The Trouble with Trespass

30 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2000 Last revised: 10 Oct 2015

See all articles by Dan L. Burk

Dan L. Burk

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: 2000


Several courts have now recognized the common law action of trespass to chattels as a viable claim to enjoin unwanted e-mail communications on networked computer systems. However, this archaic claim is a poor fit to the context of cyberspace, and courts have had to substantially revise the elements of the claim to accommodate it to computer networks. In doing so, they have created a new species of property right which is now being applied to a wide variety of automated computer interactions. The assertion of an exclusionary interest over such interactions may lead to a type of ?anti-commons? tragedy that could threaten the integrity of the global Internet system.

JEL Classification: K2, K4, H4

Suggested Citation

Burk, Dan L., The Trouble with Trespass (2000). Journal of Small and Emerging Business Law, Vol. 4, 2000, Available at SSRN: or

Dan L. Burk (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

4500 Berkeley Place
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
949-824-9325 (Phone)

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