Court rules that IP cloaking to access blocked sites violates law

August 20, 2013 – 5:08 AM

Disguising an IP address or using a proxy server to visit Web sites you’ve been banished from is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer for the Northern District of California issued the ruling Friday in a copyright infringement lawsuit between Craigslist and data harvester 3Taps. The dispute began in July 2012 when Craigslist sent a cease-and-desist letter to apartment listing app PadMapper, claiming it was violating the site’s terms of service by scraping apartment rental information from the online classifieds site.

PadMapper complied and took the listings down before 3Taps provided a workaround. Craigslist soon filed a copyright claim against 3Taps and PadMapper, which displays and links listings, found on Craigslist and other services, on a Google map. 3Taps countersued, claiming that Craigslist was trying to create a monopoly by squeezing out competition in the growing market.

Craigslist blocked the Internet Protocol addresses associated with 3Taps, but the data harvester continued to scrape data off Craigslist by concealing its identity with different IP addresses and proxy servers. Craigslist argued that the 3Taps’ subterfuge violated the CFAA, which prohibits the intentional access of a computer without authorization that results in the capture of information from a protected computer.


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