The U.S. Department of Justice divides cybercrimes into three categories: computers and networks as a target, as a weapon or as an accessory. Each of the five chapters in the volume involves a court case from the last decade testing those digital frontiers. Each chapter begins with an overview of the underlying case before presenting related documents, many of them primary sources related to legal proceedings.
Recording Industry Association of America v. Verizon Internet Services (2003) examined the role of Internet service providers and their culpability in illegal file sharing. ISPs cannot monitor file sharing effectively, and current computer piracy regulations were drafted before the advent of peer-to-peer sharing. Since file-sharing software allows users to download files on other end-user’s machines, it was networks rather than servers that were targeted in the RIAA case. Verizon, perhaps hoping to maintain a lucrative market for its broadband services, was forced to become a consumer privacy advocate.
In United States v. Heckencamp (2007), Jerome Heckencamp’s arrest for using his university’s network to vandalize the eBay Web site, as well as sites of other commercial outlets, tested whether the expectation of privacy is extended online. A remote search of Heckencamp’s computer was complicated by Heckencamp’s established relationship with the college network administrator, who searched Heckencamp’s machine remotely. But the court eventually held that, in attaching the computer to the university network, Heckencamp was found to assume compliance with network policies.
Many cybercrimes are not prosecuted because of jurisdictional issues. Hageseth v. San Mateo County (2007) contends with another geographical problem, the increasing incidence of pharmaceutical prescription after medical consultation over the Internet. The suit in question dealt with the prescription of an antidepressant to a teen who later committed suicide. United States v. Abrams (2008) deals with the technological mediation of the one of the only forms of speech that does not enjoy constitutional protection, that of child pornography.
Jaynes v. Commonwealth of Virginia (2008) dealt with one of plagues of the digital age, the unsolicited bulk e-mail that has become known as "spam." The U.S. Internet Service Providers (ISP) Association estimate that 90 percent of e-mail falls into that category, framing this unnecessary flood of messages as forcing the ISPs to grant unauthorized access to their servers. Despite the fact that the initial court ruling gave great latitude for anonymous communications at a rate of less than 10,000 bulk e-mails in a 24 hour period, it was not upheld. This was perhaps due to the argument that any check on digital communication was a blow against liberty.
Because of the court-related slant of the Issues on Trial series, this volume is not likely to meet the needs of students looking for information about identity theft or cyberbullying, but the range of sources makes the important subject matter accessible to older high-schoolers. Chapters are made up of published court opinion and legal briefs alongside articles from the popular press, including Wired, CNet and The San Francisco Chronicle. There are appendices with organizations to contact, as well as a bibliography reflecting a range of books, periodicals and Internet sources for further research. The volume is indexed. Recommended for school libraries.