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Ludwig Shelters Under First Amendment

Virus Bulletin, June 1992, p.9
ISSN 0956-9979
June 1992

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Editor: Edward Wilding
Technical Editor: Fridrik Skulason

Mark Ludwig, author of The Little Black Book of Computer Viruses (see VB, March 1992, pp 17-18) is pleading the First Amendment in order to justify the publication of the book. In a communication on Compuserve he stated `I have consulted with a lawyer regarding the legality of writing/publishing viruses, and have found that among the legal community, it seems unanimous that writing and publishing viruses, per se, is TOTALLY protected by the First Amendment.'

For anyone unlucky enough to be hit by one of his viruses, Ludwig warns: `I don't have enough money to make fining me or suing me profitable, but I'd bet the press coverage of such a move would do me a lot of good, and you'd end up looking like the evil tyrant trying to destroy every American's freedom and usher in the dark new world order.'

His warnings are not just aimed at his victims seeking criminal or civil redress. While he does not have enough money to face legal proceedings himself, he is prepared to sue anyone who distributes any part of his viruses (including, by definition, search patterns). `Have you considered the fact that the software in my book is copyrighted?', he asks. `If someone uses it to create a malignant virus in any country, or even allows what is in the book to go off replicating, he is violating my copyright and using it illegally. (Or if any anti-viral types start distributing it without paying royalties, they are breaking the law too.) I would be fully justified in initiating the prosecution in such cases.'

Having pleaded poverty, Mr Ludwig's veiled threat to sue all the major players in the anti-virus industry appears particularly hollow. VB has already published patterns lifted from the book: yet the arrival of a writ does not appear imminent!

Early in May, a message was placed on Compuserve's Virus Forum from a victim who claimed that a Ludwig virus had attempted to corrupt his File Allocation Table. Ludwig's reply showed little remorse: `To suggest that the viruses in my book TRY to trash your FAT table suggests intent, and is out-and-out libelous.' But then he half-admits intent by saying that the Kilroy virus isn't very `smart' and will cause corruption if `your hard disk isn't partitioned in the normal way or isn't loaded with DOS....'. Ludwig continues: `I'll be happy to see to it that the code gets fixed and updated in the next printing.' The victim's reply is understandable: `Excuse me, but if you think that my note is libelous, take me to court you jerk!'

The book has not surfaced in the United Kingdom (it is not included in Books In Print, the book trade's bible) despite Ludwig's claim of high sales in the UK. It recently transpired that Ludwig, having had his meisterwerk turned down by a succession of publishers, actually published his book himself - i.e. Mark A. Ludwig is American Eagle Press.

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