Court finds ‘junk’ e-mail is trespass against CompuServe
OHIO–In early February, the federal District Court in Columbus enjoined Cyber Promotions, Inc. from sending “junk” e-mail to CompuServe, Inc. online services customers. Although CompuServe had asked Cyber Promotions to stop sending the e-mail to its customers, the company ignored the requests, resulting in what the court defined as “an actionable trespass” under state law.
CompuServe had won the right to block out the unwanted e-mail under a temporary restraining order issued by the court in late October, and the current injunction is designed to extend that order until a final decision is made.
CompuServe told the court that a number of customers threatened to cancel their subscriptions if the service did not stop the deluge of unwanted messages. CompuServe designed software to filter out the unwanted mail, but all efforts were bypassed by Cyber Promotions who, in turn, modified their own programs to continue sending the unwanted ads.
The court noted that computer systems are covered under trespass law because the definition of trespass includes infringement not only on tangible property but on personal property as well.
Cyber Promotions had alleged it had a First Amendment right to continue sending mail through the online service, and that CompuServe was fully aware that sending e-mail between individuals on the Internet was a common practice that cannot constitute trespass. (CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotion, Inc.; CompuServe Counsel: Robert Hamilton, Columbus; Cyber Promotions Counsel: Alan Charles Witten)