One of the more important court rulings of the year for the residents of the internet came Friday, mostly unheralded. For those who do not recall Lori Drew, she was prosecuted under federal hacking charges for violating MySpace’s Terms of Service (“unauthorized access”). In reality, she was being prosecuted because her ToS violation was related to a girl’s suicide, but the government’s theory in the case held that anyone who violates any ToS has done pretty much the same thing as hacking into a bank or airline’s systems. So if you have ever been banned from any site or game, or done anything that would cause you to be banned if you were caught (does anyone know your account info? Oops…), you would be up for federal criminal charges were you ever politically relevant. Because anything bad must be illegal.
After conviction on some charges, the judge indicated that he would be dismissing the charges. (Layman’s observation: it might have been more efficient to do that last year, before letting the trial happen, although I understand there are rules and processes and such.) That took about two months to become final:
The reasoning of the opinion is that whatever unauthorized access means, it cannot mean mere violation of Terms of Service without more. Such a reading of the statute would render the statute unconstitutionally void for vagueness because it would give the government almost unlimited power to prosecute any Internet user and wouldn’t give citizens sufficient notice as to what of their Internet conduct was criminal.
That “final” link has discussion and the text of the ruling. In this case, it took about three years to get a legal ruling that you cannot (successfully) (in the long run) prosecute (persecute?) someone for being bad or doing things you do not like. There needs to be a law against it.