1994-03-27 - Another Censorship, Freedom of Speech, Rights of Vendor Issue

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From: jdwilson@gold.chem.hawaii.edu (Jim Wilson (VA))
To: jdwilson@gold.chem.hawaii.edu
Message Hash: 32cf88dba6c3821b3c6ea2e399a26ea691cb83e6db25502f1ffe71ca6af7181c
Message ID: <9403270118.AA13801@gold.chem.hawaii.edu>
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UTC Datetime: 1994-03-27 00:26:54 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 26 Mar 94 16:26:54 PST

Raw message

From: jdwilson@gold.chem.hawaii.edu (Jim Wilson (VA))
Date: Sat, 26 Mar 94 16:26:54 PST
To: jdwilson@gold.chem.hawaii.edu
Subject: Another Censorship, Freedom of Speech, Rights of Vendor Issue
Message-ID: <9403270118.AA13801@gold.chem.hawaii.edu>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

To supporters of freedom of speech - please read, act and

share this as your conscience dictates:


Unofficially excerpted from Infoworld 3/7/94 Brian Livingston's

Window Manager column.


"Can CompuServe succeed in silencing Windows dissenters?  Having

your electronic mail account cut off is the modern equivalent

of solitary confinement.  Many services I use, such as Microsoft

Windows forums, exist exclusively on systems such as the CompuServe

Information Service.  There is no other place for information.


"That's why I took notice when CompuServe threatened to cut off 

a subscriber's account if he even mentioned on-line a lawsuit that

the company filed against him.


"Compuserve filed suit January 31 in Federal District Court in Ohio

against Richard S. Patterson, the developer of a shareware program

called Windows Navigator (WinNAV), which he has distributed on

Compuserve for several years.


This suit came about after Patterson complained on a Compuserve 

forum last December that the company's plans to release a product

called Windows Navigator infringed upon his trademarks.


"Prior to initiating the suit, Compuserve modified the name of its

product to CompuServe Navigator, Windows Version.  It asks the court

to find that Patterson has "no trademark rights" that it has 

infringed, and for an unspecified monetary penalty.


"I don't know who will prevail in this suit.  But what really

bothers me is this threat in a letter to Patterson dated January 31,

from Kevin J. Osterkamp, Compuserve's attorney in the firm of 

Roetzel and Andress, of Columbus, Ohio;


"I am as legal counsel for Compuserve compelled to advise you that

it is Compuserves position that you will be terminated if you

mention, discuss, or comment upon the lawsuit or the issues

related thereto as a part of the CompuServe Information Service.

Termination will also result from any other disparagment of

Compuserve, its management, employees, or business practices.


"I've never met Mr. Patterson, but I know him tangentially from

his other software, Zip Tools, which appears in Windows Gizmos.


"My columns have promoted CompuServe many times, so I asked for 

it's position.  The gist of the reply I received from Mr. Oster-

kamp was this:


"Regarding the case of Compuserve vs. Patterson, my ethical 

obligations (and Mr. Patterson's) prohibit me from commenting

directly on the case.  I can, however, assure you that our 

request that Mr. Patterson stop using Compuserve's online

services to disparage the company is simply good, old-fashioned

common sense.  After all, why should CompuServe - or any online

service - allow a disgruntled party the opportunity to bad-

mouth the company in its own forum?


"Why, indeed?  It's called "a free exchange of ideas."  It is

much sought after by people around the world.


"If AT&T could cut off my phone because I criticized them while

using long distance, we would be in very serious danger of losing

our freedom.


"It is unclear whether electronic services are "common carriers"

(like AT&T) that must carry all communications, or "publishers"

(like magazines) that are legally responsible for the words they

choose to print.


"But Compuserve knows which it prefers to be.  In separate cases,

it has been sued by the National Music Publishers Association and

Cubby Inc. for distributing material uploaded by subscribers.

Compuserve argues that it should be free from any liability

because "it is a distributor and not a publisher."


"Our future "information highway" will inevitably center on just 

five or six giant corporations.  That's why it's so important

that access not be denied to someone whom these entities don't



"Because children read forums, I agree that obscene language 

should be banned.  But I've read the forum messages, and

Patterson is not guilty of that.


"Do me a favor.  Sit down right now and tap out a message to

Mauryve Cox, the CEO of Compuserve.  His I.D. number is

70003,1550.  Tell him how important it is to you that no one

be denied access to Compuserve forums.  Send me a copy,

if my account still works after this column appears.


(Brian Livingston is the author of "Windows 3.1 Secrets" and

"More Windows Secrets", and co-author of "Windows Gizmos."

Send tips to Compuserve: 70053,2035; or fax: (206) 282-1248.)