Today’s Award for the Silliest Theory of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

…goes to the arguments made by Sony’s lawyers in a complaint and motion for a TRO in a recently-filed civil case: Sony Sues PS3 Hackers. The argument: You’re guilty of felony computer hacking crimes if you access your own computer in a way that violates a contractual restriction found in the fine print of the licensing restriction of the product imposed by the manufacturer.

I realize the complaint characterizes the defendants as hackers, and the CFAA is supposed to be about hacking. But think for a moment about the nature of this claim. You bought the computer. You own it. You can sell it. You can light it on fire. You can bring it to the ocean, put it on a life raft, and push it out to sea. But if you dare do anything that violates the fine print of the license that the manufacturer is trying to impose, then you’re guilty of trespassing onto your own property. And it’s not just a civil wrong, it’s a crime. And according to the motion for a TRO, it’s not just a crime, it’s a serious felony crime.

I’ve seen a lot of civil cases trying to use the vague language of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in creative ways. But this is the first case I know of claiming that you can commit an unauthorized access of your own computer. And that claim justifies today’s award for the Silliest Theory of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.