The case, Oracle v. Rimini Street, is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, and we just filed an amicus brief explaining to the court why an overbroad interpretation of the state computer crime statutes would have the exact same disastrous outcome as an overbroad interpretation of the CFAA. The Ninth Circuit should listen to its own reasoning and avoid an interpretation of these statutes that turns innocent Internet users into criminals.
Rimini Street appealed, and as we told the Ninth Circuit in our brief, the district court’s reasoning turns millions of Internet users into criminals on the basis of innocuous and routine online conduct. What’s more, by making it completely unclear what conduct is criminal at any given time on any given website, the district court’s holding is in violation of the long-held Rule of Lenity—which requires that criminal statutes be interpreted to give clear notice of what conduct is criminal.
You might be thinking that no prosecutor would try to prosecute everyone who has ever provided false personal information on Facebook. But a prosecutor could—under either law. This opens the possibility of arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement. For instance, assume you accidentally cut off your local district attorney in the turn lane. If terms of service violations were criminal, that prosecutor could turn around and go after you for listing an incorrect birth year on your Facebook profile. Avoiding this very situation is one of the reasons our Constitution requires our laws to be clear.
We hope the Ninth Circuit recognizes the dangers of the district court’s interpretation and reverses the ruling.