Court Overturns Conviction of Programmer on Appeal

Ryan Whitwam

A federal appeals court has overturned the 2010 conviction of former Goldman Sachs programmer Sergey Aleynikov, ordering the trial court to enter a judgement of acquittal. Aleynikov was previously convicted under the Economic Espionage Act of stealing source code from projects he had worked on at Goldman Sachs. It seems technology outstripped the law once again in this case.

The issue in the case was the wording of the 15 year-old Economic Espionage Act, which demands harsh penalties for anyone that steals a “product produced for interstate commerce.” Mr. Aleynikov worked on building high-volume trading platforms for Goldman Sachs, which were never used for public commerce. Aleynikov uploaded source code from his system to an off-shore server prior to leaving Goldman for another, higher-paying job. He was arrested in short order.

The government held up the prosecution of Aleynikov as proof that it was fighting the war against high-tech crime. As the judgement today proves, the feds just don’t have the criminal statutes to deal with today’s complicated business technology. If Aleynikov had been tried under different, less severe statutes, the conviction might have stuck.

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