YourNetDating, Inc. v. Mitchell, 88 F.Supp.2d 870 (N.D. Ill. 2000) (full-text).
Defendant was a programmer for an Internet dating service, YourNetDating, Inc. (plaintiff). The plaintiff alleged that defendant hacked their website and diverted its clients and users to a porn site. The porn site was a “blind link” and it was not possible to return to the dating site from the porn site. In mid-February 2000, the Internet dating service determined a client had somehow embedded code in her profile that diverted users to defendant’s porn site whenever the word “Debbie” was brought up in a search. The plaintiff claimed that it was not possible to embed such a code in a profile in the ordinary course of business and that to do this one would need special access, such as the password of a systems administrator.
Trial Court Proceedings
The plaintiff moved for a temporary restraining order which was granted by the court.
The standards applicable for a temporary restraining order are analogous to the standards applicable for a preliminary injunction. Injunctive relief is an extraordinary and drastic remedy that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.
Five factors figure into the determination of whether a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order should be granted. A plaintiff seeing a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order must show (1) a likelihood of success on the merits, (2) irreparable harm if the preliminary injunction is denied, (3) the inadequacy of any remedy at law; once that threshold showing is made, court must balance, (4) the harm to the defendant if the preliminary injunction were wrongfully granted, and (5) the impact on persons not directly concerned in the dispute.
When and only when certain profiles are accessed, a user is diverted to the a porn site in which the defendant has a substantial ownership interest. Defendant admittedly created these sites and allegedly had administrative access codes that would allow him to insert the code. The showing of irreparable harm is in the damage to the goodwill of its service. Persons who sign up to get an online date do not necessarily want to see a porn site. Defendant will suffer no legitimate harm of which they can complain because defendant has no honest business hacking the website and diverting plaintiff’s customers.
The plaintiff was entitled to a temporary restraining order prohibiting a former programmer from “hacking” the dating service’s website and diverting its clients and users to a porn [[site]; the plaintiff had a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim that former programmer was responsible for alleged violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and showed irreparable harm in the damage to the goodwill of its services, while the programmer and operator of porn site would suffer no legitimate harm from issuance of Temporary Restraining Order nor would the public.
- 18 U.S.C. §1030.