112 F.3d 836 (7th Cir. 1997), 95-3352, Corcoran v. Sullivan

Docket Nº:95-3352.
Citation:112 F.3d 836
Party Name:42 U.S.P.Q.2d 1573 Brian P. CORCORAN, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Michael SULLIVAN, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:April 28, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 836

112 F.3d 836 (7th Cir. 1997)

42 U.S.P.Q.2d 1573

Brian P. CORCORAN, Petitioner-Appellant,


Michael SULLIVAN, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 95-3352.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

April 28, 1997

Submitted March 4, 1997.

Page 837

Brian P. Corcoran (submitted on briefs), Milwaukee, WI, for Petitioner-Appellant.

Sally L. Wellman, Office of the Attorney General, Wisconsin Department of Justice, Madison, WI, for Respondent-Appellee Michael Sullivan.

Before POSNER, Chief Judge, and KANNE and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

POSNER, Chief Judge.

This unusual appeal asks us to reverse the denial of relief sought by a state prisoner who claims that his crime was privileged by federal copyright law. Brian Corcoran was hired by a consulting firm to write computer programs that would enable the processing of data owned by the firm. His work was full of errors, and he became concerned that he wouldn't be paid. So, in anticipatory revenge, he installed in one of the programs a software time bomb that was set to go off, deleting the programs from the firm's computer's memory, at a specified date and time if he activated the device by a harmless-appearing instruction. Deleting the program would also, as Corcoran knew and intended, delete any data that the firm had supplied to him for use in the programs as soon as someone entered new data into the computer. Eventually Corcoran instructed the firm to give the computer that innocent-appearing instruction. The firm did so, and unknowingly deleted the programs. As a result, the firm's data were lost forever when, still unaware of Corcoran's plot, the firm later inputted new data. Convicted and sentenced under a Wisconsin law that criminalizes the willful destruction of computer data, Wis.Stat. § 943.70(2)(a)2; see State v. Corcoran, 186 Wis.2d 616, 522 N.W.2d 226 (Wis.App.1994), Corcoran asked for federal habeas corpus primarily on the ground that federal copyright law entitles him to destroy his own copyrighted software; it is conceded that he had a valid copyright in the programs that he wrote for the consulting firm.

The anterior question is whether this is the kind of defense to a state criminal charge that can be made the subject of a collateral attack on the conviction under the federal habeas corpus statute. Any claim of federal preemption of a state statute is a federal constitutional...

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