Software Developer Prosecuted For the Crimes of Others
A New York gambling case should make programmers very nervous. Recently a software developer who licenses a program used by internet casinos has been charges by a publicity mad prosecutor with promoting illegal gambling in New York State. Authorities say that the program was used by players for illegal betting in New York. Law enforcement officials say that $2.3 million received by Robert Stuart and his company Extension Software constitutes direct proceeds of illegal gambling activities in New York. Stuart received cash and money orders for licensing his software to online casinos located outside of the US.
Publicity seeking district attorney Cyrus Vance said in a press release "These defendants abetted large-scale illegal gambling in the U.S. and abroad. In doing so, they gave bettors an easy way to place illegal wagers, and created an appetite for further unlawful activity. Stuart, his wife and brother-in-law have been charged with one felony count for promoting gambling through their software company. Stuart says that his company only sells to operators located outside of the US. Stuart also said he is unaware of anyone in the United States using his software to place illegal bets on the internet.
Stuart contends that his software does not take bets and only provides online gambling sites with the infrastructure to display sporting events operators want to offer for betting. Stuart told reporters "It's overreaching where they're going after a software developer who sells the software with a legal license, and yet we're still being prosecuted on how it's being used." He also said that New York authorities have not told him who he is accused of aiding and abetting. A hearing is scheduled for January 8th in New York.
Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties for the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University, said that the prosecution of a programmer for crimes committed by other people using Stuart's software could set a dangerous precedent for other commercial programmers. Granick stated "It's scary for software distributors, if someone happens to use their software for illegal activity. If you know what people could use it for, and didn't prevent it, did you take enough steps? What level of knowledge you need to have and all of that is not as clear as it should be (under current laws)."
Stuart said that the New York district attorney's office tried to pressure him to hack into the systems of his clients to obtain the usernames and passwords of gamblers. Stuart said he felt uncomfortable being used as a 'snitch' to secretly collect information on his clients. The outcome of this case could have far reaching effects on the software industry. If prosecutors are successful any software developer could be prosecuted for the crimes of others. Even online bingo software developers could be arrested. Most gaming experts believe that online gambling will be legalized in the US in the very near future.
Connect with author, Jeff Davis on Google+.