St. Mary's Law Journal


Plaintiffs whose Internet property rights were violated have depended on the common law tort of trespass to chattels. Plaintiffs in Thrifty-Tel, Inc. v. Bezenek and CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc. successfully argued defendants trespassed their chattels. In Thrifty-Tel, defendants hacked into plaintiff’s system to obtain long-distance access codes. The court reasoned that electronic signals were tangible and indirect interference in the form of electronic trespass could support a claim for trespass to chattels. In CompuServe Inc., defendants used plaintiff's internet server to send out mass emails to plaintiff’s clients. The court upheld a permanent injunction holding that electronic signals constituted sufficient physical contact under a trespass claim; thus, the physical contact requirement was met. Congress should adopt the e-Trespass Act (the Act). Under the Act, a person or business entity rightfully in possession of an Internet entity shall have a cause of action against another person or business entity who improperly or covertly accesses and who causes sufficient, harmful electronic network access without proper consent to such access.


St. Mary's University School of Law