Burns White successfully defends software manufacturing company against serious Wiretap Act allegations

Jun 17, 2011 | News

Pittsburgh, June 17, 2011 – In one of the first cases of this size, scope, magnitude and nature, attorneys at Burns White LLC have successfully defended a software manufacturer and distributor against allegations that it violated provisions of the Wiretap Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, respectively.

Husband-and-wife plaintiffs Crystal and Brian Byrd filed the action against Atlanta-based Aaron’s Inc., its franchisees and Erie-based software maker DesignerWare, LLC, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on May 3. Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that more than 50,000 computer users were impacted by software manufactured and distributed to Aaron’s Inc. and its franchisees by DesignerWare, which is represented by Burns White attorneys David White, Lyle Washowich and Brian Mancos.

Natives of Wyoming, the Byrds brought the alleged suit on behalf of more than 50,000 people whose computers contained “tracking” software manufactured and sold by DesignerWare that – in their view – violated provisions of the aforementioned Wiretap and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Early in the litigation process, the plaintiffs’ attorneys embarked on a nationwide media blitz to warn all potential users of these alleged improprieties. They subsequently filed for an emergency temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the defendants from activating portions of DesignerWare’s software. Specifically, plaintiffs’ attorneys sought to block the use of the software’s Detective Mode feature, which allows franchisees to determine who may have stolen or lost a reported stolen computer.

Burns White attorneys argued in a hearing held May 25 and 26 that disabling the software would damage customers’ confidence in the company and cause it to lose business.

United States Magistrate Judge Susan P. Baxter denied the motion for preliminary injunction on the afternoon of June 16, stating conclusively that the plaintiffs failed to prove “irreparable harm.” The Court is “unconvinced” that any information collected from the plaintiffs’ computer constitutes an “electronic communication” and the plaintiffs provided “no evidence” in that regard. Moreover, without that evidence, the Court has “grave doubts” whether the alleged communications affect interstate commerce and remains “unconvinced” that any actual interception of information took place.

To read the complete report and decision of the Court, please click here.

Click here to learn more about David White.

Click here to learn more about Lyle Washowich..