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Is Breaking Captcha a Crime?


Prosecutors in a New Jersey ticket scalping case are pushing the envelope on the federal computer hacking law, setting a precedent that could make it a felony to violate a Website’s terms of service and fool a CAPTCHA, according to electronic civil rights groups intervening in the case.

At issue is a four-month-old criminal prosecution against the online ticket-reselling business Wiseguy Tickets, which allegedly used a network of shell companies, rented servers and automated scripts to snatch up more than 1 million premium tickets for coveted concerts and sporting events, which it resold for more than $25 million in profits.

The four Wiseguy defendants, who also operated other ticket-reselling businesses, allegedly used sophisticated programming and inside information to bypass technological measures--including CAPTCHA--at Ticketmaster and other sites that were intended to prevent such bulk automated purchases. This violated the sites’ terms of service, and according to prosecutors constituted unauthorized computer access under the anti-hacking Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA.

From Wired
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