Wednesday, February 23, 2011, 2/23/2011 03:10:00 PM

South Carolina Federal Court Takes Narrow View of Computer Fraud & Abuse Act

In WEC Carolina Energy Solutions, LLC v. Miller, 2011 WL 379458 (D.S.C. Feb. 3, 2011), South Carolina federal judge Cameron McGowan Currie came down on the side of a narrow view of employee liability under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act.

The fact pattern was a classic one: employees of plaintiff who were working with a competitor company accessed the plaintiff-employer’s confidential computer information and then emailed it outside of the company to the competitor.

Courts are split as to whether these actions constitute accessing a computer “without authorization” or by “exceeding authorized access” under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act.

Judge Currie took, as noted above, the narrow view holding that as employees they were authorized to “access” the information. That act, therefore, did not violate the CFAA even though their subsequent acts of downloading and emailing the information to a competitor were not authorized. Those subsequent unauthorized act, however, are not covered by the CFAA.

The case was dismissed because the CFAA was the sole federal claim supporting jurisdiction in federal court.


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