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Groups Decry California Ruling On Unwanted E-Mail

December 12, 2001

A pair of civil liberties groups this week blasted a California appeals court for ruling that a disgruntled former Intel worker could not send angry e-mail to employees of his former company.

Late Monday, the appeals court ruled that Intel could sue former employee Ken Hamidi for sending e-mail to Intel employees after the company warned him to stop.

"If this way of looking at e-mail stands ... we will lose what the Internet gave us, which is a cheap, easy, effective form of communication," Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Legal Director Cindy Cohn said today.

Cohn said that the EFF would support Hamidi should he choose to appeal the case to the California Supreme Court.

The case arose out of a series of e-mail messages that Hamidi sent to all Intel employees following his dismissal.

Although Intel conceded in court that the e-mail had caused no physical damage to its systems, the appeals court affirmed a lower court ruling that the messages constituted an illegal trespass.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ann Brick, who argued Hamidi's case, also criticized the decision. "Mr. Hamidi is a high-tech pamphleteer. An injunction preventing him from sending his messages when those messages did not harm Intel's computer system violates his First Amendment rights," Brick said in a release.

In explaining why the same rules did not apply to standard first class mail messages, the court quoted a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said "the short, though regular, journey from the mailbox to the trashcan is acceptable, at least as far as the constitution" is concerned.

Cohn said that it is no harder to delete a piece of e-mail than it is to discard a piece of junk mail.

http:/ Reported by Newsbytes.

by David McGuire. Copyright © 2001 BizReport Network.


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