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United States v. Sampson, 6 Computer L. Serv. Rep. 879 (N.D. Cal. 1978).
Factual Background Edit
Sampson, a former employee of the Institute for Advanced Computation, Inc. ("IAC"), a NASA contractor, and Miller, an employee of IAC, obtained unauthorized use of a United States government computer without the intent to reimburse the government for such use. Sampson used one of his home telephones to gain access to the computer, using the code name "Captain Libra." A NASA investigator discovered from computer printouts that a person using the name "Captain Libra" had used the computer. The investigator then confronted Sampson and Miller with the printouts, whereupon both admitted that these printouts reflected portions of their unauthorized use of the computer. Based upon Sampson's statement that he used the computer for an average of six hours per week for thirty-two weeks, a value of $1,924.00 was calculated for the commercial cost of Sampson's computer utilization.
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
Both Sampson and Miller were indicted for violations of 18 U.S.C. §641. Defendants moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that it failed to state a criminal offense, arguing that computer time and computer storage capacity were not "property" within the meaning of the statute.
The district court denied the motions, holding that the consumption of computer time and the use of computer storage capacity were inseparable from the physical identity of the computer itself. The court found the indictment legally sufficient, because the computer time and the use of its storage capacities were "things of value."
“ Whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof, or any property made or being made under contract for the United States or any department or agency thereof; or
Whoever receives, conceals, or retains the same with intent to convert it to his use or gain, knowing it to have been embezzled, stolen, purloined or converted shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
18 U.S.C. § 641 (1948).