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Password-Sharing May Be a Federal Crime under the Muddied Waters of the CFAA

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a federal statute that provides for not only criminal liability, but also civil liability, when a person accesses…

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The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a federal statute that provides for not only criminal liability, but also civil liability, when a person accesses a computer “without authorization” or “exceeding authorized access.” However, as a result of differing opinions among federal circuit courts, the scope of actionable conduct under the CFAA remains unclear. And due to high-profile cases such as United States v. Nosal and Facebook v. Power Ventures, the CFAA has recently drawn increased attention from practitioners and scholars alike — often hoping for the Supreme Court to end the lack of clarity under the statute. This has not yet happened. Nevertheless, this attention has led to the issue of when and how can password sharing be subject to criminal (and civil) liability.

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