Monday, August 21, 2006, 8/21/2006 09:10:00 AM

More Fun with the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (Pacer Req'd)

Here's another strange case under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, Southeastern Sports Management v. Baker, 2006 WL 2225299 (N.D. Miss. 2006). The dispute grew out of a canceled contract between a municipality, Southhaven, Mississippi, and the plaintiff to develop and manage youth baseball tournaments at the city's athletic fields. One of plaintiff's employees left the plaintiff for a competitor, JBJ Sports Productions, which then convinced the city to cancel the contract and contract with it.

The facts surrounding the CFAA claim are a bit odd. A different defendant -- one Brown -- had registered a domain and established a website for plaintiff. On the day the contract was canceled, Brown altered that website to redirect traffic to JBJ's website. Plaintiff claimed this violated the CFAA.

On summary judgment, the court said no but not based on the careful statutory analysis discussed yesterday. (In fact, under the statute, it's hard to see how this set of facts could make out a claim.)

Instead, the court ruled that Brown owned plaintiff's website since he registered the domain. Plaintiff attempted to argue that Brown created the website under contract, but the court ruled that the record established that he did it as part of a series of interlocking casual favors not rising to the level of a contract. Because plaintiff did not "own" the website, it had no claim.

The lesson: for companies that don't own their websites -- and there are lots of them out there -- make sure you've got a clear contract with the domain registrant so that you can control what happens.

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