- Journal Archives
- Volume 17
- Volume 16
- Volume 15
- Volume 14
- Volume 13
- Volume 12
- Volume 11
- Volume 10
- Volume 9
- Volume 8
- Volume 7
- Volume 6
- Volume 5
- Volume 4
- Volume 3
- Volume 2
- Volume 1
Last Wednesday, an online hacker gained access to Republican Vice-Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin’s email account by correctly answering Yahoo’s security questions and resetting her password. After logging into her account, the hacker took screen shots of Palin’s inbox and personal emails. These screen shots were sent to websites, such as gawker.com, which subsequently published the images.
Supplementing state statutes that regulate illegal on-line activities, the Stored Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act both provide federal means for prosecuting the hacker. But in addition to the individual who logged into Palin’s email, attention has been drawn to the websites that published screen shots of her Yahoo! account. While it is easy to share Bill O’Reilly’s outrage at the invasion of privacy that Palin has suffered, his call for “those who posted the emails go to prison for a very long time” goes too far.
In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled on a strikingly similar topic in Bartnicki v. Vopper, which addressed a radio commentator broadcasting an illegally intercepted phone conversation. The Court ruled that because the conversation was illegally obtained by a third party, the radio station (who was not involved in the illegal interception) was protected by the First Amendment in its right to disclose the newsworthy material.
The situation here is analogous. An individual illegally obtained private communications. He then sent them to numerous websites. Because the websites were not involved in the illegal procurement of the material, the First Amendment protects their right to publish the information. So while Bill O’Reilly’s moral indignation is understandable, his call for justice has no legal backing.
Recent Blog Posts
- The Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law Jumps Thirty-One Spots to Highest Ranking Ever
- Hiding Behind the Computer Screen: James Woods Files Defamation Lawsuit Against a Twitter User
- Let’s Enjoy Fantasy Football…While We Can
- Guest Post: Tweeting Away Patient Privacy
- Naturally Occurring or Mind-made?
- Does China’s 2022 Winter Olympics Song Intentionally Plagiarized ‘Frozen’s’ ‘Let It Go’?
Tagsadvertising antitrust Apple books career celebrities contracts copyright copyright infringement courts creative content criminal law entertainment Facebook FCC film/television financial First Amendment games Google government intellectual property internet JETLaw journalism lawsuits legislation media medicine Monday Morning JETLawg music NFL patents privacy progress publicity rights radio social networking sports Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) technology telecommunications trademarks Twitter U.S. Constitution