Public Website Has No Right Against Those Who Accessed the Website in Express Violation of the Website’s Terms
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A Federal court has ruled that a public website has no right against people who access the website despite the website having expressly excluded them from accessing the site.

Stop-Corporate-Extortion.com was a website set up by Michael Snow, expressly for people being sued by DirecTV. As such, Snow expected that people would talk on the site about their cases (which they did), and so during the user registration process he expressly forbade any agent of DirecTV, including their attorneys, from accessing the site.


Well, guess what. Yep.

Agents of DirecTV accessed the site.

Snow then sued DirecTV under the Stored Communications Act (SCA). The SCA prohibits accessing an electronic communication “without authorization.”

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Snow’s argument was that by violating the terms of registration for the website, the DirecTV folks violated both his website, and the SCA.

The Federal court saw it otherwise.

The problem, you see, is that the SCA prohibits accessing information which is generally restricted.

 

Stop-Corporate-Extortion.com, by contrast, was a public website to which anyone could have access; anyone other than the few people whom Snow attempted to exclude.

Explained the Court, “Before registering and logging into the electronic bulletin board, the proposed registrant is shown a notice that requires the registrant to affirm his non-association with DirecTV. Two options appear at the end of the notice: “I Agree to these termsâ€? and “I do not agree to these terms.â€? “If a person clicks on ‘I Agree to these terms’, that person is allowed to enter into, view and participate in the electronic bulletin board within the SCE Web site.â€? In sum, to access the electronic bulletin board messages, all one needs to do is register, create a password, and click “I Agree to these terms.â€? Nothing inherent in any of these steps prompts us to infer that access by the general public was restricted.”

Added the Court, “In order to be protected by the SCA, an Internet website must be configured in some way so as to limit ready access by the general public.”

Bottom line? If you want to be able to exclude certain people from your website in a manner which will stand up in court if they do then access your website, you have to exclude the public generally, and only let in people who meet a certain criteria.

The website at Stop-Corporate-Extortion.com is, by the way, no longer up.

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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