The Ninth Circuit has ruled that Fourth Amendment protections don’t apply when it comes to sharing child porn. Dr Phi notes:
I will note in passing that, while the decision of the 9th Circuit appears to be sound as a matter of law, the opinions seem to misstate the technical facts of the case. All the judges write several times that the NCIS conducted “surveillance of all computers in the entire state of Washington.” If this were true, it would raise obvious 4th Amendment problems, but in actuality Agent Logan searched only those files being shared by a peer-to-peer file sharing program, by which its users presumably forfeit any “reasonable expectation of privacy”. But that should cause its users enough worry, seeing as how most of those files are likely in technical violation of copyright laws, which the government has prosecuted before.
As a legal matter, I’m pretty sure this is right. as a political and business matter, though, going after file sharers has proven to be something of a dead end. Lately, the content-owners have been more interested in teaming up with the ISP’s in order to kick sharers off their accounts. Which is pretty brilliant, because it’s minor enough to not create the sorts of sob stories we’ve seen with people going to prison over this. But it’s severe enough to the culpable parties that it does provide some disincentive.
Not much, though, which is the bind that the content-producers are in. And why they are most likely going to break if they do not bend. (To their credit, they have been bending.)
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