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AOL class action clears first hurdle

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Net users who alleged that AOL access software tampered with the workings of their PCs have cleared the first hurdle in their legal fight against the Internet giant.

Earlier this week the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida gave the green light for Net users to proceed with their legal action to sue AOL under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Until now there had been doubts whether the plaintiffs had a case or not.

One of the sticking points centred on the amount of damage that had to be done to a computer before the Act could be invoked.

The court rejected claims that $5,000 worth of damage had to be caused to each computer before they could proceed.

Instead, it ruled that the $5,000 worth of damage could include more than one machine.

It said: "If the court were to interpret [the Act] as requiring each home user to sustain more than $5,000 in damages, the home user never would be protected because $5,000 is far more than the average price of a home computer system.''

AOL has consistently contested the allegations that its AOL Version 5.0 software damaged computers running Windows software.

A senior spokesman for AOL said: "This lawsuit is without merit. We strongly dispute the allegations and vigorously intend to defend our position in court." ®

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