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Sapphire Hotaling

Question regarding 'legality' of IP banning on private regions

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I recently was given the honor of creating an exhibit for the Linden Endowment of the Arts, entitled 'The History of the Vehicle in SL'.  As sim resources are limited, I could only place a limited number of exhibitors in the exhibit and the list filled extremely quickly.  As a result of this, there was a certain group of individuals who were angry that they were not invited, who are also friends with someone who owns several sims in SL.  While my RL partner was told they were banned from ALL of the regions owned by this person. I was never told the same.

As I am involved in many different activities in SL, you can imagine my surprise when I, nor my model alts could enter a region to do a store check for a sale.  As there are three people in this house who log into SL from different computers, upon further discovery, NONE of us could enter those regions.

Which leads my to my question: Is it legal for a land owner to IP ban everyone from a region? From my understanding, this is a Federal offense in the United States.  While I can understand a land owner banning someone from their region for any reason, no matter how childish it may be, I do believe it is illegal to gather information based on IP addresses.

Any thoughts, suggestions or comments are welcome; I have been a resident in Second Life for almost 8 years, own two stores and I am very active in the community.  

 

Thanking you for your time,

Sapphire 'Sapph' Hotaling

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Sapphire Hotaling wrote:

Which leads my to my question: Is it legal for a land owner to IP ban everyone from a region? From my understanding, this is a Federal offense in the United States.  While I can understand a land owner banning someone from their region for any reason, no matter how childish it may be, I do believe it is illegal to gather information based on IP addresses.

I'm sorry, but do you really think there is a "federal offense" just for IP banning from virtual land/regions?  Or do you think that banning IP addresses in general is illegal?  If it's the latter, that'll be news to LL since they IP ban.

There have been court rulings that you can't IP switch to avoid a ban.  

If you think that whoever it is is violating some LL rule you should contact LL or file an AR.  They'll probably investigate the whole thing if they care at all, so you should probably think about whether the pieces of the story that you're not mentioning (somehow, there's always more to these stories ) are something that you want them to come across.

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Sapphire Hotaling wrote:

Which leads my to my question: Is it legal for a land owner to IP ban everyone from a region?
From my understanding, this is a Federal offense in the United States.
 


What led you to "understand" this?

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If I'm not mistaken what makes collecting IP addresses illegall is what you use them for. Collecting for marketing is pefectly legal....collecting to control another persons computer or account is not.

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Do you remember back in the day when Redzone was used to control another person's accounts? Many of those who used this tool (which was later banned by LL) were using it to encroach on one's privacy.  As MB Robonaught has stated below, it is how you use the information gathered. If it is for marketing purposes, US Federal law denotes that as acceptable, however, using it to control another person's account or computer is not.

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Blue,

While I have nothing to hide, I only shared those points that are pertinent to the situation. And, again, the use of IP addresses is only illegal, depending on how they are used in their collection.  As for not sharing all of the 'gory details', I prefer to keep drama to a minimum and only state facts.

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I seriously doubt that it's against the law to IP ban people.

 

I'm not willing to take the time to read the bloated SL TOS again now, but a few years ago it was a TOS violation to collect IP addresses of residients.  That was because the TOS prohibited the collection and use of personal information that had not been voluntarily released by the resident.  IP banning obviously requires collection of IP addresses.

I'd suggest that you confirm your theory by trying to logon from another location, such as a library or hotel computer (I usually\do it using an installation of a viewer on a flash drive.), a public WiFi network, or over the cellular data network.

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Sapphire Hotaling wrote:

Do you remember back in the day when Redzone was used to control another person's accounts? Many of those who used this tool (which was later banned by LL) were using it to encroach on one's privacy.  As MB Robonaught has stated below, it is how you use the information gathered. If it is for marketing purposes, US Federal law denotes that as acceptable, however, using it to control another person's account or computer is not.

I've have no idea what in Federal Law you might think applies here.....in other words come up with a Chapter and Verse (Federal (or State) Statute).  I can not think of a single thing here that might even remotely apply.

Laws in general DO NOT dictate what is acceptable.  They state what is prohibited and occasionally "exceptions to the rules."

You may have a case for a TOS violation but is doubtful. 

Mr Robonaught's statement is flawed as applied here.  Controlling another persons computer would be in the category of hacking.  Has nothing to do with banning access to a web service.

 

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Jennifer,

You have made an excellent point!  And,although I have not tried logging on from another location, there are three adults in this household that go into SL...and none of us, from any of the three desktops and two laptops could access a sim owned by this person.  I had been told in the past that this sim owner does this type of thing; however, this is my first time experiencing it first hand. I might add that at one point in time, I rented from this same person, however, moved to different land when residents were IM'ing me that they could not teleport to my stores - while they had all had a negative experience with that sim owner, the reasons ranged from being a sales associate for another land group, to a disagreement they had  with the sim owner in the past.  I have filed an AR, and oddly enough at this time, we are all able to access that location in which I was attempting to check sale items for the sales group.

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Sapphire Hotaling wrote:

Jennifer,

You have made an excellent point!  And,although I have not tried logging on from another location, there are three adults in this household that go into SL...and none of us, from any of the three desktops and two laptops could access a sim owned by this person.  I had been told in the past that this sim owner does this type of thing; however, this is my first time experiencing it first hand. I might add that at one point in time, I rented from this same person, however, moved to different land when residents were IM'ing me that they could not teleport to my stores - while they had all had a negative experience with that sim owner, the reasons ranged from being a sales associate for another land group, to a disagreement they had  with the sim owner in the past.  I have filed an AR, and oddly enough at this time, we are all able to access that location in which I was attempting to check sale items for the sales group.

Nope.  There is no tool for a land owner to directly IP ban you. 

If other accounts are banned it's because they used the IP info gathered via media or possibly Voice to identify/associate 'alt accounts' and added the accounts to the parcel orregion ban list.

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Of course, one of the main problems is IP addresses are dynamic. The address I have today may be assigned to the people 3 miles away tomorrow.

To test your IP theory, make a new alt and try going to that sim. If  you can get in, then it's unlikely it's an IP ban but rather they found our your avi names and banned them.

That being said, a sim owner or parcel owner can ban you for any or no reason. If they are butthurt because they weren't invited to participate in an event, that's on them.

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Not all IP adresses are dynamic. And even the ones that are can have a long or unlimited lease time. I get a dynamic IP adress from my provider but it has been the same one for over 2 years now. Even if I realease and renew I always get the same IP adress back.

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We've been round the houses with this one before, but I think the only logical explanation for some of the accounts of "IP Banning" we've seen in this forum over the last couple of years is that LL have, on the quiet, changed the way region and estate bans work to include -- at least temporarily -- IP bans.

This is because there's no way for a landowner or an estate owner to impose an IP ban.     The tools aren't there in the viewer.   All you can do, as a region or estate owner, is ban individual accounts, or close the region/estate to non-group members or to everyone who isn't on an access list.   But  there's not an "IP Ban" button you can use to IP ban people.

What RedZone did was to test for your IP address when you arrived on a region and then ban your avatar if your IP address was on the ban list.   It also had the facility, as I recall, for RedZone subscribers to share their information about who was suspected of being whose alt, which is now very much against LL's Terms of Service.

Quite simply, there's no way anyone other than LL knows what anyone's IP address is until that avatar enters a region.   Then it's easy (if you know what to do) to find out the IP address, though it's equally easy to hide your IP address, particularly if you use Firestorm or another TPV.   But a region owner has no way of knowing, before the avatar Anne Alias enters his or her region, whether Anne shares my IP address or not.    The only people who know that are LL.

 

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If you region/estate ban an avatar, then any other avatars sharing the same IP as the banned avatar will also be region banned. It has been this way for a while now. I forget when the change happened, I think it was around October time.

I dicovered it by accident when I'd region banned one of my alts to test something and then found none of my other alts who were not estate managers on the region could enter.

Those "IP bans" appear to time out pretty quickly but if the actual banned avatar attempts to gain access to the region again, then the IP ban appears to take effect again.

Last time I noticed this behaviour was still active was a couple of months ago and I havn't checked since. It's probably the same. Easy enough for any estate manager to test with their alts - just remember any alt who has EM rights on the region won't be affected.

Again I havn't checked if this behaviour is still the same but the last time I checked, the actual banned avatar will see a "You are banned from this region" message when trying to enter.

The alts with the same IP will see a different message - "You do not have access to this teleport destination" I think it was.

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Whirly,

And that is exactly the message I received when I attempted to enter the region for store checks 'you are not allowed in this destination'.  

However, for whatever reason, I am now able to enter the region to check on our merchants in the store sales group. Thank you, you and MB have been the most helpful with answers in this. :)

 

 

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Jennifer Boyle wrote:

I seriously doubt that it's against the law to IP ban people.

Most forum software ships with tools to ban by IP. So I highly doubt this is illegal... anywhere.

And even more so federally. Federal laws, and even national laws of nations other than the USA, that effect anything that goes on on the internet tend to get a lot of press coverage.

I also doubt its illegal, anywhere, to change your IP address - regardless of the reason. As most people do not even have control over keeping their IP address the same... As noted upthread, for end home users these things tend to be dynamic and re-assigned often.

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Pussycat Catnap wrote:


I also doubt its illegal, anywhere, to change your IP address - regardless of the reason. As most people do not even have control over keeping their IP address the same... As noted upthread, for end home users these things tend to be dynamic and re-assigned often.

I may have phrased things badly. IIRC, the court ruling was that purposely IP switching with the specific intent to circumvent a ban was the problem.  

I also only know that a court made that ruling at one time in the last few years.  No idea whether the case was appealed or whether other courts have made similar rulings. I'll leave that to others to look into if they're bored.  

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This article gives the current state of the law. The Judge's rulings regarding IP addresses are deeply flawed, as indicated by the Law Professor's comments, since there was no need under the existing CFAA legislation to consider whether changing IP adresses is relevant; it was simply enough to confirm that the defendant had persisted in accessing websites for which they had been served a "cease and desist" notice.

The comments also indicate that the CFAA is obviously in need of rewriting, a bill (Aaron's Law - after the activist who took his own life) being in process (as it has been for about two years!) to make appropriate changes and clarify the underlying intent of the CFAA, the EFF commenting that: "Without this change, the government could've prosecuted everyday Americans for violating low-level terms of service violations... In short, everyone would be a criminal, leaving it up to the government to decide when and where to bring down the hammer."

The situation described by the OP is of course very different from that where the owner of a website wishes to restrict access, and I am sure that an IP (that's Intellectual Property, not Internet Protocol!) lawyer would be wringing his hands with joy at the prospect of arguing whether LL could actually pass on their rights to sim owners, renters, or anonymous and unvalidated alts.

The big problem is that an IP address does not define an individual - and you can't prosecute without being able to prove identity unequivocally, although as with any service, as long as you are not actively discriminating against some minority that the politicians want to humor, an organisation such as LL can refuse to serve anyone.

Whether the courts might take a different view of banning the users of the El-Ber Islamic School in comparison with preventing access by the inhomogenous ranks of students of Columbia University's Law School is an interesting thought.

The globality aspect is also of interest; where denial of service relies on USA legislation which is not mirrored in other countries then refusal to respect the ToS is almost impossible to enforce.

It's a minefield.

I look forward to making my fortune from it.

IANALY

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MB Robonaught wrote:

Perrie, please look up denial of service attacks

I know what a DOS attack is.

Where is the attack here?

I do need to correct one thing here I said.  I stated "no tool to accomplish this."  I had forgot about the IP banning Whirley mentioned.

 

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Jennifer Boyle wrote:

I'm not willing to take the time to read the bloated SL TOS again now, but a few years ago it was a TOS violation to collect IP addresses of residients.  That was because the TOS prohibited the collection and use of personal information that had not been voluntarily released by the resident.  IP banning obviously requires collection of IP addresses.

Finally a decent answer offered to the OP.

Yes, it's not so much the *banning* that is against the TOS, but collecting a person's real-life identifiable information (which might include their IP address). Yet, unless the collection itself involved criminal activity (hacking their computer, for instance), obtaining/using the IP address to ban someone is. *an sich*, not a criminal offense: it's against the TOS in SL, and possibly tortuous towards the one you're banning (like if you feel you were unlawfully excluded from a store or something, but very hard to make that stick); but not a criminal offense.

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kiramanell wrote:

Finally a decent answer offered to the OP.

Yes, it's not so much the *banning* that is against the TOS, but collecting a person's real-life identifiable information (which might include their IP address). Yet, unless the collection itself involved criminal activity (hacking their computer, for instance), obtaining/using the IP address to ban someone is. *an sich*, not a criminal offense: it's against the TOS in SL, and possibly tortuous towards the one you're banning (like if you feel you were unlawfully excluded from a store or something, but very hard to make that stick); but not a criminal offense.

In fact, it's not the ToS themselves, but the Community Standards (to which we promise to adhere, as part of accepting the ToS) which deal with this.    They don't forbid collecting IP addresses and the like.   What they prohibit is sharing them:


4.
Disclosure

Residents are entitled to a reasonable level of privacy with regard to their Second Life experience. Sharing personal information about your fellow Residents without their consent -- including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, alternate account names, and real-world location beyond what is provided by them in their Resident profile -- is not allowed. Remotely monitoring conversations in Second Life, posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without the participants' consent are all prohibited.

The distinction is important, since it's impossible to stream music into SL without collecting the IP addresses of the members of the audience, though obviously the DJ or performer has no reason to store or analyse the collected addresses.

What it means, though, is that there's no prohibition -- at least not that I can see -- on collecting people's IP addresses and then using this information to ban people who share a particular IP address.  

What is prohibited is sharing their IP addresses with anyone else or sharing with anyone else the fact you believe a third party has an alt called  "Anne Alias" based on the fact the two share the same IP address (or even that you think so-and-so must live in or near London, based on her IP address, if she doesn't mention her place of residence in her profile).

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Unless they are using a tool that is probably against the TOS, there is no way they should be able to tell which accounts are on which IP. The long gone Redzone took advantage of people who left their media autoplay settings on, but otherwise if you created an alt and had that off, there'd be no way to tell which IP it was attached to. LL provides no way to bad by IP for estate owners so it's likely they checked groups and such to see who was likely associated with you and banned them manually. That's sort of a jerk move, but as the owner/renter of the parcel or sim, they can boot or ban anyone for pretty much any reason or no reason at all and not violate the TOS.

 

The vehicle history display was pretty neat by the way.

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