Court: Intel Spammer Didn't Trespass

June 30, 2003 ( - The California Supreme Court handed an ex-Intel worker a victory in his six-year legal dispute with the technology giant over 30,000 e-mails he sent critical of his former employer to staffers at work.

>In a four to three decision, the state high court found that California’s trespass law requires evidence of damages, which wasn’t present in the case against former Intel employee Ken Hamidi, according to a report on CNET

“After reviewing the decisions analyzing unauthorized electronic contact with computer systems as potential trespasses to chattels, we conclude that under California law the tort does not encompass, and should not be extended to encompass, an electronic communication that neither damages the recipient computer system nor impairs its functioning,” the court wrote.

>In March, Intel had asked the California Supreme Court to uphold an earlier legal ruling that found Hamidi had trespassed on its servers by sending thousands of unwanted e-mails to staff at work, dating back to 1996. The servers were private property, the company argued.   Hamidi, who charged unfair labor practices at the chip giant in the e-mails after his 1995 dismissal, contended that he had the right to express his opinions based on the First Amendment (See  CA Supreme Court Deciding E-mail Spam Free Speech Case). 

>Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman, said the company was “disappointed in the court’s decision. We’re studying the opinion to assess our options in the event that Hamidi resumes spamming against Intel,” according to CNET

As with many free speech issues, the case generated widespread interest.  On the side of Intel, eight friend of the court petitions were filed, including the US Chamber of Commerce and eBay Inc.  However, to Hamidi’s support have come the American Civil Liberties Union and the Service Employees International Union.