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Legal teams keep bending old laws to fit cybercrimes

Tim Greene | Aug. 25, 2015
Now lawyers say the movie-sharing app Popcorn Time is like a burglar’s tool

It’s not the first time lawyers filing court action in cyber cases have stretched pre-Internet laws so they could apply them to cybercrime cases. For example, Microsoft pioneered several legal innovations to shut down botnets over the past five years, including a claim that a law allowing seizure of knockoff handbags from their manufacturers could be applied to take over command-and-control servers.

Its claim was that under an old law called the Lanham Act the use of Microsoft software and hence its copyright meant that Microsoft could seize the offending servers. A court agreed, and Microsoft used that authority to shut down servers used to support the Rustock botnet.

In a different case, Microsoft asserted that it had standing to ask permission to shut down an entire domain in order to get at the Kelihos botnet. The argument was that use of the domain violated the registrant’s agreement not to carry on criminal activity. Since the registrant was performing criminal acts and it was harming Microsoft, then Microsoft could take back the domain.


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