For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 2, 2003

California Supreme Court Hears Email Pamphleteer Case

Lower Court Decision Threatens Internet Commerce and Speech

Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release

Los Angeles, CA - The California Supreme Court today reviewed a lower court ruling that companies can sue those who send unwanted email to their employees.

The case, called Intel v Hamidi, arises from six firmwide email messages sent by Ken Hamidi during a two-year period to thousands of Intel employees worldwide. The messages admittedly did no harm to Intel's computer systems and caused no delays in its computer services. Nonetheless, in a 34-page opinion, the Third Appellate District Court in California ruled that sending unwanted emails was an illegal "trespass."

"The court today heard arguments explaining why extending the trespass to chattels doctrine to electronic communications would be very hard to justify," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "The court seemed unwilling to rule that anyone who sends electronic communications after having been told not to could risk a lawsuit from recipients."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus brief in the Intel v. Hamidi case, arguing that the lower court distorted the "trespass to chattels" doctrine when applying it to the Internet. EFF noted that the doctrine has already been used by companies in several cases around the country to stop competitors from gathering comparative price information from websites, something that is generally viewed as assisting consumers.


Lee Tien
  Senior Staff Attorney
  Electronic Frontier Foundation
  +1 415 436-9333 x102 (office)