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ACLU enters e-mail trespass case

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is backing a former Intel employee in an action concerning his right to send e-mails to former co-workers. What is known as a “friend of the court” brief has been filed by the ACLU in a California State Court in connection with a case which began in October 1998 with an action brought by Intel against the former employee, Ken Hamidi.15 May 2000

Hamidi sent e-mails to his former co-workers using their work e-mail addresses. Hamidi sent six e-mails over a two year period, airing his grievances with the company. Intel described the messages as "highly inflammatory and calculated to upset Intel's employees." Intel could not block his e-mails so the company went to court in October 1998 and asked for an injunction to stop Hamidi’s e-mails on the grounds that they were ‘trespassing’ on its equipment. The injunction was granted in June 1999, prohibiting Hamidi sending unsolicited e-mails to addresses on Intel’s computer system.

A “friend of the court” is a person recognised in US law who is allowed to give argument or appear in a lawsuit (usually to file a brief, but sometimes to take an active part) who is not a party to the lawsuit. The ACLU brief contends that the injunction violates the First Amendment (on freedom of speech) and that Intel’s ‘trespass’ argument is invalid because the e-mails caused no damage or disruption to the Intel e-mail system.

Arguments in the case are not expected until the end of the year.