A court in Ontario awarded a rising star clarinet player 350,000 Canadian dollars (around $265,000) on Wednesday after he sued his ex-girlfriend for breaking into his email and nearly torpedoing his career, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Eric Abramovitz was a student at McGill University in 2014 and had applied for a scholarship to complete the last two years of his bachelor’s degree at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. He already had a host of prestigious accolades for his clarinet chops, including winning six first-place prizes from the Canadian Music Competition and playing as a featured soloist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre symphonique de Québec. If awarded the scholarship, Abramovitz would have had the chance to study under Yehuda Gilad, one of the best clarinet teachers in the world.
After auditioning before Gilad himself, Abramovitz was accepted to the program and offered the scholarship. Accepting the offer would have likely landed Abramovitz a lucrative spot in a symphony after graduation. Yet, he never saw the email from Gilad informing him of the opportunity. That’s because his girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Lee, allegedly saw it first.
Abramovitz and Lee were both music students at McGill, and he let her use his laptop and his passwords. Afraid that he would have to move away, she used Abramovitz’s email address to reject the offer and delete the message before he had a chance to sign in. Lee also apparently created a fake email address under Gilad’s name—email@example.com—and sent Abramovitz an email incorrectly informing him that he had been rejected. The email did say that Abramovitz had won a $5,000-per-year scholarship to study at the University of Southern California, though Lee knew that would not be enough for Abramovitz to afford the tuition.
Abramovitz ended up completing his studies at McGill and later studied part time under Gilad while attending a two-year certificate program at USC. During that time, Gilad asked Abramovitz why he refused the offer, creating confusion that ultimately led to them uncovering the plot. Abramovitz later forwarded him Lee’s fake email, and Gilad said he’d never seen it. According to his interview with the National Post, Abramovitz decided to investigate and was able to break into Lee’s fake email for Gilad using one of her old passwords. Her actual email and phone number were listed in the account’s settings for password recovery. Abramovitz then discovered that she had also pulled a similar trick for his successful application to Julliard.
By that time, Abramovitz and Lee had already split up for other reasons. He sued her for 300,000 Canadian dollars in damages for loss of educational opportunity, reputation, and two years of potential income. Ontario Superior Court judge David Corbett ruled in his favor, awarded him an additional 50,000 Canadian dollars, and wrote in the decision, “I am very frustrated that a highly talented musician like Eric was the victim of such an unthinkable, immoral act that delayed his progress and advancement as an up-and-coming young musician and delayed his embarking on a most promising career.” Lee never showed up to the trial or attempted to defend herself, and Abramovitz says he is unaware of her whereabouts, so he may be unable to collect the damages.
This lawsuit serves as a good reminder to be careful with sharing passwords, even with romantic partners. This isn’t the only example of password sharing going awry. A Miami man named Jesus Echezarreta recently discovered that his ex-boyfriend was able to spy on him using his Ring device, which is a smart doorbell that has a camera built into it. He and his partner had reportedly shared the password, and even when Echezarreta tried to change it after their breakup, a security flaw allowed his ex to log in without it.
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