Comments: Intel v. Hamidi

Seth - I think you captured the nuance that a lot of people are missing.

I don't see how this is a victory for free speech. Sure, Hamidi can continue spamming. But Intel is free to block him. Seems like this is the worst possible situation for everybody.

Since it is now practical for anybody to own and operate a printing press on the 'net, we probably ought to be concerned about rights of the property owners too.

Posted by chip at July 2, 2003 02:07 PM


Nominally, it's a victory for the Little Guy Against The Big Corporation, as Intel can't invoke the power of the state against him (even if Intel can block him).

It's certainly better for him, than had he lost!

In fact, as I thought of it in part, this was a case involving the right of a property owner - but in the reverse. That is, it was a case about when/how a property-owner could not enforce a right. As a general statement, the idea often sends net-people into orbit. But there are some situations, particularly labor-organizing, when a property-owner has to let property be used contrary to the owner's wish.

But I had a hard time figuring out how one could draw a legal line which would include Hamidi, but exclude every other spammer who claimed to have an important, socially-urgent, message. I'm still dubious the court succeeded in doing that.
I think we're going to find out very quickly whether the Hamidi ruling was an outlier or a wedge.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at July 5, 2003 12:11 AM

Actually, I think that while you've caught a very important aspect of this case, you've missed how the court deals with the very problem of how to block spam without stopping Hamidi's emails.

While the system is designed to receive electronic messages and route them to employees, the court is very careful to distinguish Hamidi's sporadic and infrequent messages from systematic spamming, and the justices specifically state that this does NOT prevent remedies for unsolicited mail.

There are two grounds to get spammers after this decision. First, and easiest, is to pursue them under the statutes specifically making delivery of unsolicited bulk email unlawful in California.

Second is the court's careful delineation that spam mail presents the realistic possibility of disruption of the email system due to overload of server capacity, significant lag time for legitimate uses, and a general decrease in availablility of the system to employees.

Posted by Cynthia at July 16, 2003 05:49 PM