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Unlawful Access to Stored Communications under Pennsylvania law

Pennsylvania law provides that “it is an offense to obtain, alter or prevent authorized access to a wire or electronic communication while it is in electronic storage by intentionally: (1) accessing without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided; or (2) exceeding the scope of one’s authorization to access the facility.”  18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5741(a).  Subsection (a) of the statute does not apply, however, with respect to conduct authorized: (1) by the person or entity providing a wire or electronic communication service; (2) by a user of that service with respect to a communication of or intended for that user; or (3) under certain circumstances related to governmental access (pursuant to sections 5743 and 5744).

A party aggrieved by a violation of Section 5741 can bring a civil cause of action against the person or entity which committed the violation.  See 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5747; Klump v. Nazareth Area School Dist., 425 F.Supp.2d 622 (E.D.Pa. 2006).  In a civil action under Section 5747, appropriate relief includes: such preliminary and other equitable or declaratory relief as may be appropriate; damages (equal to the sum of the actual damages suffered by the plaintiff and any profits made by the violator as a result of the violation, but in no case shall a person entitled to recover receive less than the sum of $1,000); and reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred.  18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5747(b), (c).

If you think you might have an action under Pennsylvania’s Unlawful Access to Stored Communications statute, please contact the experienced lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green in Philadelphia, who are licensed to practice law in all courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.