Frequently Asked Questions About Internet Crime

Q: Is spam illegal?

A: Some types of spam (unsolicited, typically commercial email) may violate state or federal law. The federal Can-Spam Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003) regulates commercial email. It prohibits certain deceptive practices and requires that commercial emails contain a way for recipients to opt-out of receiving emails in the future. Some states also have laws on spam.

Q: If I install filtering software on our home computer, is that enough to protect my children?

A: While protective software is a start, it is only a first step. Your children can access computers from locations outside the home, and filtering software is not 100 percent effective. Speak with your children about the dangers of the Internet and make sure they know what to do in difficult or dangerous situations.

Q: My computer automatically forwarded an email that had a virus attached to it, but I did not know the virus was there. Can I be prosecuted for distributing a virus?

A: Current legislation addressing cyber-crime makes knowingly sending out a virus a crime. If you did not know that the virus was being sent out, and you had no part in the creation of the virus, you are not criminally liable.

Q: If I put a disclaimer on my website that says nothing on the site is meant to infringe anyone else’s copyright, will that be a defense to a copyright infringement prosecution?

A: No. Such disclaimers may even help to prove that the website operator knew his or her conduct was unlawful, thus helping the prosecution to make its case that the infringement was done knowingly.

Q: I took some pictures of my toddler in the bathtub. Am I guilty of distributing child pornography if I email these pictures my family?

A: It is unlikely. While there are stories about people being investigated or prosecuted on child pornography charges for taking innocent snapshots of their children, these cases do not result in the conviction of the parents who took the pictures. A picture like this, which does not include “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area” (sexual conduct according to federal law), does not fall within the federal definition of child pornography.

Q: Who makes the laws that govern the Internet?

A: There is no single authority that governs the entire Internet because the Internet’s reach extends across the world. In the United States, federal and state governments have enacted laws applicable to certain transactions and interactions that take place over the Internet. If something is illegal in the real world, it is likely to be illegal on the Internet.

Q: Where do I report an Internet crime?

A: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) have teamed up to create the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). IC3 processes complaints and refers them to the appropriate agencies. You can also contact the FBI directly concerning child pornography or child exploitation; the FBI or U.S. Secret Service concerning financial or banking crimes (such as “4-1-9 scams”); and the FBI, U.S. Secret Service or Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning fraud crimes.

Q: If a law enforcement official poses as a minor on a chat site — and someone solicits the official for sexual purposes, believing that the official is a minor — isn’t that entrapment?

A: Probably not. Most of the time, this tactic holds up in court. The outcome of each case, however, depends on its unique circumstances. If you have been accused of an Internet crime, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Secure Legal Counsel

For more information to these, or other legal questions, call William M. Butler, Jr., today at 502-582-202. Or contact him via email to discuss your case and schedule your initial confidential consultation. For over 28 years, he has successfully defended thousands of clients, compiling an impressive record of positive results, he can help you too.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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