Following my Wired News column about katrinalist.net, patient a few of the volunteers wrote me to say that they have already received legal threats. Other sites are claiming that katrinalist infringed their copyright in personal data provided by evacuees for the purpose of helping their loved ones find them! What nerve.

Here’s the cease and desist letter, personal information redacted: (You’ll also be able to find this on Chilling Effects pretty soon.)

October 15, 2005 7:05 PM (ed: stet. They must mean September)

Official Notice:

Devin, Your company, Nacredata, and your actions of scraping data from the GCN Survivor/Connector Database from our website at www.gulfcoastnews.com violates our copyright. You and your company DO NOT have permission to use our data and your distribution of our information violates the trust that people have provided to GCN in providing that information.

Your company has not contacted us nor have we granted permission to use the data in our database. Any use by you of our information is unlawful. You risk legal action against you for failure ask our permission to disseminate the information in the GCN Survivor/Connector database and modifying information contained in our data. While it is our desire to share this information with appropriate authorities, your actions and the actions of your firm ignored our copyright notice and the lack of prior and subsequent contact with us is unfortunate. I have seen your name on seeded monitor information in our database that appear on Google’s Katrina search.

We ask that you cease distribution of the GCN Survivor/Connector Database information, contact who you supplied our information to cease further distribution, and contact us immediately. Thousands of people used our site to find their family and loved ones impacted by the hurricane. They trusted us to protect them, and your activities, while perhaps good intentioned, did not follow established copyright protection procedures. Failure will subject you and your firm to legal action.

I expect to hear from you regarding your solution. Cell and telephone communications are currently intermittent in Biloxi. I can best be reached by email.

//name and address redacted//

Now I could understand GCN’s concern if katrinalist was displaying personal information beyond what survivors had authorized to be displayed. There are privacy considerations here that I hadn’t fully considered until one reader brought the issue to my attention. But its my understanding that katrinalist is paying attention to those privacy concerns, and evacuee privacy rights are certainly not what GCN is complaining about. Meanwhile, a friend of one of my students was able to use katrinalist.net yesterday to find his friend.