In a recent case, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued the latest opinion regarding whether former employees violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA” or the “Act”) before they joined a competitor by downloading electronic information without authorized access. The CFAA, 18 U.S.C. §1030, makes it unlawful to take information from a protected computer of an employer by unlawful means.
In Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. v. Robert Feldstein, et al., USDC (D.Mass.), Civil Action No. 13-40007-TSH, decided on June 10, 2013, the Court adopted the “narrow view” in interpreting the CFAA, ruling that the former employees had not violated the Act where the employees had downloaded confidential information “with authorization” to do so. Judge Hillman, writing for the Court, rejected the alternative “broad view” which states that even though the former employees had authorization to access the information, the former employees nevertheless violate the CFAA when they “exceed their authorization.” The Court said that “[p]roponents of the narrower interpretation suggest that Congress’s intent in passing the CFAA was to address computer hacking activities and not to supplement state misappropriation of trade secrets laws.”