Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lege poised to criminalize violations of internet terms of service contracts

I don't know if this will be the first new crime created by the Texas Legislature this session (I doubt it), but it's surely the most far reaching yet: SB 345 by Huffman, the companion to which was criticized last month by Grits, is poised to pass the Texas Legislature this week and head to the governor's desk. HB 896, its companion, has been placed on Thursday's House General State calendar. But SB 345 is over from the Senate, so it will be substituted in and finally passed if the bill is not defeated on the House floor.

The portion of the bill I don't like would criminalize violations of terms of service contracts between internet service providers and their customers, making law enforcement the enforcer of contracts for wifi the way they've problematically been in the past for payday lenders and check cashing firms. The House committee substitute altered the language slightly but it still contains the problematic provision - (b-1)(2)(B)(ii), see the text - criminalizing violations of "a contractual agreement." [N.b., the fix is either to strike (b-1)(2)(B)(ii) or change the "or" to an "and" in the previous (i).]

Using criminal law to enforce private consumer contracts amounts to corporate welfare and terrible public policy. If the Texas House doesn't amend or reject this bill - and so far it seems to be sailing through the process - then Gov. Greg Abbott should veto it.

See prior Grits' analysis of this bad idea.

UPDATE: Freshman Rep. Matt Rinaldi amended the bill on the floor to make contract violations a crime only if they involve an effort "to defraud or harm another or to alter, damage, or delete property," which will at least keep this law from being used against people logging onto somebody else's wifi.  Grits doesn't oppose laws to combat hacking, I just don't want to authorize cops to become generalized enforcers of consumer contracts. ALSO: Grits had expected the House to substitute in the companion, which was already over from the Senate, but instead they just passed HB 896, with the SB still lingering in House committee. So this bill isn't headed to the governor yet, even though versions of it have now passed both chambers.


Jordan said...

Very disturbing development there. I think it really shows sometimes that the government really doesn't know how to handle technology like the internet - why they haven't gotten their act together is beyond me. Here's hoping it gets vetoed.

Anonymous said...

I checked the status of HB 507 today and it appears like 36 coauthors have joined (3 of the coauthors are Republicans). I can't ever recall seeing this type of public support for reducing penalties in Texas. Even if the bill dies in committee, it has a strong basis to start the next session with. Dutton has now signed on as a joint author too.

Anonymous said...

Senator Huffman really needs a primary challenger in the next election. She is nothing more than a mouth piece for ALEC and big corporations. She doesn't represent "We the People."

Anonymous said...

Wow! I just read PC Sec. 33.02(a) and learned that if one of my children accesses my computer without my "effective consent", they've committed a state jail felony.

Anonymous said...

would this include phones with internet

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, thanks for continuing to oppose this crapola.

IMH(sugar-free)O, if this bullshit passes and Governor Abbott plays along with the bought and paid for pols, then (short of breaking out the pitchforks) someone with deep pockets needs to donate (I call it bribe but wtf) to a politician or future candidate that will author a bill aimed at criminalizing violations of a contractual agreement made between politicians and the public. (despite being made while on the campaign trail, in a cushy office or at the coffee shop with years of experience)

If they promise or declare that they will do this & that and fail to perform their terms of service contracts in a timely manner, it becomes a felony. Any politician accused of this crime would be disqualified for any Plea Bargain agreement and of course cannot avoid a Federal Jury Trial all the way to verdict. Trials to be held in Stadiums so the public may attend in mass.

Tit for friggin Tat mofos.

I can't wait to learn what company logo Huffman the Hag is sporting on her tramp stamp.

Also, if it passes, I predict thousands (maybe more) households will simply ditch the net in order to avoid becoming a Crime Family due to participating in a Family Plan where a simple hacking and side of identity theft occurs as everyone sleeps, is at work or, on vacation.

Then there's the older or new to the net and not so net savvy individual that will click on a box agreeing to terms of service and end up getting his/her mouth sewn to the ass of another. So, think extra hard before agreeing to Bundle that phone, net & cable.

Darn it, if it passes it will lead to justifying a new era of prison building and reopening boom, where one might end up on the Google or Bing Units. Doh! This is a bad bill and it should be a felony to even considering to author it.


Anonymous said...

The "intent to defaud and harm" and "access" elements are still in there... so this seems more like a nerfing of the statute to me. Before it included EVERY access of a computer with intent to defraud or harm, whether it was a violation of contract or not. Now it's limiting to government systems or violation of contract or by "clear and consciousness" prohibition. It seems like they are not only cowing to big business, but doing it in the worst and most confusing way possible.

john said...

What about the lobby-Legislature's intent to defraud and harm the citizens, getting rich in the process? What about placing the cops in yet another middleman position, so we have to fear for our lives form them, before we can hope to combat the company, and then the lobby-legislature?
We remain unrepresented in taxes and everything.
Serf's up!