Cal. Supremes Back Free Speech in Intel E-mail Case

The state Supreme Court boosted free speech over property rights in cyberspace Monday, denying Intel's attempt to stop an angry ex-employee from using the company's e-mail system to send messages to thousands of workers.

Lower courts had ruled that the unauthorized use of the computer giant's computer system amounted to trespassing. The state's high court disagreed in a 4-3 ruling, saying Intel failed to show any harm to its computer system or property interests.

The time that employees spent in reading the messages, and the company spent in trying to block them, did not constitute property damage "any more than the personal distress caused by reading an unpleasant letter would be an injury to the recipient's mailbox," the court said.

The San Francisco Chronicle has the story here. The court's opinion, including a concurrence and two dissents, is Intel v. Hamidi. (PDF)