Computer Crime Seminar (LAW-836-001)
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The Computer Crimes Seminar will explore the legal issues that judges, legislators, prosecutors, and defense attorneys are beginning to confront as they respond to the recent explosion in computer-related crime. In particular, we will consider how crimes in cyberspace will challenge traditional approaches to the investigation, prosecution, and defense of crime that have evolved from our experience with the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed in the “physical” world. Topics will include: the Fourth Amendment in cyberspace, the law of electronic surveillance, computer hacking, computer viruses, encryption, online economic espionage, cyberterrorism, federal/state relations in the enforcement of computer crime laws, and civil liberties online. No previous experience is required, although familiarity with the Internet is helpful.
This Seminar provides a comprehensive overview of the use of criminal law to regulate criminal conduct perpetrated with the use of a computer or through the use of the Internet. The course begins with an examination of whether new laws are required to govern online conduct, or whether traditional laws from the “brick and mortar” world will suffice. We will then examine the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act which provides the statutory authority criminalizing types of “computer misuse,” such as hacking, computer intrusion and the propagation of worms and viruses. During the course of the semester we will examine other federal criminal statutes most often used in the fight against the proliferation of online crime, including various types of fraud, economic espionage, criminal infringement of copyright and child exploitation.
With an understanding of the federal criminal statutes governing the use of computers and the Internet, the course will then survey the procedural laws that prosecutors use to collect electronic evidence: The Stored Communications Act (or ECPA), the Wiretap and PenTrap statutes, and traditional search and seizure investigative techniques governed by the Fourth Amendment.
Throughout the semester we will address issues associated with government regulation of the Internet and Internet content, focusing in particular on online threats, harassment, stalking, obscenity, child pornography and terrorist use of the Internet. Our discussions will focus on whether criminal law is the most appropriate means of regulating online conduct, how the laws applicable to online crimes compare to those applicable to “flesh and blood” crimes, how appropriately to balance privacy against the legitimate government interest in investigating crimes and enforcing the laws, and whether Congress and the courts have given due (or too much) deference to the First Amendment right to free expression. Finally, the class explores the challenges bounded national legal systems face in criminalizing activity on an unbounded international network.
Student grades will be determined by their performance on a final exam to be administered at the end of the semester.
Textbooks and Other Materials
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No required textbook for the class.
First Class Readings
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