5 Surprising Ways You're Breaking the Law With Tech

5 Surprising Ways You're Breaking the Law With Tech

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Taryn Williford
May 8, 2009

If you're up on your legalese, or you've watched Legally Blonde enough times to convince people you're a law student, you know that there's a difference between crimes that are generally believed to be wrong and evil in themselves: malum in se; and crimes that are just forbidden by policy: malum prohibitum. It's the difference between murder and jaywalking. Even if you consider yourself a pretty decent, moral and law-abiding guy, you're probably likely to break more of those malum prohibitum laws in a day than you realize...

We spotted this list of "17 Ways You're Probably Breaking the Law with Tech" on Switched.com. Some things were obvious examples practiced by people who know they're breaking the law: downloading copyrighted music and talking or texting on your cell while driving, for example.

But we were surprised to find that these 5 things, which we could easily stumble into doing, are illegal:

  • Taking provocative pictures of yourself, especially if you're a minor, and sending them to your lover for a little sexy treat could land you in some hot water. In Pennsylvania, "police have threatened to charge several teenagers with pornography for either sending or receiving dirty pics," Switched reports. But don't fret too much my little exhibitionists, this one isn't written in stone. The ACLU is defending that sending sexy photos is protected free speech.
  • Writing hateful things about Lindsay Lohan probably won't land you in the slammer. But the guidelines for defamation are more strict for private individuals, so blogging false accusations about that girl at work to your friends just might. Even if you don't give her name, it could still be defamation if you give up enough information to identify her.
  • We don't have to remind you that copying a song, photo or video that you did not create and selling it or giving it away is copyright infringement. But did you realize that writing and publishing fan fiction can be a copyright infringement, too? Even though you created an original story, your famous characters are probably protected by the creators' copyright.
  • Using a sound recorder during a meeting, phone call or lecture is a common and legal way to make sure you catch everything. But there's a slippery slope into law-breaking territory. Switched reminds us that "it's never legal to tape a conversation that you are not part of and wouldn't normally overhear, without permission of the parties." Your own phone calls are OK to tape by the federal government, but 12 states require you to notify the other people on the phone.
  • You might think you're saving your butt by letting your blog faithful know about some free download link over at another blog, but linking to sites that host illegal material is illegal in itself. "In 2001, for example, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals barred 2600 Magazine ("The Hacker Quarterly") from linking to sites that posted the DeCSS code for breaking the copy protection on DVDs," which violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Image: Flickr member Mark Coggins under Creative Commons

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