One of the coolest technology law developments I’ve seen lately is based on a really, really old idea.
In the very recent case of Thomas Kerrins v. Intermix Media, Inc., a federal court in Los Angeles just held that trespass was a viable legal theory to address the alleged distribution of spyware and adware programs.
…The plaintiff raised various claims, including the ancient claim of trespass to chattels. Traditionally, trespass to chattels refers to the interference with or taking of another’s personal property. It now is being applied by the courts to address the improper access to and interference with computers, networks and servers.
In this case, the defendant moved to dismiss the trespass claim, arguing that the plaintiff had not alleged sufficient interference with his computer. The court disagreed, as the showing of interference or harm required is not stringent. Because the plaintiff had asserted that the defendant’s spyware and adware damaged his existing software, reduced the efficiency of his computer system, and that the removal of the spyware and adware required the time and expense of a computer specialist, the plaintiff had more than adequately stated his claim.
It totally makes sense, and I hope more courts adopt this doctrine in the future. Now I want a firewall that says TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED.