Trespass to Chattels

I’m glad that other people have to try and puzzle out things like what exactly Trespass to Chattels is all about.

It would seem that the general idea is seemingly straight forward.

“Trespass to chattels” basically prohibits others from substantially interfering with your personal property (“chattel”). Generally speaking, there must be an intentional physical contact with the chattel, and the contact must result in some substantial interference or damage.

Several cases have imported this antiquated common law doctrine into the digital world, reasoning that “electrical signals” impinging on networked servers can be enough “contact” to support a trespass claim.

  — here

This stricks me as the law that you invoke when you brother messes with your stuff or stands outside your room and sings “The song that doesn’t end” for a few hours. Is this the law against pests?

I see that it’s been used to force a former employee to stop sending mail to his old employeer. In that case it would be the law you use to ostracize a pest; not that we haven’t all needed that law from time to time.

My interest? Well imagine that you own a standard hub; i.e. monopoly that arises because most of the exchange goes thru your bottleneck. Can you use trespass to chattels to keep people from using your bottleneck. This would seem to run up against the common carrier (pdf) rules. The ones created to limit the extent of differential pricing engaged in by the railroads, innkeepers, telephones.

There was a time when the phone companies could price service so that what you did on the phone limited in the contract. For example you could only use the phone for business. There was a case in the early days of the phone company fining a customer for using the phone to report a nieghbor’s fire. Buying a phone so you could reach the fire department was a uniquely priced part of their range of services.

From where I sit there is a sharp distincition between using Trespass to Chattel to guard against pests and using it to discriminate. But if you get down close to cases the sharp distinction gets pretty fuzzy. Thus I’m happy to delegate that to the courts. That said, there are monopolies and the line should move for them as it has for inn keepers, railroads, etc.

Now. Why are there no good images of cow-tipping on the web via google’s image search?

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