Lawsuits Against Cheaters and Hackers Recently Became a Little Harder
Van Buren v. United States
Case No. 19-783
Filed: December 18, 2019 (writ of certiorari)
The CFAA was written in 1984 and amended in 1986, so the majority found that the law was dated and did not account for how computers are used in 2021. Prior to this lawsuit there were two definitions of the CFAA applied by courts, a broad definition and the aforementioned narrow definition.
The three dissenters disagreed strongly with the majority, finding the majority to have gone against well-established property law concepts, namely that entitlement to use of another’s property is circumstance specific. The dissenters emphasized that a computer is given with particular circumstances required of its usage, and that the purpose of one’s use can change an authorized action to an unauthorized one. The dissent also argued that statutes are supposed to be read as the enacting congress understood it, not modernized in the way the majority did. In defense of the broad interpretation, the dissent argued that there were limitations in the statute which stopped over criminalization, such as a strict intentional mens rea and that the act only applied to information stored in the computer, thus inapplicable to internet access. The dissent also argued the removal of the word “purpose” in the 1986 amendment of the CFAA implied congress was broadening the scope of the CFAA, not removing a circumstantial inquiry. Further, the dissent was harsh towards the majority’s worries about potential over-prosecution under the broad definition and compared it to not enforcing the correct interpretation of a statute because it would criminalize taking a grain of sand from a national mall. 40 U.S.C § 8103(b). The dissent ends on the note that what Van Buren did, to them, is clearly illegal.
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