The Law School Authority

CompuServe, Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc. Case Brief

Summary of CompuServe, Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc. (1997), U.S. District Court, S.D. OH, 962 F. Supp. 1015

Procedural Posture: case is at trial court.

Facts:  P received many complaints from its paying subscribers about spam email, sent by D.  P asked D to stop sending the email.  D did not.  P adopted software to stop D’s use of its servers to contact its subscribers.  D circumvented those restrictions.  P asserts that actions of D caused a slowing down of and placed an undue burden on their computer servers.  P filed for a preliminary injunction in trespass to stop D from using its servers to send unwanted email to its subscribers.

Issues:  Is D’s continued transmission of email to P’s computer equipment (thus to its subscribers) subject to a preliminary injunction in common law of trespass? >Yes.

Holding: Injunction granted.  Case is actionable.

Rationale:  Although D did not physically dispossess P of its software, it impaired the functioning of that equipment, thus causing a loss of value to P.  D used P’s equipment in a manner that exceeds consent, constituting trespass.  CompuServe is not a public utility, so it is not subject to ‘public forum’ argument of a common space (internet).  P is not a postmaster, and not a state actor, so First Amendment issue has no bearing.  Public interest is advanced if spam is limited, whereas opposite is true if D prevails on 1st Amendment issue, or case in general.

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