Downtime

Jun 28 2010   11:54PM GMT

Life after (virtual) death

ComputerWeeklyStaff Profile: ComputerWeeklyStaff

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Here’s an interesting little conundrum: the Wikipedia entry on freelance BBC technology commentator Bill Thompson was edited to reflect a change in his status from living to dead. Tipped off and against Wikipedia’s rules about editing your entry, Bill corrected the report. He then followed up, tracing the perp to a dynamic IP address used by Virgin Media to service its Cambridge clients.
That’s as far he got. When Downtime checked with VM’s press office, the good folks there said the law prevented them from disclosing who used the IP address at the time Bill apparently joined the choirs eternal. There were escalation procedures involving the police and court orders, Downtime was told sternly.
So, could Bill use the Digital Economy Act to discover the identity of the digital graffiti artist, whose motives are unclear? 
The act, which aims mainly at fighting digital pirates, allows Bill to send Virgin Media an “infringement report” that includes “evidence of the apparent infringement that shows the subscriber’s IP address and the time at which the evidence was gathered”. VM can then confirm the alleged infringement, but without identifying the perp. Bill can then apply to the courts for an order on VM to reveal who used the IP address at the time. 
But that doesn’t guarantee that Bill will get hold of the right person, since VM allocated the IP address on an as-needed basis, and even then, the subscriber may not have been the person who punched the keys. 
Smart lawyers would also dispute whether Bill was even entitled, as the copyright owner, to the information, since Wikipedia operates under a Creative Commons licence and has a prohibition against subjects writing entries about themselves.
Might Bill have recourse to the Computer Misuse Act? At this point Downtime lost the will to live. Would someone please notify Wikipedia? 

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