18 U.S.C. SS 2701. Unlawful access to stored communications (Part IV)

By Kristopher A. Nelson
in April 2007

200 words / 1 min.
A plain-meaning interpretation of 18 U.S.C. SS 2701 (“Unlawful access to stored communications”) suggests that it applies only to “electronic communication services” and not to “remote computing services,” since the offense is defined with the following elements: intentional, access, without authorization, to a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided. Alternate grounds for […]


Note: this post is from 2007. Evaluate with care and in light of later events.

A plain-meaning interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 2701 (“Unlawful access to stored communications”) suggests that it applies only to “electronic communication services” and not to “remote computing services,” since the offense is defined with the following elements:

  1. intentional,
  2. access,
  3. without authorization,
  4. to a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided.

Alternate grounds for the offense are to

  1. intentionally,
  2. exceed authorization,
  3. to access,
  4. a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided,
  5. thereby obtaining, altering, or preventing authorized access to a wire or electronic communication,
  6. while it is in electronic storage.

Since, as noted above, “electronic storage” applies only to “electronic communication services,” these alternate grounds also exclude “remote computing services” as well. See 18 U.S.C. § 2510(17).

As there appears to be no equivalent statute for remote computing services, these criminal sanctions appear not to be applicable to those who access data stored at remote computing services without authorization.


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