Not Reading Ticketmaster's Terms Of Service Shouldn't Make You A Criminal

from the yet-again dept

There have been an awful lot of similar stories lately, but it is really quite troubling just how much the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is being abused to turn actions like not reading a website's terms of service into a criminal offense. We had just recently discussed how this was playing out in a lawsuit involving Facebook and Power.com, but it's showing up elsewhere as well. In fact, the judge in the Facebook/Power.com case apparently based the decision on an earlier case involving Ticketmaster and a ticket reseller which used automated means to order tickets, that it could then resell.

In a similar case, it appears that there has been a criminal indictment of the company Wiseguy Tickets, who similarly automated ticket purchases from Ticketmaster's website. This isn't to say that ticket scalpers and resellers who buy up all the tickets aren't necessarily a problem, but should they be criminally liable because they violate a website's terms of service? The EFF and some others have now filed an amicus brief in the case, suggesting that this is a ridiculous outcome. No one should be criminally liable for not obeying the terms of service on a website. If that's the case, it's easy to make anyone a criminal. I could just quickly put up a terms of service that says something as ridiculous as "you must be 8 feet tall to read this website." And, if you're not, you've then violated the terms, and are guilty of criminal hacking under the CFAA -- which could potentially result in jail time. That makes no sense, and the EFF is hoping the judge recognizes this:
"Under the government's theory, anyone who disregards -- or doesn't read -- the terms of service on any website could face computer crime charges," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "That gives Ticketmaster and other online services extraordinary power over their users: the power to decide what is criminal behavior and what is not. Price comparison services, social network aggregators, and users who skim a few years off their ages could all be criminals if the government prevails."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Keven Sutton, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 2:52pm

    Off topic:

    Well, I might be 8 feet tall. Especially for variable values of a feet. what does the law say about the measurement of a feet rather than the measurement of a foot?

     

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  2.  
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    John M. Hoyt, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 3:33pm

    Used and abused...

    Yes, this is indeed abuse of CFAA

     

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  3.  
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    IshmaelDS (profile), Jul 6th, 2010 @ 3:46pm

    Come on Mike, you should be happy.

    This means you can change your ToS to read that we all have to send you money each month. Or we are guilty of hacking you and we go to jail. You could be rich! without having to anything more than you already have.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 4:07pm

    Judges apparently don't care about consistency, nor do politicians that pass those laws.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 5:02pm

    I was already disturbed by not being able to choose seats, by having to pay an outrageous fee, by seeing the price change during my enquiries, by getting different prices from different IP addresses, and by their restraint of trade tactics meant to put their competitors out of business. This development makes me so wary, I won't be using their service at any time in the future.

    So sorry, Cirque de Soleil, that you will be subject to collateral damage.

     

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  6.  
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    coco Was Screwed, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 5:38pm

    I stopped using ticketmaster years ago. I just go the the venue and buy tickets...although some are actually adding fees to keep pace with all the fees ticketmaster charges so it's a wash.

    It is most annoying that ticketmaster charges me a "convenience fee" for the privilege of increasing their profit margins by not having to mail me a ticket...

    Pearl Jam was right, Fuck You Ticket master

     

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  7.  
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    NAMELESS.ONE, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 5:42pm

    OR

    you can't visit this website if your a federal agent associated to them or affiliated to hollywood in anyway

    I WELCOME such laws...

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 6:31pm

    "By visiting this website you agree to hit yourself repeatedly in the nuts with a rock."

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 6:42pm

    It would be helpful to actually read the indictment, instead of simply relying solely upon EFF's site.

    The site posted its amicus, but not the indictment.

    Maybe this is a case somewhat like the one in San Diego. Then again, maybe not. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the US Attorney for New Jersey is not trying to stretch the law beyond its breaking point, but this is impossible to determine without a copy of the indictment in hand.

     

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  10.  
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    NAMELESS.ONE, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 6:43pm

    or

    you must dance around on front lawn naked signing your national anthem while waving a spoon

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 6:51pm

    License to Read this Post

    By reading this text you accept this post's license agreement. Any who fail to read aloud the entirety of the book, "War and Peace" in the next five (5) minutes are in violation of this agreement and must pay me the sum of all positive income They* generate for the next five million (5,000,000) years.

    *"They" includes ancestors, predecessors, and relatives, infinitely recursively.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 7:06pm

    an unreasonable tos would be unenforceable (you must jump through flaming hoop naked). the intent of the company is to create profit by abusing a system. that isnt something that anyone should stand up for. not surprising to see lessig and the eff on this one, sort of proves that they stand for some pretty low end people.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 7:27pm

    Re:

    TROLLALERT!!!

    http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20100706/01260510077#c254

    In that case there are at least three. I work with one of them. He writes in a "lowercase with some small amount of punctuation" style. He also doesn't believe a word he writes, he just likes to troll. I'll probably get kicked when we go to lunch for outing him though.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 7:44pm

    Re:

    It proves that the EFF stand for freedom no matter for who it is, they view the issues not the beneficiaries of the issues.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 8:08pm

    Should be criminal to use ticketmaster

    Fuck TM, they are the real crooks. That company has always been anti-customer. The only thing that keeps them going is their near monopoly on ticket sales.

     

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  16.  
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    Bubba Gump (profile), Jul 6th, 2010 @ 8:19pm

    Re:

    You're absolutely correct. However, for those of us who aren't TAM, we can read between the lines and see insanity for what it is.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2010 @ 9:16pm

    Re:

    Congratulations. You have just perfectly described a civil, not criminal, matter.

    TAM strikes again.

     

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  18.  
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    mike allen (profile), Jul 7th, 2010 @ 1:28am

    who bothers to read TOS anyway.

     

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  19.  
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    gilroy0 (profile), Jul 7th, 2010 @ 6:05am

    This isn't to say that ticket scalpers and resellers who buy up all the tickets aren't necessarily a problem

    Why are they a problem? I mean, I understand the annoyance factor. But doesn't the existence of scalpers basically indicate that the venue underpriced the ticket? I'm no free-market ideologue, but I've never understood why scalping is problem legally or morally.

     

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  20.  
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    8 foot tall guy, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:45am

    You're silly.

     

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  21.  
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    Clancy, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:49am

    NOT reading.

    It should however be criminal for congress-critters to vote for (or against) legislation they haven't read.

     

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  22.  
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    marybeth, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:53am

    It's not as if the TOS with this info is a long document on another page. It's a couple of paragraphs in the section where you search for available tickets for an event (between where you select the number of tickets and the "find tickets" button). If you read the first of the two paragraphs you would know you can't use automated means to buy tickets.

     

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  23.  
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    Ven, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 9:00am

    Re:

    Ticketmaster uses a (possibly anti-consumer) practice of changing ticket prices, sometimes from minute to minute, in some accusations even when the ticket is being purchased. Most scalpers now rely on computers watching the Ticketmaster site for a price drop and then use systems spread across many data centers to look like a flood of random people taking advantage of the deal. They then resell them not at inflated prices but at the non-sale market rate. Because these specials are likely quantity limited it prevents legitimate buyers from getting the savings.

     

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  24.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 7th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re:

    OK, but where is the ethical problem with scalpers here? It seems to me that it indicates a (big!) problem with Ticketmaster's method of pricing, but doesn't indicate the objection to those who are exploiting their bad design.

    I, too, have never understood why scalping should be illegal. I am not a scalper, and have never been in a position where buying from one seemed like a good idea, but I don't see how they're doing anything so egregious that the force of law is required.

     

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  25.  
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    dowlan smith, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 12:02pm

    ticket scalping

    As far as I see it, since TicketMaster sells ticket at price above what they pay for them, they are ticket scalpers also. They just want to use government coercion to limit competition.

    TicketMaster is beneficial to the to the event holder because they lessen the risk for unsold tickets. However, I'm not sure why they are not subject to anti-trust regulation.

     

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