Press Releases issued at end of SJ Games v. Secret Service
PRESS RELEASE March 15, 1993 - For Immediate Release
STEVE JACKSON GAMES WINS SUIT AGAINST SECRET SERVICE
Steve Jackson Games and its co-plaintiffs - Steve Jackson himself
and three users of the Illuminati Bulletin Board - have won their lawsuit
against the US Secret Service. The decision was announced late Friday,
Federal judge Sam Sparks ruled for SJ Games on the PPA (Privacy
Protection Act), saying that the publisher's work product was unlawfully
seized and held. Under the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act),
he ruled that the Secret Service had unlawfully read, disclosed and erased
the messages - despite their repeated denials that they had done any such
thing. On a separate ECPA count, he ruled for the defendants, saying that
taking the computer out the door was not an "interception" of the messages
on it within the meaning of the law.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which sponsored the suit, hailed
the decision as "groundbreaking." According to Mike Godwin, legal services
counsel for the EFF, "This case should send a message to law-enforcement
groups everywhere that they can't ignore the rights of those who
communicate by computer."
The judge awarded damages of $1,000 per plaintiff under the ECPA, for
a total of $5,000. Under the PPA, he awarded SJ Games $42,259 for lost
profits in 1990, and out-of-pocket costs of $8,781. The plaintiff's
attorneys are also entitled to costs, an amount which will be well in
excess of $200,000.
The Justice Department has not stated whether it will appeal.
Sparks' opinion was quite critical of the Secret Service's behavior,
before, during and after their raid, calling the affidavit and warrant
preparation "simply sloppy and not carefully done."
Commented Steve Jackson: "I'm overjoyed, and a little numb. We stood
up to them and we won. It was never a sure thing . . . legally, this is
all new ground. We won because what the Secret Service did to us was
totally outrageous, and because our lawyers did a great job of penetrating
their cover-up and bringing out all the facts.
"I'm more grateful than I can say to the Electronic Frontier
Foundation for making the suit possible. And since the government will
have to pay our legal costs, the EFF will get their money back, to fight
the next case!
"And if I've gained any notoriety from all this mess, I want to use it
to work for changes in the law, to stop this kind of abuse forever."
The EFF press release:
NEWSFLASH! STEVE JACKSON GAMES WINS LAWSUIT AGAINST U.S. SECRET SERVICE
A games publisher has won a lawsuit against the U.S. Secret Service
and the federal government in a groundbreaking case involving
computer publications and electronic-mail privacy.
In a decision announced Friday, March 12, Judge Sparks of the
federal district court for the Western District of Texas
announced that the case of Steve Jackson Games et al. versus the
U.S. Secret Service and the United States Government has been
decided for the plaintiffs.
Judge Sparks awarded more than $50,000 in damages to the plaintiffs,
citing lost profits for Steve Jackson Games, violations of the
Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and violations of the Privacy
Protection Act of 1980. The judge also stated that plaintiffs would
be reimbursed for their attorneys' fees.
The judge did not find that Secret Service agents had "intercepted"
the electronic communications that were captured when agents
seized the Illuminati BBS in an early-morning raid in spring of
1990 as part of a computer-crime investigation. The judge did
find, however, that the ECPA had been violated by the agents'
seizure of stored electronic communications on the system.
Judge Sparks also found that the Secret Service had violated
Steve Jackson Games's rights as a publisher under the Privacy
Protection Act of 1980, a federal law designed to limit the
ability of law-enforcement agents to engage in searches and
seizures of publishers.
Mike Godwin, legal services counsel for the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, which has underwritten and supported the case since
it was filed in 1991, said he is pleased with the decision.
"This case is a major step forward in protecting the rights of
those who use computers to send private mail to each other or
who use computers to create and disseminate publications."
"Judge Sparks has made it eminently clear that the Secret
Service acted irresponsibly," Godwin said. "This case should
send a message to law-enforcement groups everywhere that they
can't ignore the rights of those who communicate by computer."
Press can contact Mike Godwin at 617-576-4510, or by
pager at 1-800-SKYPAGE, 595-0535.
Steve Jackson Games | SJ Games vs. the Secret Service