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Accusearch Loses Appeal in Phone Records Case

(CN) - The 10th Circuit upheld a decision against Accusearch on Wednesday, ruling that the company violated federal law when it sold telephone records on its Web site.

The Federal Trade Commission argued that Accusearch's practice of offering telephone records over the Internet through its Web site,, violated the Federal Trade Commission Act and caused "substantial injury" to consumers, adding that some of those whose telephone records were traded on the site had been "stalked or otherwise harassed" as a result.

"Accusearch solicited requests for confidential information protected by law, paid researchers to find it, knew that the researchers were likely to use improper methods, and charged customers who wished the information to be disclosed," Judge Hartz wrote.

The company's primary defense on appeal was that it was entitled to immunity under the Communications Decency Act, arguing that there was "no law preventing a third-party from collecting telephone records."

The Denver-based federal appeals court remained unconvinced.

To have immunity under the CDA, a company must be an "interactive computer service" - a message board, for instance - with "access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions," the court noted.

Accusearch operated not as a "neutral" third party but as the generator of the offensive content, the court ruled. "Its actions were intended to generate such content," Hartz wrote.

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