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Legal implications of macro work


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This article is worth reading if you do work for hire. I've had a few people approach me to write macros to do similar things and I've passed largely because it's not worth the potential liability. This case I found interesting because it doesn't appear that they actually broke into any computer but rather used automation tools to gain an unfair advantage over normal consumers.
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It was another variety of denial of service but one in which the perps gained financially. It's not that different to swarming a large company to profit from any drop in stock prices. It shows that we need to be spending way more on investigating and prosecuting computer fraud. If you are writing programs of those capabilities, you must be aware of the ramifications so you are as responsible as any white collar fraud, or the getaway driver at least. If you are an employee the liability for what you program at work with authorization is your employers. Anything else, you are responsible. Going into the programming business on your own is a huge liability. In a forum such as this, I'm not sure where liability goes. It would probably be judged as "participant beware" or Caveat lector.

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I read about that a few days ago, the defense lawyer had a few choice metaphors and analogies to describe his clients:

 

1- "All my client is guilty of is building a better mousetrap"

 

2- "This is no different than the days of having all your friends camp overnight to buy the tickets".

 

 

Not justifying it though, but I wonder how this case will end.

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I can't see how they are technically guilty of anything unless when you sign up for one of these sites you agreed not to use any form of automation in the Terms of Use. But here's the kicker. It doesn't really matter. Things like these are Tar-Babies and will quickly cost you more in time and money than you ever profited. In fact it could crash your company and cost you a lot of money just to muster a defense.

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They are guilty as hell. It's like saying hacking is not a crime "because your firewall was not good enough" or I broke into your house "because you didn't use a deadbolt". Also, you don't have to sign a promise not to commit a crime to commit one. It's clearly an intentional denial of service, whatever law that goes down to.

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But what law are they breaking?

...................................................

People can't be guilty of simply doing "bad things". I wish. There has to be some sort of statute for their crime. And from what I understand of the charges against them it sounds like these laws were intended for people who actually broke into someone's computer system. From what I can tell they did no such thing. I'm not defending them, I'm just curious as to what they did wrong. For instance I had a friend chatting with me one day and she witnessed a man with no children sit down next to a little girl and start talking to her. She was upset by this and called the cops and was all excited because "They're going to throw him in jail". But I challenged her on what law the guy actually broke. It's a public park and all have rights to be there so unless he does something more aggressive there's really nothing more the cops can do except question him. The guy's a creep, no doubt and what he was doing was wrong but not illegal.

 

My point with this is that if you think you are not breaking a law by writing a macro to win an online contest or something you can still run into trouble. In this case it sounds like the charges a trumped up but that's still going ot cost you.

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But what law are they breaking?

 

Certainly not the Law of Benevolent Programming Automation. ;-)

 

The indictment is fairly specific:

FTA:

 

"Lowson pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and computer fraud. His lawyer, Mark Rush, said Wiseguy Tickets simply devised an ingenious way to buy tickets for brokers, who resold them to fans.

 

But authorities say Lowson and his three co-defendants committed fraud by using 100,000 internet protocol addresses, a variety of company names, hundreds of e-mails and a web of credit card numbers to hide the fact that all the tickets were being bought by a single company.

 

According to the indictment, they also committed a variety of computer crimes by using an army of online drones to circumvent security systems and enter ticket-selling websites ahead of fans. When Ticketmaster and other companies beefed up security, Wiseguy devised new ways to break through, authorities said."

 

A much more detailed story on the charges here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/usnw/20100301/pl_usnw/DC62572

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