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back to article HP faces lawsuit by three News.com reporters

Three CNET News.com reporters who were spied on in Hewlett-Packard's methodical investigation to reveal the source of media leaks plan to sue the company for invasion of privacy. The decision by Dawn Kawamoto, Tom Krazit and Stephen Shankland comes after several months of negotiations with HP to discuss settling the sordid …

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"Opportunistic?" I think not.

"Demands for several million dollars per reporter strike us as opportunistically excessive, depending on how much is skimmed off the top."

It would not be inappropriate to demand the dissolution of the corporation and liquidation of assets. A few million dollars is a mere slap on the wrist.

We live in an age where "corporate citizens" have rights granted by a court clerk, rights which nearly always are given precedence by the court system over the rights guaranteed to natural human citizens by the US Constitution. It's long past time that the threat of capital punishment is made as real for the corporate offender as it is for the individual man or woman.

If an individual had perpetrated these invasions of privacy on the corproate records of HP, do you think HP would have stopped with a demand for mere money? I think not. I believe HP would have demanded prison terms for the natural person.

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Hmm

Personally I don't think it matters whether the reporters really need the money or not. (which they probably don't).

More important is that it needs to be a significant figure on HP's books so companies learn that this sort of thing (corporations vs people) is unnacceptable and damaging.

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Tom
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What happens if this goes to court...

Danger Will Robinson......

If this goes to court, the reporters MAY be subject to discovery. This will let everyone know just how they go about getting the "scoops". Then the reporters won't be getting any more goodies because everyone will know the process. For the average observer it might be an interesting exercise. For the press it won't be good!

Be careful what you ask for, you might get it!

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Excessive?

"Demands for several million dollars per reporter strike us as opportunistically excessive..."

Really? HP had 10 BILLION dollars in cash and cash equivalents as of the end of Jan. 07. Assuming by "several million" you mean, let's say $10 million, that would be $30 million total, or 0.3 percent of their cash.

Better yet, their net revenue for the quarter ending Jan. 07 was just about $25 billion. That amounts to just under $2 billion per week. So a $30 million settlement would be 1.5% of HP's Net Weekly Income. That'd be like punishing a kid by taking 15 cents out of a $10 weekly allowance.

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Earnings v Revenue

Sorry, I made an error in my comment. I used net reveue, when I think net earnings would fit the analogy better (and be more favorable to HP.)

HP's net earnings were $1.54 billion last quarter, or about $118 million per week. That would make the penalty equal fto about $2.54 from a $10 weekly allowance.

Still nowhere near enough, methinks.

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A few measely million is hardly enough

Companies like HP that rake in billions per week need very hefty fines in order to think twice about a given behavior. I think fines should be determined a bit differently for corporate entities. They should be determined in terms of days of revenue.

Snoop on people with unethical methods ? That's ten days of revenue. Make shady deals with underhand payments to impose a monopoly in some country ? That's a hundred days of revenue. Or something.

Take the case of petroleum companies and their supertankers. Catch a supertanker gassing off in open sea and the company gets a fine of . . . several hundred thousand dollars. Heck, it costs them more to stop the boat for a day ! Tell them that an illegal gas-off will cost them a week of revenue and you'll have the supertankers lining up for proper ecological treatment of waste.

We have to go away from the fixed monetary amount - some companies can die, while the behemoths will just write it down in the losses column and move on, changing nothing in their behavoir.

A just system will see each company punished to an amount that will be equally important - little companies will take a hit as severe as big ones compared to their budget, but not more.

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Do reporters have a right to privacy?

Reporters always wants it both ways: When they pursue someone for a story it is "free speech" or "public interest" - when they get pursued for what they do, it is "invasion of privacy".

Before you label me "flamebait" or "troll", think it through. If you continue to assert a right to invade anyone's privacy whenever you see fit (basically in the pursuit of improving your career or making money for your employer) - well then you can't really cry foul when someone does a similar thing to you in pursuit of their own goals - whatever their motives. It should be considered an occupational hazard and nothing more.

If the reporters get away with this, what is stopping Prince Harry, Paris Hilton or Tony Blair suing reporters in a similar way?

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Anonymous Coward

About that cake, Cynic...

Considering that I work in media as a journalist, you will find that there are some of us who can manage that fine balance between freedom of speech, public interest and privacy. Just because you may be used to the general behaviour of some newspaper hacks, not all of us are that way.

As for your question about why Prince Harry, Paris Hilton or Tony Blair don't sue like this... Kate Middleton would have, and with good reason, and more often than you think, other celebrities do too. It just gets settled quietly.

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Fines

I am not at all happy with the concept of civil courts punishing offenders by fining them and giving the proceeds to the claimants. The victims are entitiled to be compensated for their costs, loss of earnings past or future etc, loss of reputation and any other real loss they incurred. It is fine if the courts err on the side of generosity.

These damages should be awarded by judges and not juries who tend to treat awards as though they were Monopoly money.

If HP need punishment this should be done by criminal proceedings and any fines added to the public purse. These damages The US legal system is treated like a lottery and has fallen into disrepute because of that.

IANAL but I believe that, with the odd exception such as libel, the British legal system does what I have described.

Steve

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