October 28, 2011 | By Hanni Fakhoury

Appeals Court Heeds EFF's Advice to Revisit Case That Makes Terms of Service Violations A Crime

In June, we filed an amicus brief urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the troubling decision of a three judge panel in United States v. Nosal, which ruled that employees commit a crime anytime they use a work computer for purposes that violate a company's computer use policy.

We're happy to report that the entire Ninth Circuit listened to us, and agreed to rehear the case (PDF) on December 15. Over the years we've repeatedly criticized interpretations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) that allowed individuals to not only be sued civilly, but charged criminally, for violating a website's terms of service, or company's written computer use policy. EFF and others have long worried that such an expansive interpretation of the law empowers private employers and websites to effectively create criminal laws.

The Ninth Circuit's decision to revisit this case comes on the heels of a recent proposal introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee to amend the CFAA to make clear that violating a website's terms of service or a company's computer use policy is not illegal under the CFAA. Hopefully this momentum will keep going and in the meantime, we'll continue to work to protect millions of ordinary computer users from a law never intended to apply this way.

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