Jonathan Blavin Discusses Impact of Ninth Circuit Ruling on California Computer Crime Law

On Oct. 5, 2015, Munger, Tolles & Olson attorney Jonathan H. Blavin published an article in the Daily Journal discussing the impact of the decision in United States v. Christensen, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned precedent on the scope of what constitutes a computer crime under California’s Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act (Penal Code Section 502(c)).

As Mr. Blavin explained, the decision expands the scope of computer crime law in California and distinguishes it from the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) by removing the requirement of showing unauthorized “access” into a computer system to commit an offense. Rather, the focus of the statute is on the unauthorized taking or use of information. 

Mr. Blavin wrote: “The court concluded that the “term ‘access’” in Section 502(c)(2) “includes logging into a database with a valid password and subsequently taking, copying, or using the information in the database improperly,” and that to hold otherwise, the “words” ‘without permission’ would be redundant, since by definition hackers lack permission to access a database.”

Mr. Blavin concluded that the Christensen decision stands to dramatically expand the scope of Section 502(c) liability, giving prosecutors and plaintiffs a powerful tool to challenge the unauthorized taking or use of data.

Based in Munger Tolles’ San Francisco office, Mr. Blavin focuses his practice on Internet and privacy-related litigation involving the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He has been recognized as a “Rising Star” in the field of technology law by Law360 and named among the “50 Intellectual Property Trailblazers & Pioneers” by The National Law Journal.