How External Or Internal View Of The Internet Affects Court’s Decisions


In an ever developing world, the internet and cyberspace are become part of our lives in an every way imaginable. So much so, that matters involving the internet being included in the law of countries (e.g. the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1030 in the United States of America) and matters involving the external and internal view point of the internet being argued in court by various individuals in the field of law. This essay looks into the external and internal view of the internet and how it might have affected or changed the court’s decisions in crucial cases where the two perspectives were contended


The internet can be viewed in two perspectives, the internal and the external view. In the internal view of the internet, it mostly involves a world which in essence is virtual and the user in most cases is logged on here. Here, the user enters a new virtual world and to them, all that is viewed here corresponds to what they see in reality and in the physical world. Users here can be in an online community, chat with other users and even buy items online by just using either their mouse or key board to navigate this virtual world. The user here does not really care about what happens in technical bit of the computer but is mostly concerned with the virtual world that the computer creates for them. On the other hand, an external view point is connected to the physical components of the computer and how they function in this state. This may include the network that the user is on, the hardware involved and the destination of the output here. In this perspective, all the superficial forms of representation that come along with the computer, for example the images, are not of the utmost importance. What really matters in this perspective is the tangible bit of the computer. This difference in perspective may create a conundrum for individuals trying to argue a case in a court of law as arguments may vary from some suggesting that the internal view is a view that should be realistically considered while others would argue that it is intangible and only the external perspective should be the one to be considered.

In this essay two notable cases namely Voyeur Dorm v. Tampa and the and United States v. Auercheimer will be used to demonstrate how the external and internal view of the internet and how they have affected or changed the court’s decisions in these crucial cases where the two perspectives were contended

Voyeur Dorm vs Tampa

This first case against Voyeur Dorm which was a website that had been providing live 24hour live video feeds from a residential home in the address 2312 West Farwell Drive in Tampa Florida in the year 1999. This video feeds would depict the lives some “residents” who they had contracted some five women who would be as they succinctly put it on a “stage and filming location,” with “no reasonable expectation of privacy,” for “entertainment purposes.  Those who would subscribe to this website would have to pay a monthly fee of $34.95 to be able to receive this live feed.

In reality, the houses address had not been listed in the on the website and the activities that would be taking place in the residence was not visible from the outside. The city of Tampa decided to take drastic measures against this website and their owners and they were sued for contravening as in their eyes they had refused to enforce its Zoning Code which prohibited what it termed as “adult entertainment used in residential areas. Section 27-523 of its zoning code (Delta, George B and Jeffrey H Matsuura),had defined adult entertainment in the part that was relevant as

Any premises . . . on which is offered to members of the public or any

person, for a consideration, entertainment featuring or in any way

including specified sexual activities, as defined in this section, or entertainment

featuring the displaying or depicting of specified anatomical

areas, as defined in this section; ‘entertainment’ as used in this

definition shall include, but not be limited to, books, magazines, films,

newspapers, photographs, paintings, drawings, sketches or other publications

or graphic media, filmed or live plays, dances or other performances

distinguished by their display or depiction of specified

anatomical areas or specified anatomical activities, as defined in this


and it was with this argument that the website and its owners found themselves on the wrong side of Tampa, Floridas laws. After pondering over this issue, the Zoning coordinator issued a directive that the area was in a zoned RS-60 Residential Single Family and thus had to cease all open.

In April 1999, Voyeur Dorm decided to appeal this decision by the District Court. They had argued earlier that their business did not satisfy all elements of the said definition that it was a premise on which it is offered to the members of the public, for consideration  and that no member of the public had been offered any of the adult education. They argued that the residents of Tampa did not in actual sense attend the premises where the entertainment takes place and the viewing of the residents who were in the house was was done in a “virtual space”. This would contend that the use of the premise then did not the term “for adult use”

Voyeur Dorm also argued that their business was not an adult one and they contended that section 27-523 only applied to locations where the adult entertainment content was offered to the public. They further argued in their appeal that the public could not physically attend the adult entertainment and that the residence did not fall under the Tampa Zoning Ordinance. Furthermore, the residence in question did not give any “offer[ing]” of the adult content they had for the members of public in Tampa, Florida.

On 21st September 2001 the decision made earlier in the Voyeur Dorm, L.C. v. City of Tampa, Fla., 265 F.3d 1232 (2001).cert.( (Hart, Jonathan D 17) by the District court was reversed as the zoning restrictions that were there were only for some particular locations and residents did not physically attend premise in which the said acts were performed.


Andrew Auernheimer’s had been convicted in March 2013 in the state on New Jersey for conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1030, and identity fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(7) and was to serve 41 months in federal prison for a crime that was said to have taken place in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Auernheimer had earlier started a website by the name AT&T for iPad uses and accessed automatically using the ICC-ID identification code of the device.

David Splitter, another co-conspirator in the case, noted that this website had a security flaw that left all the information of those who logged in on the website. He intimated this information to Auernheimer’s in chat rooms from San Fransisco, Carlifornia and later wrote a program “account slurper” which would automatically pick all those email addresses.“Https://”, where the string of “X”s is the nineteen- or twenty-digit ICC-ID was the acces route that this program used. Within a short time, he had collected about 114,000 email addresses and later shared these exploits publicly and a reporter by the name Ryan Tate picked this story and published it with title “Apple’s Worst Security Breach: 114,000 iPad Owners Exposed.” .

This lead to their subsequent arrest as 4,500 New Jersey residents had their personal information put public contravening New Jersey’s computer crime statute, N.J. Stat.Ann. § 2C:20–31(a). See 18 U.S.C. § 1030(c)(2)(B)(ii). The trial happened in New Jersey and Andrew Auernheimer was transported all the way and convicted on a guilty verdict for both counts after a five day trial. The servers accusing them physically were both in Dallas, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia.

Andrew Auernheimer’s legal team appealed this sentence as they knew that the constitution of the United States of America safeguarded the defendants venue rights United States v. Cabrales, 524 U.S. 1, 6, (1998).They also noted that a continuing offence did not add up as New Jersey not the area where the servers were located.The government could also not prove that the victims were actually located in New Jersey.

The servers accessed were located were were both in Dallas, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. This problem of venue led to the Third Circuit reversing Auernheimer’s conviction In April 2014, ruling that it had been illegal to bring the case to New Jersey.


It is important to note that these two perspectives have very practical effects in our lives. There is a very thin veneer that separates these two perspectives and they may even be used to set precedents as seen above.

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