Knowingly Helping People Commit Crimes or Torts:

A few weeks ago, I posted about whether credit card providers should be liable for knowingly facilitating sales of infringing materials. A Ninth Circuit decision said that this did not constitute contributory infringement; Judge Kozinski dissented, saying it did, and I generally endorsed his position, at least as a matter of current law.

Many commenters disagreed, making various arguments. Among other things, they argued that we shouldn't "in effect, force credit card companies to become copyright police ... who have an affirmative duty to expend massive resources surfing the web verifying complaints of copyright infringement"; that the law shouldn't take the view that "preventing infringement should be a primary concern for all unrelated businesses"; that such contributory liability shouldn't exist at least until there's a judicial finding that the recipient of the money is indeed an infringer; and that the credit card companies shouldn't be liable unless they know that the specific transaction they're facilitating is infringing (as opposed to just that the target site is engaged in massive infringement).

These are all plausible arguments, but I wanted to revisit the question by asking a broader question: When should someone be held legally liable for helping others commit crimes or torts? In criminal law, the question is when someone should be guilty of the crimes of "aiding and abetting" or (in some jurisdictions) "criminal facilitation." In tort law, the question is when someone should be liable as an accessory; contributory copyright infringement law is in large measure the application of this general tort law principle.

The theory is that at some point helping someone commit a wrong -- especially a wrong to an identifiable innocent third party -- is itself the commission of a wrong. By threatening to hold you liable we aren't asking you to become the "police," in the sense of someone who is expected to actively try to catch wrongdoers. Rather, we're asking you not to participate in others' wrongdoing. The question is when this is a reasonable demand.

1. Majority criminal law view: Oddly enough, the matter is not fully settled even as to criminal law. The dominant view seems to be that you are liable as an aider or abetter if you (here I quote the Model Penal Code, which isn't far from the majority rule on this point) solicit, aid, agree, or attempt to aid another in committing a crime, with the purpose -- the "conscious object" -- of promoting the crime. This means that if you give a gun, a knife, gasoline, a rope, or whatever else to a criminal with the purpose of helping him commit a crime with the gun, you're committing a crime. But if you simply know that he will likely commit a crime, but don't have the conscious object of helping him (perhaps, for instance, you're selling the goods just like you'd sell them to anyone else, with the sole object of making money from the sale), then you're not guilty.

2. Minority criminal law view: But quite a few jurisdictions do allow punishment even if you merely know that you're helping someone commit a crime, or even if you know that there's a high probability you're helping someone commit a crime. Some jurisdictions do this for all serious crimes, others just for some crimes; and some treat this as aiding and abetting, punishable the same way the aided crime is punished, while others impose a lower sentence. For instance, consider New York Penal Law § 115.00: "A person is guilty of criminal facilitation in the fourth degree [a class A misdemeanor] when, believing it probable that he is rendering aid ... to a person who intends to commit a crime, he engages in conduct which provides such person with means or opportunity for the commission thereof and which in fact aids such person to commit a felony." Or consider Indiana Code Ann. § 35-41-2-4: "A person who knowingly or intentionally aids ... another person to commit an offense commits that offense." Or see the dictum in People v. Lauria, 59 Cal. Rptr. 628, 633-35 (Ct. App. 1967), which suggests aiding and abetting liability based on mere knowledge that one is aiding a crime would be proper if the crime were serious enough.

Of course, if you have a credible claim that you were forced into this ("I had to sell the knife to the gangster, or else he'd have attacked me himself"), you'd have a duress defense. And this liability would not apply if you're selling a product to the public at large, and you merely know that some fraction of the population -- and you don't know who -- are misusing the product (whether the product is a gun, a knife, a bottle of vodka, a photocopier, or whatever else).

But as a general matter under this view you have an obligation not to help anyone commit a crime, if you know that your actions would help that criminal commit the crime (and knowledge of very high likelihood is probably enough), or maybe even if you just know that it's "probable" your actions would help the criminal.

3. Tort law: The tort law view, as best I can tell, mirrors what is reported by the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 876: "[O]ne is subject to liability if he ... knows that [an]other's conduct constitutes a breach of duty and gives substantial assistance or encouragement to the other." That's the knowledge-is-enough view that's very close to what Judge Kozinski was urging as to aiding copyright infringement (which is after all itself a tort).

Now note that under all these doctrines, one can be liable even thought there's been no judicial finding that the person you're helping is committing a crime or tort. True, if you're genuinely not sure that the person you're helping will use your help for criminal or tortious purposes, then the "knowledge" requirement isn't satisfied. But you often will be pretty sure -- sure enough to qualify for knowledge. Note that even the criminal law, which is usually more demanding than tort law, tends to conclude that "knowledge is established if a person is aware of a high probability of [the] existence [of a fact], unless he actually believes that it does not exist," Model Penal Code § 2.02(7). "'[K]nowingly' in criminal statutes is not limited to positive knowledge, but includes the state of mind of one who does not possess positive knowledge only because he consciously [i.e., deliberately] avoided it." United States v. Heredia, 483 F.3d 913 (9th Cir. 2007) (en banc).

I also suspect that you wouldn't have to be certain that every single weapon you sell to a tortfeasor is going to be used for tortious purposes. (Maybe that one gun I sold is the one gun he'll keep for purely defensive purposes.) So long as you know that the person to whom you're constantly providing services is routinely using them for tortious or criminal purposes, I expect you'd be liable under either tort law (#3) or the minority criminal law rule (#2; for liability under #1 you'd have to have the purpose of helping commit the crime).

* * *

So that's the big picture, far outside the current debates about copyright infringement. You are generally required by the law not to knowingly helping others commit torts. You are even criminally punishable in some jurisdictions for knowingly helping others commit crimes.

You thus have a duty in all these jurisdictions to organize your affairs so that once you are aware that your conduct is helping particular criminals or tortfeasors, you stop. This imposes some burden on you, including some burden of checking things further once you become aware of a high probability that you're helping someone commit a crime or tort.

Let me then ask people, both at this big-picture level and in the context of financial intermediaries -- such as credit card companies -- who are given very solid evidence that their dealings with someone are helping that person commit a crime or tort. Should entities that help in the commission of such crimes and torts then be liable (civilly or criminally) for so helping? Should it vary materially depending on the crime and the tort? Or should the test turn on something else?

crane (mail):
I'm curious - what other kinds of businesses might such a rule extend to?

For example, if a record company amasses "very solid evidence" that Joe Smith is in the habit of buying CDs, ripping their contents to Mp3 format, and making them available to the world on file-sharing networks, do you think that company should be able to contact all the music stores in Joe's area and tell them not to sell him any more CDs?

If the music stores continue selling CDs to known pirates, do you think they should be liable?
7.26.2007 7:39pm
I would disagree with the premise that copyright secondary liability should follow the tort rather than criminal law standard. As the Supreme Court held in Grokster, copyright secondary liability comes from patent law. Grokster particularly favorably cited Federal Circuit decisions that interpreted 35 USC 271(b), the patent law provision on "inducing" infringement.

The Federal Circuit's standard for inducing infringement is specific intent, patterned directly after the majority criminal law standard. DSU Medical Corp. v. JMS Co., Ltd. Assuming that Grokster implicitly adopted this standard for copyright law as well, the Ninth Circuit majority was quite clearly right.
7.26.2007 7:42pm
anym_avey (mail): what point in patent and copyright law does a specific entity have to be engaged in misconduct before a financial services company handling credit cards with that entity, become libable? I can understand that a financial services company might be a liable contribotor under established law if they were to, say, begin or maintain a relationship with a website that existed explicitly to peddle illegal wares, but what makes them liable under the present circumstances?

Or: How would this be handled in brick-and-mortar land? For example, to this day illegal Calvin &Hobbes merchandise is sold openly in some mall shops, and mall shops generally process credit cards. If Bill Waterson were to notify Visa International that store "x" located at "y" was selling illegal C&H merchandise as part of a much larger inventory of things over which Watterson has no jurisdiction, and Visa was processing credit card transactions on behalf of that store, is there any circumstance under which Visa has any obligation to investigate the claim, let alone withdraw relationship (or at least send a watchdog to block any sales transactions that include said illegal merchandise)?
7.26.2007 8:03pm

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 876: "[O]ne is subject to liability if he ... knows that [an]other's conduct constitutes a breach of duty and gives substantial assistance or encouragement to the other."

I would argue that credit card processing doesn't amount to giving "substantial assistance" to the tortfeasor. We wouldn't say that the federal reserve is giving substantial assistance to a copyright infringer if it clears a check written to the infringer.
7.26.2007 8:09pm
IANAL, but it seems to me that under all standads, the key word here is 'knowingly'. The credit card company has no way of knowing what exactly the person bought. More importantly, it should not be their job to investigate possible clients for legitimacy (that's for the police to do!). If I approach Visa to process credit-card transactions for me, and I appear legitimate then they should accept me.

Secondly, how are credit card payments different from payments by cheque? Can banks be held liable for not refusing to honour cheques made out to criminals? For allowing criminals to open bank accounts?

Imagine someone has a past conviction for money laundering. Does a bank have a duty to check for criminal record before opening the account? To continuously monitor this person's account for suspicious behaviour? To close the account once a third party (not the government!) claims that this person is using the account for money laundering, even when the police is not investigating?
7.26.2007 8:09pm
crane (mail):
With regard to your specific example, that of credit card companies and other financial intermediaries who are presented with evidence that their financial services are helping someone commit a crime or tort - I think that holding them liable in any but the most egregious cases is a very bad idea.

Most financial transactions on the internet rely on credit cards. Usually, if you're not using your credit card directly with the merchant you're buying from, you're using your credit card with a service like Paypal, that then pays the merchant. If it becomes law that financial intermediaries must immediately cease doing business with anyone who receives payment for illegal activity, then who determines that illegal activities are going on? How low is the bar set, and how likely is it that law-abiding merchants may be mistakenly cut off? Even at a brick-and-mortar store, losing the ability to take credit cards is a huge blow.

I don't think credit card companies should be legally required to stop doing business with anyone unless they receive evidence from the police, or a court order - in other words, evidence that had to pass the review of a law enforcement professional. If just anyone can collect evidence and send it to a credit card company, which can then be held liable for failing to act upon it, then the companies are being forced to act as the police, and expend signicant resources verifying and making judgement calls on the complaints submitted to them. If the potential penalties are high enough, they'll probably err on the side of caution and cut people off when they shouldn't.
7.26.2007 8:18pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
It's not enough to look at the "crime" side of it, the negative use of the service or product in question. We must also examine the effect that adopting the rule at issue would have on the legitimate uses of the service.

Money itself, for example, facilitates crime. The existence of untraceable pieces of paper of universally-agreed value is a tremendous boon to drug dealers, copyright infringers, and many other criminals. But we wouldn't seriously propose to hold the government liable for issuing money, would we?

With credit cards, what impact would the rule you and Judge Kozinski advocate have on entirely innocent credit card uses? If a credit card processor can be held criminally liable for the actions of users of its service, many fewer people will be willing to become credit card processors.

With such a rule, credit card processors who do remain in business will evaluate the risk each type of business poses, and will refuse to accept as customers those businesses which pose too high a risk of liability. With civil liability, the cost for high-risk customers will simply go up, but with criminal exposure, credit card service will be unavailable above a certain risk level.

I say risk level, because copyright law is a particularly bad choice for this kind of rule. We routinely see on YouTube abuse of copyright by rights holders shutting down non-infringing use (because either the use is "fair" or the purported owner doesn't really own the claimed rights). A properly risk-averse credit card processor will, as YouTube does, err on the side of caution, and it will become harder for innocent people to use credit cards to pay for non-infringing, lawful services.

In other words, the prices for credit card transactions at Kinko's, mom &pop video stores, and photo developers will rise, and may even become unavailable.

I've got first hand aggravation with the extreme nature of our current copyright law and the liability some people wish to impose on service providers. I took some photos to be developed at Walmart, and the 20-something manager decided that they looked "professional." There were no copyright notices on the pictures (front or back), they were just very good portraits. To get MY pictures, I would have had to leave the store, prepare a letter from myself granting me permission to copy the photos. I couldn't even just sign a form asserting that I was the owner and accepting liability for any copyright infringement. I've never had photos developed at Walmart since then, but I shouldn't really blame them, as it is their lawyers advising them that the government might hold them liable if they were merely to take my word that I owned something that, indeed, I did own. That's the government inducing (at the least) them to deny me service, without any due process whatsoever.
7.26.2007 8:30pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I second Crane's point, which meshes with mine. The government ought not to be able to hide behind private parties to impose penalties on wrong-doers without due process. In all the examples you cite, what is really happening is that the government wants to force (by imposing liability) private merchants to cease doing business with people the government believes are violating the law, but which the government has not bothered to take action against directly.

If what the credit card customer is doing is actually illegal, then the government should sue or prosecute them. Once the illegal business is convicted, then they won't be using the credit card service again. The government can't outsource the enforcement to the private sector in order to avoid due process requirements.
7.26.2007 8:34pm
scote (mail):
I think we should look to what happens when payment services "censor" purchases for insight.

EBay, for instance, has a service which allows IP owners to have EBay freeze accounts of people who's auctions allegedly violate IP rights. Over zealous trademark holders have abused this to the point of claiming that reselling any product with their trademarked name is illegal, whether new or used. The kinds of IP owners who have done this range from a video game company which had eBay shut down the auctions a man selling clearly marked, non-official user manuals to a hair care products company which had eBay lock the user account of a woman auctioning hair care products she bought from a re-seller--claiming she violated a licensing agreement the IP holder has with hair salons even though the woman is not a salon owner nor purchased the products from a salon.

eBay's transaction service company Pay Pal also "censors" transactions for alleged IP violations but also freezes the accounts of any user they think is selling adult material. This practice even applies to text-only written erotic fiction that Pay Pal censors deem to be too adult in nature--at their sole discretion, natch.

Given these examples, I don't think it would be good public policy for credit card companies to be in the business of monitoring every transaction for debatable violations. Except in cases of fraud and in in cooperation with law enforcement to close the actions of criminals such as illegal arms sellers and child pornographers, credit card companies should provide transaction services not government spying and censorship.
7.26.2007 9:15pm
For a very recent example, news reports are that the DEA is targeting landlords and property owners who rent to those using and dispensing cannabis legally under Cal. H&S 11357:

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Justice Department is unleashing a potent new weapon in its battle against California's hundreds of medical pot clinics, threatening landlords with arrest and property seizures for renting to tenants who flout federal drug laws. ...

The most serious threat to California's voter-approved pot sales came in a letter last week from the DEA to 150 property owners or managers informing them that a tenant is operating a marijuana dispensary on the property in violation of federal law.

The letter warns that California's pot law, approved as Proposition 215 a decade ago, "is not a defense to this crime or to the seizure of the property." Landlords, the DEA warned, could lose their buildings and land and face felonies with 20-year prison sentences.
As yet they haven't targeted the local government bodies that issued the use permits.
7.26.2007 9:21pm
I agree that one of addressing the issue is the kind of analogy we use for credit card transactions. If we compare it to clearing a check, or providing essential services like paper money, food, or medicine, imposing liability appears problematic.

Could someone explain why processing a credit card should be considered more like supplying a gun than the federal reserve clearing a check? What are the arguments for such an analogy

If we thought of credit cards as a public utility, there are serious problems with requiring providers of public utilities not to supply generally available services to criminals. Food, water, electricity, medicine, public highways all facilitate crimes, yet low public utilility costs have great social value. Imposing duties of investigating and withholding services -- even if every decision was correct -- would have a substantial cost that would affect society generally.
7.26.2007 9:45pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Excellent analogy, ReaderY. If the police believe that a particular house is a meth lab, but can't prove it, should they be able to notify the electric company and the water company and thus cause them to cut off service? You can't make meth without electricity, gas, and water, so they would fit the definition offered. But to allow authorities to cut off such basic services without due process, by imposing liability on private entities, would certainly offend my basic sensibilities.
7.26.2007 11:41pm
Mark Seecof:
I think someone already made this point, but I'd like to offer my own formulation:

I don't have a problem with contributor (accomplice) liability in principle for people, including financial intermediaries, who may be "given very solid evidence that their dealings with someone are helping that person commit a crime or tort."

I think the key question is what sort of evidence we should require, and I think that should "vary materially depending on the crime and the tort."

Let me pass over contributors/ accomplices who actually conspire with criminals or tortfeasors. I think we're all interested in the cases where the potential contributor is (at least plausibly) unaware that his customer is a malefactor until someone else gives him sufficient warning, or he observes some sign which we think is probative.

Some "dealings" seem to be more freighted with danger than others, hence "dram shop" and "gun dealer" cases. In those situations, evidence sufficient to put the potential contributor on notice may be just a warning about a customer from a third party, or an observation which potential contributors are generally-charged with being competent to make--e.g., bartenders are charged with detecting signs of intoxication in patrons. Often in such cases a customer could get by, at least for a while, without the dealings in question.

By contrast, some dealings are generally innocuous; say, selling gasoline, even to a driver who might later tortiously cause a collision. Some even verge into the realm of privilege, such as supplying medical care-- even to a known criminal, and even though refusing it might leave him too weak to commit his next crime. Often in such cases the average customer can't readily do without the goods or services in question (e.g.g., gasoline to continue his journey, treatment for his injuries).

I think it would take quite strong evidence against a would-be gasoline buyer (e.g., an warning from a government official with apparent authority, such as a police officer) to give a fuel-seller a duty to boycott his customer, and I think it would take a full-on injunction from a court of competent jurisdiction to even possibly (Hippocratic Oath, and all that) compel a doctor to refuse treatment to a would-be patient.

So what kind of evidence should be presented to a financial intermediary to subject him to a duty to boycott a customer?

Well, processing credit-card transactions doesn't appear to involve anything dangerous (e.g., booze) or unusual. Furthermore, a customer may be very dependent on those transactions-- without them a business might fail immediately, just as a motorist deprived of gasoline might be stranded.

So I suggest that the evidence required to restrict such transactions should be of a particularly strong kind. Mere warnings from a third party (who may have an axe to grind) should not be enough, especially when (as in the original case) the potential "contributor" is neither charged with, nor capable of evaluating the propriety of the supposed malefactor's behaviour.

I think that to put a supplier of non-dangerous (and especially, essential) goods or services on notice to boycott a customer lest he incur contributory liability for his customer's actions, a third party should have to show the supplier that a neutral authority qualified to evaluate the customer's behaviour and charged with doing so has determined that the customer is, at the minimum, probably a malefactor.

So to impose contributory liability on a credit-card processor or other supplier for copyright infringement by a customer, I would require the copyright owner to serve the processor with a copy of a judgment of infringement against the customer, or get an order from the court to cut off the customer pending resolution of an infringement case, or perhaps show the supplier a copy of an indictment (for criminal infringement) pending against the customer. (Of course, a civil plaintiff should be liable for damages stemming from interference with third-party suppliers if his infringement case fails.)

In copyright cases (such as Perfect-10) this would have two effects. First, it would prevent a copyright owner recovering contributory-liability damages from, e.g., credit-card processors for actions taken before he goes to court. I don't see this as a problem. Plaintiffs with strong positions could go to court immediately and (assuming my proposals were implemented) get appropriate orders after showing their evidence. Second, it would give people/ businesses accused of copyright infringement a chance to assert their defenses before a credit-card processing boycott destroyed them. That might sometimes delay or diminish a copyright-owner's recovery for infringement, but it would further the overriding public policy of encouraging public discourse, free of the chilling effects which would attend the alternate policy of permitting bare allegations of infringement to subject payment processors (and other third parties) to contributory liability.

I realize my proposal would put copyright-owners into a weaker position, as against potential "contributors," than, say, victims of drunk drivers against dram shops. Copyright owners might be unable to subject suppliers to liability for some bad acts because even willfully-incurious suppliers could "contribute" without liability until the copyright-owner had gone to court. This would reduce the deterrent value of sanctions for contributor infringement and perhaps increase the frequency of infringement. However, copyright infringement presents little threat of public danger or irreparable harm, whereas enabling people to chill public discourse by alleging copyright-infringement does threaten considerable harm-- so I think we should calibrate the rules accordingly. I am particularly concerned with the likelihood that even a purported infringer with a meritorious defense might never get to assert it if his income were cut off by a supplier boycott motivated by contributory-liability threats. Lacking income, such a party would likely be unable to vindicate his position by suing his tormentor, so fear of such suits would not sufficiently deter bogus copyright claims.

(The chilling effects are particularly dire because of the statutory damages which attend copyright infringement. I rather think Congress should limit liability for mere contributors, at least, to actual damages.)
7.26.2007 11:52pm
markm (mail):
Reinforcing Mark Seecoff's post, copyright and trademark infringements are an area where it is particularly difficult for a third party to assess whether allegations of a violation are well-founded.
7.27.2007 8:47am
visitor from Texas (mail) (www):
Credit Card companies already determine whether or not transactions involve prawn and in response apply different standards, costs and fees. A number of internet sites have policies involving risqué material that have nothing to do with morality and everything to do with avoiding the classification (e.g. -- it has a number of policies as to its vendors that only make sense when you understand that limit).

They have other categorizations as well. Paypal is not the only entity that does this sort of thing (though the credit card company metrics often involve industries that are more likely to have stolen cards and contested charges/charge backs than others).

The burden is light, the question is whether or not it should exist.

I will only note that without credit card compliance, there would be virtually no spam. If you could cut them off from credit cards, you could kill spammers.

The true anti-spam act would allow people to:

(a) arbitrate against spammers in a special forum
(b) collect against their merchant accounts with credit card companies and
(c) charge recoveries against their credit resources
(d) require credit card companies dealing with identified spammers to not charge back the first ten thousand dollars of any charge and to maintain at least that amount of credit as to claims by spam plaintiffs.
(e) create a statutory damages clause.

That would clear up an awful lot of space in your in-box and reduce an awful lot of spam postings on blogs.
7.27.2007 11:46am
Tony Tutins (mail):
That argument makes me wonder if Kozinski would agree with the ACLU, that providing the CIA with flight plans and ground arrangements makes Jeppesen Data Plan complicitly liable for torture. Personally I think they're no more complicit than the AAA would have been, had they provided McVeigh with TripTiks and hotel reservations to Oklahoma City. From the ACLU website:
As described in the complaint, Jeppesen’s participation in the rendition flights has included furnishing aircraft crew with flight planning services including itinerary, route, weather, and fuel planning; responsibility for the preparation of flight plans; facilitation of customs clearance and arrangements for ground transportation, catering, and hotel accommodation for aircraft crew upon landing; and provision of physical security for aircraft and crew.

“The cooperation of companies like Jeppesen has been critical to the functioning of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program,” said Ann Brick, a staff attorney for the ACLU-NC. “This lawsuit charges that Jeppesen knew or should have known that our clients, and many like them, were placed onboard the flights blindfolded and shackled, and were being taken to countries where torture awaited them.”

7.27.2007 11:56am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Reader Y's utility analogy made me realize that even under existing law, electric companies have accomplice liability for indoor marijuana growing activities, if their customers' electrical usage so far exceeds normal use that the company should know that the customers' houses are full of grow lights.
7.27.2007 12:39pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Put more simply, as a general rule the American public doesn't like narcs. As children, we are taught not to be tattle-tales, to mostly mind our own business. I think that's a good rule, and I would deeply dislike living in a society where companies are legally obligated, as a general rule, to narc on their customers.

I'll tolerate limited exceptions for really serious crimes like terrorism and kiddie porn, but that's about it. I've never even been comfortable with the CTR requirements for reporting ALL currency transactions above a certain amount to the government.
7.27.2007 1:14pm
John D. Galt (mail):
I support the "minority criminal law view" -- minus the "high probability" clause (that is, I believe you should be liable only if you have reason to believe that the specific individual you're dealing with intends to commit a crime).

The "high probability" clause leads to absurd, unacceptable excesses such as making it impossible to legally sell blank audio tapes (simply because, statistically, most of them get used to copy copyrighted works) or high performance cars.

In addition, the "high probability" clause leads to further burdens on lawful users of "suspect products" by forcing many sellers to impose limits on them that are much stricter than the law requires -- mostly because the sellers are not in a position to check up on the exact requirements of the law. See, for example, eBay's list of forbidden items.

It is simply not acceptable for one narrow interest group such as Hollywood's music and movie studios to be casting "chilling effects" across an entire economy. So long as the law demands it, most people will and should break the law.
7.27.2007 2:28pm
Vivictius (mail):
Tony - Grow lights are not illegal and there are many legal uses for them. Not to mention, lots of other devices can increase power consumption, a friend of mine was running a beowulf cluster, 42 300w computer power supplies draw alot of power (well, 12,600w).

It is not really an issue of visa knowing most of the time. When you use a POS terminal with an debit or credit card Visa doesnt get a itemized list of what you are buying, just the total.
7.27.2007 2:30pm
scote (mail):

Tony - Grow lights are not illegal and there are many legal uses for them. Not to mention, lots of other devices can increase power consumption, a friend of mine was running a beowulf cluster, 42 300w computer power supplies draw alot of power (well, 12,600w)

Grow lights may not be illegal but owning them and using them is likely to cause unwanted police attention. You may not want to create the ultimate indoor tomato garden just yet.

Just as pen registers do not require a warrant, neither do specialized power monitors on your electric supply lines. Different kinds of electrical devices lights, motors and electronic devices have different power draw characteristics which can be detected by a specialized monitor. If you are using "too much" lighting it can be seen as probable cause for a search warrant.
7.27.2007 2:55pm