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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