Course Syllabus

Computer Crime Law Syllabus

Law 278.78
Fall 2015
Mondays and Wednesdays 2:10-3:25
3 Credits
Boalt Hall Room 170
Course Control Number: 49769
bCourses URL:

Chris Jay Hoofnagle
344 Boalt North Addition
Berkeley, CA 94720
Office Hours: Mondays, from 10-12

Course Description

"Computer crime" has been with us since the 1960s, but our society's dependence upon, and the evolution of, networked communications has changed computer crime dramatically in recent decades. With the aid of a computer, individuals now can levy sophisticated attacks at a scale typically available to organized crime rings or governments. As a result, all 50 states and the federal government have enacted laws prohibiting unauthorized use of computers, and in recent years, governments have tried to harmonize these laws internationally.

A computer can be the means, target of, or the source of information about a crime, and increasingly, those interested in all aspects of criminal law must have some working knowledge of computer crime to effectively investigate, prosecute, and defend cases. This course will explore the policy and law of computer crime and consider how "cybercrimes" are different from and similar to transgressive behavior in physical space. Topics will include the Fourth Amendment, forensics, electronic surveillance, cyberbullying, identity theft, computer hacking and cracking, espionage, cyberterrorism, privacy, the era of “forced disclosure,” and the challenge of cross-jurisdiction enforcement.

This course has a take-home exam and all enrolled JD students will give a short in-class presentation on some topic relevant to computer crime.

Please note, about 60% of reported computer crime cases concern prosecution of child predators. Federal defenders and prosecutors now have significant child pornography/luring dockets, and as a result, a significant amount of class time concerns this difficult, odious topic. These crimes are shocking in their depravity. Care is taken to discuss it with sensitivity, but students should be prepared to engage this material in order to develop a competent understanding of these crimes.


Required for the Course

Thomas K. Clancy, Cyber Crime and Digital Evidence: Materials and Cases, Second Edition 2014, LexisNexis, ISBN: 978-1-6328-0915-5

Please note: there is a discounted loose-leaf version of the textbook with the same contents and pagination. ISBN: 9781632809186 There is also an ebook.

Optional for the Course

Joseph Menn, Fatal System Error (PublicAffairs) ISBN: 9781586487485

Kevin Poulsen, Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground (Crown) ISBN: 9780307588685

All other optional readings are on Bcourses:

You might find these resources helpful:


Your grade will be determined based upon the final exam (80%) and classroom discussion, which consists of day-to-day discussion and a 10-minute presentation on a topic related to computer crime (20%).

The final exam will be a take-home, open-book exercise. Once you start this exam, you must complete it within 6 hours. This work must be your own. You should not discuss or work with anyone else during the exam administration period. Unless you are 100% certain that there is a serious error on the exam, you should assume that ambiguities and strange facts are part of the challenge, and you should work through it on your own. If you email me with an exam question, I will post it and a response to the class list.

Developing oral advocacy skills is a very important element in legal education, however, many students have few opportunities to engage in public speaking. Your classroom presentation will give you an opportunity to give a 10 minute summation of an issue in computer crime law. Some topics are more technically focused than others, but remember that as an attorney, one of your main functions is to educate others—opposing counsel, judges, and juries—about your client's situation, and that this education will often focus upon the particularities or customs of your client. Pretend that the class is a jury or a judge, and you are tasked with explaining this topic with credibility and fairness.

Please choose from this list and reserve the topic with Chris, or suggest your own topic. Also, please come to my office hours one week in advance of your presentation so that we can discuss it.

  • Workplace monitoring (extent of and types employed)
  • Encryption
  • Types of search protocols
  • Compelling passwords
  • Security breach notification
  • Border searches
  • Child pornography: distribution
  • Child pornography: possession and viewing
  • Child pornography: proving image is a real child
  • Social networking sites and child predators
  • The Butner Study on CP viewing and child predation
  • Melissa Hamilton’s work on CP studies
  • Online methods to commit copyright violations
  • Spyware
  • TOR and the .Onion Psuedo top level domain
  • Bitcoin
  • The “Anonymous” hacking group
  • The Melchert-Dinkel case: encouraging suicide online
  • "Cashing out" gains from computer crimes
  • Phishing
  • Spam
  • Recent SCT case not in the textbook: City of Los Angeles v. Patel
  • US v. Esquivel-Rios, 725 F.3d 1231 (10th Cir. 2013): how should courts address errors in police databases?
  • Identity crimes
  • Cyberbullying
  • Threats
  • Cyberstalking
  • Defamation
  • Sentencing enhancements
  • Sentencing and child pornography
  • Sentencing and banning internet use
  • The conficker worm
  • Stuxnet and flame
  • Report on the privacy panel at ICSI’s 10/6 event
  • Report on the technical methods panel at ICSI’s 10/6 event
  • "Hacking Back" AKA Active Defense
  • Advanced Persistent Threats
  • The NSA’s Terrorist Surveillance Program
  • The Edward Snowden Leaks (PRISM and a growing list of other programs)

Because of the size of this class, participation is very important. Please read for each class and be prepared to discuss the material.


Since you are an adult, you can choose to attend or not. However, being absent cannot be good for the 20% of your grade that depends upon in-class discussion.

Office Hours

My office hours are TBD. I am happy to meet with you any day of the week. Just email me. My office is 344 Boalt North Addition.


Berkeley is a center for the study of computers and privacy law. You might be interested in optional events during the semester, the most salient of which are included in the class schedule below. The TRUST Seminar meets on Thursdays at 1 on North Campus (typically Wozniak Lounge in Soda Hall). Many of these seminars are relevant to this class, and there’s free lunch:

Course Summary:

Date Details Due