It was left then to Mike Masnick at TechDirt to point out that Wortham had admitted to violating federal laws, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (or CFAA) which has been the target of heated debate given its use in the controversial prosecutions of AT&T iPad hacker Andrew “weev” Auernheimer and public document hacker Aaron Swartz. The CFAA makes it a crime “to obtain without authorization information from a protected computer.” It’s a misdemeanor with a maximum one-year prison sentence. What Wortham describes is unauthorized access, in that it violates the companies’ terms of service.
“[I]f someone is violating Netflix or HBO Go’s TOS to stream they are guilty of a misdemeanor CFAA right off the bat,” says Hanni Fakhoury of the EFF. And if the worth of the stolen information or damage caused in its procurement reaches $5,000 (that’s a lot of HBO episodes!), it could be a felony with multiple potential years of prison time.
It’s awesome how media companies have paid lawmakers to make so many laws that go against common sense.