Judge Refuses To Dismiss Criminal Charges For Violating Ticketmaster's Terms Of Service; Trial Moves Forward
from the read-the-fine-print dept
We’ve discussed how it’s becoming unfortunately common for companies to use the The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to turn things that should not be criminal cases into criminal cases. What’s often done is that someone will find a part of a website’s terms of service that was not obeyed, and then use that to claim that the access to the website was “unauthorized,” thus triggering criminal charges under the CFAA. We’ve seen it in the recent Facebook/Power.com lawsuit as well as, most famously, in the Lori Drew case, which eventually was dismissed, only after a jury ruled on the matter.
During the summer, we had discussed how the same issue was coming up in a case involving a ticket reseller who had created computer systems to get by Ticketmaster’s attempts to limit ticket sales. They would get around purchase limits and things like CAPTCHAs with some automated software that, from the sound of things, was incredibly effective. Now, violating the site’s terms of service might be a contractual violation, but a criminal one? As much as people might dislike scalpers buying up tickets to popular events and then reselling them, that doesn’t mean we should let those feelings cloud the specific legal questions.
Unfortunately, a judge has decided to punt on the matter, at least for now, refusing to dismiss the case at this stage, and setting a date for a trial next year. While the judge is aware of the Lori Drew case, she claimed that the fact pattern there was really different and, anyway, the decision on the appropriateness of using the CFAA was ruled on after the trial. That last point seems rather meaningless. The appropriateness of the CFAA doesn’t seem like something that requires a trial. In the Drew case, the trial was a total waste for everyone involved, because after it was decided, the judge decided to toss everything out anyway. Why not save everyone the time and handle it up front?