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<h2>The Legal FAQ for Tor Relay Operators.</h2>
<hr>

<p><strong>FAQ written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Last
updated April 21, 2014.</strong></p>

<p><em>NOTE: This FAQ is for informational purposes only and does not
constitute legal advice. Our aim is to provide a general description of
the legal issues surrounding Tor in the United States. Different factual
situations and different legal jurisdictions will result in different
answers to a number of questions. Therefore, please do not act on this
information alone; if you have any specific legal problems, issues,
or questions, seek a complete review of your situation with a lawyer
licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.</em></p>

<p>Also, if you received this
document from anywhere besides the EFF web site or <a
href="<page eff/tor-legal-faq>">https://www.torproject.org/eff/tor-legal-faq.html</a>,
it may be out of date. Follow the link to get the latest version.</p>

<p>Got a DMCA notice? Check out our <a href="<page
eff/tor-dmca-response>">sample response letter</a>!</p>

<h2>General Information</h2>

<h3>Has anyone ever been sued or prosecuted for running Tor?</h3>

<p><b>No</b>, we aren't aware of anyone being sued or prosecuted in the
United States just for running a Tor relay. Further, we believe that
running a Tor relay &mdash; including an exit relay that allows people to
anonymously send and receive traffic &mdash; is legal under U.S. law.</p>

<h3>Should I use Tor or encourage the use of Tor for illegal purposes?</h3>

<p><b>No.</b> Tor has been developed to be a tool for free expression,
privacy, and human rights. It is not a tool designed or intended to be
used to break the law, either by Tor users or Tor relay operators.</p>

<h3>Can EFF promise that I won't get in trouble for running a Tor
relay?</h3>

<p><b>No.</b> All new technologies create legal uncertainties, and Tor
is no exception. We cannot guarantee that you will never face any legal
liability as a result of running a Tor relay. However, EFF believes so
strongly that those running Tor relays shouldn't be liable for traffic
that passes through the relay that we're running our own middle relay.</p>

<h3>Will EFF represent me if I get in trouble for running a Tor relay?</h3>

<p><b>Maybe.</b> While EFF cannot promise legal representation for all Tor
relay operators, it will assist relay operators in assessing the situation
and will try to locate qualified legal counsel when necessary. Inquiries
to EFF for the purpose of securing legal representation or referrals
should be directed to our intake coordinator by sending an email to <a
href="mailto:info@eff.org">info@eff.org</a> . Such inquiries will be kept
confidential subject to the limits of the attorney/client privilege. Note
that although EFF cannot practice law outside of the United States,
it will still try to assist non-U.S. relay operators in finding local
representation.</p>

<h3>Should I contact the Tor developers when I have legal questions
about Tor or to inform them if I suspect Tor is being used for illegal
purposes?</h3>

<p><b>No.</b> Tor's developers are available to answer technical
questions, but they are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice. Nor do
they have any ability to prevent illegal activity that may occur through
Tor relays. Furthermore, your communications with Tor's developers
are not protected by any legal privilege, so law enforcement or civil
litigants could subpoena and obtain any information you give to them.</p>

<p>You can contact <a href="mailto:info@eff.org">info@eff.org</a> if
you face a specific legal issue. We will try to assist you, but given
EFF's small size, we cannot guarantee that we can help everyone.</p>

<h3>Do Tor's core developers make any promises about the trustworthiness
or reliability of Tor relays that are listed in their directory?</h3>

<p><b>No.</b> Although the developers attempt to verify that Tor relays
listed in the directory maintained by the core developers are stable
and have adequate bandwidth, neither they nor EFF can guarantee the
personal trustworthiness or reliability of the individuals who run those
relays. Tor's core developers further reserve the right to refuse a Tor
relay operator's request to be listed in their directory or to remove
any relay from their directory for any reason.</p>

<h2>Exit Relays</h2>

<p>Exit relays raise special concerns because the traffic that exits
from them can be traced back to the relay's IP address. While we believe
that running an exit relay is legal, it is statistically likely that an
exit relay will at some point be used for illegal purposes, which may
attract the attention of private litigants or law enforcement. An exit
relay may forward traffic that is considered unlawful, and that traffic
may be attributed to the operator of a relay. If you are not willing to
deal with that risk, a bridge or middle relay may be a better fit for
you. These relays do not directly forward traffic to the Internet and so
can't be easily mistaken for the origin of allegedly unlawful content.</p>

<p>The Tor Project's blog has some excellent <a
href="https://blog.torproject.org/blog/tips-running-exit-node-minimal-harassment">recommendations</a>
for running an exit with as little risk as possible. We suggest that
you review their advice before setting up an exit relay.</p>

<h3>Should I run an exit relay from my home?</h3>

<p><b>No.</b> If law enforcement becomes interested in traffic from your
exit relay, it's possible that officers will seize your computer. For
that reason, it's best not to run your exit relay in your home or using
your home Internet connection.</p>

<p>Instead, consider running your exit relay in a <a
href="https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/wiki/doc/GoodBadISPs">commercial
facility</a> that is supportive of Tor. Have a separate IP address for
your exit relay, and don't route your own traffic through it.</p>

<p>Of course, you should avoid keeping any sensitive or personal
information on the computer hosting your exit relay, and you never should
use that machine for any illegal purpose.</p>

<h3>Should I tell my ISP that I'm running an exit relay?</h3>

<p><b>Yes.</b> Make sure you have a Tor-friendly ISP that
knows you're running an exit relay and supports you in that
goal. This will help ensure that your Internet access isn't
cut off due to abuse complaints. The Tor community maintains a <a
href="https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/wiki/TheOnionRouter/GoodBadISPs">list</a>
of ISPs that are particularly Tor-savvy, as well as ones that aren't.</p>

<h3>Is it a good idea to let others know that I'm running an exit relay?</h3>

<p><b>Yes.</b> Be as transparent as possible about the fact that you're
running an exit relay. If your exit traffic draws the attention of
the government or disgruntled private party, you want them to figure
out quickly and easily that you are part of the Tor network and not
responsible for the content. This could mean the difference between
having your computer seized by law enforcement and being left alone.</p>

<p>The Tor Project <a
href="https://blog.torproject.org/blog/tips-running-exit-node-minimal-harassment">suggests</a>
the following ways to let others know that you're running an exit
relay:</p>

<ul>
<li>Set up a reverse DNS name for the IP address that makes clear that
the computer is an exit relay.</li>
<li>Set up a notice like <a
href="https://gitweb.torproject.org/tor.git/blob_plain/HEAD:/contrib/operator-tools/tor-exit-notice.html">this</a>
to explain that you're running an exit relay that's part of the Tor
network.</li>
<li>If possible, get an <a href="https://www.arin.net/">ARIN</a>
registration for your exit relay that displays contact information for
you, not your ISP. This way, you'll receive any abuse complaints and
can respond to them directly. Otherwise, try to ensure that your ISP
forwards abuse complaints that it receives to you.</li>
</ul>

<h3>Should I snoop on the plaintext traffic that exits through my Tor
relay?</h3>

<p><b>No.</b> You may be technically capable of modifying the Tor source
code or installing additional software to monitor or log plaintext that
exits your relay. However, Tor relay operators in the United States
can possibly create civil and even criminal liability for themselves
under state or federal wiretap laws if they monitor, log, or disclose
Tor users' communications, while non-U.S. operators may be subject
to similar laws. Do not examine anyone's communications without first
talking to a lawyer.</p>

<h3>If I receive a subpoena or other information request from law
enforcement or anyone else related to my Tor relay, what should I do?</h3>

<p><b>Educate them about Tor.</b> In most instances, properly configured
Tor relays will have no useful data for inquiring parties, and you should
feel free to educate them on this point. To the extent you do maintain
logs, however, you should not disclose them to any third party without
first consulting a lawyer. In the United States, such a disclosure may
violate the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and relay operators
outside of the United States may be subject to similar data protection
laws.</p>

<p>You may receive legal inquiries where you are prohibited by law from
telling anyone about the request. We believe that, at least in the United
States, such gag orders do not prevent you from talking to a lawyer,
including calling a lawyer to find representation. Inquiries to EFF
for the purpose of securing legal representation should be directed to
our intake coordinator (info at eff.org) Such inquiries will be kept
confidential subject to the limits of the attorney/client privilege.</p>

<p>For more information about responding to abuse
complaints and other inquiries, check out the <a
href="<page docs/faq-abuse>">Tor
Abuse FAQ</a> and the collection of <a
href="https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/wiki/TheOnionRouter/TorAbuseTemplates">abuse
response templates</a> on the Tor Project’s website.</p>

<p>For information on what to do if law enforcement
seeks access to your digital devices, check out EFF’s <a
href="https://www.eff.org/wp/know-your-rights">Know Your Rights</a>
guide.</p>

<h3>My ISP, university, etc. just sent me a DMCA notice. What should
I do?</h3>

<p>EFF has written a <a href="<page eff/tor-dmca-response>">short
template</a> to help you write a response to your ISP, university, etc.,
to let them know about the details of the Digital Millennium Copyright
Act’s safe harbor, and how Tor fits in. Note that template only
refers to U.S. jurisdictions, and is intended only to address copyright
complaints that are based on a relay of allegedly infringing material
through the Tor node.</p>

<p>If you like, you should consider submitting a copy of your notice to
<a href="https://www.chillingeffects.org/">Chilling Effects</a>. This
will help us recognize trends and issues that the lawyers might want to
focus on. Chilling Effects encourages submissions from people outside
the United States too.</p>

<p>EFF believes that Tor relays should be protected from copyright
liability for the acts of their users because a Tor relay operator
can raise an immunity defense under the DMCA as well as defenses
under copyright's secondary liability doctrines. However, no court
has yet addressed these issues in the context of Tor itself. If
you are uncomfortable with this uncertainty, you may consider using
a <href="<page docs/faq>#ExitPolicies">reduced exit policy</a> (such
as the default policy suggested by the Tor Project) to try to minimize
traffic types that are often targeted in copyright complaints.</p>

<p>If you are a Tor relay operator willing to stand up and help set
a clear legal precedent establishing that merely running a relay
does not create copyright liability for either operators or their
bandwidth providers, EFF is interested in hearing from you. Read more <a
href="https://lists.torproject.org/pipermail/tor-talk/2005-October/016301.html">here</a>
about being EFF's test case.</p>

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