U.S. v. Nosal, 642 F.3d 781 (2011)

In this criminal proceeding brought under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), the United States government filed a 20-count indictment against David Nosal (a former employee of Korn/Ferry International) and his accomplices (also from Korn/Ferry) as a result of their obtaining information from their employer’s computer system for the purpose of defrauding Korn/Ferry and helping Nosal set up a competing business. The government contended that under the CFAA, an employee exceeds authorized access when he or she obtains information from the computer and uses it for a purpose that violates the employer’s restrictions on the use of such information. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the government’s interpretation of the CFAA, which distinguished earlier Ninth Circuit authority on the grounds that Korn/Ferry (unlike the employer in the other case) had a computer use policy that placed clear and conspicuous restrictions on the employees’ access both to the system in general and to the particular database in question