Ninth Circuit Holds Disloyal Computer Use Is Not A Crime


Are employees who use their workplace computers contrary to the interests of their employers criminals under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said disloyal keyboarding is not a crime in LVRC Holdings v. Brekka. In Brekka, the defendant emailed himself client files while working for the plaintiff. When the employment relationship ended, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant sent himself those files to benefit his competing business. The Ninth Circuit held that an employee’s mere breach of fiduciary duty is not “unauthorized access” under the CFAA. The decision is a welcome restraint on the federal computer crime statute, which has been overused to go after not only disloyal employees, but also people who disobey website terms of service and companies that collect information from publicly accessible websites when the owner wishes they would not.

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