Startups And Innovators Speak Out In Favor Of Fixing CFAA

from the good-for-them dept

The good folks over at the EFF have posted a letter from a group of startups and innovators to Congress seeking reform of the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act), which has been abused for years, most notably and recently, in the case against Aaron Swartz (full disclosure: I helped review the initial letter and helped the EFF get some of the signatures on the letter). This is important, because, as we have noted, plenty of innovators and entrepreneurs could have been charged under this law for some of their random hacking experiments, some of which directly led them to create amazing innovations.

Many people have thought that the tech industry isn’t as interested in CFAA reform, since it supposedly protects them in cases where they have been hacked, but that’s not the case. Through out the startup community, I’ve heard many people who were horrified to learn about the charges against Aaron Swartz, as they quickly realized how easy it would be for a Justice Department official to spin what they themselves were doing into something nefarious sounding. That does not help innovation.

No one is in favor of having no rules at all, but clearly the CFAA is outdated, broken and widely abused. Fixing the law to focus on actual malicious and nefarious attacks would be a huge step forward, not just for the public, but for innovators and entrepreneurs who often build great things by starting with a simple hack.

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Comments on “Startups And Innovators Speak Out In Favor Of Fixing CFAA”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Just have the supreme court rule it unconstitutional

I mean, technically, if the CFAA makes a violation of terms of service a crime, then any sex offender would be committing a crime by using facebook. The supreme court has already ruled that preventing convicted sex offenders from using facebook is unconstitutional (Google Indiana sex offender facebook), therefore, CFAA must be unconstitutional. At least the supreme court is willing to stand up for someone’s rights.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:


The government didn’t need the CFAA to prosecute Kevin Mitnick or Captain Crunch, so why do they need it now?

FWIW, Kevin Mitnick was charged under the CFAA (among other things), but agree with your general point. Other statutes often can cover many of the necessary issues. The CFAA often allows them to “double up” charges.

out_of_the_blue says:

Gates and Jobs both recognized themselves as criminals,

under laws existing THEN. Blows your main thrust here.

However, I’m more struck by how Mike sees only good in tech giants Microsoft and Apple, when for the last 20 years at least, both of those have been roundly reviled for doing all they can to hinder “disruptive” start-ups besides established companies of all sizes. Their actual day-to-day evil is well known to those who had to struggle against the massive control of money and influence that both STILL use ruthlessly to suppress competitors. And they’ve both used copyright and patents to the extent possible. — But all that history is whitewashed — no, just erased as if never existed, by Monopolist Mike.

IF the Reagan Justice Department hadn’t gone catatonic and had prosecuted Microsoft for its actual crimes by the standards of the decades prior, then Gates and his cohorts wouldn’t have just been fined, but would have spent time in jail, and the country and world would be far better off.

This piece and the one prior present Gates and Jobs so contrary to actual events that reads like a paid puff piece. — And ain’t out of the question because billionaires spend their ill-gotten money freely to revise history. — But maybe Mike is just ignorant, as he’s never had to compete against these ruthless techno-thugs.

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
All Techdirt logo T-shirts are hand-made. … By laborers, a class of people whom Mike never even mentions, let alone favorably.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Gates and Jobs both recognized themselves as criminals,

I’m more struck by how you see only good in the RIAA. Clearly you choose to ignore articles where Microsoft, Apple and other corporations were roundly criticised.

Until you learn how to criticise the RIAA, go fuck yourself with a plank of wood. With splinters and nails hammered in.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Gates and Jobs both recognized themselves as criminals,

Bright minds have nothing to do with it. It depends on the law they broke, and the actions of the government. If the law itself is wrong, they don’t deserve to go to jail. If the law is not applied equally, they don’t deserve to go to jail. If the government violated their rights (did not follow due process, abuse to get a confession, mishandling of evidence, etc.), they do not deserve to go to jail.

yaga (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Gates and Jobs both recognized themselves as criminals,

You don’t get to decide that you aren’t going to follow a law because YOU think it’s wrong. You work the system but until the day the law is stricken from the books it’s still a law. If everyone just decided to ignore the laws that they feel are unjust there would be complete disorder. It would be more fun but you can’t have a society with disorder.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Gates and Jobs both recognized themselves as criminals,

You work the system but until the day the law is stricken from the books it’s still a law.

Pretty much everyone who advocates or has ever advocated civil disobedience disagrees.

I don’t disagree that breaking laws creates disorder and unrest. The civil rights movements of the 1960s created all sorts of disorder. But we’re in a better society now because of that disorder.

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