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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Post Time / Date Stamp Is Not Legal Evidence

Many, many years ago, I was called to court, to provide testimony in a case that involved a co worker, during a weekend in question.

As part of my testimony, I provided a code listing ("compilation" log), with date and time printed on each page of the listing. The testimony also required presenting of the printed "system console" log, to substantiate my testimony.

I endured several hours of intense grilling, by attorneys for both sides, who examined virtually every hour of my day, to verify that the co-worker and I had been physically "at work" on that day. The code listing was but a small part of my testimony.

Even then, both the judge and both attorneys were very aware of the possibility that the code listing date / time stamp could not constitute legal evidence, without careful "chain of custody" backup. Anybody knows that a computer can be easily restarted, with the system clock reset, and made to produce a "code listing" / "compilation" for any date needed.

Nowadays, we have people who would try to base their "testimony" on the date and time stamp on an Internet website - maybe a Blogger blog post.

The date / time "stamp" on a blog post is even less useful now, as legal evidence, than a "compilation" code listing was, back when "system console" logs were paper based.

Now, we have ubiqitous cellular Internet service, allowing anybody to access any computer, from virtually any location on the planet.

With a Blogger blog, we can publish any existing post back to a Draft status, to subsequently re publish to any date after 1970 (or whatever date Blogger will support). Alternatively, somebody planning a crime can even schedule a post, pre written, to publish at a crucial future time.

Anybody who might provide testimony, and try to use a post date / time as evidence, might (at best) convince a judge to issue a court order, which then requires Google engineers to provide certified system logs from their computers. And even then, I would not bet that a judge or jury would predictably base their legal decision on Google "testimony".

Any blog owner, who tries to substantiate a DMCA appeal, or similar case, based solely on when a post was, supposedly, published, is going to lose. This will be either when the case is initially tried - or when it is re tried after the judge or an attorney is disbarred for incompetent trial conduct, in accepting evidence based on an unproveable post date / time stamp.

Dude, hit me with a comment!

Ann Bennett said...

Since there is a record for digital pictures as to the location, camera used, I imagine having the original camera card and camera would be proof of ownership.
Is there an easy way to prove you wrote a blog post. Few of mine are so valuable to defend; but, it is the principal. Is there a layman's way of proving.
I write most on a word processor and then copy and paste on blogger. However, I imagine someone can manipulate that too.

Chuck Croll said...

Ann,

You can change the date / time on a digital camera, I bet. So no, I don't see how useful having the original camera card and camera would be.