If you and I were at a local Starbucks drinking coffee and plotted a criminal act (say robbing a bank), would Starbucks be liable? Is Starbucks a co-conspirator since they provided a platform for us to plan our illegal act? In short, no.

If you and I email back and fourth about that same criminal activity, is GMail/your ISP liable? In short, no.

If we do rob the bank and FexEx someone the contraband, is FedEx liable? In short, no.

If I illegally download MP3 music and upload it to Amazon Cloud Storage, Microsoft Skydrive, Dropbox, or some other similar service, are they liable? A judge last week said no.

While this seems like a small thing, it is huge. By providing the Cloud providers legal immunity, the same immunity terrestrial providers enjoy, the legal system has validated the business model of the entire cloud computing industry and guarantees an entire industry will not suffer legal limbo.  It is still illegal to download unlicensed content, however, the liability is on the person doing the downloading, not the company providing the service. (The person would also be in violation of the terms of service as well.)

This allows the Internet Economy to work. Google is not liable for someone searching for illegal things, Microsoft is not liable for someone using Excel to plan something illegal, Dropbox is not liable for what it stores, and Telerik is not liable for someone using our software for something illegal.

Score one for the lawyers today.

About the Author

Steve Forte

 sits on the board of several start-ups including Triton Works. Stephen is also the Microsoft Regional Director for the NY Metro region and speaks regularly at industry conferences around the world. He has written several books on application and database development including Programming SQL Server 2008 (MS Press).

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