Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Male Attorney More Effective As Female Online
Over at Madisonian Theory, Fred Yen notes:
Today’s law.com has a interesting story about law firms conducting investigations to enforce clients’ IP rights on the Internet. It describes how a Covington and Burling lawyer impersonated a “flirtatious 27 year old female programmer” in chat rooms to identify software pirates and have them arrested. The rest of the story discusses online IP enforcement as a major growth area for law firms as clients spend significant resources to stop the sale of infringing goods. ...
On the Internet, no one knows if you're a dog. Or a well-tailored lawyer in the London office of Covington & Burling. That fact has guided Peter Anaman's entire career over the last seven years. The 33-year-old British-trained attorney is the head of Covington's Internet monitoring and investigation unit, and he uses multiple online personas to nail bad guys: sellers of counterfeit goods and pirated software, hackers, phishers, you name it. ...
The article doesn't explain how many of Anaman's "multiple online personas" claim to be female, but notes that he "managed to infiltrate [a software infringement] ring in a matter of months by pretending to
be a flirtatious 27-year-old female programmer who complained a lot
about her boss in online chat rooms." Perhaps it amuses Anaman that the folks he sent to prison erroneously believe they were betrayed by a women. Or maybe he correctly deduced that his targets would assume a woman was powerless and harmless, and easily let their guards down around her. I think Fred Yen is correct that using subterfuge to identify infringers is potentially unethical or illegal.
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He was fooling ultra-nerds into thinking that there was a woman who might be remotely interested in having sex with them. Where's the mystery?
Posted by: Bart Motes | Jun 6, 2007 7:40:14 AM
I'm with Bart in thinking it's simpler than either of your proposed hypotheses. As someone who has hung out with the type of people who populate warez and similar sites, they're fairly desperate for female companionship, especially a woman who they can talk to and who shares their interests (I really don't think it's about sex per se). That's why posing as a woman was more effective - while they'd let a guy in also, he'd have to prove his mettle to a far greater degree.
Posted by: Ubertrout | Jun 6, 2007 11:54:41 AM
I think Fred Yen is correct that using subterfuge to identify infringers is potentially unethical or illegal.
The N.Y. County Bar just issued an ethics opinion that seems pertinent:
New York lawyers may use undercover investigators to ferret out civil rights violations and the sale of counterfeit goods without violating the Code of Professional Responsibility, according to a recent ethics opinion by the New York County Lawyers' Association last week.
Under the opinion, a lawyer might use several undercover investigators of different races to pose as prospective tenants to gather proof that a landlord is discriminating. Similarly, a lawyer might send out an investigator to buy a bag with the "Gucci" mark from a street vendor. The bag could then be tested to determine its authenticity.
The ethics opinion, No. 737, is one of the first in the nation to address the question of whether lawyers in the private sector may use undercover investigators who "dissemble" without violating the ethical proscription against tactics involving "deceit or misrepresentation," said Wallace L. Larson Jr., co-chairman of the county lawyers' Committee on Professional Ethics.
Posted by: eric | Jun 6, 2007 12:25:37 PM
When I hear stories like this about internet enforcement (including Larissa MacFarquhar's excellent New Yorker piece), I think a lot depends on the type of counterfeiting being done. For example, I'd support just about any effort to stop the sale of fake drugs, fake airline parts, or other things that risk people's lives.
On the other hand, devoting law enforcement resources to prop up the handbag industry or RIAA's oligopoly strikes me as a potential waste of resources.
Posted by: Frank | Jun 7, 2007 2:45:36 PM
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