Jonathan Wallace (attorney with Censorware Project), to me : ... Given the odds that one day we will be sued on trumped up charges by a censorware company, wouldn't you rather save your energies for that one than settling scores with [Mike] Godwin? [at the time, EFF Staff Counsel]
Seth Finkelstein (me, talking about being chief programmer of Censorware Project) : ... Meanwhile, to address your final point, the legal risks continue to mount, so perhaps the message is quit before I'm destroyed financially as well as emotionally.
(part of an e-mail exchange May 22, 1998, quoted with permission)
"It was about legal risk, about being sued!" That's a phrase I find myself often repeating, when I try to explain to people why certain attacks, and lack of defense, mattered so much to me. There's a tendency to be dismissive, to derisively describe some events as "a flame war" (meaning trivial, inconsequential, only bruised egos) or "personal" (hence the mind shuts off and stops thinking).
When we published the essay I didn't expect a lawsuit, but I had also thought, "Well, if there is a lawsuit it won't be a problem, because there are organizations that take care of things like that." I fondly imagined that in case of legal silliness, someone would just step in and say "We'll take it from here." What I found out was that those organizations, through no fault of their own, were able to give me a lot of sympathy and not enough of anything else, particularly money, to bring my personal risk of tragic consequences down to an acceptable level, despite, incredibly, the fact that what I had done was legal.  Ultimately, I couldn't rely on anybody to deal with my problems but myself.
Some people learn that lesson a bit less impressively than I had to.
Matthew Skala, mid-2000 (one of two programmers who reversed-engineered CyberPatrol, published their findings, and as a result were sued for it). From his essay Cyber Patrol break FAQ
But the potential for being sued, of going through the draining process of litigation, was quite real. Some programmers did eventually end up being sued for anti-censorware work. It's an ill wind that blows nobody good. Finally, then, many more people began to understand what was at stake.
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