What Legal Liabilities does Censorware have?

Censorware, or URL filtering software, prevents users from accessing certain internet domains. It is typically installed by an employer or parent to prevent the employees or children from accessing potentially harmful websites, including websites that decreases the productivity of the employees, or consumes too much bandwidth. It is also used by ISPs to manage their bandwidth.

But who are they accountable to? In other words, who can sue them?

Take the case of Lindorm, Inc. They manufacture the SediMeter, an instrument for measuring sedimentation, siltation, and erosion. One application is environmental monitoring of coral reefs, to make sure they are not harmed by sediment spill from nearby dredging or construction activities. Clients include universities, businesses, and government agencies.

Although it has been a business domain for at least 6 years, incredibly the URL lindorm.com is listed as an “adult” site by, e.g., URLfilterDB, and as “adult” and “porn” by blacklist.com (see image). Another handful of databases could also be checked online, and were accurate, typically listing Lindorm in a business category.

Even though this site prominently links to the Open Directory project, where lindorm.com is classified correctly, they have it classified as an adult and porn site.
Even though this site prominently links to the Open Directory project, where lindorm.com is classified correctly, they have it classified as an adult and porn site.

The very serious misclassification can have dire economical consequences for Lindorm, depending on how the information in these commercial databases was used. There are testimonies that it has prevented potential customers from viewing the website, and indications that it has also lead to filtering of emails, both outgoing and incoming. Although the reason is not known, a number of purchase orders sent by e-mail have disappeared en route.

It may be tempting to hold those who earn money on these libelous databases accountable. However, at least they offered a way to check the database’s accuracy online, and report errors. A big problem is that the majority of database providers (especially the large corporate ones) offer no way of checking the veracity of their information. Examples include Cisco and Websense. There should be a law that forced them to provide that possibility, given how errors on their parts might drive another company out of business.

It would be interesting to find out how this damage to third parties is handled by the law.

Update 2010-04-26: The response of Marcus Kool at URLfilterDB.com to my concerns that their mistakes can cause serious harm to other companies was: “hahaha!”

Springtime for Carmen on Miami smurf-opera

Carmen is one of the most popular operas in the world, and a few hours ago it was opening night in Miami for a new production. Except for the music and the song, it was a dissapointment.

The whole idea with opera is to appeal to emotions, and for that to happen the scenery on stage has to be believable. Of course it is fake, but it must have some semblance to the reality for it to be believable.

This production, though, was like the blue comic-strip smurf characters that can replace any word with the word “smurf,” in that a simple wood chair could symbolize anything: A rifle, arbitrary smuggle-goods; and even a chair. To make this clear the wall was covered with those chairs, too. In combination with the often blue light on the stage the association went to the smurfs.

The scene itself was white with black straight lines in random directions, and more of it in the perifery than near the center. Add some red movable raised pieces of scene, and that was basically it.

I was not the only one to think about the production “Springtime for Hitler” in “The Producers” by Woody Allen. Except, in the Hitler case they were so over the top that it became comedy. Here it was just travesty of opera.

The other thing that I noticed was how silent the music was. The only other stages I have had the pleasure to experience are the Opera in Stockholm, the Kongelige Teater in Copenhagen, and the Mariinsk Teatr in St Petersburg. As I remember it they all had a much more impressive orchestra sound. In Miami it was sometimes hard to even hear the performance – but maybe it is me who needs hearing aids. Or is there too much acoustic damping?

Opera is a fantastic art form, and the scenery is an important part of it. A cork-gun would be better as a rifle than a wooden chair. That would at least have revealed some level of respect for the art and for the audience.