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Recent Internet and Computer Law Cases

Case #1: 
In the Wisconsin case Randall David Fischer v. Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, et al. (March 28, 2002), a former employee filed suit against his former supervisor and two other employees for defamation, invasion of privacy, violating the Electronic Communications Storage Act, and violating the Wisconsin's right to privacy statute.
 
 
Summary:
An employee was on a personal phone call of a sexual nature with another individual when that phone call was intercepted by another employee in the office.  The intercepting employee listened in for a while and then passed the phone to another employee.  Soon afterwards, the offending employee was asked to leave the property, and he did as asked.  Later, the supervisor was informed of the incident, and he hired a computer expert to come in and gain access to the offending employee's HotMail web e-mail account.  They then printed out some suggestive messages and used them to gain dismissal of the offending employee from his job. 
 
 
Ruling:
The now former employee filed suit against his former employees and employer.  The court ruled against the former employees and supervisor for Invasion of Privacy, violating the Electronic Communications Storage Act, and Wisconsin's right to privacy statute, Wis. Stat. Section 895.50.
 
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Case #2:
In the Massachusetts case Nancy K. Garrity, et al. v. John Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co. (5/7/2002), former employees sued the company on the basis of violating their privacy and violating the Massachusetts Wiretap Act.
 
 
Summary:
The company received a complaint alleging that other employees were receiving and forwarding sexually inappropriate e-mails and jokes through the company e-mail system to other employees.  The company conducted an investigation and proceeded to read employee e-mails on company systems and employees' password protected files on those systems.  The results showed that the complaint was valid and the company terminated the employment of several employees for violating the company acceptable use policy.
 
 
Ruling:
The courts ruled that the employees had no reasonable expectation of privacy since they were informed of the company's AUP.  Also, since the AUP mentioned that e-mails might be monitored to protect its business interests, it had the right to read their company e-mail and monitor their use to protect other employees from harassment in the workplace.
 
 
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Case #3:
In the case Zieper et al. v. Ashcroft et al.,  Docket #02-6181 (4/3/03) in New York, Mike Zieper and the ACLU filed suit against the government for allegedly interfering with his First Amendment right to free speech.
 
 
Summary:
According to Zieper, the FBI and a federal prosecutor tried to coerce him into removing or censuring his six minute internet video titled "Military Takeover of Times Square from the internet.  FBI officers allegedly came to Zieper's home at night in a continued attempt to suppress his video.  They were apparently concerned that the video would cause a race riot.  Zieper's web host was also pressured and complied and removed Zieper's video for short period of time. 
 
 
Ruling:
No ruling at this time.  The government however is claiming that law enforcement officials did not clearly violate Zieper's First Amendment rights, and should have immunity for their actions.
 
 
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Case #4:
Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty v. Charles L. Ryan (May 15, 2003)
 
 
Summary:
This case is a legal challenge of an Arizona censorship law that "punishes prisoners who post information about themselves on the Internet and denies organizations the right to post information about prisoners on their own web sites." (http://www.aclu.org/Prisons/Prisons.cfm?ID=12692&c=127)  At least five prisoners who were found to violate this law were punished by being placed in disciplinary detention, denied privileges of family visits, denied phone calls, and/or denied access to the prison store.
 
 
Ruling:
The courts have ruled that the Arizona censorship law is unconstitutional.
 
 
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