[Air-l] MySpace sued again ...

Alexis Turner subbies at redheadedstepchild.org
Fri Jan 19 10:39:21 PST 2007

I find that people have a difficult time conceptualizing what is really 
occurring when these sorts of activities move into "virtual" spaces, even in 
more traditional non-brick-and-mortar spaces like ads in a magazine.  I 
therefore find it useful to draw a real world parallel.

If a coffee shop/bookstore/library/etc allows both adults and teenagers to use 
its premises, and pedophiles happen to like it because it is near a Catholic 
girl's school (and thus uniformed students happen to frequent it), would the 
coffee shop be responsible if a pedophile struck up a conversation with a 
student in the shop and this later led to an assault?  In other words, is 
the coffee shop somehow *facilitating*, aiding, or abetting the aspects of 
this event, including the illegal ones?  If so, does this mean the business 
model of the coffee shop (allowing people to meet and talk) inherently 
assists illegal activity?  What steps would the coffee shop legally, or morally, 
be required to take to prevent this from happening?  If it is not *required* to 
take any steps, should it anyway?

On Fri, 18 Jan 2007 burkx006 at umn.edu wrote:

::Date: 18 Jan 2007 21:29:52 -0600
::From: burkx006 at umn.edu
::Reply-To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
::To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
::Subject: Re: [Air-l] MySpace sued again ...
::On Jan 18 2007, Hugemusic wrote:
::>Possibly, but I think there's a few significant differences.
::>In the MySpace cases, a crime was committed by someone against a minor. 
::>We're not talking about "metal-inspired" teen  suicide ... perhaps more 
::>analogous with the record company that sold music to the Columbine 
::>teenagers, but I don't recall that claim being made ... at least, not in 
::>court ...
::These kind of lawsuits are fairly common against media/publishers -- not 
::just the "metal-inspired" teen suicide cases, but the "copycat" cases 
::(e.g., the Olivia N. case in which the plaintiff, who was raped with a 
::plumber's helper, alleged that the perpetrators got the idea from a 
::television show and so sued the broadcaster), and the "forum for crime" 
::cases (e.g., the series of cases against Soldier of Fortune magazine for 
::attempted murders from the ads for hit men in they run in their classified 
::This most closely resembles the Soldier of Fortune type cases.
::Generally the plaintiffs lose (in the U.S. at least) either on First 
::Amendment grounds, or for lack of causation -- that is, providing a forum 
::for advocacy or exchange of criminal speech is not a proximate cause of 
::resulting criminal activity.
::>Time will tell ... thoughts? predictions?
::If MySpace wants to tough it out, they probably win on summary judgment. 
::But as you point out that creates bad PR. The better business strategy is 
::to install safety features and/or settle.
::Dan L. Burk
::Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly Professor
::University of Minnesota Law School
::229 19th Avenue South
::Minneapolis, MN  55455
::voice: 612-626-8726
::fax: 612-625-2011
::bits: burkx006 at umn.edu
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