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Violating TOS not criminal under Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

6:52 pm on Aug 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator bakedjake is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 8, 2003
votes: 61

Credit to Slashdot for the tip.

This decision comes out of the appeal from the Lori Drew case. It was published on Friday.

While the Lori Drew case was sad, there was some interesting precedent being developed - specifically, that Drew was guilty of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by breaking MySpace's TOS. This would have wide reaching implications - specifically, if you violate a website's published TOS you could be found guilty of a criminal federal offense as opposed to the matter being one for the civil courts. We've often talked about this subject, and there are vocal advocates of both positions.

The US District Judge's published decision seemed to dismiss this idea as a dangerous precedent to set:

In sum, if any conscious breach of a website’s terms of service is held to be sufficient by itself to constitute intentionally accessing a computer without authorization or in excess of authorization, the result will be that section 1030(a)(2)(C) becomes a law “that affords too much discretion to the police and too little notice to citizens who wish to use the [Internet].”

Case Decision Published [volokh.com]

EFF Background Information [eff.org]

Wired Article on Acquittal [wired.com]