Is Breaking a Website's Terms of Service a Crime?

Yes, according to the law - and we should all pause to think of the implication. After all, haven't you ever clicked "I accept" without reading the pages and pages of legal fine prints? There may be a clause that there that you're breaking:

Prosecutors in a New Jersey ticket scalping case are pushing the envelope on the federal computer hacking law, setting a precedent that could make it a felony to violate a website’s terms of service and fool a CAPTCHA, according to electronic civil rights groups intervening in the case.

At issue is a four-month-old criminal prosecution against the online ticket-reselling business Wiseguy Tickets, which allegedly used a network of shell companies, rented servers and automated scripts to snatch up more than 1 million premium tickets for coveted concerts and sporting events, which it resold for more than $25 million in profits.

The four Wiseguy defendants, who also operated other ticket-reselling businesses, allegedly used sophisticated programming and inside information to bypass technological measures — including CAPTCHA — at Ticketmaster and other sites that were intended to prevent such bulk automated purchases. This violated the sites’ terms of service, and according to prosecutors constituted unauthorized computer access under the anti-hacking Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA.

Naturally, civil liberty groups are alarmed:

“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 in a press release. “Price-comparison services, social network aggregators, and users who skim a few years off their ages could all be criminals if the government prevails.”

Kim Zetter of Wired's Threat LEvel explains: Link - Bruce Schneier


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@ Edward

That sounds like a very slippery slope. I see what your saying, but you forget the DA looking to make a name for himself. That person will use any means possible to get a conviction. Think about it, the sex registry was intended for major sex crimes. Not teenagers messing around. Yet it was perverted over time.

If this is allowed then the change will happen slowly. Almost to slow to notice. I fear that day.
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I provided testimony on a similar case a while back. The issue depends on more than the "Terms of Service". There is a large amount of law surrounding Contracts of Adhesion. Also of importance are the intent and method of violation.

Lying about your age to look at porn would not be a crime. Creating a large organization whose only purpose is to cheat concert goers out of money should be illegal.
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