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What Hack-ens in Connecticut Stays in Connecticut's Jurisdiction

By William Peacock, Esq. on December 28, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Right now, the data from this blog is coming from a server in New York City. The only reason any of us know this is because our servers were temporarily offline after Hurricane Sandy. In fact, you almost never know where the data you are accessing, legally or illegally, is coming from.

Except when you are allegedly stealing that data from your employer.

Jackie Deiter found out that she was set to be fired on April 7, 2011. In preparation for her departure from MacDermid Chemicals, she downloaded a number of confidential and proprietary documents from her employer's servers in Connecticut.

MacDermid sued Deiter and choose Connecticut as its venue. However, Deiter had only worked for the company's branch in Ontario, Canada during her entire tenure. The District Court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, as Deiter had merely emailed information "from one computer in Canada to another Computer in Canada."

Connecticut's long-arm statute provides jurisdiction over anyone who "uses a computer ... or a computer network ... located within the state."

The lower court seemed to miss the "network" provision, as well as the statutory definitions of computer and computer network. Computer is defined in the typically understood sense, but includes computers that are accessed by other computers. The statute also redundantly includes computer networks, which are a series of computers that are connected with other computers.

In other words, the computer that Deiter physically used is not the issue. It was the computer that she accessed remotely, which was in Connecticut, that puts her within the reach of the statute.

Does this mean any hacker, hacktivist, or Internet pirate can be brought under the long-arm statute and hauled into a Connecticut court? Though the statute does not mention "knowingly" as a qualifier for accessing a computer in the state, the court did emphasize the fact that Deiter knew the location of the servers, as she signed a number of technology agreements when she was hired. Future cases might require the knowledge element as well.

Of course, there is still the issue of forum non conveniens. In dismissing the concerns over the inconvenience and cost of litigating a case in another country, the court cited (what else) technology as a factor in reducing the costs and burden.

Live by the net. Die by the net. Get sued over the net.

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