In a criminal case sure to make programmers nervous, a software maker who licenses a program used by online casinos and bookmakers overseas is being charged with promoting gambling in New York because authorities say his software was used by others for illegal betting in that state.
New York authorities say that about $2.3 million that Robert Stuart and his company, Extension Software, received in cash and money orders for licensing his software constitutes direct proceeds of illegal, U.S.-based bookmaking operations.
“These defendants abetted large-scale illegal gambling in the U.S. and abroad,” said District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. in a press release in October when Stuart was charged. “In doing so, they gave bettors an easy way to place illegal wagers, and created an appetite for further unlawful activity.”
The prosecution of a commercial programmer for crimes committed by people who used his software would set a dangerous precedent for other software makers who might be held liable for how their legally licensed software is used, says Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties for the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University.
“It’s scary for software distributors, if someone happens to use their software for illegal activity,” she says. “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].”
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