Not Reading Ticketmaster's Terms Of Service Shouldn't Make You A Criminal
from the yet-again dept
There have been an awful lot of similar stories lately, but it is really quite troubling just how much the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is being abused to turn actions like not reading a website’s terms of service into a criminal offense. We had just recently discussed how this was playing out in a lawsuit involving Facebook and Power.com, but it’s showing up elsewhere as well. In fact, the judge in the Facebook/Power.com case apparently based the decision on an earlier case involving Ticketmaster and a ticket reseller which used automated means to order tickets, that it could then resell.
In a similar case, it appears that there has been a criminal indictment of the company Wiseguy Tickets, who similarly automated ticket purchases from Ticketmaster’s website. This isn’t to say that ticket scalpers and resellers who buy up all the tickets aren’t necessarily a problem, but should they be criminally liable because they violate a website’s terms of service? The EFF and some others have now filed an amicus brief in the case, suggesting that this is a ridiculous outcome. No one should be criminally liable for not obeying the terms of service on a website. If that’s the case, it’s easy to make anyone a criminal. I could just quickly put up a terms of service that says something as ridiculous as “you must be 8 feet tall to read this website.” And, if you’re not, you’ve then violated the terms, and are guilty of criminal hacking under the CFAA — which could potentially result in jail time. That makes no sense, and the EFF is hoping the judge recognizes this:
“Under the government’s theory, anyone who disregards — or doesn’t read — the terms of service on any website could face computer crime charges,” said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. “That gives Ticketmaster and other online services extraordinary power over their users: the power to decide what is criminal behavior and what is not. Price comparison services, social network aggregators, and users who skim a few years off their ages could all be criminals if the government prevails.”