The Law School Authority

CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions Case Brief

Summary of CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, US Dst. Ct. Ohio, 1997

Relevant Facts: Pl operates a computer communication service through a proprietary nationwide computer network. PL provides subscribers to link to the much larger resources of the Internet. DF send unsolicited email advertisements via the Internet, to thousands of users, some of which are Pl clients.  PL notified Df that they are prohibited and requested Df disengage, because its clients are threatening to no longer use Compuserve.

Legal Issue(s): Whether injunctive relief can issue for trespass upon personal property involving the Internet?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Motion for Preliminary Injunction Granted, Temporary Restraining Order extended until final judgment.

Law or Rule(s): One who commits a trespass to chattels is subject to liability to the possessor of the chattel if, but only if, a) he dispossesses the other of the chattel, or b) the chattel is impaired as to its condition, quality, or value, or c) the possessor is deprived of the use of the chattel for a substantial time, or d) bodily harm is caused to the possessor, or harm is caused to some person or thing in which the possessor has a legally protected interest.

Court Rationale: Pl instituted numerous measures to prevent the Df from continuing, after the notice, which created a situation where the disk space and processing power was diminished.  Therefore the value of that equipment of the PL is diminished.  The trespass causes a harm to something in which the possessor has legally protected interest.  The clients of PL pay a fee for subscription and do not want the unsolicited email.  Therefor the clients must sift throught and eliminate at an additional cost.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The uninvited intrusion by the Df, without notice, constitutes trespass to chattel.

Defendant’s Argument: Pl’s business is within a public domain, and therefrom cannot place restrictions or revocate access to that domain.

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