Programmer Faces 15 Years In Jail For Planting Virus That Automatically Broke Whac-A-Mole Games

from the offense-against-intellectual-property dept

Slashdot points us to a fascinating story of a programmer named Marvin Wimberly, who is facing charges for sabotaging the famous Whac-A-Mole games with a logic bomb that would “break” the machines after a pre-determined number of times that it was turned on and off. The idea was that each time these broke, Wimberly would be called in for a repair. Of course, with each “repair,” he’d install another logic bomb. Since he was the only one who knew the real “problem,” he figured it was a form of job security. His company couldn’t let him go, because no one else could fix the problem.

Of course, now that it’s been discovered he’s apparently facing 15 years in prison. What’s a bit odd, though, is the statute under which he’s being charged. It’s a Florida state law for “offenses against intellectual property.” Reading through the statute, it seems like a rather odd use of the phrase “intellectual property.”


Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization modifies data, programs, or supporting documentation residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network commits an offense against intellectual property.

The statute definitely seems pretty broad. What’s wrong with just charging the guy with garden variety fraud statutes?

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Comments on “Programmer Faces 15 Years In Jail For Planting Virus That Automatically Broke Whac-A-Mole Games”

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44 Comments
Christophersays:

Re: Re:

Agreed… way too long of a potential sentence, even for ‘deterrent’ purposes.

But, the fact is that older people are stupid asshats, by and large, and think that putting people in prison for long period REALLY DOES make some people think twice about committing a crime.

You and me know that it doesn’t, especially in cases of ‘heat of the moment’ non-premeditated murder crimes.

Anonymoussays:

One have to wonder who will be the first business that will implement artificial expiration dates. We see already know books are coming with it who is next?

Your hardware in the future could come with expiration dates enforced by DRM LoL(don’t laugh it is serious, seems ridiculous but people will try you know there is a stupid CEO out there somewhere)

Cars that expire after 5 years forcing you to rebuy a license, TV’s that stop working after 2 years.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

“One have to wonder who will be the first business that will implement artificial expiration dates.”

HP with their HP time bomb on ink cartridges. That was a while ago though and for some reason I can’t find any Google citations of it right now. There were some lawsuits over it. They basically made their ink expire after a period of time by programming the ink cartridge to stop working.

Also, not too long ago someone I know bought a surge protector and in the manual it said that, for your protection (since, after a period of time, the surge protector loses its ability to protect against surges), the surge protector expires after a period of time and that, after this period of time, it automatically disables its surge protection capabilities and acts as a power strip and not a surge protector.

This sort of thing is common already, but it’s mostly OK when big corporations do it to individuals. But for an individual to do it to a big corporation, 15 years in jail.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You are right HP did in fact put expiration dates already.

HP inkjet cartridges have built-in expiry dates

How to bypass a cartridge expiration date

HP Expiration Dates

GoogleFu:

hp cartridges expiration date scandal

Now can anybody say what is coming next?
TV’s that have their “premium” features disabled after 1 year so you need to “buy” a new license, cars that expire, sound systems that expire, fridges that disable the “some” features. DRM is beautiful isn’t.

Thank God pirates can defeat them.

Miffsays:

Remember… he didn’t just fraud his customers, he did so with- (insert dramatic theremin noises) a computer!

Remember, Cyberspace is a dangerous new frontier where the normal laws of the United States and other countries do not apply. That’s why we need special laws specifically detailing to crimes involving computers, vs crimes carried out without.

Ideally, the laws would match up against our existing laws to the point where they’re superfluous, but hey, we’re sure taking down a major bank is exactly the same as lying about your age on Facebook, so who cares.

(And I’ve got my tongue in my mouth here, people. That’s a real difference between online and IRL, where if you don’t state your sarcasm, people will mistake you for being sincere. Cf. Poe’s Law)

Noel Cowardsays:

Corporate Monopoly on a small scale

This guy was creating a third party service monopoly on a small scale.When you compare it to some of the IT Global players, this is small fry.

Take ASUS as an example. They have cut out third party service organizations WORLD wide. By refusing to provide spares or assistance to reseller or authorized quality assured service providers.

So, if their customers need a custom part costing $5.
Your at a loss to procure it.They or the customer can’t do anything, but send it to ASUS’s service center that charges $120 minimum plus parts. This seems criminal given the customer could have done this himself. Not to mention, if its a Net PC, costing $300-400 last thing you want to do is waste $120, so some bozo can tell you its a CMOS battery.

This contravenes fair trading practices and anti competitive legislation by restricting competition unfairly.
All customers are charged excessively as well as forced to upgrade unnecessarily.

As the other poster said, his mistake was not working for a global concern.

I’m not saying what he did was right, but 15 years for this when governments fail to enforce the laws else where is hypocritical. Given that these Global players are rorting the system wholesale, I’m surprised that his lawyer didn’t take a blow torch the judges a$$.

Just my 2 p’s worth ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ed C.says:

Supporting documentation?

WTF! Seriously? “Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization modifies data, programs, or supporting documentation residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network commits an offense against intellectual property.” So…writing notes in your f-ing user manual “without authorization” can get you jail time in Floria too? Not that anyone would push for such a thing, but having such stupid laws on the books is troublesome.

Gee, where’s the “illegal==immoral” trolls to defend this one? I mean, degrading the artistic expressions of the tireless corporate manual writers with my illegible scrawlings must be at least as abhorrent as…dealing crack to grade-schoolers, right? Or robbing a bank! We all know that you guys are really against that!

Come on, don’t you see what’s going on? He did a booboo, so they need to put him in jail for something, but they have no law to cover what he did, because laws are decades behind the times (and in Internet years that counts tenfold). So they made up a tenuous connection with the only vaguely computer-related offense they have.

Of course, the solution would be to fix the laws… but that would require redesigning the whole political system from scratch… and that won’t happen while the same old people are still alive.

Anonymoussays:

Mike you’ve reached a new level here. Defending a clear criminal. He is clearly committing a crime. I can’t believe you think he did nothing wrong and doesn’t deserve jail. He was robbing the clients of their money by intentionally sabotaging their equipment.

And Noel Coward – If you actually ask Asus they’ll ship you the part in the mail (you pay postage of course). They don’t sell parts to third party ASPs because quite frankly most of the staff have no idea what they’re doing and charge customers $100s worth of parts when $20 worth of parts would have done the job. By only doing repairs themselves it protects the brand name because like it or not incompetent third party repairers give Asus(and others) bad names. Of course go into an ASP they won’t tell you Asus would provide you with parts as the ASP gets a commission for providing the repair to Asus.

Christophersays:

Re: Re:

Yes, he is a clear criminal, but that doesn’t mean that we have to create NEW laws to punish people with ‘tougher’ sentences when old laws with lesser sentences work just as well.

And I fail to see where Mike is ‘defending’ this guy in the slightest. He is simply saying that it seems strange to stretch a law to charge him under the more punitive law, when the other law definitely encompasses what he did and just has a lesser sentence as a maximum.

Re: Re:

Mike you’ve reached a new level here. Defending a clear criminal. He is clearly committing a crime. I can’t believe you think he did nothing wrong and doesn’t deserve jail. He was robbing the clients of their money by intentionally sabotaging their equipment.

Whoa, slow down. I said nothing of the sort. I agree that he’s a criminal, and almost certainly deserves jailtime. I never said that I didn’t think he did anything wrong.

Please try reading the post before attacking me.

Josef Anvilsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Damn Mike,

You beat me to that reply! Take some advice Mike…

Never argue with idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

It’s clear this guy is a low level criminal, although 15 years in prison is hardly appropriate punishment. As usual, you are correct in wondering WTF this has to do with IP. Your article did leave me scratching my head and wondering why there is no mention of the anti-hacking laws, as it seems that planting a virus in the machines is more a violation of those laws than IP law.

Maybe I’m just too dense.

Noel Cowardsays:

Reply to post 20

To the poster at entry 20.

Well your entitled to your opinion.
Though I wouldn’t talk with authority on the matter lest you do your research.

I know of companies that are approved federal procurement and quality assured service providers, who are preferred warranty service representatives for some of the biggest name manufacturers. The fact that they facilitate service for the national telco’s, banks and global financial organizations means nothing in this part of the world.
For you to assume that they are not competent shows your bias and need to assert an opinion not worthy of this forum.

Perhaps you should check some of the net forums and ask some of their customers who’ve thrown the Net PC rubbish to the landfill and offer your technical wisdom them.

Should you be so lucky to have ASUS provide some semblance of sales and service in your part of the world. Well goody for you and your Asus fanboys.

Personally after seeing their treatment of customers in my part of the world, I’d say good riddance to bad rubbish.
Our organizations now refuse to endorse their products as of this year.

I would like to state I have no vested interests in pushing or endorsing any manufacturer, lest they be worthy of praise.

With respect to this mans obvious faux pas, I do not dispute his wrong doing, just the length of his sentence being political convenience. For you insist this is prudent justice, then I would have to assume your intent is to create mischief or play divisive strategy. Either way I couldn’t careless for such folly.

Noel Cowardsays:

Think of the Children & the Jobs

Well if we Take Asus as the example.

When thinking of the children, I can’t help but be reminded of all those NET PC’s making it to the dumpster. Because a lack of competition and excessive pricing on service effectively making their asset’s redundant.

With respect to jobs, all I see is less third party service agents down the food chain, who can no longer repair Asus Net PC and Laptops if hardware is needed.

Its global corporates like these, who have no respect for the sovereign laws of the nations in question. Who enter their markets like vampires in search of blood.

Only its the life blood of the economies they’re sucking, and hurting children’s feelings instead of infanticide.

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