My opinion piece “The Criminal NSA” co-authored with Professor Christopher Sprigman has been published in the New York Times. The op ed is about NSA spying programs Prism and the collection of all phone metadata about Americans.  An excerpt:

The two programs violate both the letter and the spirit of federal law. No statute explicitly authorizes mass surveillance. Through a series of legal contortions, look the Obama administration has argued that Congress, buy since 9/11, intended to implicitly authorize mass surveillance. But this strategy mostly consists of wordplay, fear-mongering and a highly selective reading of the law. Americans deserve better from the White House — and from President Obama, who has seemingly forgotten the constitutional law he once taught.




Friends, Romans, Republicans:


Welcome to the Granick Slate Card for the November 6, 2012 National Election.  I missed the last opportunity to opine on all things voting because I didn’t have the time to do the kind of analysis I like.  This year is no different, but rather than sitting out, I’ll just be terse, under the theory that one should not let the perfect be the enemy of the Done. So, without further ado, the picks.




Barack Obama: On the issues that are closest to my professional heart — government surveillance and due process – Barack Obama has been just awful.  But I will be volunteering to call voters to get out the vote and I will be voting for him. I’ve come to see that this is no time for complacency, even if your support is lukewarm.  Romney is a disastrous liar and the Republicans are horrific on women’s rights.




Proposition 30. YES

Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding — State of California (Initiative Constitutional Amendment – Majority Approval Required)


Should the California Constitution be amended to (a) temporarily increase sales and personal income tax rates; (b) guarantee certain revenue transfers to local governments; and (c) eliminate state funding of certain mandates to local governments?


If this doesn’t pass, we will have three less weeks of public school next year.


Proposition 31. NO


State Budget. State and Local Government — State of California (Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute – Majority Approval Required)

Should the state constitution and law be amended to require government performance reviews and two-year budget cycles, to prohibit the Legislature from creating certain expenditures unless offsetting revenues or spending cuts are identified, and to make changes in certain responsibilities of local government, the Legislature and the Governor?

Proposition 32. NO!!


Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates — State of California (Initiative Statute – Majority Approval Required)


Should unions, corporations, government contractors and state and local government employers be prohibited from using payroll-deducted funds, or in some instances their own funds, for political expenditures?


This is an effort to hobble organized labor and other left-associated forces from participating in government.


Proposition 33. NO


Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage — State of California (Initiative Statute – Majority Approval Required)

Should automobile insurance companies be permitted to offer a discount to drivers who have continuously maintained their insurance coverage, even if they change their insurance company?


We voted against this before, in June of 2010. Its mostly funded by insurance companies that want more flexibility in pricing.


Proposition 34. YES

Death Penalty — State of California (Initiative Statute – Majority Approval Required)

Should the death penalty be repealed and replaced with life imprisonment without possibility of parole when someone is convicted of murder with specified special circumstances?


It’s the moral thing to do, and the money saved will go to solving otherwise unsolved murders and rapes.


Proposition 35. NO


Human Trafficking. Penalties — State of California (Initiative Statute – Majority Approval Required)


Should the definition of human trafficking be expanded, penalties for traffickers be increased, convicted sexual traffickers be required to register as sex offenders, and additional training for law enforcement officers be required?


There’s no need to expand the definition of these crimes.



Proposition 36. YES


Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties — State of California (Initiative Statute – Majority Approval Required)

Should California law be amended to provide that a life sentence should not be imposed for a third felony conviction unless the third conviction is for a serious or violent felony?


Right now, we incarcerate people for life for stealing and other non-serious felonies.  This would fix that.


Proposition 37. YES


Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling — State of California (Initiative Statute – Majority Approval Required)

Should labeling be required on foods containing genetically modified ingredients when such foods (whether raw or processed, plant or animal) are offered for sale to consumers in California?


We have a right to know


Proposition 38. NO


Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs — State of California (Initiative Statute – Majority Approval Required)

Should California’s personal income tax rates be increased during 2013-24 to provide funds for public schools, early childhood education programs, and state debt payments?


This is a sloppy measure put on the ballot to interfere with Prop 30, on which you should vote yes.  If both pass, the one with the most votes wins, so make sure to vote no here.


Proposition 39. YES


Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding — State of California (Initiative Statute – Majority Approval Required)

Should the California tax code be changed to require multistate firms to pay income taxes based on a percentage of their sales in California, with roughly half of the resulting tax increase to be used to fund clean/efficient energy projects for five years?


This would incentive businesses to locate in and bring jobs to California, as currently companies locate outside the state to avoid the in-state California tax. Half of money goes to renewable energy for 5 years, expected to raise $1B/year.


Proposition 40. YES


Redistricting. State Senate Districts — State of California (Referendum – Majority Approval Required)

Should the current state Senate districts be retained?


A yes doesn’t change anything



San Francisco Propositions:


Proposition A. NO


City College is mismanaged, it doesn’t need more money now. It needs to be fixed first.


City College Parcel Tax — San Francisco County (Parcel Tax – 2/3 Approval Required)

To provide City College of San Francisco with funds the State cannot take away; offset budget cuts; prevent layoffs; provide an affordable, quality education for students; maintain essential courses including, but not limited to, writing, math, science, and other general education; prepare students for four-year universities; provide workforce training including, but not limited to, nursing, engineering, technology, and business; and keep college libraries, student support services, and other instructional support open and up to date; shall the San Francisco Community College District levy 79 dollars per parcel annually for eight years requiring independent audits and citizen oversight?


Proposition B. YES


Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond — San Francisco County (Bond – 2/3 Approval Required)

SAN FRANCISCO CLEAN AND SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD PARKS BOND, To improve the safety and quality of neighborhood parks across the city and waterfront open spaces, enhance water quality and clean up environmental contamination along the Bay, replace unsafe playgrounds, fix restrooms, improve access for the disabled, and ensure the seismic safety of park and recreation facilities, shall the City and County of San Francisco issue $195 million dollars in General Obligation bonds, subject to independent oversight and regular audits?


Proposition C. YES


Housing Trust Fund — San Francisco County (Charter Amendment – Majority Approval Required)

Shall the City amend its Charter to: create a Housing Trust Fund that supports affordable housing for low-income and moderate-income households; and change the affordable housing requirements imposed on some private residential developments?


This will direct SF money previously allocated to affordable housing via the state Redevelopment Agency to that same worthy purpose, with more help for middle income families and additional flexibility for developers.


Proposition D. YES


Consolidating Odd-Year Municipal Elections — San Francisco County (Charter Amendment – Majority Approval Required)

Shall the City amend its Charter to change the election cycle for City Attorney and Treasurer so that these officers would be elected at the same time as the Mayor, Sheriff and District Attorney?


Less elections


Proposition E. YES


Gross Receipts Tax — San Francisco County (Ordinance – Majority Approval Required)

Shall the City: create a gross receipts tax designed to eliminate or reduce the tax on payroll costs; and increase business registration fees?


Keeps startups here, though it won’t encourage established businesses to move here from the ‘burbs.


Proposition F. NO


Water and Environment Plan — San Francisco County (Ordinance – Majority Approval Required)

Shall the City prepare a two-phase plan that evaluates how to drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir so that it can be restored by the National Park Service and identifies replacement water and power sources?


$8M for a study that is step one is draining Hetch Hetchy, the marvelous source of our pristine drinking water, brought to the City by gravity, without need for (polluting) electricity or filtration.


Proposition G. I don’t vote on these non-binding things, especially because they are woefully ignorant.  The same theories that give us corporate personhood give us First Amendment rights for unions and NGOs.  When you figure out how to parse that under our law, I’ll read your ballot measure.  Until then, you are wasting trees.


Policy Opposing Corporate Personhood — San Francisco County (Declaration of Policy – Majority Approval Required)

Shall it be City policy that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and should be subject to political spending limits?




Sorry I didn’t do picks for School Board or Community College Board.  I did some research and realized that it was hard.  For School Board, I’ll be voting the Chron/Guardian overlap, which is Fewer, Wynns and Walton.




SF Chronicle:


Bay Guardian:


That all, Race Fans!  See you at the ballot box.














President: Obama



Statewide San Francisco
Prop 30: Yes Prop A: No
Prop 31: No Prop B: Yes
Prop 32: No Prop C: Yes
Prop 33: No Prop D: Yes
Prop 34: YES Prop E: Yes
Prop 35: No Prop F: No
Prop 36: Yes Prop G: blather blather
Prop 37: Yes  
Prop 38: No  
Prop 39: Yes  
Prop 40: Yes  






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Unfortunately, I haven’t been keeping this site up to date as I’ve been blogging on the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society site.  To that end, here are my most recent posts:

The Unintended Consequences of CISPA

New Cybersecurity Bill Available

Revised Cybersecurity Act Needs Amendments for Privacy, Security

Thanks for following along.


Contact me if you want tickets for this worthy cause! BCPO Raffle 2012 Flyer

The House Judiciary Committee is considering a bill (.pdf) to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 USC 1030. I’ve redlined the current statute (.doc) to show how the law would look should this bill pass, and inserted comments where relevant.

I’ve heard that the bill is intended to fix what’s come to be known as “The Lori Drew Problem“: criminalizing terms of service violations. By my analysis, it does the opposite. The text could clear the way for such prosecutions while introducing new legal uncertainties, expanding the scope of the CFAA and greatly increasing penalties, without resolving the underlying problem, which is that the phrase “exceeds authorized access” — as well as the new phrase “in excess of authorization” in the bill — are subject to conflicting interpretations.

The bill also dramatically increases penalties while introducing new ambiguous language that muddies rather that clarifies the reach of this expansive law in other areas as well. For the reasons set forth in the comments to my attached redline, this legislation needs to be scrapped.

This legislative push comes just a few days following the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in United States v. Nosal. There, the Court sitting en banc reversed the panel decision and held that violations of an employer’s computer use restrictions are not penalized under the statute, because “exceeds authorized access” doesn’t mean merely violating a policy, it means obtaining data you are not allowed to see. While a very welcome decision, this creates a Circuit split with the Fifth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuits. We don’t yet know whether the government will petition for, or the Supreme Court will grant cert in Nosal. What we do know is that if Congress wants to resolve the ambiguity, the current bill will only make matters worse.

The recent Department of Justice decision to indict Megaupload for copyright infringement and related offenses raises some very thorny questions from a criminal law perspective.  A few preliminaries: I’m responsible for the musings below, but I thank Robert Weisberg of Stanford Law School for taking the time to talk through the issues and giving me pointers to some relevant cases. Also, an indictment contains unproven allegations, and the facts may well turn out to be different, or to imply different things in full context.

DMCA SAFE HARBOR: BELIEVE IT AND IT WILL BECOME REAL: As a matter of criminal law, the discussion of whether Megaupload did what it needed to do to qualify for the DMCA Safe Harbor misses the point. Did they register an agent? Did they have a repeat infringer policy? These are all interesting CIVIL questions. But from a criminal law perspective, the important question is did Defendants BELIEVE they were covered by the Safe Harbor? This is because criminal infringement requires a showing of willfulness.  The view of the majority of Federal Courts is that “willfulness” means a desire to violate a known legal duty, not merely the will to make copies.

In other words, for criminal liability, it doesn’t really matter whether the service qualifies, so long as Defendants believed it qualified. If so, they were not intentionally violating a known legal duty, and so their conduct would not satisfy the willfulness element of the offense. For criminal liability after the DMCA safe harbor, as in horseshoes, close may be good enough.


The heart of this case is whether and when an enterprise can be held criminally liable for the conduct of its users. (For example, both copyright infringement claims (Counts 4 and 5) identify aiding and abetting as a basis for the charge.)

Aiding and abetting is something like the civil liability inducement theory the U.S. Supreme Court created in the 2005 Grokster case.  Experts opine that the indictment makes out a pretty good inducement case against Megaupload. But the first question from a defense perspective has to be “Can the Grokster theory of CIVIL liability even be the basis for CRIMINAL copyright claims?” This has never been decided by any Court.

However, the pending Second Circuit case of Puerto 80 Projects v. USA (“Rojadirecta“), raises the issue squarely. There, the plaintiff is challenging the ICE seizure of its Rojadirecta domain names based on an allegation of criminal copyright infringement. For background on the case, and on the ICE domain seizures, check out Techdirt’s coverage.

Rojadirecta’s lawyers at Durie Tangri have challenged the U.S. Government’s assertion that criminal liability arises from linking to infringing content. The lawyers argue that judge-made secondary infringement liability theories, including Grokster style inducement, cannot be the basis for a criminal copyright violation because the criminal copyright statute doesn’t mention secondary liability. Congress considered and rejected statutes that would have created such liability, in COICA and PROTECT IP. In sum, due process doesn’t allow incarceration under a civil legal theory that the Supreme Court dreamed up in 2005. The issues yet to be decided in Rojadirecta apply to the Megaupload case as well.

AGREEMENT + CIVIL VIOLATION = PRISON?: Count 2 is a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement claim, and references unknown parties as members of the conspiracy. Conspiracy entails an agreement to commit an offense and an overt act in furtherance of that agreement.  The act in furtherance need not itself be illegal, but there must be an agreement to do an illegal act. The list of overt acts show that the object of the conspiracy was infringement by Mega users. If Defendants agreed with each other to induce others to infringe, and Rojadirecta’s lawyers are correct that inducement is not a crime, there’s a conspiracy only to violate a CIVIL law. If the idea is that Mega conspired with its users to infringe, those users may or may not have been criminally infringing copyright. They were located all over the world, and may or may not have acted willfully, i.e. intended to violate U.S. law. Again, the government would basically have alleged an agreement to violate a U.S. CIVIL law, including by many people who are not subject to U.S. rules.

Is it a federal crime to conspire to induce others to violate a U.S. civil law?

The answer to that is an obvious “no”. The conspiracy statute itself makes clear that the object of the conspiracy must be an offense or fraud against the United States, in other words, a federal crime. 18 U.S.C. 371. It is true that Oliver North and John Poindexter were prosecuted for conspiracy to violate Boland Amendment, which prohibited Defense Department spending on the Nicaraguan Contras, but was not itself a crime. And there is a 1979 case (U.S. v. Ruffin, 613 F.2d 408 (2nd cir. 1979), where the defendant was convicted of conspiracy when he convinced an unwitting person to divert federal funds to the defendant’s personal benefit. But both cases constituted fraud involving U.S.taxpayer dollars, which is also a basis for conspiracy liability. Civil violations simply are not.

For these reasons, prosecuting this case against Mega, especially if Defendants get good criminal lawyers who also understand copyright law, is going to be an uphill battle for the government.

A few other points. Some direct infringement convictions look easy, but COUNT 4 IS WEIRDLY INCOMPLETE: I agree with the copyright law experts interviewed by Ars Technica that the most damning allegations in the indictment are the claims of direct infringement, particularly for the prerelease movies. Interestingly, the indictment identifies four films that the defendants supposedly distributed before release: The Green Hornet, Thor, Bad Teacher, Twilight–Breaking Dawn Part 1. But Count 4 only charges one such act of prerelease infringement, the movie Taken.  What about the other films? Why were those not also charged?  

Finally, this case is extremely interesting from a JURISDICTIONAL standpoint. One of the very first issue to be litigated will be extradition to the United States. Does the United States have jurisdiction over anyone who uses a hosting provider in the Eastern District of Virginia? What about over any company that uses PayPal? That’s a very broad claim of power, and I expect it will be vigorously contested.

Happy new year, Friends. It is starting out to be a great 2012 for me. I’ve taken a position as General Counsel for Worldstar LLC and its flagship website (WSHH), voted top hip hop and urban culture website two years running by BET. In addition to the website, Worldstar operates a talent agency, video production company, dating site and is growing rapidly. They were a client of mine at ZwillGen PLLC, so I’m honored and thrilled to come on board full time.

Additionally, my new position allows me to continue work on the internet freedom and privacy issues so important to me: electronic surveillance, government privacy, computer security, coder’s rights and free speech .

So if you want to reach me, for WSHH matters or for any digital civil liberties issue, here’s my new contact information.

Jennifer Stisa Granick
Worldstar LLC General Counsel
Attorney at Law
350 Townsend Street, Ste. 612
San Francisco, CA 94107
tel 415-684-8111
fax 630-733-7653 or 424-298-8589
granick _at_ worldstarhiphop dot com
granicklaw _at_ granick dot com
personal twitter @granick
official worldstar twitter @worldstar

On October 28, troche the Department of Justice will argue to a District Court Judge in Arizona that neither the public nor criminal defendants should learn about a special investigative tool it uses to track individuals’ location via their cellphones. According to the Wall Street Journal, diagnosis law enforcement and the military are regularly using such devices, called “Stingrays”. In the Arizona case, United States v. Rigmaiden, investigators used the technology to assist them in locating the suspect. That defendant is now asking the court to order the government to turn over information about how stingray functions and how it was used in his arrest so that he can litigate whether use of the device violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

For more, click here.

Isn’t it great that when your car, medical or phone, prostate or laptop gets lost or stolen, you can use modern technology to find your stuff and get it back? One might think only paranoid Luddites or the thieves themselves would oppose such an innovation. But the joy of a ubiquitous communications/tracking network is tempered by the threat to privacy — and potential liability — for enlisting SkyNet to peer into our cars, purses and bedrooms.

Part One: The Wiretap Act and Find My Computer

Last month, in Clements-Jeffrey v. Springfield, a quirky case involving sex and a stolen laptop, a U.S. District Court judge in Ohio ruled that a laptop-tracking company could be liable for intercepting sexually explicit communications in an effort to identify thieves who stole the computer one plaintiff was using to communicate with the other. …

For more, click here

A look at the most recent court opinion on cell phone location tracking:

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