Jacob Sullum on the Federal Law You're Breaking Right Now


According to the Justice Department's interpretation of federal law, people can go to jail for violating a website's terms of service or a company policy against personal use of workplace computers. Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected this reading of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which Chief Judge Alex Kozinski noted could make a criminal out of "everyone who uses a computer in violation of computer use restrictions—which may well include everyone who uses a computer." Unfortunately, says Senior Editor Jacob Sullum, other appeals courts have been more receptive to the Justice Department's view, which gives U.S. attorneys the power to prosecute just about anyone who offends or annoys them.