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CaseNote, Intel v. Hamidi: Deconstruction of a Private Right of Action in California

Beckham, James Brian, "CaseNote, Intel v. Hamidi: Deconstruction of a Private Right of Action in California" . John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law, Vol. 22, No. 205, Fall 2003 Available at SSRN:


    This casenote will explore the decision and underlying rationale employed by the California Supreme Court in the decision of Intel v. Hamidi. In Intel, the Court reasoned that the plaintiff/respondent could not maintain a successful cause of action for trespass to chattels because they did not establish a sufficient showing of harm. This note will argue that Intel did in fact meet the showing of harm, and that moreover, in reversing the issuance of an injunction and its subsequent affirmation, the California Supreme Court breaks with a trend of finding a cause of action for trespass to chattels where harm is caused by unwanted electronic communications established in cases such as Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Benezek, eBay v. Bidder's Edge, and principally, CompuServe v. Cyber Promotions. In passing, the Majority offers several causes of action on which Intel might have proceeded which will each, in turn, be discussed with regard to their tenability as potential causes of action. Each potential cause will be shown to be a less plausible cause of action than trespass to chattels in that some require a showing of injury (which would make them equally indefensible as per the California Supreme Court), while others require investigation into the content and effects of the messages creating the additional burden of exploring tenuous causes of action on the defendant, Intel. Two dissenting opinions, which discuss the merits of recognizing an adequate showing of harm by Intel, as well as an implicit recognition of a defensible property right in cyberspace and the corollary right to be let alone/to exclude, will be investigated in turn. In conclusion, this note will submit that in certain instances, two exceptions should be recognized by courts in actions sounding in trespass to chattels actions involving unwanted trespassory actions of Spammers in order to promote efficient, unimpeded use of e-mail and the Internet generally.
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