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Electronic Frontier Foundation The Courts Crime Oracle The Internet Hardware

Violating a Website's Terms of Service Is Not a Crime, Federal Court Rules (eff.org) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Good news out of the Ninth Circuit: the federal court of appeals heeded EFF's advice and rejected an attempt by Oracle to hold a company criminally liable for accessing Oracle's website in a manner it didn't like. The court ruled back in 2012 that merely violating a website's terms of use is not a crime under the federal computer crime statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But some companies, like Oracle, turned to state computer crime statutes -- in this case, California and Nevada -- to enforce their computer use preferences. This decision shores up the good precedent from 2012 and makes clear -- if it wasn't clear already -- that violating a corporate computer use policy is not a crime.

Violating a Website's Terms of Service Is Not a Crime, Federal Court Rules

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  • UA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @10:47PM (#55905925)
    I think I might put "I do not accept the terms of your user agreement" somewhere in the User Agent String of my browser, see what happens.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think I might put "I do not accept the terms of your user agreement" somewhere in the User Agent String of my browser, see what happens.

      Nothing would happen.

      See violating a website's terms of service is not a crime, it is a terms of service violation. And under most website's terms of service, violations can be sufficient cause to remove your access to their service. Same as it always was.

      No one cares if you try to be cute on the Internet. But do something they don't like on their service will get your access removed.

      You just can not be charged with a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for a terms of service violation.

      • Re:UA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @11:56PM (#55906115)

        But you can still be dragged into court even if the court will eventually side with you.

        • Re:UA (Score:5, Informative)

          by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @08:28AM (#55907121)

          But you can still be dragged into court even if the court will eventually side with you.

          In the UK, the court will barely entertain this kind of bollocks. The company who sued you will then have to pay your legal fees, that cuts down on this kind of thing a lot.

          A EULA/T&C's/Shrinkwrap license has been ruled completely unenforceable before, even in the US however because the losing party still has to pay their own legal fees, its often profitable to threaten to sue or to go as far as to sue even though you'd lose.

          Its the same kind of "speculative invoicing" extortion racket the RIAA and MPIAA used to run.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I believe the logic goes this way:
        Computer Fraud and Abuse Act prohibits accessing a computer without authorisation.
        If a user accesses a computer service without agreeing to the user agreement, they have unauthorised access.
        Therefore, accessing a computer service (like a website) without agreeing to usage terms is in violation of the Act. I'm sure I remember this being used in regards to facebook and bullying somewhere around 2012.

        The interesting thing about this ruling is it is questioning what is allowed

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @10:54PM (#55905943)

    First, this is a civil case rather than a criminal one. Laws like the CFAA and the equivalent state laws allow for criminal and civil action. More importantly, the ruling is a narrow one, focused on the specific aspects of this case. The court ruled that Oracle made the data available for downloading from their website. Oracle's objection was the use of automated tools to download the data. The court agreed that Remini violated the terms of service in how they downloaded the data. However, because Remini was authorized to access and download the data, the court ruled that it did not violated the law. It is entirely possible that someone violations of the terms of service might also violate the law. The ruling is logical, but the scope is also narrower than is indicated by the summary.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is a criminal act, and rejecting the notion that violating a website EULA is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is to say it's not a crime.

      So headline is spot on: "Violating a Website's Terms of Service Is Not a Crime, Federal Court Rules"

      " It is entirely possible that someone violations of the terms of service might also violate the law."

      If they violated the law, violating the EULA or not is irrelevant. It comes down to "do you have the right to access the webs

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @01:51AM (#55906329)
      We went through this with Rambus. They joined JEDEC (a consortium of memory manufacturers setting future memory standards) and agreed to its terms of membership - mainly, members are not allowed to patent the memory standards being discussed. DDR was being discussed within JEDEC. Rambus went ahead and patented it, and sued the other JEDEC members for violating "their" patents.

      After years of legal battles, the courts found that yes Rambus was guilty of violating JEDEC's membership agreement, and they were subject to whatever punishment they agreed to when they joined JEDEC. But that had nothing to do with the law, so the patents were valid (Rambus being the first to file). Meanwhile, since the JEDEC membership agreement didn't outline any punishment for violating the agreement, the only thing JEDEC could do was kick Rambus out.

      Same thing here. An EULA or ToS is just a contract. If you violate it, you become subject to whatever punishment you agreed to when agreed to the contract. That does not automatically make it a violation of law however. It's only a violation of the law if the act was otherwise illegal. In Rambus' case, patenting stuff freely presented to you is not illegal. In Remini's case, downloading stuff you've been authorized to download is not illegal.
      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        In the early 1990s, Rambus was invited to join the JEDEC. Rambus had been trying to interest memory manufacturers in licensing their proprietary memory interface, and numerous companies had signed non-disclosure agreements to view Rambus' technical data. During the later Infineon v. Rambus trial, Infineon memos from a meeting with representatives of other manufacturers surfaced, including the line "[O]ne day all computers will be built this way, but hopefully without the royalties going to Rambus", and continuing with a strategy discussion for reducing or eliminating royalties to be paid to Rambus. As Rambus continued its participation in JEDEC, it became apparent that they were not prepared to agree to JEDEC's patent policy requiring owners of patents included in a standard to agree to license that technology under terms that are "reasonable and non-discriminatory",[8] and Rambus withdrew from the organization in 1995. Memos from Rambus at that time showed they were tailoring new patent applications to cover features of SDRAM being discussed, which were public knowledge (JEDEC meetings are not secret) and perfectly legal for patent owners who have patented underlying innovations, but were seen as evidence of bad faith by the jury in the first Infineon v. Rambus trial. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) rejected this theory of bad faith in its decision overturning the fraud conviction Infineon achieved in the first trial (see below).

        Rambus deserved to go bust, the rat bastards.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        We went through this with Rambus. They joined JEDEC (a consortium of memory manufacturers setting future memory standards) and agreed to its terms of membership - mainly, members are not allowed to patent the memory standards being discussed. DDR was being discussed within JEDEC. Rambus went ahead and patented it, and sued the other JEDEC members for violating "their" patents.

        After years of legal battles, the courts found that yes Rambus was guilty of violating JEDEC's membership agreement, and they were subject to whatever punishment they agreed to when they joined JEDEC. But that had nothing to do with the law, so the patents were valid (Rambus being the first to file). Meanwhile, since the JEDEC membership agreement didn't outline any punishment for violating the agreement, the only thing JEDEC could do was kick Rambus out.

        Same thing here. An EULA or ToS is just a contract. If you violate it, you become subject to whatever punishment you agreed to when agreed to the contract. That does not automatically make it a violation of law however. It's only a violation of the law if the act was otherwise illegal. In Rambus' case, patenting stuff freely presented to you is not illegal. In Remini's case, downloading stuff you've been authorized to download is not illegal.

        In other words, you dont know what a contract is. Rambus signed an agreement with JEDEC when they joined. The agreement was set out in full and agreed upon by all parties, Rambus had a chance to reveiw and negotiate that contract before signing and this included any penalty clauses. Beyond this, once signed the contract cannot be altered without all parties agreeing to it

        A EULA or ToS are not considered contracts because you cannot negotiate them beforehand, they are not signed (I.E. identity verified,

  • by BLToday ( 1777712 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @11:04PM (#55905987)

    Once you’ve used Oracle they got you. If you try to leave, you can’t. If you stay, they’ll screw you more and more everyday. Best thing is not never start using Oracle.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Contracts are weird things.

    Agreements very often made with intentionally confusing terms, which are simultaneously:

    1) Virtually always signed without actually reading in their full meaning, but rather verbally summarized by a biased beneficiary of the contract - and usually not even that. Indeed, the very idea of reading a contract is almost a faux pas, and is only tolerated with a raised eyebrow.

    2) Somehow also considered an almost sacred agreement that must be upheld at great cost - often more important

  • Having read the case (Score:5, Informative)

    by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi.evcircuits@com> on Thursday January 11, 2018 @01:20AM (#55906295) Homepage

    It seems two things are at play here: the fact that a EULA cannot limit the publicly or contractually available Information.

    The other thing reading further into the case is the fact that Oracle seems to argue that it's copyright does not permit any third parties to obtain any part of the closed source system and the courts agreed with that. The court also holds that any modifications to closed source software are illegal unless you hold an explicit license.

    So let's say you are a company and want maintenance work done on your Oracle system, the third party cannot download copies of eg software updates for you because the license does not include that third party.

    This should be a big warning for anyone using Windows and other closed source software, the software license does not extend to anyone else therefore even just downloading the patches could get you into copyright infringement.

  • If its a Public available site as anyone can load up the site and see then it should be same as walking down side walk and looking in to a store window. If oracle wants they could ban and block the companies bot from accessing their site, they would be allowed to do that but it would be like a store saying you can walk on public side walk OUTSIDE their store least that is what Oracle is trying to make case on.
  • Aaron Swartz (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by QuadEddie ( 459328 )
    ...will be relived that they're starting to reign in that act. Somebody go back in time and call off the suicide - he would have only had to spend a few years, not what he was sentenced.
  • I have no other way to describe it when a company thinks that any TOS or EULA it has written is law.

    There is a process true laws must go through before becoming valid. They might want to refamiliarize themselves with that concept.

    Hell, they can just go watch the episode of School House Rock for the simple version.

    Sings: I'm just a bill. . .

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