Criminal Liability for Website Graphic Designers

30 replies
There are several megaupload threads, but this is a specific issue anyone associated with website development and graphic design should be aware of:

Criminal charges included the person who designed megaluploads logo, as well as other parts of the site.

According to paragraph 34 of the criminal indictment, "BENCKO has been the lead graphic designer of the Megaupload.com and other Mega Conspiracy websites. He has designed the Megaupload.com logos, the layouts of advertisement space, and the integration of the Flash video player.

BENCKO has requested and received at least one infringing copy of a copyrighted work as part of the Mega Conspiracy. In calendar year 2010, BENCKO received more than $1 million from the Mega Conspiracy."

IMHO that's a pretty thin claim to try and extradite someone from their home country to the US for criminal charges.

But the point of conspiracy law is that if you a role, no matter how small, you can be charged for the entire enterprise.

Website developers and graphic designers may want to be careful about who they do business with.

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#criminal #designers #graphic #liability #website
  • Profile picture of the author Sue McDonald
    This certainly does not look good for the staff that have all been arrested. But it looks worse that they are hacking other sites in retaliation.
    This in my opinion has taken turn for the worst. I know that we did not want SOPA and/or PITA but I do not think this is the way to stop these acts from being passed.
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    • Profile picture of the author espresso
      Originally Posted by Sue McDonald View Post

      This certainly does not look good for the staff that have all been arrested. But it looks worse that they are hacking other sites in retaliation.
      This in my opinion has taken turn for the worst. I know that we did not want SOPA and/or PITA but I do not think this is the way to stop these acts from being passed.
      I welcome anonymous in taking down various sites
      More power too them
      The US has refussed to sign up the international court
      ALL countries should revoke their extradition treaties with the US
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      • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
        Originally Posted by espresso View Post

        I welcome anonymous in taking down various sites
        More power too them
        The US has refussed to sign up the international court
        ALL countries should revoke their extradition treaties with the US
        I would like to remind folks that, while the policy issues are relevant, this forum does not allow discussions of politics in general.

        This comment, as just one example, strays too far from the topic under discussion.


        Paul
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  • Profile picture of the author adribabe
    So if I buy a theme from (your theme website goes here), and make illegal content, the theme site goes down?

    It'd be great if I made about 100 different websites with 100 different theme sources... and I myself sold themes. Nice way of taking out the competition. This is stupid.
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    • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
      Originally Posted by adribabe View Post

      So if I buy a theme from (your theme website goes here), and make illegal content, the theme site goes down?
      No. What it means if X is hired to do website development / graphics work for Y, and Y is engaged in illegal activity, that X could face criminal charges for assisting / conspiring with Y.

      .
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      • Profile picture of the author THK
        Originally Posted by Sue McDonald View Post

        This certainly does not look good for the staff that have all been arrested. But it looks worse that they are hacking other sites in retaliation.
        This in my opinion has taken turn for the worst. I know that we did not want SOPA and/or PITA but I do not think this is the way to stop these acts from being passed.
        I don't think people that are protesting against SOPA and those hackers are the same person.

        Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

        No. What it means if X is hired to do website development / graphics work for Y, and Y is engaged in illegal activity, that X could face criminal charges for assisting / conspiring with Y.

        .
        Isn't it possible that X is only a contract worker and Y didn't let him in on every single detail of his business.

        It is not necessary for Y to explain every single detail of his operation to his graphic designer. Just enough so the designer can do his best job. How can you hold him (the designer) liable for shady business practices of Y?

        Tanvir
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      • Profile picture of the author Bambu
        Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

        No. What it means if X is hired to do website development / graphics work for Y, and Y is engaged in illegal activity, that X could face criminal charges for assisting / conspiring with Y.

        .
        Thanks for the interesting post, but you might want to review the elements of conspiracy.
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      • Profile picture of the author Fernando Veloso
        Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

        No. What it means if X is hired to do website development / graphics work for Y, and Y is engaged in illegal activity, that X could face criminal charges for assisting / conspiring with Y.

        .
        The world is going nuts.



        So if I design a logo/business card/flyer to a guy in Brussles and IF he decides to go the illegal way... I can be taken to USA for "assisting / conspiring"...?

        How ignorant is that?
        How shameful is that?
        How illegal is that?
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      • Profile picture of the author E. Brian Rose
        Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

        No. What it means if X is hired to do website development / graphics work for Y, and Y is engaged in illegal activity, that X could face criminal charges for assisting / conspiring with Y.

        .
        Remind me never to do business with this Y guy.

        In all seriousness, the logo designer was clearly more than just a logo designer. I am purely speculating, but it seems like he was given a share of the company or the profits in exchange for his work. That makes him an owner, not just a contracted designer.
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        • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
          Originally Posted by E. Brian Rose View Post

          I am purely speculating, but it seems like he was given a share of the company or the profits in exchange for his work. That makes him an owner, not just a contracted designer.
          Yes, but there is no liability just for being an owner.

          If Google, Inc. engages in criminal copyright violations everyone who owns Google stock is not subject to liability.

          .
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          • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
            Banned
            Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

            Yes, but there is no liability just for being an owner.

            If Google, Inc. engages in criminal copyright violations everyone who owns Google stock is not subject to liability.

            .
            What if the designer designed the site, owned a percentage of the business, and knew of it's illegal activities? Is it legal to do work for and have a partnership in a business that you know to be illegal?
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            • Profile picture of the author davezan
              Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post

              Is it legal to do work for and have a partnership in a business that you know to be illegal?
              While IANAL, I honestly think that's arguably "contributing" to said activities. On
              the other hand, it probably depends on this anyway:

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        • Originally Posted by E. Brian Rose View Post

          Remind me never to do business with this Y guy.

          In all seriousness, the logo designer was clearly more than just a logo designer. I am purely speculating, but it seems like he was given a share of the company or the profits in exchange for his work. That makes him an owner, not just a contracted designer.
          I totally agree. Y must have been more than a logo designer or graphic designer. He must've known what the business was doing, and have received profit or benefit.
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          • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
            I was reviewing some of the briefs and evidence in the Viacom v. YouTube copyright case. Interestingly, there are emails between the original owners where they said they knew mass amounts of copyrighted material was being uploaded, including specific programs, but that YouTube's traffic would drop 80% if it deleted obvious copyrighted material.

            They essentially admitted a goal of wanted the public to upload as much as possible, as fast as possible, hoping YouTube would quickly grow - so they could sell in typical dotcom fashion. Which they did.

            In other words, the "email evidence" against YouTube was far worse than what is listed in the indictment against Megaupload.

            One of the emails from one owner to another owner said "[P]lease stop putting stolen videos on the site."

            Yet, YouTube won the case.

            I suspect YouTube / Google will be looked upon more favorably as a company and the service it provides than Megaupload.

            It also turned out that YouTube did respond to DMCA requests, notwithstanding the damaging statements made in owner emails.

            The key point being - it really doesn't matter what stupid or damaging comments are made in private emails, so long as at the end of the day the DMCA requirements are complied with.

            Also of interest, apparently if there were 10 copies of X on YouTube and YouTube received a DMCA notice listing the url for one of the copies, it only removed the one copy.

            It will be real interesting to see what happens with this criminal case in comparison.

            .
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  • Profile picture of the author DianaHeuser
    Good grief Bambu, Brian Kindsvater is one of the TOP internet lawyers. He knows what he is talking about.

    Di
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  • Profile picture of the author Bambu
    Sorry, I was harsh... I have edited my post. It is quite difficult to make an informative post regarding this subject matter for a general audience.

    I just don't want people making a mountain out of a mole hill. Let's see what the outcome of the trial is and the surrounding circumstances of Bencko's involvement was before throwing the baby out with the bath water.
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    • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
      Originally Posted by Bambu View Post

      I just don't want people making a mountain out of a mole hill. Let's see what the outcome of the trial is....
      I don't know about you, but being extradited to a foreign country 5000 miles away where I do not know anyone, perhaps to a country where I do not fully understand the language, and waiting to see the outcome of a criminal trial that could result in 20 years in prison, doesn't sound like a mole hill to me.

      It is not uncommon for web developers to get a percentage ownership in a project. Especially for new dot coms. If the site takes off and is making a reported $175 million like this one, then banking $1 million as a web developer is not necessarily unreasonable or indicative of wrongdoing.

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      • Profile picture of the author THK
        Originally Posted by DubDubDubDot View Post

        Nobody gets paid $1 Million for web design work. This person obviously had their fingers in other things with the company in addition to design.
        How do you defend the people who claim to write articles for $50 and upwards? What about people who charge $100 or $500? Are you suggesting they are somehow involved in criminal avtivities?

        Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post

        Considering that he banked $1M from a relatively simple graphic design, I tend to believe that he is IN the IN crowd of that bunch.
        We are allowed to think what we want to think (until of-course US govt come up with a law to prevent us from doing that ), but when you lock someone up there should be a better reason. It seems like in this case you are correct. That graphic designer seems to be more invested in the business than just a "simple graphic designer". But if they accuse a graphic designer of wrongdoing for doing the graphic job for a payment, that would be overkill. There is no reason for the government to make the job of legitimate service providers risky or difficult.

        Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

        It is not uncommon for web developers to get a percentage ownership in a project. Especially for new dot coms. If the site takes off and is making a reported $175 million like this one, then banking $1 million as a web developer is not necessarily unreasonable or indicative of wrongdoing.

        .
        Thank you. Exactly my thought. That is actually a smart and sensible business practice in many situations. Even though if I got an ownership offer like that rather than a payment, I would ask few more questions about the business to understand it better.

        Tanvir
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        • Profile picture of the author ShayB
          Originally Posted by THK View Post

          How do you defend the people who claim to write articles for $50 and upwards? What about people who charge $100 or $500? Are you suggesting they are somehow involved in criminal avtivities?

          Tanvir
          No, that's actually a quite reasonable pay rate for an article in the majority of circles. In some, $500 would be an insult.

          As far as $1M for designing a website, it would depend on the arrangement as to whether or not it was extravagant.
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  • Profile picture of the author DubDubDubDot
    Nobody gets paid $1 Million for web design work. This person obviously had their fingers in other things with the company in addition to design.
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    • Profile picture of the author jeskola
      If the current system can find and extradite people for this activity - what is the need for these new laws?
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    Considering that he banked $1M from a relatively simple graphic design, I tend to believe that he is IN the IN crowd of that bunch. If not, hope he gets off, but I seriously doubt that there wasn't anything he didn't know about the site he was being paid to work on.

    But yeah, I agree. Taking on a job for anyone else's site could be risky. I've seen cases where the designer was indicted, but got off because in the long run, he really was just a designer and they could not prove conspiracy.

    Edit: I think two of Madoff's programmers were indicted too? I seem to remember that, but don't think it went anywhere, even though the programmer had to know it was bogus.
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    • Profile picture of the author tpw
      Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post

      But yeah, I agree. Taking on a job for anyone else's site could be risky. I've seen cases where the designer was indicted, but got off because in the long run, he really was just a designer and they could not prove conspiracy.

      In 2002, there was a fellow who paid me to syndicate his article online.

      His assistant only used my service once.

      In 2010, he was indicted by the Feds for fraud and misleading advertising.

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      • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
        Banned
        Originally Posted by tpw View Post

        In 2002, there was a fellow who paid me to syndicate his article online.

        His assistant only used my service once.

        In 2010, he was indicted by the Feds for fraud and misleading advertising.

        Heck .. with all the FTC rules these days, I don't think I'd even want to be involved in the advertising business.
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  • Profile picture of the author NestZone
    How much careful can one be online when everything done online is represented in one remote desk or shelve offline.

    Just be careful when you try breaking into a competition.
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  • Profile picture of the author celente
    lots of these posts showing up after SOPA.

    And so it begins. The government just want more power and control I bet right now there is a lot of graphic designers, and such tip toeing around, and treading very carefully.
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  • Profile picture of the author godinu
    Remember that this case is being used as an example -- people trying to flaunt their stuff and bring the highest possible charges against MU to scare others. A graphic designer who did not design anything illegal and was not tied into a company via shares or any other means will generally not be in trouble even if questioned at first. This is just a generality and not legal advice. But on the other hand, if you know a company is conducting illegal activities, its best to not to any work for or with them.
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  • Profile picture of the author sadiecopywriter
    I don't think this a new rule. It seems like the one they used to use to arrest the accountants/limo drivers and other 'employees' of the 'mafia' back in the 1920-50's. I think they still use today for that.

    But I'm no lawyer. I just like history.
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  • Profile picture of the author Karen Blundell
    Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

    There are several megaupload threads, but this is a specific issue anyone associated with website development and graphic design should be aware of:

    Criminal charges included the person who designed megaluploads logo, as well as other parts of the site.

    According to paragraph 34 of the criminal indictment, "BENCKO has been the lead graphic designer of the Megaupload.com and other Mega Conspiracy websites. He has designed the Megaupload.com logos, the layouts of advertisement space, and the integration of the Flash video player.

    BENCKO has requested and received at least one infringing copy of a copyrighted work as part of the Mega Conspiracy. In calendar year 2010, BENCKO received more than $1 million from the Mega Conspiracy."

    IMHO that's a pretty thin claim to try and extradite someone from their home country to the US for criminal charges.

    But the point of conspiracy law is that if you a role, no matter how small, you can be charged for the entire enterprise.

    Website developers and graphic designers may want to be careful about who they do business with.

    .
    please allow me to clarify the above even further:

    Bencko actually requested a pirated movie from one of the other named defendants. In the charge document there's the emails they had of the conversations back and forth between them. Pretty incriminating evidence.
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    • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
      There are a whopping 2 emails Karen. From 2007. One where he complains the Sopranos is in French. In the other he asked for Seinfeld links. There is apparently a 3rd email he was copied on which reflects that DMCA take-down requests were generously being complied with.

      That's a very weak claim to try and support these types of allegations. If not for the conspiracy claims this would never be filed, or it would likely be bounced out of court.

      There is stronger evidence against tens of million of users whose logs and accounts show they were actually uploading (copying) and sharing copyrighted material.

      An argument could be made the evidence may be stronger against PayPal for enabling and profiting from the claimed copyright infringement.

      It highlights my original point - just how weak the charging evidence against a web designer can be to drag someone into a life-altering criminal mess.

      As a designer one is likely to have correspondence about the nature of the business, goals, etc., so the site can be designed. Sometimes there is playful banter back and forth. Sometimes 'boys will be boys' in what they say.

      And it can all be used against you.

      .
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