Friday, May 26, 2006, 5/26/2006 08:07:00 AM

Hacking the Hackers: Computer Fraud & Abuse Act Jujitsu

Can "Turnabout is Fair Play" become an affirmative defense in a claim for violation of the federal Computer Fraud & Abuse Act? I doubt it, but we may be about to find out.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, a story about a lawsuit filed by against the Motion Picture Association of America., part of Valence Media, is a website where people go to trade files, often copyrighted files like the movies the MPAA wants to protect from being pirated. In fact, the MPAA is usually -- and currently is -- the plaintiff in lawsuits against websites like

Now though, the shoe is on the other foot. claims the MPAA hired a hacker for $15,000 to break into its computers to steal passwords, e-mails and detailed information about the company's finances and operations.
The MPAA calls it a baseless attempt to change the subject from's improper file-sharing activities.

"I find it ironic that an anti-piracy organization would resort to piracy to get other companies' data," said Ira Rothken, the attorney representing Torrentspy.

Ironic indeed. How about "all's fair in love and war" as an affirmative defense?


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