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More on Intel v. Hamidi 243

Posted by michael
from the telnet-port-25 dept.
The case of Intel v. Hamidi has been going on for a few years now, and it's now reached the California Supreme Court. Hamidi is an ex-Intel employee with a grievance against the company who sent several mass-emails to most of Intel's staff. Intel attempted to block him from sending email via technical measures, and when that failed filed suit against him claiming that he was causing some harm to their property (company mail servers and computers) - there's an ancient legal concept called "trespass to chattels" which Intel is attempting to use in their case. Now, in real-dollar terms, Intel has suffered very little - a few megabytes of email more or less is a miniscule cost in terms of computer wear and tear, indeed, too small to measure (Intel is not alleging that Hamidi sent any sort of mail-bomb or that his emails caused damage). So the case comes down to an unsettled legal point: if someone has made some use of your electronic equipment, which you may not have desired but which has not damaged your property nor deprived you of its use, do you have a legal cause of action against them?
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More on Intel v. Hamidi

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  • by Tam-Lin (17972) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @08:50PM (#3547494)
    On the one hand, you apparently are against people using legal means to block e-mail, as in this case, but on the other, when it comes to spam, you're for it. Can't have it both way, I'm afraid.
    • On the one hand, you apparently are against people using legal means to block e-mail

      What are you talking about. Intel is sueing them. Intel blocked them and when they got arround it, Intel sued them. No one is against blocking email.
      • What are you talking about. Intel is sueing them. Intel blocked them and when they got arround it, Intel sued them. No one is against blocking email.

        Sorry, that was less than clear. Legal as in using the law system, when technical means (i.e. blocking) fail.

        But hey, I got a first post. Which I'm still amazed by. Or is that not a big deal anymore? Or was it ever, really?
    • Such is life, people always want things both ways. I think they'd have a better time going after some of the big spammers. However they deliberately try to make tracking them down difficult - so they go after the easy target instead.
    • I agree, besides, there is nothing wrong with blocking email, especially if it is from someone who has an agenda against the company
    • This is a little different. There are two legitimate legal issues regarding Spam, none of which conflict with this situation.

      1) If you spam me and I want you to stop, you may not spam me again.

      2) If you forge email headers or somehow disguise your identity, the spam should be considered illegal.

      In this situation, AFAIK, it doesn't look like this person did anything like this.
      • Intel wanted him to stop, and he didn't. And while the cost of disk space and CPU time are insignificant, it has exactly the same cost as spam in terms of time and effort expended to deal with it.

        So, the issue becomes whether we think that free speach include the right to send email critizing a company using their mail servers, and if so how that is different from allowing spammers to send solicitations on my mail server when I don't want them to.

        My feeling is that Intel more or less has the right to control what goes through their email servers, but I would be much more inclined to side with Hamidi if he had not sent the messages in bulk, but in "private" emails to people he knew. Then, unless the company has a strict and enforced "no personal email" policy (which I highly doubt) I would say it was OK to send the messages in question.

        Also, it is important that Intel asked him to stop, and tried to block him, and he deliberately circumvented it. Had he stopped when asked, it would have been fine.
        • So, the issue becomes whether we think that free speach include the right to send email critizing a company using their mail servers, and if so how that is different from allowing spammers to send solicitations on my mail server when I don't want them to.

          This isn't a free speech issue. Those are intel servers not his. Its like me running up to the house of a Jewish person and saying over and over "I hate jews, stupid cheap bastards!".

          The computers he accessed belong to Intel not him. If Intel doesn't want him using their system they should have every right to stop him within the bounds of the law.

          Note that the law in question is not that of the ability for Hamidi to share his thoughts, just he can't share them by using Intel servers. There is nothing stopping him from setting up a website or buying air time on a local TV station.

          Note also we don't know *why* Hamidi was fired/laid off. Maybe he's a drunk with a cause?

          Tom
    • > Can't have it both way, I'm afraid.

      My ex girlfriend used to say that too...

      Sorry, couldn't resist :)

  • Spam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Big Stick (318410) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @08:50PM (#3547497) Homepage
    Wouldn't this set a precedent for an avalanche of class action lawsuits against spammers? I certainly consider the countless emails I get daily as unauthorized use of my electronic equipment.

    • If this does prove to be illegal (sending unathorized email) the first person I'm suing is mydadssister@msn.com from whom I recieve 3-5 stupid FWD:s a day.

    • For spam class-action lawsuits, look up the various cases at

      FindLaw > Legal Subjects > Cyberspace Law > E-Mail > Primary Materials - Laws and Government Documents [findlaw.com]

      Especially Ferguson v. Friendfinder [timothywalton.com]

      The California Court of Appeal for the First District has ruled that California's spam statute is constitutional and valid. This means that from now on, spammers must comply with its requirements or face legal liability and/or criminal punishment. Read the decision by clicking here.

      The California Supreme Court has refused to review the decision.

      Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

    • And telemarketers (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cyberformer (257332)
      Telemarketers are also making unauthorized use of a person's and/or a company's property. They cause damage in at least three ways: tieing up a phone line, using a person's time, and consuming electricity used to make the phone ring.
      • They are, however, required to maintain a "do not call" list. If you ask to be placed on it they are then not allowed to call you any further. If they do you can sue them. Now while there are unscrupilous ones that disobey this (and you can then sue them) most will comply. However if you later get services form them they can start calling again since you now have a bussiness relationship with them.

        This is true for most things. Many companies get your mailing address from the credit reporting companies. However if you ask them, they'll stop handing it out. Just call Equifax and they'll tell you what you need to do.

        The problem is spammers don't listen to opt-out requests. They just keep on spamming. Half the time all teh opt-out link does is confirm your e-mail address as valid.

        There is also a difference in cost distrobution. With unsolicited postal mail or phone calls they don't cost you any money. Your land line is a fixed cost service, for incomming calls at any rate (excluding collect calls) and post is paid by the sender. Yes it does tie up a resoruce of yours for a bit but we really wouldn't want ot make that a point for a lawsuit. Otherwise my employer could sue you for slowing me down in traffic (I am a resource to them).

        The cost of spam is put on the ISPs and the users. The spammer sends out tons of e-mails at no cost to themselves, the cost is then shouldered by the netowrks that pass the traffic and the servers that send and recieve it.

        This, combine with the fact that spammers just don't know when to quit (I get around 3 e-mail a day from a company that wants to sell credit card services to my bussiness, though I don't have one) and clearly it is rather different from bulk mail and the like.
  • If they manage this, fighting spam may get easier :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    and time is money (more precisely, money = time*salary). What would that figure look like? (number of mails sent * number of employees on the list * average number of sec to handle the mail * salary in $ per sec)
    • IANAL (but IAAL student), and as far as I can see, there is no need for substantive damages like that anyway. Unless I'm much mistaken, it's quite a well settled point that in the tresspass torts, they are actionable per se, no damages at all need be demonstrated to be successful (though that can mean the end payout isn't huge). So while my opinion is hardly an expert one, I'm pretty sure intel have a good footing as far as the lack of a need of damages is concerned.
  • While I find Intel's actions unconscionable, the outcome of this suit could have positive implications against spammers. I'm totally down with those ends...
  • Can't do it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ObviousGuy (578567) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Sunday May 19, 2002 @08:57PM (#3547522) Homepage Journal
    He had no business sending emails to anyone in the company. He couldn't have had any work-related business to take care of that would require spamming the entire company.

    Digital tresspass is a very real problem. One benefit of any laws passed to combat the problem is that spam would be made completely illegal and spammers would be prosecutable under the law.

    Your free speech ends where my ears begin.
    • Re:Can't do it (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Monkelectric (546685)
      Sending emails is not trespass. they have an email server -- they connect it to the internet -- they want to recieve emails. this guy sent emails, end of story. he had no intent to cause harm and he didn't do so.

      This would be the equivalent of putting someone in jail for "trespass" for sending you a letter in the mail. Its an abuse of the language and the law.

      • A tresspass comes about when you notify someone else that they cannot use your private property. Their email system is definately private property. Same in real property. It's not illegal for Jehova's Witnesses to come on your property to try to indoctrinate you, but if you tell them "if you come back again, then you'll be tresspassing", if they come back again, you call the sheriff and have them thrown off the land. That's not a civil action, but a legal action. You could get a restraining roder against them, but suing them isn't really possible unless they've casued you harm. You *can* have the offenders thrown in jail, though. If this moron was told by Intel not to use their email system anymore, then he's tresspassing by continuing to use it. He should be thrown in jail for tresspassing.
      • Your snail mail analogy doesn't hold water. In order to mail a letter the sender must pay all communications costs or it gets returned for insufficient postage. Intel spent a non-negligible amount of money setting up those e-mail servers for the ability to receive e-mail and that resource expenditure alone should give them some right to control who can use it and when.
    • Digital tresspass... spam

      Many people are jumping in favor of conviction because because they see an opportunity to hit spammers. This misses the bigger picture.

      Intel is attacking under one law - trespass to chattel. Chattel means "possessions", excluding land/buildings.The entire structure of the internet is "chattel". Trespass to chattel SPECIFICY REQUIRES damage, or loss of use of your property. Intel claims none.

      Some people comment on the volume of data. Intel's systems were designed to handle volumes of data. They were not in any way burdened.

      The majority oppinion admits that they are ignoring trespass-to-chattel's clause requiring damage or loss of use. They think Hamidi is a nuisance and are rewriting the law, twisting it so it can apply. This is BAD. Trespass to chattel can then be twisted to attack free speech and the very nature of the internet as we know it.

      From the dissenting judges oppinion:
      Therefore, if trespass to chattel doctrine is applied on the Internet without any requirement of harm to the chattel, almost any e-mail message could constitute an actionable trespass....
      it is quite possible to torture the doctrine of trespass to chattels to cover any number of . . . inconvenient communications . . . [and] such contortions are not at all unlikely where Internet communications are at issue . . . all that any user needs to fulfill the elements of trespass is to withdraw consent for some real or imagined offense.


      In other words Microsoft may "withdraw their consent" to transport any anti-Microsoft message. In order to read slashdot, or to post here, the data must cross perhaps a dozzen servers. If any of those servers are owned by Microsoft you would be violating trespass to chattel.

      Or perhaps Microsoft may "withdraw their consent" to transport anything bearing an "IP impairing licence" such as GPL.

      -
  • Torn... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xonker (29382)
    If in Intel wins, it will set a precedent that should make it very easy to sue spammers. On the other hand, this is an example of a large company throwing a tantrum, and they shouldn't be rewarded.

    If they win, I'd be willing to bet it will eventually come back to bite them in the ass.
    • (* If they win, I'd be willing to bet it will eventually come back to bite them in the ass. *)

      Their chip logo might be found to increase the weight of PC's by say 0.001 ounce. Multiplied over millions of units, this can add up a bit, increasing shipping costs. Isn't this some form of "trespassing" under some law somewhere?
  • If someone breaks into my computer from off-site and uses it for some purpose, whether it harms the computer or not, they should have to pay me money. Furthermore, this is illegal: breaking and entering. I don't want anyone using my computer without my persmission -- irrelevant of the reason, and irrelevant of the effect it has on my computer.

    However, Intel's case is decidedly different. For one thing, the e-mails are their *employees* e-mail addresses. Its up to the employees to decide whether or not they want to receive them, not Intel. Furthermore, if Intel's really serious about this, they'd set their servers not to accept any e-mails from the e-mail address of their former employee.

    Irrelevant of such, it comes down to a question of who's decision is it? Intel or their employees'? Intel does own the server and computers; however, their employees have certain rights despite such. If it is Intel's right to decide whether or not they want to accept the e-mail, they should be able to call for restraints against their former employee, the same way we could demand a spammer stop sending us e-mail, and have legal force. If we want to be able to legally prevent someone from sending us SPAM (or any other unsolicited or unwanted e-mail) so should Intel.
    • "Intel's case is decidedly different. For one thing, the e-mails are their *employees* e-mail addresses. Its up to the employees to decide whether or not they want to receive them, not Intel."

      Actually, you could not be more wrong.
    • There's the rub: Employees do not own their email addresses at almost any organization; it is a resource provided for them by the company for the employee to produce work for the company benefit, much like the desk, chair, and computer they sit at. I know Intel has an internal computer use policy employees have to agree to as part of their employment agreements, and it includes a statement of this fact. The agreements also include that all emails are to be considered company property, etc etc. Employee rights w/ regards to company-provided email are in fact very limited, especially (as in this case, for example) when the company has gone to special steps to make that very clear (computer use policies, etc).
      • Employees do not own their email addresses at almost any organization

        The question in trespass is not whether they own the equipment, but whether it is in their possession. In Intel v Hamidi, the suit is for trespass against the servers, which are in Intel's possession.

        If a salesperson has a laptop and they carry it around with them wherever they go, the laptop is clearly in that salesperson's possession, so a spam that hits that laptop trespasses in a way that allows the salesperson to sue.

        If a manager has a computer on their desktop, it is probably in their possession. The question is whether there is exclusive control combined with an intent to manifest exclusive control. Relevant considerations are whether other people can use it without permission when the manager isn't there, whether the manager has any say over the software installed on the system, whether any personal use if permitted, whether there are passwords held only by the manager, whether the office is kept locked...

        A desktop computer in a cube farm might be in the possession of a person, as might a desktop in an open plan area.

        A shared desktop computer where nobody exhibits an intention to have exclusive control is probably not in anybody's possession, except perhaps that of the company.

        The question of whether an email account is a chattel that can be in somebody's possession is another thing entirely, and to my knowledge the question has never been judicially considered. It could go either way, but the longer the time before it's considered by a court, the more the chance of a "yes".

    • basic "agency" (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coyote-san (38515)
      You forgot your "IACATL" (I am clueless about the law.) IANAL, but this is basic business law stuff that anyone in the workforce should know.

      Employees, on the job, act as agents of their employer and all email received is the property of the company. They are merely agents handling that email on behalf of their employer.

      (This skips some specific situations where this isn't the case because they are clearly irrelevant in this case.)

      Intel can't say 'boo' about what mail is sent to employees on their personal accounts, but it certainly has the right to restrict disruptive mail sent to its employees via the corporate email accounts. It's really no different than a former employee harassing employees in the company parking lot. (In this case it's again 'trespass,' and the protester can be arrested if he persists.)
      • Employees, on the job, act as agents of their employer and all email received is the property of the company. They are merely agents handling that email on behalf of their employer.

        This is not, in the strictest sense, true. Actually, saying that all employees are agents is kind of like using the phrase "the Web" when you're talking about aspects of the Internet other than HTTP and related protocols.

        Even to the extent that the acts of the employee can be attributed to the employer, it is only those acts that are in the course of the employee's duty, or are performed incidentally to the duty to the benefit of the employer.

        If employees are permitted to make personal use of their equipment and email, their actions in doing so are not in an way attributable to the employer

      • Intel can't say 'boo' about what mail is sent to employees on their personal accounts, but it certainly has the right to restrict disruptive mail sent to its employees via the corporate email accounts.

        I should have added that this part is correct, but not for the reasons you suggested. Intel owns and has possession of the servers that the email hits, and it is at that point that the trespass complained of occurs.

  • by n3rd (111397) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @09:04PM (#3547546)
    As the submitter stated, there was little if any monitary loss by Intel. If Intel would like to sue for money, then they should be required to list each individual item and the amount of each ($.10 electricity, $1.00 hard drive space, $2.00 bandwidth, etc) and make them reasonable. In contrast to Sun suing Mitnick for millions when he had source code that was available for $100.

    More than likely, the company will not go to the trouble of itemizing their losses since paying someone to itemize them will cost more than the losses themselves. However, in cases such as mail bombs (sending a 50 meg attachment to everyone in the company) it would certainly be worth their while. It would keep actual harmful acts (mail bombs) to a minimum allowing the company to sue if the "attack" is bad enough.

    In other cases, such as this one, the company should at least be granted something similar to a restraining order where the party or individual cannot mass e-mail the company, or depending on the situation e-mail the company at all. The way I see it, it's similar to spamming: The company (or individual) doesn't want your e-mail. Stop sending it or be taken on a ride through the legal system.

    What do you folks think? Is it too lopsided in favor of Intel, or balanced enough so Intel is allowed to spend thousands on lawyers if the situation is serious enough?
  • by Seth Finkelstein (90154) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @09:06PM (#3547554) Homepage Journal
    This was a pretty intersting message written a while back on the topic, from a mailing-list.

    [Disclaimer: Although I'm posting a message written by Michael Sims, this has nothing to do with What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]. I thought this was an very insightful message on the topic, and I'm big enough to say so]

    From: Michael Sims <jellicle@inch.com>
    Subject: Re: Intel v. Hamidi
    Date: 30 Apr 1999 16:32:24 -0000

    Mike Godwin wrote:
    > Isn't it trivial for Intel to block Hamidi?

    No. It isn't, and that's the crux of the matter. China has been trying for several years now to suppress email messages from dissidents in the U.S. China has absolute technical control over the routers into the country and a willingness to use it. China is willing to incarcerate anyone they can get their hands on who aids this process. China has failed to stop the flow of email messages, or even temper it. Intel is obviously more realistic about its odds of stopping Hamidi with technical means than Godwin is.

    Godwin would prefer (in his usual abrasive fashion) to simply insist that technical solutions are the be-all and end-all, and no dissent will be tolerated. Trespassing should not be a crime - after all, anyone can build a 30-foot wall with razor wire around their property, which is certainly more effective than the legal system in preventing trespass.

    If anyone wants an interesting thought to chew upon, try this one. More and more military members have email access through the military, which is often their only electronic contact, and definitely their only free contact with the outside world. What if the U.S. military desired to prevent some persons from sending mail to military members at their military addresses, either because it was frivolous, or spam, or deemed a threat to morale ("Ban the Bomb!"), or what-have-you... Keep in mind that the military has a firm commitment to delivering snail-mail to its members, anytime, anywhere, which is generally to a military unit address as well.

    Any thoughts? I can definitely see future electronic activists emailing 5,000 people on the carrier U.S.S. America, telling them to stop bombing whoever it may be that we're bombing that particular day. Obviously this might annoy the military. What recourse do they have, if any? Technical solutions are obvious but not particularly effective, especially since the mailer gets infinite no-cost tries to get through. What could they do, legally?

    -- Michael Sims

    • ;) They'd have a hard time emailing anybody on the America... I think their servers have been down for about 6 years (the ship was decommissioned in 1996 or so)....

      Seriously, though, email in the military is most definitely NOT a free, unregulated contact to the outside world. It is highly regulated, monitored, and can be cut off at the slightest sign of any problem. I would think a situation such as you discuss would qualify for these kinds of measures. And one other thing -- snail mail in the military is not necessarily free either. Any communications leaving or coming to a military unit can be monitored.
    • I can definitely see future electronic activists emailing 5,000 people on the carrier U.S.S. America, telling them to stop bombing whoever it may be that we're bombing that particular day. Obviously this might annoy the military. What recourse do they have, if any? Technical solutions are obvious but not particularly effective, especially since the mailer gets infinite no-cost tries to get through. What could they do, legally?

      Legally? National Security is the r00t password to the Constitution, my friend. Spreading sedition is definitely against military law, and no-one in the homeland is bad enough to stand up to the Men In Black. With the present public mood in the US, spammers would be lucky not to get lynched before the Feds could take them in!
  • I'm quite surprised that the Slashdot community isn't more excited about this... seems to me that, if Intel wins, this really opens the door for ISPs to sue spamming outfits.

    I know a lot of spammers are hard to track down, but others aren't - especially the ones that give phone/fax/physical addresses in the spam.
  • by backtick (2376) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @09:11PM (#3547569) Homepage Journal
    I can't see why this is an issue, at all. The email was not directed at the employees of the company for a business purpose; The purpose of the email system is for business use. I think Intel has every right to block email and/or refuse any user the right to send mail to that system, as every bit that goes through does incur a monetary cost to them (bandwidth, disk storage, etc) no matter how small that cost may seem. If someone was to walk thru my yard, and pull up one blade of grass, no big deal, right? But legally, I have the right to have them stopped, and if they persist, take action against them. As soon as I lose the legal protection to have this stopped, I suddenly have the very real risk of having THOUSANDS of people run thru my yard, each taking one blade of grass. Now, I have to pay $1,000s to get the yard fixed. Same scenario, just with email. Sending email to the system once could be (to a certain degree) justified, even though he knew in advance (per testimony) the reception by Intel would not be in his favor, but repeating his actions once notified of their intent to prevent his access to sending emails through the COMPANY mail system was not. Note: there is no legal prohibition to him setting up domains, giving away email at his expense to any Intel employee, or sending email to their personal accounts on any non-Intel system, but Intel has every right to protect, in any small way, their internal COMPANY system. I back them 100% in this; those who don't agree, consider what would happen if you were on the other end of the stick.
    • So when you are pissed that your P4 is kinda slow for the $600 you paid for it and you decide to email Intel to their Email System for Business Use and you kinda flame them a bit (cause I mean, you just spent $600 on a slow proc!!!) then they should be allowed to sue you? Wrong. If this guy was told (In a legally binding sense. Certified mail or otherwise) that he was not allwed to send emails to the company's mail systems anymore then you are right. However, Intel's servers are public and the "yard is not fenced". Finally, if 100 people run accross your (unfenced) yard and cause damage you can't do a thing unless you told them to get off and they refused.
      • In this case, I have an existing business relationship w/ Intel, so I'm using their business-provided system for business purposes, and I assume any SANE human who would email to complain would not be emailing *29,000* mailboxes at Intel to bitch. AND if I were to complain once in such an insane manner, and they tell me to quit, and I continue to do it via email, then I would expect to be sued, yes.
  • I have to side with intel in this, and here is why. If it's found that "no real damage" = no case, then trojan horses, if used only to snoop around a system, passive packet sniffing and capturing, and other such activities that compromise privacy of our systems, but do no actual damage TO those systems will be legal, although we'd like to think people can use whatever resources they want, I run a secure linux box for a reason, and for the others that do the same, think about why you do.
  • Sounds like this shares legal elements from Cliff Stohl's book "Cookoo's Egg".

    There were little or no monitary damages, but the FBI refused to persue it at first because of ploicy, i.e., the damages were less than $1,000,000 even though the activity was still illegal.

    The cases detract from each other, since Intel obviously wanted *some* e-mail and Stohl wanted *no* tresspassers, but stil I think Intel is in the right on this one and seems to have lawyers that even allpied something *applicable* to the case.

    Much better than the DoJ inventing damages to prosicute Kevin Mitnick, even though he did plenty of chargable (but not as headline worthy as "hacking") acts/offenses/etc.
  • Other consequences (Score:3, Insightful)

    by droleary (47999) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @09:14PM (#3547587) Homepage

    So the case comes down to an unsettled legal point: if someone has made some use of your electronic equipment, which you may not have desired but which has not damaged your property nor deprived you of its use, do you have a legal cause of action against them?

    Who defines "damage" and "deprived of use"? Specifically, would regular spam be covered by this as well? What of non-malicious viri? Spyware? Distributed.net clients?

    I think laws are the wrong way to go about addressing these kinds of issues. The whole point of net connectivity is the give and take of services. If reasonable technical means can be used to prevent abuse of a system, then no law should be necessary. Further, the laws don't stop the abuse, they just make it illegal. In a way, it is very much like the issue of "security through obscurity".

  • I've found that civil courts are greatly misunderstood by most Americans. If you can't prove that you were actually damaged by the other party, you won't be awarded any damages.

    Most confusion regarding civil courts revolves around two points:

    1. In general, laws have little to do with civil courts. Civil court judgments are generally based on precedent. Laws that apply to civil courts are generally to limit or regulate penalties.

    2. Civil courts only have to show a "preponderance of evidence," as opposed to "clear and convincing" or "beyond a reasonable doubt," the latter of which is used in criminal trials. (I am unclear on the exact reason; surely, taking away someone's fundamental civil liberties by putting them in jail should be very hard, but that doesn't mean evidence in civil trials should be weaker.)

      An example of this in action is OJ's criminal acquittal followed by the "wrongful death" judgment against him in civil court. Essentially, he was convicted of murder under a lesser standard of evidence, with a lesser penalty (money to the damaged parties) as well.
  • Yes.

    Quick examples of stuff that could should be ourright outlawed. If I truly were allowed to go after people for this simple legal point I'd go after:

    SPAMMERS
    unsolicited phone advertisements
    Privacy Invading software cladestinely installed on my computer
    Bumper Slappers (Especially at election time)
    Joy Riders

    The list could go on forever.

    cluge
    • (* If I truly were allowed to go after people for this simple legal point I'd go after: SPAMMERS, unsolicited phone advertisements *)

      You probably could and be fairly likely to win if you pursue it all the way. Hoever, nobody bothers.

      I say, make the guy pay 4 dollars and 50 cents to cover the equipment usage, and be done with it.

      Otherwise, it might be an attack on freedom of speech IMO.
  • ... a few megabytes of email more or less is a miniscule cost in terms of computer wear and tear, indeed, too small to measure ...

    while this is true, it should also be noted that there would a small loss in productivity of those employees receiving e-mail. in monetary terms, this can be quite costly.

    i have to say, though, sueing someone over a small amount of mass-emailing seems excesive.
  • by Seth Finkelstein (90154) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @09:30PM (#3547628) Homepage Journal
    In discussing the case, it's helpful to read the exact reasoning of the appeals court decision [eff.org], for example:

    Hamidi's conduct was trespassory. Even assuming Intel has not demonstrated sufficient "harm" to trigger entitlement to nominal damages for past breaches of decorum by Hamidi, it showed he was disrupting its business by using its property and therefore is entitled to injunctive relief based on a theory of trespass to chattels. Hamidi acknowledges Intel's right to self help and urges Intel could take further steps to fend off his e-mails. He has shown he will try to evade Intel's security. We conceive of no public benefit from this wasteful cat-and-mouse game which justifies depriving Intel of an injunction. (Cf. America Online, Inc. v. Nat. Health Care Discount, Inc. (N.D. Iowa 2000) 121 F.Supp.2d 1255, 1259-1260 [detailing ongoing technological struggle between spammers and system operators].) Even where a company cannot precisely measure the harm caused by an unwelcome intrusion, the fact the intrusion occurs supports a claim for trespass to chattels. (See Register.com, Inc. v. Verio, Inc. (S.D.N.Y. 2000) 126 F.Supp.2d 238, 249-250 [applying New York law, based on the Restatement, "evidence of mere possessory interference is sufficient to demonstrate the quantum of harm necessary to establish a claim for trespass to chattels"].)

    Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

    • Think of a parallel to actual goods:

      You come home one day to find me walking my dog on your lawn and letting him do his bussiness there. Now you're a nice guy and believe in not making things legal so you just ask me to leave. The next day I'm back. Again, you try and be nice about it, you tell me to leave and post a no tresspassing sign. The next day I'm back. Still not willing to take it to teh courts you decide to erect a fence around your yard. The next day I climb it and am back.

      So finally you get sick of this crap and take me to court. I then try and claim "well you could have done more to block me, like get a bigger fence or an armed guard". This is clearly stupid, you should HAVE to block me through technical means, it's your lawn and I'm welcome to stay the hell off.

      This is the same deal, Intel tried to block this guy, he kept evading them, and they finally got sick of it and took it to court. Now he's whining that they should have done more to try and block him. Thankfully, the court isn't buying it and apparently the is a law giving legal backing to it as well.
      • Think of a parallel to actual goods:
        You come home one day to find me walking my dog on your lawn and letting him do his bussiness there


        That is traditional trespass.
        In other words you don't know what chattel means.
        Chattel explicitly excludes "property" as in land. Chattel means posessions.

        Thankfully, the court isn't buying it
        Try reading the dissenting judge's oppinion. Or just read my post explaining the problem. [slashdot.org]

        -
  • by backtick (2376) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @09:31PM (#3547629) Homepage Journal
    I just went and checked the court docs: He sent 6 emails to *29,000* employees. None of them signed up for it; he had the lists himself. So, the basic bare ASCII text of the first email was approx 5K, add in headers and such and guess his avergae email size utilized was 10K.

    6 * 29,000 * 10 / 1024 / 1024 = 1.65 GB of email.

    Now, I ain't counting logs and all that other stuff. I'm sure this isn't a huge amount of email to Intel, but it's a helluva lot more than the story suggests. I think the big thing isn't even the size, but the scope. I mean, *29,000* people got spammed, basically. This wasn't just a few emails!
    • (* So, the basic bare ASCII text of the first email was approx 5K, add in headers and such and guess his avergae email size utilized was 10K. *)

      5+k for headers? I suppose it depends on how it is sent, but that sounds a bit high.

      Also, some email clients compress email.

      IOW, your number sounds a bit on the high side to me.
      • Obviously you haven't seen all the cool extensions things like Outlook apply to the header space for things like layout and font control. I can hold 2000 emails in a standard unix mailbox where an Outlook server would store 100. (You pedantic types can eat me, it's a rough estimate, however true.)
      • I just used the first message for an example; he sent several, and I couldn't locate all of them in the court docs to add their exact size(that's a LOT of time). I played the "Assume they're sent in blocks of 100, and each block has a certain number of CC lines in the header, each containing 6chars+@+intel.com=16*100=1.6K of just CC crap. That's part of it. Also, assume some of them contained other formatting crap, possibly HTML, and that after his initial, somewhat small outburst, he had more ammo/content to put into his emails" game, and thought 10K was a pretty darn small size, all things considered. And it isn't just storage space it uses; it's bandwudth each time they're clicked on as data comes from the server to the desktop (whether it be Notes, IMAP, Exchange, etc) or when they're POP'd, plus the employee time (read, delete or read, respond, complain, delete or whatever) plus backup space on tapes, etc. So, it's a min of a few GB compabined of online or offline storage and bandwidth, plus all the wasted people time.
  • by Rui del-Negro (531098) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @09:32PM (#3547633) Homepage
    For a moment there I thought 'Hamidi' was just a creative way of spelling AMD (with a brazilian accent, perhaps):

    1. The case between Intel and AMD has also been going on for some years.

    2. AMD was also started by an ex-Intel guy with a grievance against the company.

    The part that finally made me realise we weren't talking about AMD was this:

    [...] in real-dollar terms, Intel has suffered very little.

    RMN
    ~~~
  • "Designed use" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlknowle (175506) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @09:35PM (#3547643) Homepage Journal
    I'm not too familiar with the specifics of this case, but it raises an interesting discussion of the design of use doctrine; basically, it says that someone can not commit trespass when they use a public facility as it is designed to be used. Granted, most of this applies to brick-and-mortar matters, but I think it translates to the electronic world. You can't be arrested for trespass for walking into Macdonald's and ordering at the counter. On the other hand, you could be arrested for breaking open the back door and going into the kitchen. Someone can't be arrested for trespasrsing at your house if they come up and ring the doorbell - until you tell them to leave. The same goes at Mcdonalds- they could ask you to leave, and if you don't, you could then be arrested for trespass. But until that point, you can't be charged.

    How does this translate to the electronic world? Sending someone an email can't be trespass, because an email server is a gateway, just like a public restaurant. But what if they ask you not to do it anymore? Then, I suppose, you are using their facilities against their will... interesting stuff!
    • Re:"Designed use" (Score:3, Informative)

      by backtick (2376)
      He sent six emails; five of these were sent after being told explicitly by Intel to cease. He explained to the court he would continue to evade Intel's attempts to block him from sending email. So the courts ruled against him in no uncertain terms. He wasn't taken to court for the first one, but rather for the second one.

      Th other factor you even mentioned above: "when they use a public facility as it is designed to be used". Intel's mail system was designed as a method for people to communicate w/ Intel employees for business purposes. This was not a business purpose. Again, the system is being abused after first notice of a cease and desist request.
    • Re:"Designed use" (Score:2, Informative)

      by goldmeer (65554)
      Once a notice has been given or posted that a certain action is not permetted, the mere act of being present performing the prohibited action is enough to justify a trespassing charge.

      This is most commonly seen with areas available to the public (shopping malls comes to mind first) and the "no skateboarding" signs posted. If the signs are ignored, and a person is on the property performing the prohibited action (skateboarding in this instance) they can be charged with trespassing without having to be told to leave first.

      Of course, IANAL. Check your local statutes for applicibility.

      How does this relate to this case? Again, I don't know what the local statutes say, but if notice was given that this action is prohibited on private property, then trespass might be able to be asserted.
    • An interesting point. Another issue too is the fact that intel chose to connect their email server to the public internet which they have no right or ability to control. Is it possible to commit trespass against an email server which is connected to a public network, the express purpose of which is to exchange traffic with other users of that network ? Sure I can see that attempts to cause damage to your server could be regarded as trespass because it goes beyond the intended use of both the internet and servers connected to it. It could be very dangerous if sending a simple email after being told not to is a punishable. Imagine if all complaints depts at companies had to do is tell you to stop complaining or they'll sue you. Spam is a different matter because sending spam is against most of the AUP's people obtain internet service under - maybe it's time to have a new Internet-wide AUP which addresses points such as this. I'm not advocating a return to the old days of no commercial usage but I think a single policy for all users makes a certain amount of sense.
  • by sasha328 (203458) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @09:46PM (#3547675) Homepage
    A while ago I read something along the lines that Hamidi was able to connect to the Intel network and send his emails from there. (my memory may be failing me) I think that that that is what Intl is alleging he has done when they say "tampering". I do not thing it is about spamming.
  • I hope he looses. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 7-Vodka (195504) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @10:07PM (#3547759) Journal
    He spammed. 29,000 x 6 = 174,000 unrequested emails. If he wanted to raise employee awareness of something, he went about it the wrong way.
    He should have posted his grievances on the www and let people who were interested find them, not spam them.
    Granted, Intel would have sued him regardless and he'd still be in the shithouse, but he would have been in the right.
    If he did the same thing today, couldn't he be sued under anti-spam laws in some states?
    • If he did the same thing today, couldn't he be sued under anti-spam laws

      I hope he wins, for all our sakes. He isn't being attacked under an anti-spam law. They are re-writing "tresspass to chattel". The way they are changing it grants sweeping censorship powers and has the potential to destroy the internet as we know it.

      We all hate spam, but this is the wrong law to use, and the wrong case. This was not commercial E-mail. Even if the ruling is upheld his E-mails appear to be protected under California employment law.

      -
  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @10:31PM (#3547895) Homepage
    Okay first of all, having an email server is very much like having an actual mailbox. People can send you mail without fear of prosecution unless there are other circumstances surrounding them.

    If you run an email server, expect to recieve email. It's that simple.

    Now then, if measures to block unwelcome email are put into place and those measures are intentionally avoided through indirection or otherwise subversive means, it implies that the sender has fore-knowledge that his emails are unwelcome and is acting against the will of the email recipient.

    I don't see how this conflicts at all with the current position most people have on SPAM.

    This guy has reportedly circumvented attempts to block him and so the question is whether or not that was intentional. Did he follow accepted email practices and represent himself honestly? If not, I would consider it a form of trespass just as I consider spamming a form of inappropriate use of my mail server for their advertisements. (If any spammer wants to purchase space on my email server, he is welcome to negotiate a deal of course, but my server is not FREE.)

    So this guy feels the need to pass along the information he has gathered to people who might suffer the same problems he has experienced. It should be his right and should be guaranteed and preserved. But that doesn't give him the right to bring his material into the offices of the people he wants to educate... either in person or electronically.

    If he knows their non-intel email addresses, I wouldn't see any problem at all. If he wants to stand on the street outside of Intel's buildings handing out flyers; again, no problem!

    I don't want to see this guy lose, but at the same time, the consequences of him winning on this particular matter could hurt the internet community and that would suck. If Intel wins, it could actually be a better win for all of us who oppose SPAM.
    • I'm sorry, but Intel shouldn't be allowed to do anything here. Did the guy forge his email headers, sell the employee email addresses, and spam them daily with various advertisements? No. Spammers do all of these things, and they are incredibly hard to prosecute. If Intel wins, spammers will have to think twice about spamming. If Intel loses, the courts are at least informed enough to know that Intel lost NOTHING in this 'attack' (for lack of better word). A few seconds per employee to delete the email. That adds up to a lot, but if each Intel employee lost 10 seconds to remove/read/whatever that email, it doesn't seem like a big loss to me. Its a victory for nerds either way.
      • In life, there is such a thing as invading personal space. Now I know this is a far cry from invading an individual's personal space in the physical sense. In the moral sense his emailer has certainly resorted to invading Intel's space in an unwanted way.

        The fact that no effective damages could be assessed is immaterial to the matter. I see a moral problem of going where you're specifically and undeniably unwanted. I know a court of law is not necessarily a court of 'moral' law, however, there is such a thing as 'the spirit of the law' which is often used to carry application of law into areas that previously did not exist. The act of trespass is enough.

        I hope I am not misunderstood here. I want this guy to what he's after -- exposure and correction of all Intel's dubious legal and ethical practices. But there are bigger issues at stake.

        Yes, it should, in theory be hard to prosecute him because it's hard to punish spammers who are a great deal more damaging but the damages are not what the suit is about.

        If I had a no trespass sign and someone came over uninvited and planted a flower garden, trimmed my hedges and cut my grass, I could STILL prosecute for tresspass.
  • by LagerFrenzy (302216) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @10:45PM (#3547947)
    Trespass, be it to person, property or goods ("chattels"), is the most basic law in the theory of torts; you can't mess around with someone else's stuff without their permission.

    If someone has a mail server, you can't mess around with it. But if they attach it to the net, they are, prima facie, giving the public permission to use it in an ordinary way. They are like a storekeeper opening his store to the public. You can come in and buy goods. You can't come in a raid the safe in the store (i.e. break my secure areas). And the storekeeper retains the right to refuse entry to particular individuals. You can't go in if the storekeeper has expressly forbidden you to, even if you just want to buy goods.

    Assuming that Intel have made clear to the ex-employee that he is not allowed to send emails to their servers, they have every right to sue him for what he has done.

    • Trespass, be it to person, property or goods ("chattels")

      There are important differences between trespass to your person, to your property, and to your goods("chattels"). The entire internet consists of chattel - private computers. If you read the dissenting judges oppinion, he points out that the change they are making to "trespass to chattel" actualy raises it above the protections of tresspass to property. Every internet communication becomes subject to the approval of the owner of every server it crosses. Saying "Verizon sucks" is trespass of chattel if it crosses a Verizon server.

      -
  • by TekPolitik (147802) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @11:45PM (#3548141) Journal
    The trespass to chattels law only applies where there is no consent. Consent can be express, as in "You may send me email" or implied, as in "You set up an email server, so you impliedly gave consent to the sending of email."

    Consent, including implied consent, may be limited to certain purposes and uses. For example, if you set up a bricks-and-mortar store, you have given implied consent for customers to enter to browse or buy, and those customers are not trespassers. On the other hand, if a thief enters to steal, the implied consent does not extend to that purpose so the thief is a trespasser. Likewise in email, the implied consent has always been acknowledged as extending to personal email, but spam is another question entirely.

    Both explicit and implicit consent can be withdrawn. Intel gave notice to Hamidi that he was not permitted to send his messages, thus withdrawing implied consent.

    Before you try to post a message claiming some absurd outcome, think about the effect of consent, whether explicit or implied, in your example. Hamidi's lawyers have not done this, and are in for a major smack-down by the court.

    • I was thinking about this argument - it depends on whether sending an email to an address can really be likened to a trespass against real property. If there is no trespass there is no issue of consent. This also looks like selective enforcement of their right - in real property trepass you have to enforce your right or lose it - how many unwanted emails have been received without action by intel ? If they routinely permit such trespass by others it weakens their right in this case.
    • The trespass to chattels law only applies where there is no consent.

      Correct, but it also only applies if there is damage done, or you are denied use of your possessions.

      Do you really want to say the owner of every internet server may deny consent to any message they don't like? That would mean "Microsoft sucks" could be trespass to chattel.

      -
  • While I have nothing but sympathy for Hamidi and his actions (I've done similar things to past companies I've worked for), a part of me thinks that if Intel wins this one it could set a precedent that would allow us common folk to fight spammers legally in the courts.

    If it is shown that you can prosecute someone for damages if they "use" your "assets" without your permission, then unsolicited spam certainly falls into that category. BOOM! With one fell swoop pretty much all spam could be eliminated. The remainder would have to formulate some sort of "opt-in" setup that requires you to give permission before they could send you anything.

    I'm sure the spammers would (a) fight this with every breath in their diseased, noxious, puss-filled bodies and (b) try to come up with something that got around it anyway, but DAMN wouldn't it be fun to sue a spammer and WIN more frequently than is common right now?
  • Let's suppose for a moment that Mr. Hamidi hadn't used email but instead used either snail mail or (gasp) the telephone. Let's sidestep the impracticality issue of making 29,000 phone calls six different times and examine the legality only.

    It would be perfectly legal for Mr. Hamidi to have called each and every one of these employees and given them a piece of his mind. People can hang up, not be at their desk, or screen calls with caller ID if they wanted to avoid him. I don't think there are many (if any) legal precedents in this area that show this to be illegal.

    Ditto for snail mail. If Mr. Hamidi had written 29,000 letters six different times and mailed them all, Intel's mail room would've dutifully processed them (at least the first time). Would Intel have been able to sue Mr. Hamidi for using their mail room illegally? Of course not.

    So, how is email any different? Answer: it's not. It's a method of communication. Other methods have existed for centuries and no one has ever sued anyone else for doing so -- until now.
    • It would be perfectly legal for Mr. Hamidi to have called each and every one of these employees and given them a piece of his mind. People can hang up, not be at their desk, or screen calls with caller ID if they wanted to avoid him. I don't think there are many (if any) legal precedents in this area that show this to be illegal.

      I think you are wrong.

      Say he called Jane, an Intel employee, and pestered her so much she told him not to call again. If he called Jane again, despite her protestations, couldn't she conceivably have a restraining order placed against him because he is harrassing her? In any event, I can pretty much guarantee you that he would be enjoined before he finished calling all 29,000 Intel employees on his list. There is no "right to harrass," nor should there be, in my opinion.

      MM
      --

      • There is no "right to harrass,"

        Correct, but for some reason Intel dropped the "harrass" complaint and only proceeded on a dangerous alteration of tresspass to chattel.

        -
        • I see what you are saying. Nevertheless, as long as there is a concept that a threshold must be crossed, in terms of number of emails sent and an unambiguous warning issued beforehand, I'm not sure that the trespass to chattel precedent bothers me that much. Maybe I just haven't thought it through well enough.

          If the judges make no mention of the neccessity for a warning ahead of time and for egregiousness in terms of number of emails or addressees, then this COULD be a bad precedent. But otherwise it doesn't bother me that much.

          I do think it makes Intel look VERY bad, but I have a low opinion of them to begin with. The culture is extremely paranoid and anti-competitive. If I were Intel, I would be quietly praying for the whole thing to go away instead of escalating the matter to CA supreme court. They are really making it appear that there is indeed information which they desperately wish to keep from their employees.

          Just my $0.02

          MM
          --
          • I don't care much which way the Hamidi case turns out. He sent a huge number of E-mails, even after Intel asked him not to, but aside from that everything seems to weigh in his favor. It was non-commercial, socially signifigant speech directed to relevant individuals, and Intel's motivations are purely censorship.

            Was the number of e-mails in itself enough to make it illegal?
            Intel allows general e-mail use for it's employees - does Intel really have a right to tell Hamidi he can't send them e-mail?

            If Hamidi loses, no big deal - as long as they do it on reasonable grounds. My problem is that they are taking a perfectly good law and altering how it works on the internet. This law was not designed for this purpose, and the change they made breaks the function of the law.

            Companies *will* abuse this ruling if it stands. You could attempt to make restrictions (thresholds, prior notice, etc), but that would just be a patchwork job. The ruling is in no way limited to E-mail either. It would apply to any internet traffic. It would make a patchwork fix very messy and very ugly.

            I don't think the majority judges realize the internet implications. There are vanishingly few examples of laws that should contain the word "internet" or "digital". They are tip-offs that someone doesn't know what they are doing. If something "should" be illegal on the internet, or in digital form, it is almost invariably illegal off the internet / non-digital.

            -
      • No, you read too much into what I was saying. I never said anything about anyone asking him not to call again. Obviously if someone does something repeatedly after you've told them to stop then they're in the wrong, but that wasn't the point. The point is, in the absence of anyone telling him to stop (i.e. the first "set" of phone calls), he could call anyone, anytime, and say pretty much anything (within libel and defamation boundaries) and it would be legal. Same thing goes for snail mail.
  • If someone has made some use of your wife, which she may not have desired but which has not damaged her property nor deprived her of its use, does she have a legal cause of action against them?
  • This guy must have a message that is rather important to him to get to people working at Intel.

    Is he just bashing them, or is there a real problem? If he's just being a prick because he's pissed about losing his job (and who wouldn't be a tad upset about that?), that's one thing and I figure he should pay the piper.

    However, if there is a real problem at Intel, especially with the way employees are treated/managed, maybe the whistle needs to be blown?

    I just want to know what the content of those e-mails was so I can draw my own conclusions. Anybody have a copy?

    Vortran out

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

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