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Thanks, Doug! Sorry I had to cut you short on the telephone, but steaks on the grill, like computers, do not forgive temporal sins.

Called the ACLU today concerning HB 1278, and also got replies from both of the bill's primary sponsors after I e-mailed them.

They treated me with courtesy and understanding, and one agreed with me that the wording needs work.

We bloggers had better stay on top of this.

Here's the text of my e-mail, slightly tweaked to correct wee-hour keyboard eccentricities, and to reflect the fact that no draft can represent finality ...


Dear Sen./Rep. N.:

This concerns HB 1277 and 1278, but particularly 1278 which states that "Any person who allows internet posts shall keep a record of the internet-protocol logs adequate to provide identification and location of otherwise unknown, anonymous, or pseudonymous persons who leave or upload content."

I live in Lead, South Dakota. I write scientific and technical books for a living. You can find information about me at www dot sciencewriter dot net. The online book seller Amazon dot com allows for me to post blog entries concerning my work. While I have not as yet used this service much, it could in the future provide an excellent way for me to interact with my readers worldwide.

If you explore reviews of some of my books at Amazon dot com, you will come across some statements by anonymous readers that border on defamatory (in my opinion). For example, one person recommends that my publisher fire me because I'm the "worst math author ever." Another suggests that one of my books was inspired by the devil. I have a rather thick skin, so I am inclined to laugh at "reviews" such as these, because if they really defame anyone, they defame their authors, not me. But I can certainly see the motivation behind bills such as HB 1277 and 1278. One step further by either of these "reviewers," and some real personal damage could have been done to me.

I imagine that should I get a court order forcing Amazon to reveal the identity of either of these terrestrial creatures (or any other anonymous "reviewer" who says bad things about me), Amazon would turn the information over to the court; every Amazon commenter must have an account, and their personal information must therefore exist somewhere in Amazon's records. In that sense, I suspect that Amazon dot com already complies with HB 1278.

But I, personally, have no control over the comments and reviews of my work that appear on Amazon dot com; I cannot delete them, nor compel Amazon to delete them. I do not have access to Amazon's Internet Protocol (IP) logs, so I cannot, all by myself, track these people. Nor can I track the identity and location of anyone who might comment on my Author Central blog at Amazon dot com. Let me repeat: I cannot do it. Not because it would be difficult, not because it would prove expensive and inconvenient, but because it is +literally impossible+.

My concern is, if I am a "person" (and at last check I was) who "allows" postings on an Internet site (and I guess that I "allow" posts by having an Author Central blog at Amazon in the first place), HB 1278 would seem to compel +me+ to keep records that I could simply not keep for straightaway technical reasons. It would be like asking me to see through a brick wall.

I can understand the intent of these bills. I do not wish to be defamed by some anonymous coward who does not like my work. However, I believe that the wording of these bills, and especially of HB 1278 must be refined, so people like me do not find themselves legally required to perform impossible tasks.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Stan Gibilisco,
715 Ridge Road,
Lead, SD 57754,
www dot sciencewriter dot net

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