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Crime United States Your Rights Online

DOJ: Violating a Site's ToS Is a Crime 536

ideonexus writes "CNET has obtained a statement to be released by the Department of Justice tomorrow defending its broad interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) that defines violations of 'authorized access' in information systems as including any act that violates a Web site's terms of service, while the White House is arguing for expanding the law even further. This would criminalize teenagers using Google for violating its ToS, which says you can't use its services if 'you are not of legal age to form a binding contract,' and turns multiple attempts to upload copyrighted videos to YouTube into 'a pattern of racketeering' according to a GWU professor and an attorney cited in the story."
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DOJ: Violating a Site's ToS Is a Crime

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  • by iONiUM ( 530420 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @03:30PM (#38063494) Journal

    I live in Canada, and while we aren't without our problems as well, the headlines coming out of the US lately, including this one, are just ridiculous.

    What is the problem? Since when did the government become so extremely pro-corporation, and anti-citizen? Why is there no pressure to do something, like cap contributions by corporations to political parties, or something, anything?

    For the people, by the people? What happened to that.

  • Re:Woo hoo! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @03:31PM (#38063518)

    By reading this site, you agree to pay the website owner $1 per word. The fact that this term is displayed with white text on a light beige background does not invalidate it in any way.

  • Re:Woo hoo! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chowderbags ( 847952 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @03:32PM (#38063548)
    I'd ask what your new website would be named, but Slashdot's own terms of service say:

    Prohibited activity includes, but is not limited to: (...) using any information obtained from SourceForge.net in order to contact (...) any user without such user's prior explicit consent (including non-commercial contacts like chain letters);

    Oops, I guess replying at all is already contacting.Shit, I think I hear FBI vans.

  • Re:TOS, EULA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Isaac Remuant ( 1891806 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @03:46PM (#38063902)

    Another point to add is that almost all of them look like job contracts. They basically save every and all rights because you're the one interested in using the service and not the other way around.

    Sometimes they do this just to be on the safe side (legally speaking) but that
    still feels wrong and forces very easily breakable ToS on users.

    quote from Salon.com ToS. [salon.com]
    (so full of lawyerly jargon that makes you want to shoot the writer/s)

    By posting or otherwise providing a Submission, you grant Salon the
    right to reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, broadcast, license, perform, post,
    sell, translate, incorporate, create derivative works from, exploit, distribute
    and otherwise use the Submission in any and all media, now known or hereafter
    devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity
    , without according you any compensation. Salon will generally attribute Submissions to their authors, but you understand and agree that it is not obligated to do so, and you release and waive any right to have Submissions attributed to you. You also understand and agree that Salon has no obligation to publish or use any Submission in any way, and that Salon may remove or revised any Submission that has been posted, published, or distributed on or through the Site in its sole discretion.

  • Re:TOS, EULA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @03:52PM (#38064034)

    There is another option.... people will be forced to avoid sites that have a ToS that is more than a couple sentences long. Nobody has the time, or the lawyers, necessary to fully understand these crappy terms anyway... Everyone assumes that if they do right by any normal civil expectation, that they won't be in trouble.

    Again, business wins. Thanks for nothing, Obama. I'm glad you didn't pretend to be pro-life and do nothing about it like a Republican, but you did pretend to be for the people, and have done almost nothing about it.

  • Re:TOS, EULA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @03:56PM (#38064104)

    Besides traffic crimes, I am not aware of any crime I have committed.

    However, that said, I am almost certain I must have committed a felony at some point in my life- there are so many laws- and so many I don't know- it is inconceivable to think I have not unwittingly committed one at some point in my life.

    Fortunately outside the digital world- they would probably be hard to prove- and/or the police don't care to prosecute for obscure laws (or don't know them themselves).

    It would be easy for a website to trip you up and prove it if they like.

    There is also a difference between government passing rules- and corporations passing arbitrary complex TOS to getcha.

    I vote for my congressman. I don't vote for the operator of goatsdoingcrazythingstosheep.com

  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @03:58PM (#38064154)

    After so many lies and disappointments from this administration, I'm curious why you or anyone would expect otherwise, though I disagree with your "corporatocracy" remark as this is an expansion of government power.

    Isn't it more an expansion of corporate power to give companies the right to make their own laws? If violating TOS is a crime, then a TOS is effectively law. The government's expansion is secondary to this. Theirs is the power to prosecute more "crimes" -- by broadening the definition of crime -- but it's the aggrieved party that has to report the crime in the first place, e.g. Microsoft, Arm & Hammer, Ford . . . whoever wrote the TOS in question.

    And I'm pretty disappointed with the administration, too.

  • Re:TOS, EULA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @04:03PM (#38064234) Homepage

    Oddly enough, the phrase "throughout the universe" is not an uncommon one anymore, at least in publishing and entertainment. I first stumbled across it in articles about recording contracts. I've seen it adopted in more and more places, as it seems to be an easy way to characterize "If I try to list them all, I'll forget one, so, no, I don't want to specify particular regions into which I can dump your crapola". Yeah, the "universe" part does seem a bit of overkill but, on the other hand, it does add that bit of cosmic surreality to the licensing experience. By now it's probably standard in all content licensing contracts.

  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @04:08PM (#38064344) Journal

    It's pretty clear it should be some sort of a crime, and carry penalties concomitant with the harm that could be caused.

    I just don't think that the way they're frankensteining the legal precedents together is very skillful. So I'd agree it won't hold up in court, at least, not until someone drafts a law that spells out exactly what they're going for here, instead of overbroadly applying two different concepts.

    Fact is, a website is someone else's property, and violating someone else's rules on their property is, at the least, a violation of an agreement. When the facility gained by impropertly using that website is used to commit crime against someone, it's an aggravating circumstance in the proximate crime.

    The pipe is not the content, and while you might be able to argue you have a right to use the Internet, you don't have a right to use any particular website, especially any that is private property.

    As for your questions: yes, if the agreement between Facebook and the website says so, it can export its TOS to whoever imports its API; and yes, but how are you going to get Jeff Bezos to visit your site? Email is not the World Wide Web. BTW, there's already a law against spam, and you can get Jeff Bezos to send you hundreds of dollars for every coupon you didn't somehow ask for (though just visiting Amazon.Com may be enough to constitute asking for them; see its TOS).

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @04:15PM (#38064472)
    Because the old terms never conceived of "plutarchy of artificial non-citizen people", especially when it is the interests of the corporation that are looked after, even more than the real-people owning them (an insane result, but hey, that's what we get, right?).
  • by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @04:28PM (#38064688) Homepage
    If a judge orders you to break the law, what happens? The recent case with the judge requiring the divorcing people to swap facebook passwords - if you don't, you're in contempt. If you do, you're breaking the law. So who should one follow?
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @04:39PM (#38064854) Homepage Journal

    Obama. No question.

    With Bush, there was the perception something could be done about it. There was an opposing side, that didn't always do the right thing, but occasionally stood against the extremes.

    Obama stood as that, stood as "Change", and then gave us a big "Fuck you". Essentially, what we know now is that it's going to take decades to actually get someone in power who's not a right wing (pro-war, pro-torture, pro-extrajudicial killings, pro-corporate, anti-worker) extremist. Decades. Because there's no good reason to believe that the next jackass the Democrats put up will be any less extreme than Obama.

  • by Thing 1 ( 178996 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:24PM (#38069830) Journal

    Would you have to abide by Facebook's ToS on every site with a "Like" button and a FB tracking cookie?

    Alternately: would you have to abide by a judge's ruling to share passwords with the spouse who you're divorcing, if this will violate Facebook's ToS and submit you to even more judicial scrutiny?

Basic is a high level languish. APL is a high level anguish.