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Computer crime statutes can be confusing

Prosecution of computer crimes is on the rise, given how so many more computers are connected via the Internet. Moreover, federal laws on computer crimes dating back to the 1980’s may not be able to deal with the type of actions and access that people have to computers today. Because of this, what may seem to be relatively benign actions may actually end up being prosecuted as crimes.

This post will include the most common statutes that alleged hackers could be prosecuted under. 

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – What this statute prohibits appears to be straightforward because of its name; essentially unauthorized access to a computer. But the biggest question vexing attorneys and judges is what the definition of “authorization” is supposed to mean.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act – This statute is often referred to when combating the “pirating” of copyrighted music and movies. Essentially, if you circumvent the protections meant to preserve copyright in order to obtain or distribute the work, you can be prosecuted. Of course, there are questions surrounding what constitutes an illegal act under this statute.

Electronic Communications Privacy Act – This statute is designed to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens against unauthorized collection and use, and it is commonly used by the ACLU to protect consumer privacy. Essentially, this law protects against the use of wiretaps, pen registers and stored communications.

 If the actions prohibited under these laws seem confusing, this is where a skilled criminal defense attorney comes in. An experienced lawyer can break down the statute (and the purported prohibited actions) and craft a defense.

The preceding is not legal advice. Specific questions should be directed to an attorney. 

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