Let say that captcha is a picture that prevents automated programs to do a certain task. Now imagine that we have a service in which some people works to solve some captchas. These captchas are sent by other people and/or by their program for the purpose that we don't know.
People who work are get some money and who ask their captcha to be solved pay some funds. So by this way, not only the owner of the farm get some money but the solvers who might not have a real job get money too.

So my question is this, are these farms illegal? (in USA, UK and Canada) of so which law they break?

1 Answer 1


This is a developing area within the law.

In the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 1030 (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) governs.

However, the law is broadly written. This means creative prosecutors can and do win federal criminal cases by arguing the law should apply. Whether violating a website's terms of service should be considered a federal crime subject to the Act has been a subject of hot debate.

In United States v. Nosal, 676 F.3d 854 (9th Cir. 2012), the 9th Circuit decided violations of use should be considered breaches rather than crimes. However, the district court refused to dismiss some charges against Nosal when the case was returned, and a jury conviction resulted in a prison sentence.

At least three different circuits have arrived at other interpretations of the CFAA. Draft legislation (H.R. 2454 and S. 1196) would limit the scope of the CFAA by excluding TOS violations, however, it hasn't been adopted as of this writing.

That CAPTCHA breaking violates website terms of service isn't really in question. For example, see U.S. v. Lowson, 10-cr-114, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark) in which the judge brought a criminal case to which two defendants plead guilty to wire fraud, one plead guilty to misdemeanor computer crimes, and a fourth went on the lam.

But does for-profit CAPTCHA solving violate U.S. law? Given the state of the law, one could make a case either way. Given the industry's reputation, serious questions about intended use, and questionable labor practices, that's a significant risk.

  • 2
    It might be worth mentioning that, depending on what the CAPTCHA isused for, the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA could also come into play. A copyright holder could argue that the CAPTCHA "effectively controls access to" a site by preventing bots from scraping it. I don't know if there's any case law on this or not.
    – chapka
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 2:09
  • What about the positive side of this farms? think that someone is blind or for any reason, he/she can't fill image-based captchas (I'm not talking about audio-based ones) or a company that should fill some absolutely legal forms instantly and these captchas simply block their way. and of course spammers can use it too. So here, is the farm owner responsible for their work or who just buy a service from the farm? Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 4:54
  • Is there any infraction in the US that doesn't result in prison? Anyway interesting media related: ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view_video.php?pk_vid=0000006176
    – user900
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 20:05
  • the DMCA angle is interesting to me.... I don't think the current challenge will go through because the precedent it sets would be pretty silly. I think sites who host their own content could say that the captcha is a protection mechanism and breaking that would be illegal. But I wonder if a site with Safe Harbor can claim any sort of copyright. Would that mean that they cannot legally protect their users' data? Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 18:59
  • sorry, I phrased that wrong I meant "are not provided with legal protections for users' data" Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 19:12

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