Court gives Intel spammer all clear

E-mail away

The great Intel spammer Ken Hamidi has been given the all clear to mail away courtesy of the California Supreme Court.

In a tight 4-3 decision, the court went against previous rulings and said Hamidi is free to complain about Intel via e-mails sent to his former coworkers. What is more interesting than the decision, however, is the care the court took in approaching the case from a tech-savvy perspective.

"The age of computer technology and cyberspace poses new challenges to legal principles," the court wrote. "As the court has said, 'the so-called Internet revolution has spawned a host of new legal issues as courts have struggled to apply traditional legal frameworks to this new communication medium.'"

Intel's legal team had argued that Hamidi's e-mails were the equivalent of trespassing. The former Intel employee had sent out myriad e-mails to other workers, chastising Intel for its employment practices. Lower courts ordered Hamidi to stop his spamming.

The California Supreme Court saw things in a different light. The court noted that Hamidi's use of e-mail for his protests really did not cause the kind of harm typically associated with trespassing violations.

"The consequential economic damage Intel claims to have suffered, i.e., loss of productivity caused by employees reading and reacting to Hamidi's messages and company efforts to block the messages, is not an injury to the company's interest in its computers - which worked as intended and were unharmed by the communications - any more than the personal distress caused by reading an unpleasant letter would be an injury to the recipient's mailbox, or the loss of privacy caused by an intrusive telephone call would be an injury to the recipient's telephone equipment," the court wrote.

Spam itself is not off the hook, according to the court. Mass mailers that chew up processor cycles, bandwidth and users' time do pose a threat. No, Intel was looking to stop Hamidi because the "contents" of his e-mails were damaging. It wasn't the delivery method that was under the microscope but rather what the messages said.

The court also noted that Hamidi - a member of FACE-Intel - respectfully removed people for his mailing list, if they so desired.

Even when sending out as many as 35,000 e-mails, Hamidi's methods did not do physical harm to Intel's property, the court said.

"In sum, no evidence suggested that in sending messages through Intel's Internet connections and internal computer system Hamidi used the system in any manner in which it was not intended to function or impaired the system in any way," the court wrote.

It's been a long time coming. Spam away, Ken. ®

Related Link

Decision in PDF courtesy of FindLaw.com

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