Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Andersen Consulting LLP v. UOP and Bickel & Brewer
991 F. Supp. 1041, Case No. 97 C 5501 (N. D. Ill., Jan. 23, 1998)
Plaintiff was hired to perform a systems integration project for defendant UOP. To assist it in performing this work, plaintiff was given access to, and utilized, defendant UOP's internal e-mail system. After a dispute arose between the parties over plaintiff's performance of this assignment, defendants sent e-mail authored by plaintiff to a newspaper, which published the same.
Plaintiff commenced suit, arguing that such unauthorized transmission of its e-mail constituted a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2701 et seq. The court disagreed, and dismissed plaintiff's complaint.
Section 2702(a) provides that "a person or entity providing any electronic communication service to the public shall not knowingly divulge to any person or entity the contents of a communication while in electronic storage by that service." The court held that to be subject to this statute, a defendant must provide electronic communication service to the community at large. As UOP only utilized its e-mail system for internal communication, it did not supply service to the public or community at large, even if the system permitted communications over the Internet with third parties. As a result, it was not subject to the statute, and the claim thereunder was dismissed.