(via Boing Boing) Tim Wu at the New Yorker has written an article about how the White House can help solve a major problem with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which basically says that using computers is a felony. He writes:
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the most outrageous criminal law you’ve never heard of. It bans “unauthorized access” of computers, but no one really knows what those words mean. Orin Kerr, a former Justice Department attorney and a leading scholar on computer-crime law, argues persuasively that the law is so open-ended and broad as to be unconstitutionally vague. Over the years, the punishments for breaking the law have grown increasingly severe—it can now put people in prison for decades for actions that cause no real economic or physical harm. It is, in short, a nightmare for a country that calls itself free.
Both private litigants and the Justice Department began to use the law against [...] otherwise legitimate users who violate the “terms of service” policies that come with nearly ever piece of software and service we use on computers today.
What are terms of service? Remember the last time you signed up for a Web site and clicked through several pages of fine print? Yep, that was it. Chances are, you didn’t read it, and didn’t think that it might be a federal felony to violate the provisions that it contained. The Justice Department has repeatedly taken the position that such violations are felonies.
Wu calls for the Justice Department to officially declare that it's not going to prosecute this way, based on this law, anymore -- which sounds like a fantastic idea to me. They already only selectively prosecute with it in order to jail people for things that aren't really the crime they've been tried for, so the only thing that the change would accomplish is that prosecutors would be forced to try people they think are guilty based on the crimes they think they've committed.