If employees delete files from a company’s computer, or get possession of a company’s cd-roms, they may be charged with theft or malicious mischief, even if the files can still be recovered.
This was recently determined in judgment no. 8555 of the Italian Supreme Court when ruling on a case in which, on resigning due to severe tensions at work an employee decided to take his revenge on the company by deleting certain files from his computer workstation and taking away the backup cd-roms.
Confirming the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court rejected the reasons put forward by the former employee who alleged that the crime of theft could only be ascribed should the loss of data be permanent, whereas in the case in question the company had successfully regained possession of the files thanks to the help of a technician specialized in the recovery of deleted data.
With reference to Law no. 547 of 1993 which ratified the European Convention on software piracy, the Court noted that “the headword “delete” which appears in the provision of the law is not to be interpreted in its principal meaning which is that of unrecoverable elimination, but in the more specific technical sense intended by the provision of the law. “
Since “deletion” in computer science is understood as removing data on a temporary basis by putting it in the recycle bin, and permanently by emptying the bin, according to the Supreme Court it is correct to maintain that any intended deletion which does not rule out the possibility of recovery through the use of, albeit expensive special procedures, is also in line with the spirit of the law.
The Court thus confirmed the existence of damage suffered by the company, which was forced to spend both time and money to recover the files. Furthermore, in this specific case, the damage incurred is also to be interpreted in a strictly physical sense as most of the recovered files could no longer be opened and consequently were permanently lost.