CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc.

United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, 1997.

962 F.Supp. 1015.

Facts

CompuServe provides internet services including email services to a subscriber base. Cyber Promotions is in the business of sending bulk emails also called spam, to internet subscriber emails that use many internet services providers. CompuServe wants an injunction to get CyberPromotions to cease sending spam to their subscribers. CompuServe has tried to ask them to stop as well as tried to manipulate their software and hardware to block their mailings.

Procedural History

CompuServe had a restraining order against Cyber Promotions.

Issue

Does an internet services provider have the right to prevent an advertising company from sending unsolicited electronic mail to its subscribers?

Arguments for Both Parties

The Plaintiff contends that the defendants are unlawfully, because they have been prohibited by CompuServe, using their servers to process and store unsolicited electronic mail to their internet and email subscribers. CompuServe states that the volume of messages generated by such mass mailings places a significant burden on its equipment, which has finite processing and storage capacity. Plaintiffs also state that as they have worked to make it impossible for the messages to reach their servers, the messages have employed concealment and falsifying techniques so that the messages pass through the safeguards undetected. They state that the continued interference and intermeddling with their property constitutes trespass to chattel. Plaintiff states that the burden of the messages on the physical abilities of their property is enormous and that the burden disrupts their ability to provide a service to their subscribers and that this makes their property less valuable because their service is less valuable. That the values are directly correlated.

Defendants state that they possess the right to continue to send these messages to these email providers. Defendants cite Glidden v. Szybiak stating that not every interference with the personal property of another is actionable and that physical dispossession or substantial and harmful interference with chattel is required for the tort. They also state that the by providing a service to access the internet, they provide a service that allows the public to enter and engage those parties and elements that are on the public domain.

Holding

The court holds for the Plaintiff stating that messages sent by the defendant are damaging to the value of the property and that this is trespass to chattel and that they grant the plaintiff a preliminary injunction of cease and desist against the defendant.

Rule

Trespass to chattel includes actions that cause a harm to property in which the possessor has a legally protected interest and that something or some act that causes duress or stress to the point of diminishing value, is an action where a Plaintiff may recover damages.

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