CAPTCHA also known as “The Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” (what nerd came up with that name?) is now at the center of a controversy involving Ticketmaster and a bunch of ticket scalpers called Wiseguy Tickets. You can read the article here. Wiseguy Tickets allegedly used multiple servers and computers to bulk order tickets from Ticketmaster and cracked the CAPTCHA using an automated process to bypass the human element normally needed to order tickets. The Wired article claims that “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.”
I admittedly don’t know much about the CFAA but my own common sense dictates that if this is any kind of issue it would have to be a civil one. Wiseguy Tickets allegedly did something that goes against Ticketmasters TOS but is it really fraud or abuse? They didn’t hack into Ticketmasters system. I don’t believe that they effected Ticketmasters profits in any way. What if they didn’t use an automated system but instead hired hundreds of employees to buy the tickets? Would that change whether the process was legal or not?
Regardless of who is right and who is wrong in this case, one thing proves to be clear. We are at a point where the actual laws and who has jurisdiction over complaints on the internet is extremely fuzzy.
Should CAPTCHA cracking be illegal?