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US Drops Link Sharing Charges Against Barrett Brown

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the on-second-thought dept.

The Courts 40

In a followup to our story yesterday, Bismillah writes "It seems US prosecutors agree that just publishing a link doesn't amount to transmitting actual files. Brown is not out of the legal woods yet though, and still faces further charges. The EFF released this statement about the decision: 'We are relieved that federal prosecutors have decided to drop these charges against Barrett Brown. In prosecuting Brown, the government sought to criminalize a routine practice of journalism—linking to external sources—which is a textbook violation of free speech protected by the First Amendment. Although this motion is good news for Brown, the unnecessary and unwarranted prosecution has already done much damage; not only has it harmed Brown, the prosecution—and the threat of prosecution it raised for all journalists—has chilled speech on the Internet. We hope that this dismissal of charges indicates a change in the Department of Justice priorities. If not, we will be ready to step in and defend free speech.'"

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duh. (1)

o_ferguson (836655) | about 9 months ago | (#46414285)

Obvious move is obvious.

Re:duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46414473)

please refrain to saying positive things, so the world can be a better place.

Too Bad. (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 9 months ago | (#46414329)

A precedent might have been set had the case been heard and tried.

IANAL, but I doubt the dismissal will become case law.

Re:Too Bad. (1)

Raul654 (453029) | about 9 months ago | (#46414465)

I'm not a lawyer either, but FYI even if the judge had agreed to dismiss the charges, that would not be binding on other courts either. It would not have become binding unless one side or the other appealed and the circuit court and got a decision there. That decision would then become binding on *only* that circuit.

Re:Too Bad. (4, Interesting)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 9 months ago | (#46414495)

A precedent might have been set had the case been heard and tried. IANAL, but I doubt the dismissal will become case law.

Well, if the judge actually had the time to rule on Brown's attorney's motion for dismissal, [freebarrettbrown.org] the ruling would've made it into case law. As it happened, the US prosecutors *dismissed* the eleven counts related to the linking charge before the ink on Brown's motion was dry.

I wonder why the US prosecutors would do such a thing? [rolleyes]

Re:Too Bad. (1)

x_t0ken_407 (2716535) | about 9 months ago | (#46414633)

"TIN FOILLL!!!!!"!!!!!!""

In all seriousness...you hit the nail on the head. But what do you expect from those who would perpetuate such an egregious lawsuit in the first place? That our rights are being tested and eliminated so flagrantly is in and of itself absurd.

Re:Too Bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46414869)

The judge has to consent to dropping the charges. So, he could still choose to rule on the motion rather than allow the prosecutors to withdraw their case.

Everything that happens in the courtroom is at the judge's sole discretion. Once a case is filed, the judge owns it, and nobody else.

While it is atypical for a judge to disallow a prosecutor dropping a charge, it is still well within the judge's power to say "no" and instead rule on the motion.

Re:Too Bad. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46415615)

NOTHING that happens at the District Court level can be considered "Case Law".

Only decisions at the Appeals Court (or higher) can be considered Case Law and only then if the decision is "published" by the court (most decisions are not).

Re:Too Bad. (2)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 9 months ago | (#46415755)

I stand corrected. Mods, hit me with "Overrated".

Re:Too Bad. (2)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 9 months ago | (#46415869)

...oh yeah, mod AC up!

Browns motion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46418089)

...was dry? Maybe time to drink more water?

Re:Too Bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46419113)

I wonder why the US prosecutors would do such a thing? [rolleyes]

Maybe because they don't want the piratebay, demonoid etc. to be practically legalized?

I believe the judges are still allowed to rule on those issues, but I don't expect them to do so.

2600 vindicated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46414343)

So does this mean that 2600 can post links to the DeCSS code again?

Re:2600 vindicated? (1)

stox (131684) | about 9 months ago | (#46414425)

One can only H.O.P.E. http://www.hope.net/ [hope.net]

Sounds like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46414405)

"Brown had no involvement in the hack" - So in other words, if you see someone being raped and killed, you should just shut up and don't say anything to anyone (including police), and don't you dare to post a sign that could lead someone to the place of rape and murder, 'coz you'll be charged.

Re:Sounds like... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 9 months ago | (#46417859)

No, that would be misprison of a felony. What it means is that if your security camera picked up someone being raped and killed, i can link to the footage if it became availible somehow. There might be harrasment if i did though

I threaten you, you do not threaten me. (0)

TempleOS (3394245) | about 9 months ago | (#46414421)

God has authority over you. God says...ease Victim fowls harass satisfactorily infancy MAY proposed indexes making flew Church partake liveth Sometimes note ball ofttimes disapproveth life-giving like dies going illuminate weighing e-mail Therefore monstrousness gentleness unreasoning plunging willedst indicating eclipses orator mysteries acquire shameless Hadst fastidiousness copy an root herbs vehemence Etext engraff distribute part glories bind inwardly announcement downward beholding hereon forehead Court laughed raisedst bulky Stop confesses devout unbending Weight Patricius trampled consisteth madly literary manhood

Then move to Russia if you think that is bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46414427)

Putin welcomes you comrade.

Re:Then move to Russia if you think that is bad (2)

uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) | about 9 months ago | (#46414629)

1965 called and wants its catchphrase back, citizen.

not good news... now there isn't a precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46414471)

can the EFF rebut the dismissal of the charge and force the charge to be heard in open court?

Re:not good news... now there isn't a precedent (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 9 months ago | (#46414635)

What's the point?

If nobody is ever charged with anything like this again, then the EFF have won.

If someone is charged for the same circumstances, then the EFF can fight the battle in that case.

Re:not good news... now there isn't a precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46415159)

even better; if this happens every time, then the EFF can waste hundreds of man hours submitting motions to dismiss every time the government wants to spend some of their money!

As long as the government just keeps dropping it, then the EFF can just keep spending time and money sending in motions!

This is clearly the best way for this kind of law to be prosecuted.

It has an added benefit; that if the defendant doesn't get the EFF involved and forgets to use this defense, then perhaps the government will sneak through its own successful prosecution!

Re:not good news... now there isn't a precedent (1)

Xtifr (1323) | about 9 months ago | (#46415265)

As long as the government just keeps dropping it, then the EFF can just keep spending time and money sending in motions!

And that's the sort of thing that Anti-SLAPP laws [wikipedia.org] are designed to prevent. If you live somewhere that doesn't have anti-SLAPP laws, I strongly recommend never doing anything that might piss off someone with money, whether government or private.

Re:not good news... now there isn't a precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46415525)

This wasn't a lawsuit, this guy was charged with ebrolizing the wimmadingle. The EFF said "there's no such thing" and rather than the prosecutor risk never being able to charge anyone else with it if the judge said it was bullshit, they dropped the charge.

BTW, unless you can cite USC (it's a federal case) preventing someone from publishing a link to a list of credit card numbers someone else has on their website, it might as well be ebrolizing the wimmadingle.

What more could you ask for? (1)

zugmeister (1050414) | about 9 months ago | (#46414653)

I know I'm probably gonna get seriously hammered for this, but what more could we ask for?
Do we want them to "take it back" and apologize, with a promise never to do something like that again?
Seriously, the prosecutors bit off way more than they could chew here. Maybe they realized failure would be bad for their careers and success would have huge negative ramifications on the Internet (at least in the US) so they decided the prudent course of action was an advance to the rear...

Re:What more could you ask for? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 9 months ago | (#46414675)

What's wrong with them taking it back and apologizing?

Re:What more could you ask for? (1)

mmell (832646) | about 9 months ago | (#46414823)

Nothing. And as soon as Brown counter-sues for having to answer a frivolous lawsuit, the courts will have the responsibility of determining what apology is appropriate and ensuring that it is implemented.

Re:What more could you ask for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46415291)

There was no lawsuit. This was a criminal case and Brown is still in jail waiting for other charges to be tried.

Re:What more could you ask for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46415631)

lol - you can't file a suit against the US Attorney - they have immunity.

Re:What more could you ask for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46468973)

You can sue the federal government for damages due to the false charges and imprisonment. You can't go after the USAA personally, but you can certainly take your $10 million.

Re:What more could you ask for? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 9 months ago | (#46419797)

What's wrong with them taking it back and apologizing?

If it was a real apology they'll never file similar charges against anybody else. I wouldn't take that bet.

Re:What more could you ask for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46415199)

Underground news!

Re:What more could you ask for? (1)

ConfusedVorlon (657247) | about 9 months ago | (#46418059)

Yup - a promise about future behaviour would be good.
Perhaps formal guidance to prosecutors that posting an http link should not generally be seen as 'republishing'

In the UK, there has been controversy around various twitter cases (particularly the bomb joke case).
The end result is that the director of public prosecutions has issued new guidance on how and when to charge people with crimes based on what they say on Twitter.

new guidelines:
https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/a... [cps.gov.uk]

relevant section:

---
"... [they are] like contributions to a casual conversation (the analogy sometimes being drawn with people chatting in a bar) which people simply note before moving on; they are often uninhibited, casual and ill thought out; those who participate know this and expect a certain amount of repartee or 'give and take'."

Against that background, prosecutors should only proceed with cases under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 where they are satisfied there is sufficient evidence that the communication in question is more than:
Offensive, shocking or disturbing; or
Satirical, iconoclastic or rude comment; or
The expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it.
If so satisfied, prosecutors should go on to consider whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.

This will be great for his book (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46414809)

Back to Tiny Chat with underage girls wearing guy fawkes masks he goes.

Prosecutor Bowed to Pressure from Terrorists (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46414857)

It's illegal to knowingly facilitate a crime. Linking to site you know host illegal content is equivalent to telling kids where they can get the best drugs in town, and encouraging them to do so.

This guy should be locked up for the rest of his life.

Re:Prosecutor Bowed to Pressure from Terrorists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46419507)

It's illegal to knowingly facilitate a crime. Linking to site you know host illegal content is equivalent to telling kids where they can get the best drugs in town, and encouraging them to do so.

This guy should be locked up for the rest of his life.

As Dr. Gregory House would say, "You're an idiot."

"Chilling effect" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46415505)

There's your con law right there.

Ignorance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46415535)

Ignorance is rampant in the legal system. You could easily be prosecuted for something that the judge doesn't even begin to understand. Neither the lawyers nor the people making the judgements understand the details of technology. If you think we live in a just and fair society, think again. We have an incredibly corrupt legal system in this country.

Life follows art... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46417935)

Just watched House of Cards Season 2,episode 23, where a character got Barrett Brown's charges dropped.

I thought that was an obscure thing for that character to say, especially for a show written over 6 months ago.

Then I read this article.

The chilling has already begun (1)

mbeckman (645148) | about 9 months ago | (#46425411)

Witness the dearth of comments to this post. This administration is assaulting free speech more severely than Mao.
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