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US Court Rules Circumventing IP Blocks Violates Federal Law

A new federal ruling holds that disguising an IP address or using a proxy server to visit Web sites from which someone has been blocked violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The ruling was issued by US District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer for the Northern District of California and stems from a lawsuit between Craigslist and 3Taps, a data harvesting firm. 3Taps was scraping apartment rental information from Craigslist postings for the PadMapper apartment listing application. PadMapper, which displays listings from various sources on a Google Map, was served with a cease-and-desist letter in July 2012 for violating Craigslist’s terms of service and took the listings down. 3Taps had its IP addresses blocked as a result, but discovered a workaround that allowed it to continue its data scraping activities. Craigslist filed a copyright claim against 3Taps and PadMapper; 3Taps countersued, claiming that Craigslist seeks to create a monopoly in the market by eliminating its competition. The law was originally passed in 1984 by Congress  to fight hackers, but has since been interpreted by the government as extending to violations of terms of service agreements or computer use policies. 3Taps still could face civil damages for unauthorized access to Craigslist. (WIRED)(CNET)(Craigslist v. 3taps @ The Volokh Conspiracy blog)

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