the 
'printing press.' I don't think they had the right to seize his 
computer, Fogel said. 
     The concept of First Amendment protection for bulletin board 
operators has yet to be tested in court. Last year Los Angeles
sysop Tom Tcimpidis was charged with telephone fraud when Pacific Bell
investigators found a calling card number posted on his BBS. But the charges
were dropped in February before the case came to trial. 
     Rockoff said his case is the first major prosecution under 
recent New Jersey law that makes it a crime to obtain data
from a computer without authorization.

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