Starmer dumps doormat?

Peter Tomlinson pwt at
Tue Jan 18 18:09:56 GMT 2011

On 18/01/2011 13:30, ken wrote:
> On 15/01/2011 17:48, Peter Tomlinson wrote:
>> ...I think that I want
>> something stronger in law, something that responds to the very
>> nature of these voicemail messages (and of emails)
> It seems hard to define the limits of such a law in a way that doesn't 
> make quite normal behaviour illegal.
> I have a phone on my desk. Once I've listened to a message on it, that 
> message is, pretty much, a sound recording in my possession, just like 
> the CD or DVD. Is it illegal to listen to that recording without 
> permission?
> I have a pile of CDs and DVDs on a shelf behind me, and various bits 
> of equipment capable of playing them. Dozens of people have some sort 
> of legitimate access to this office.  If one of them - say the person 
> sitting next to me - picks up one of my CDs and plays it have they 
> broken a law?
> If I have a CD in my computer and walk away leaving the machine on, 
> has someone who restarts it and listens to it broken a law?
> If Peter is keeping his phone messages on his computer, presumably 
> they are backed up. Maybe even on to the same media as his music MP3s 
> or JPEGs. Does one law apply to one kind of content and another to 
> another?  If I am looking at the contents of a recording and suddenly 
> find out that it includes private messages, does the alw require me to 
> stop reading or listening there and then and seek permission to go on? 
> Morality and decency do require that I think - if I find a personal 
> letter in the pages of a book I have been lent I ought not to read it 
> - but does the law require it? Should the law require it?
> If a guest in my house turns on my TV to watch it I suspect they 
> haven't broken any laws, even though I have given no explicit 
> permission. Its the sort of thing that reasonable people might assume 
> is implied by the invitation to spend time in my house. Most peopel 
> might assume such an invitatiom does not imply permission to listen to 
> recorded phone messages. But were I to record broadcast TV programmes, 
> and they watched such a recording, without asking, should they have 
> they broken a law? My TV is at least as much a computer as my desk 
> phone is. Does CMA apply to it?
> Lots of phone messages are kept in the servers of the phone company 
> rather than on the customer's equipment.  If it is illegal to listen 
> to those without explicit permission, is it illegal for someone 
> watching my TV with permission to use a "play it again" service 
> without explicitly seeking my permission for that? If it is 
> pay-per-view, then they will have taken money oput of my account, but 
> loads of them are free. Does that make a difference?
> It gets more complicated the more I think about it.
I don't see a problem. But I do see a fusion of the two channels: 
voicemail and email. In both cases, the copy (or copies) that I have 
is/are my responsibility, I protect them, and breaking into the stores 
of those copies should be subject to one law. The copies residing in 
service supplier systems are their responsibility, and breaking into the 
stores of those should be subject to another law. There is a door, and 
the lawyers and legislators simply need to understand that there can be 
and often is a copy or copies on both sides of the door. (And the 
doormat is firmly on my side of the door.)


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