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Eighth Circuit declares RAZR a computer under federal law

Michael Gorman, @Numeson
February 12, 2011
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There's little doubt that today's smartphones are pocketable computers -- they're equally or more powerful than the desktop PCs of yesteryear -- but what about dumbphones? Well, in US v. Kramer, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals just held that a Motorola Motorazr V3 fits the federal statutory definition for a computer -- and quoted Woz in the opinion: "Everything has a computer in it nowadays." Seems a bit silly to call a RAZR a computer, but courts can only interpret existing laws, not make new ones -- and US law says a computer is "an electronic, magnetic, optical, electrochemical, or other high speed data processing device performing logical, arithmetic, or storage functions." Because this was the first time a federal appeals court had ruled on the issue, the Eighth Circuit set a precedent that other courts are likely to follow. And yes, the court is aware such a definition may include microwaves and coffee makers, and informed Congress that it should change the law if it doesn't like it. Regardless of whether you agree, this interpretation added some jail time for a guy who pled guilty to trying to engage in sexual activity with a minor, so the mild absurdity of it all is fine by us. Somewhere Chris Hansen is smiling.

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