I have a legal question about the Wikileaks case, prompted by this this Guardian piece, by John Naughton, linked in Henry’s comments. I must confess: I wasn’t surprised or particularly scandalized when Amazon kicked Wikileaks off its cloud, because I figured Amazon was probably technically in the right. Wikileaks had probably violated whatever terms of service were in place. I thought this sounded like the sort of thing any private company was likely to do, whether or not Joe Lieberman actually brought pressure to bear. If you have a problem customer who has violated your terms of service, you terminate service. (Just to be clear: I think ongoing attempts to shut down Wikileaks in patently legally dodgy ways are an utter scandal. Joe Lieberman pressuring Amazon is a scandal. I’m with Glenn Greenwald. I also think existing intellectual property laws are, by and large, an atrocious mess. Still, the law is what it is, so the question of how a private company like Amazon can and should be expected to react to this sort of situation is narrower than certain other more general questions about free speech and the press and so forth.)

My thought was this: Wikileaks obviously can’t own the copyright, so Amazon should not be expected to be slower to shut them down than they would be to shut down someone hosting pirate copies of Harry Potter novels. An annoying consideration, because it’s perfectly obvious that, if there is a good reason to take Wikileaks down, it isn’t because it’s like Napster in its glory days, or whatever. But there you go. But the Guardian piece says this is wrong: [click to continue…]