Computer Ethics, Fall 2019

Mondays 4:15-6:45, Corboy 208
Class 4: Sept 23

Class 4


Read Baase chapter 1 and the first three sections of chapter 4
Read Baase chapter 2 on privacy

The main course notes are in the Notes Organized by Topic section on the main web page. Reading assignments, comments on the class discussion and occasional special notices are in these week-by-week notes.

Paper 1: the main purpose of the paper is to explore some aspect of copyright that has been radically upended by computers and the Internet. Performance sampling is quite difficult without computers (though some early samplers did simply use vinyl records and made a tape of their entire session). Sci-Hub is impossible without the Internet. In the course of writing, you should be mindful of this conflict.

Last week I talked about copyright and Now there's this: a project to find an alternative approach to paying for content

Though I'm not sure they have a concrete proposal yet.

Was cheap Netflix the thing that got video piracy out of the news? Maybe this isn't going to work out quite as planned:

Switzerland (which is not part of the EU) recently (2019-09-16) released a draft update of its copyright laws, after US complaints. But the new draft still does not prohibit filesharing "for personal use", and still does not require that ISPs block access to sites that supply pirated content, or (presumably) that provide (like thePirateBay.??) links to such sites.

In the US, filesharing for personal use has never been treated as a criminal offense, but the Swiss law makes an official exception for private-use copying, and the US wanted that no longer to apply to copying from unlawful sites. See

They're watching you!

"Six US Cities Make the List of [Top 50] Most Surveilled Places in the World". Atlanta was the top US city, but Chicago is on the list too.

DMCA Censorship

The Mail and Guardian, covering news of interest to Africa, faced a DMCA-imposed censorship crisis recently. On June 21, 2019, they published an article:

The article in question was the result of an M&G investigation into a questionable R14.5-billion [US$970 million] oil deal between South Africa and South Sudan, led by convicted fraudster Njock Ajuk Eyong.

On Sept 10, they received a DMCA takedown notice claiming that the M&G article copied content from a blog post dated June 3, 2019. The date on the blog post is simply the date entered by the blogger; it is easily altered. The blog itself was not widely known, and had never published any investigative journalism before. See

The takedown notice was forwarded to M&G by Linode, which hosts all M&G online content and which gave them 96 hours to remove the content in question. According to M&G, Linode told them to "take the article down within 96 hours or we’ll shut your entire site down. Our questioning the veracity of the complaint did not seem to make any difference."

Under the DMCA, this is in fact true: content must be removed. Linode did in fact shut down the M&G site, while M&G disputed the facts; at that point, M&G removed the article and was reinstated. They then posted the article on Twitter.

Start with copyright_laws.html#cases, Dowling v US