Monday, August 24, 2009

New York Court Takes Narrow View of Computer Fraud Statute in Misappropriation Claim (Jet One Group v. Halcyon Jet Holdings)

Readers know from my previous postings on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that one of the most widely litigated areas under that statute concerns misuse of digitally-stored information by an ex-employee. To summarize (again), plaintiffs have been using the CFAA's terms to assert that pre-termination misappropriation of computer-based data constitutes unauthorized access of a protected computer.

Another court - this time in New York - has rejected this broad view, most prominently adopted in the Seventh Circuit by Judge Posner. District Judge Seybert has held that the CFAA should be interpreted more narrowly because the plain language of the statute speaks of unauthorized (or impermissible) "access" to a computer, not misuse or misappropriation of information. This narrow reading is a repudiation of what has become, in many jurisdictions, a federalization of trade secrets law. The narrow view basically acknowledges that even information which was wrongfully misappropriated may not have been done so pursuant to unauthorized access of a computer under the CFAA. Footnotes 7 and 8 give a summary of citations addressing both sides of this issue.

Sooner or later, the Supreme Court will have to reconcile the disparate views on this subject. As the court noted, conflicts exist even within the same circuit.


Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Opinion Date: 8/14/09
Cite: Jet One Group, Inc. v. Halcyon Get Holdings, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72579 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 14, 2009)
Favors: Employee
Law: Federal

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