Keith Leech: Tesla granted order to stop Australian man sharing leaked documents

An Australian man caught up in the leak of internal Tesla documents has compared the case to the “Watergate Affair” as he appeared in court.

Keith Leech, a 75-year-old former electrical engineer, appeared in the Federal Court on Thursday, as the car company sought orders extending a prohibition of him sharing leaked files online.

The electric car giant launched civil proceedings against the NSW man last month, alleging he misused confidential information obtained indirectly from former Tesla employee Lukasz Krupski.

These allegedly include technical reports, customer complaints, logs of vehicle repairs, meeting notes and product testing and analysis documentation.

Counsel for Tesla, Luke Merrick S.C., argued there was no “legitimate reason” for Mr Leech to share the allegedly confidential and copyrighted material.

“If Mr Leech wants to espouse public views about my client there are lawful ways to do so,” he said.

The court was told Tesla sought and obtained urgent orders from the court on January 5 to compel Mr Leech to remove material he allegedly shared online, provide details of whom he shared the files with, and prevent him from using the material in any way.

Mr Merrick said the evidence suggested Mr Leech had removed the documents from the internet, but had made “threats” to repost them.

On February 15 he allegedly wrote on social media; “may just have to risk being contempt of (Elon) Musk and post them again”.

“I’ve had to STFU for the moment but it won’t last”.

In court, Mr Leech said he had run a website for four years documenting alleged defects in Tesla’s cars and sent “more than 5000” complaints to regulators in Australia, the European Union and the United States.

“For some reason Tesla and Elon Musk are being granted absolutely extraordinary leniency … That is the reason I went to social media,” he said.

“The urgency of this matter where lives are at risk every day necessitates me making this information available.”

He compared the document leak to the “Watergate Affair” and argued copyright law should not be used to prevent him from warning the public.

Mr Krupski, a former Tesla technician in Norway, leaked thousands of internal documents to German newspaper Handelsblatt last year, which ran a series of articles about Tesla’s braking and self-driving software.

Handing down a judgement to continue the prohibition on Mr Leech, Justice Craig Dowling said he was satisfied there was a “proper basis” to continue the orders.

The court was told Tesla’s damages claim against Mr Leech for alleged breaches of copyright and confidentiality will be heard at a later date.

Mr Leech is not accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

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