In a case of sending someone a computer virus, there's room to argue that it's indirect, that they damaged themselves by opening the file (albeit unintentionally), etc. What if I go over to your computer and actively crash it? Can I be held liable for damaging property that isn't physical?

I ask specifically about damage payments. Nezek is evaluated as the difference between the old value and the new value (Bava Kamma 8). But from an objective standpoint, there's no difference between the computer before and after. Although other payments may need to be made, does Nezek apply when the target isn't physical?

  • I don't follow the idea behind your last question. Why does it matter if it's physical or not? In terms of computers, there are generally 2 file classes. If you destroy document files, you haven't destroyed the physical device, necessarily. The person can usually retrieve them, but you may be liable for his lost time he spends trying to retrieve them. If you destroy system files, essentially, you have damaged his computer. He may have to reinstall the operating system, and he may not be able to retrieve his document files. It sounds like you'd be liable for monetary loss as well as time.
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 14:33
  • @DanF Nezek is evaluated as old value minus new value. Has the computer gone down in value? No. Only sentimental value. Perhaps some of the other Chamishah Devarim are applicable. Let me edit to clarify.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 16:49
  • I'd have to ask a computer salesman / "nerd" if the resale value of a computer diminishes when the operating system is re-installed by a user vs. the original factory settings. My thinking is that it does. When someone buys a new Dell, say, they assume that the company has installed and tweaked the computer a certain way according to their expectations. This is certainly true if the buyer requested special customizations. If someone places a virus that knocks out these settings, I would think the computer's value is severely diminished. Wouldn't nezek also apply to the customer's "value"?
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 19:38
  • @DanF Presumably nezek is evaluated as how much its resale value is, so that could be a factor.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 21:08
  • The computer's most "important" hardware is the hard drive. The more usage it has, the lesser the computer's value. Hard drives eventually fail at some point. Your placing a virus causes the owner to reinstall files that he wasn't planning on doing, thus causing unnecessary wear on the hard drive and decreasing the computer's value. It may be a minimal amount. I don't think you can argue by stating that the drive would wear anyway through "normal" usage. The point is that you caused additional unnecessary usage.
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 14:37


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