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WEC Carolina Energy Solutions LLC v. Miller

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

April 2, 2012, Argued; July 26, 2012, Decided

No. 11-1201

Opinion

 [*201]  FLOYD, Circuit Judge:

In April 2010, Mike Miller resigned from his position as Project Director for WEC Carolina Energy Solutions, Inc. (WEC). Twenty days later, he made a presentation to a potential WEC customer on behalf of WEC's competitor, Arc Energy Services, Inc. (Arc). The customer ultimately chose to do business with Arc. WEC contends that  [**2] before resigning, Miller, acting at Arc's direction, downloaded WEC's proprietary information and used it in making the presentation. Thus, it sued Miller, his assistant Emily Kelley, and Arc for, among other things, violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. § 1030.

The district court dismissed WEC's CFAA claim, holding that the CFAA provides no relief for Appellees' alleged conduct. We agree and therefore affirm.

In 1984, Congress initiated a campaign against computer crime by passing the Counterfeit Access Device and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984. Pub. L. No. 98-473, 98 Stat. 2190. Shortly thereafter, in 1986, it expanded the Act with a revised version, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, Pub. L. No. 99-474, 100 Stat. 1213. Today, ] the CFAA remains primarily a criminal statute designed to combat hacking. A.V. ex rel. Vanderhye v. iParadigms, LLC, 562 F.3d 630, 645 (4th Cir. 2009). Nevertheless, it permits a private party "who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of [the statute]" to bring a civil action "to obtain compensatory damages and injunctive relief or other equitable relief." 18 U.S.C. § 1030(g). Notably, although proof of at least  [**3] one of five additional factors is necessary to maintain a civil action,1 a violation of any of the statute's provisions exposes the offender to both civil and criminal liability.

] Among other things, the CFAA renders liable a person who (1) "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains . . . information from any protected computer," in violation of § 1030(a)(2)(C); (2) "knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value," in violation of § 1030(a)(4); or (3) "intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, recklessly causes damage[,] or . . . causes damage and loss," in violation of § 1030(a)(5)(B)-(C). Here, WEC alleges that Miller, Kelley, and Arc violated  [**4] all three of these provisions.

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687 F.3d 199 *; 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 15441 **; 36 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 874; 2012 WL 3039213

WEC CAROLINA ENERGY SOLUTIONS LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. WILLIE MILLER, a/k/a Mike; EMILY KELLEY; ARC ENERGY SERVICES INCORPORATED, Defendants-Appellees.

Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari dismissed by Wec Carolina Energy Solutions Llc v. Miller, 2013 U.S. LEXIS 2 (U.S., Jan. 2, 2013)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Rock Hill. (0:10-cv-02775-CMC). Cameron McGowan Currie, District Judge.

WEC Carolina Energy Solutions, LLC v. Miller, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10757 (D.S.C., Feb. 3, 2011)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

authorization, downloaded, accesses, exceeds, personal computer, confidential, violating, policies, alleges, confidential information, criminal statute, company policy, district court, trade secret, en banc, interpretations, altering, terms

Computer & Internet Law, Criminal Offenses, Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Interpretation, Rule of Lenity