Anonymity

At the Intersection of Anti-SLAPP and Anonymity

Slap! by Vermin Inc, on Flickr

Consider two cases: In Colorado, clothing company Façonnable is attempting to sue an anonymous Wikipedia editor (or, possibly, more than one; the number is sort of up in the air) over some unflattering edits to the company's Wikipedia page. But first, Façonnable has to figure out who the editors are--thus, a subpoena to the ISP allegedly attached to the editors' IP address.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Façonnable USA Corp. v. John Does 1-10

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/07/2011

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe Wikipedia Editors & ISP Skybeam, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

U.S. District Court, District of Colorado

Case Number: 

1:11-cv-00941-CMA -BNB

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy & Michael H. Page of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, and John Seiver of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (for Skybeam)

Publication Medium: 

Wiki

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Settled (total)
Withdrawn

Description: 

On April 7, 2011, clothing company Façonnable filed suit in Colorado federal court against a set of John Doe defendants.  According to the complaint, around March 1, 2011, one or more anonymous individuals edited the Wikipedia entries of Façonnable and its parent company M1 Group. The edits discussed "purported" ties between M1 and Hezbollah. (A preserved copy of the Façonnable page is included among the court documents.) The complaint alleges trade libel, violations of Colorado's Consumer Protection Act (for false representations of Façonnable's goods/activities), and federal Lanham Act violations--specifically, that the Wikipedia editors falsely described Façonnable's goods/activities, constituting "acts of infringement."

Façonnable also alleges that the IP addresses of the anonymous Wikipedia editor(s) are associated with Colorado ISP Skybeam, Inc. and that on March 4, 2011, Façonnable emailed (scroll down) Skybeam requesting the identities of the anonymous editors. Skybeam declined to provide the information without a proper summons.  In response, simultaneously with the filing of the complaint, Façonnable moved for expedited discovery to subpoena Skybeam for the editors' identities.

On April 8, 2011, the case was referred to a magistrate judge, and on April 18, the magistrate granted Façonnable's motion for expedited discovery. A few days prior, Façonnable had contacted Skybeam to request that the Wikipedia editors' identifying information be preserved. Once its motion was granted, Façonnable subpoenaed Skybeam for that information; Skybeam then responded with a letter objecting to the subpoena. On April 29 Skybeam moved for a modification of the discovery order, arguing that the magistrate judge applied too lenient a standard in granting discovery by failing to account for the editors' First Amendment anonymous speech rights. Façonnable opposed the motion.

On May 24 the magistrate judge denied Skybeam's motion. Expressing concern that Façonnable would have "no ability to vindicate its rights," the magistrate held that the subpoena was a "content neutral" oversight of online speech, and thus the subpoena satisfied a "heightened sensitivity" to the editors' First Amendment rights. The magistrate ordered Skybeam to comply with the subpoena by June 3.

On June 1, Skybeam filed objections to the magistrate's decision with the district court, and moved to stay the order to comply with the subpoena. On June 2, the district court judge granted the stay. Skybeam's memo accompanying its objection expands on the First Amendment concerns in the case (and the need for strict scrutiny in deciding whether or not to enforce the subpoena), discusses the viability of Façonnable's federal Lanham Act claims, and argues for a more stringent five-step test before revealing anonymous speakers' identities.

On June 27, Façonnable filed an unopposed motion for an extension to reply to Skybeam's objections.

Update:

On July 18th, Façonnable filed a notice of voluntary dismissal with prejudice. According to news reports and subsequent court documents, the company reached a settlement with the John Doe defendant.

On July 22, Skybeam moved to vacate the magistrate judge's order to reveal the Doe identities. Skybeam argued that, although the apparent settlement had mooted the question of the propriety of the magistrate's order, Skybeam was entitled to have the order vacated to avoid setting precedent. Skybeam's motion includes some information about the possible terms of the settlement, stating that on July 11, Façonnable offered to dismiss the case, if the John Doe's attorney "would make certain representations on behalf of the Doe . . . including that Doe was not one of the plaintiff's competitors." (The actual settlement terms have not been made public.)

On July 27, the District Court Judge granted Skybeam's motion to vacate, which was unopposed.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Rakofsky v. The Internet

Date: 

05/11/2011

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Over 70 Named Parties; Newspapers, Journalists, Bloggers, and other Individuals

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Large Organization
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York; County of New York

Case Number: 

105573-2011

Legal Counsel: 

Eric Turkewitz of the Turkewitz Law Firm, also a defendant, and Marc J. Randazza of the Randazza Legal Group (for at least 16 individuals comprising 35 named defendants); Chetan A. Patil and Kevin T. Baine of Williams & Connolly, L.L.P. (for the Wash

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email
Print

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Lawsuit Filed

Description: 

In March 2011, Joseph Rakofsky represented a defendant in a murder trial in Washington, D.C. According to court filings, on April 1 he withdrew as counsel, leading to a mistrial, at which time the presiding judge made a number of unflattering statements about Mr. Rakofsky's performance at trial. The Washington Post originally reported on the mistrial. Other publications, like the Washington City Paper, soon followed. From there, Mr. Rakofsky's story spread throughout the legal blogosphere, drawing comment from dozens of bloggers.

On May 11, Mr. Rakofsky filed suit in New York state court against the Post, the City Paper, and many bloggers who had written about him. At issue is the way Mr. Rakofsky's removal from the murder trial has been characterized: In his complaint, Mr. Rakofsky maintains that he left the murder trial by his own motion. Media coverage, like the Post article, focused on the judge's comments about Mr. Rakofsky's command of legal procedures, the fact that Mr. Rakofsky stated in court that he had never before tried a case, and an alleged email from Mr. Rakofsky to an investigator instructing the investigator to "trick" a witness into changing her testimony. The Post quotes the judge as telling Mr. Rakofsky that his trial performance was "below what any reasonable person would expect in a murder trial." A transcript of the judge's comments is now available. The bloggers sued by Mr. Rakofsky generally describe him as "too incompetent to handle the case," or otherwise suggest that the mistrial was due to Mr. Rakofsky's "inexperience."

Mr. Rakofsky initially sued 74 parties; the complaint often names both individual bloggers and their associated businesses. (For example, the complaint names both "The Law Offices of Michael T. Doudna" and "Michael T. Doudna, individually.")

The initial complaint contains two causes of action: (1) defamation, and (2) violations of sections 50 and 51 of the New York Civil Rights Law, alleging that defendants used Mr. Rakofsky's name and picture for commercial purposes without his consent.

On May 16, Mr. Rakofsky amended his complaint to add a count of intentional infliction of emotional distress and a count of interference with Mr. Rakofsky's contracts with other clients. The number of defendant parties also rose to 75.

As of June 1, 2011, some defendants apparently had not yet been served. 

On June 3, New York attorney Eric Turkewitz and Nevada attorney Marc Randazza, representing approximately 30 of the named defendants (including Mr. Turkewitz himself), motioned for a time extention for all defendants, to help organize what the motion calls "the oncoming blizzard of paperwork" as various defendants respond to the complaint. Mr. Turkewitz also submitted an affidavit in which he discussed the background of the case and the legal issues involved.

On June 4, New York attorney David Brickman, representing defendants Maxwell Kennerly and Mr. Kennerly's law firm The Beasley Firm, filed a motion to dismiss. The accompanying memorandum argues that Mr. Kennerly's blog post is a combination of opinion and fair reporting of court proceedings; thus, according to the memo, the case should be dismissed.

One June 13, Mr. Brickman, also representing Mirriam Seddiq and Jameson Koehler, filed two more motions to dismiss. The motions are mostly identical to Mr. Kennerly's motion.

Update:

6/13/2011 - Rakofsky's attorney, Richard Borzouye, files notice that on July 1 he will move to withdraw from the case. On the same day, acting pro se, Rakofsky files a memo opposing the pro hac admission of Marc Randazza.

6/15/2011 - Defendant Mace Yampolsky answers the complaint and asserts affirmative defenses including, inter alia, that the court lacks personal jurisdiction, that the complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted, and that Rakofsky's lawsuit is frivolous. Yampolsky also seeks sanctions and attorneys' fees.

6/17/2011 - Marc Randazza and Eric Turkewitz file “reply affidavits” in support of Randazza's pro hac admission; the "affidavits" discuss communication between Rakofsky, Borzouye, and the defense.

6/22/2011 - Reuters and its reporter Daniel Slater file notice of a motion to dismiss. The motion and accompanying memo discuss the merits of the defamation and misappropriation claims.

On the same day, Eric Turkewitz files an affidavit, partially opposing Richard Borzouye's motion to withdraw as Rakofsky's attorney. Turkewitz expresses concern with the corporate plaintiff's impending lack of counsel.

6/24/2011 - Defendant Michael Doudna files notice of a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction; the motion also seeks sanctions against Rakofsky for bringing a "frivolous" lawsuit in "bad faith." Harmony Kenney, who operated Doudna's website, files a supporting affidavit.

7/20/2011 - The Washington Post, its reporter Keith Alexander, and its researcher Jennifer Jenkins, move to dismiss. The motion discusses both substantive issues (including that the Post article is protected by the fair report privilege) and jurisdictional issues (long-arm jurisdiction over Alexander and Jenkins).

7/21/2011 - Georgia attorney Jeanne O'Halleran files a motion to dismiss, and an accompanying affidavit. The memorandum in support of the motion argues, inter alia, a lack of personal jurisdiction and that O’Halleran’s statements were a fair and accurate report, and asks for sanctions. The filings include a copy of the D.C. murder-trial transcript from the day before the mistrial, and a copy of the investigator's "motion" that raised ethical issues.

On the same day, the Washington City Paper and its associated defendants file a motion to dismiss on similar grounds, along with affidavits from its reporter, publisher, and parent company VP/CFO. The City Paper and O'Halleran are both represented by Davis Wright Tremaine.

7/22/2011 - The trial court grants Richard Borzouye's motion to withdraw as Rakofsky's attorney. The court stays proceedings until September 14, to allow Rakofsky to find a new attorney.

6/28/2012 - The court (Hagler, J.) holds a hearing on the pending motions to dismiss and on a motion by Rakofsky to submit a second amended complaint. The defendants, through selected representatives among defense counsel, and the plaintiffs, represented by a new attorney (Matthew Goldsmith, Esq.), argue the application to Rakofsky's claims of the fair report privilege, the republication privilege (for those defendants who republished an original account in the Washington Post), 47 U.S.C. § 230 (for one defendant who operates an online forum), Rakofsky's status as a public figure, and assorted jurisdictional issues. Plaintiffs' counsel also argue that new claims that they have proposed to add to the case are not duplicative of their defamation claim. At the end of the hearing, Judge Hagler took the motions under advisement, but stated to plaintiffs' counsel:

...Right now there's a very high standard to hold a newspaper liable for -- pardon the pun -- for libel, l-i-b-e-l. ... I don't see how you make that burden. And what I suggest is, is that you seriously speak to your client about withdrawing all these claims. And at the end of the day, I'm going to make a decision. I don't think it's going to be -- based upon this argument, and I'm not making a ruling now, it doesn't look like it's going to be in your favor.

(Transcript p. 91, ll. 10-20).

7/1/2012 - Rakofsky, in a letter to the court over his own name, argues that his proposed claim for negligence in his second amended complaint is not duplicative of his defamation claim.

1/2/2013 - After a six month period in which plaintiffs did not withdraw their claims as urged by the court at the June 28, 2012 hearing, the defendants represented by the Turkewitz Law Firm and Randazza Legal Group file a motion for sanctions against plaintiffs and attorney Goldsmith for vexatious conduct and frivolous claims.

 4/29/2013 - The court consolidated all pending motions and issued an order addressing these motions. The court dismissed claims for lack of personal jurisdiction against the defendants that so moved, finding that Rakofsky did not establish that the defendants engaged in any purposeful activity and minimum contacts in New York, such that New York's long-arm jurisdiction statute would apply. The court also granted the motions to dismiss on the defamation claim substantively, finding that the defendants' statements regarding the mistrial were not defamatory, the allegations of incompetence and substance of the allegations of bad ethical behavior were protected by New York's fair report privilege, and all other statements were either opinions based on disclosed facts or pure opinion. The parties that republished or summarized the Washington Post story were also found to have a valid wire service republication defense.

The court also dismissed the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, finding no showing of the requisite "extreme and outrageous conduct," and the intentional interference with contract claim, finding that claim inadequately  pleaded. The court dismissed the misappropriation of name or likeness claims under N.Y. Civil Law §§ 50-51, finding this reporting under the "newsworthiness" exception to those claims.

The court denied Rakofsky's leave to amend the petition to add claims of injurious falsehood, prima facie tort, and negligence, finding the injurious falsehood and negligence claims duplicative, and finding that Rakofsky will be unable to to plead special damages for the prima facie tort.

The court also denied without prejudice Rakofsky's motions to discontinue the action against eight of the defendants, and for default judgment against seven of the plaintiffs, because Rakofsky did not adequately identify the parties at issue. As to the motion for default, the court advised Rakofsky to consider "if it is appropriate to seek this relief again based on the rulings herein." The court declined to issue sanctions sought by both sides.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Rajagopal v. Does

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

10/22/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Henrico Circuit Court, Virginia

Case Number: 

CL 10-3014

Legal Counsel: 

Michael H. Page, Paul A. Levy, Public Citizen Litigation Group; Rebecca K. Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Usha Rajagopal, a plastic surgeon in San Francisco, sued ten John Does for defamation and various business torts in Virginia state court.  The claims stem from reviews of Rajagopal posted by the defendants on Google.com. Rajagopal also subpoenaed Google to determine the identities of five of the Does.

One of the Does, Cannoli38, moved to quash the subpoena.  He argued that because he and the other Does have a First Amendment right to speak anonymously, Rajagopal must make a five-part showing that satisfies the Dendrite standard to identify the Does.  Cannoli38 argued that Rajagopal did not give the Does noticed as required by Dendrite, nor did she provide any evidence supporting her claims against the Does.

Cannoli38 alleged that the Does' reviews consisted solely of opinion statements, which are protected by the First Amendment, and restatements of an article from SFWeekly, a San Francisco news site, that posted a story about Rajagopal's advertising practices and allegations brought against her by the California Medical Board.  Cannoli38 argued that the balance of the equities weighed against Rajagopal.

Cannoli38 also called upon Rajagopal and her attorney to be sanctioned, as he argued the lawsuit is meritless, has no ties to Virginia, and was meant to be an end run around California's anti-SLAPP law, which would likely prevent Rajagopal from pursuing the case in her home state.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Federici v Pignotti et al

Date: 

12/17/2010

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Monica Pignotti, Jean Mercer, Charly Miller, Linda Rosa, Larry Sarner, Advocates for Children in Therapy, John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

Virginia Eastern District Court, Alexandria

Case Number: 

1:2010cv01418

Legal Counsel: 

Amy Owen, Kirstin Zech, Sarah Bagley

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Virginia Psychologist Ronald S. Federici is suing multiple parties from multiple states (Florida, New Jersey, Nebraska, Colorado) for defamation, conspiracy, and tortious interference. Defendants are authors of blogs, forum comments, and websites that were critical of his writings and practices. Plaintiff has also named John Does 1-10, alleging conspiracy with unidentified anonymous bloggers and others.
Public documents on this case are available via Pacer.

Update:

3/28/11 -  The court granted the defendants' motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.  The court also granted the motion of defendants Pignotti and Mercer to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

5/31/11 - After the claims against the named defendants were dismissed, Federici moved to dismiss without prejudice the claims against the John Doe defendants.

6/1/11 - The court granted Federici's motion to dismiss the remaining claims against the John Does. 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Reit v. Yelp

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/04/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Yelp! Inc. and John Doe, aka "Michael S."

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York

Case Number: 

6005551/2010

Legal Counsel: 

Marc J. Randazza and Jessica S. Christensen - Randazza Legal Group (for Michael S.)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

Glenn Reit, a Manhattan dentist, sued Yelp! and John Doe (Michael S.) for defamation and Yelp! for deceptive acts and practices under New York’s General Business Law § 349 and § 350.  

According to his complaint, as of May 2009, Dr. Reit's Yelp page had 11 reviews: 10 favorable and 1 negative review from a user named "Michael S."  Dr. Reit alleges the Michael S. posting was defamatory because it included "statements that his office is 'small,' 'old' and 'smelly,' and 'the equipment is old and dirty.'  Dr. Reit alleges that Michael S.'s post caused him to lose 5-11 calls per day.  

When Dr. Reit complained to Yelp about the review, he claims that Yelp removed all of the positive reviews and kept only Michael S.'s post. Eventually, that post was removed too. Dr. Reit argues that Yelp removed the positive posts as part of Yelp's alleged scheme to get business owners to pay for advertising.

In addition to monetary damages, Dr. Reit sought an order requiring Yelp to delete all references to him and his dental practice from Yelp.com. The court initial granted a temporary restraining order, but ultimately dismissed the claims against Yelp based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The defamation claim against Michael S. remains pending.  

Update:

10/25/2010 - Defendant Michael S. filed a Petition to Quash Out-of-State Sub Duces Tecum and Request for Sanctions in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco

11/22/2010 - Plaintiff filed Opposition to the Petition and Request for Sanctions

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

User Feedback

North Summit Company, et. al v. Edward L. Petersen, et. al.

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/27/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Edward L. Petersen

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Second Judicial District Court of Nevada

Case Number: 

CV09-00238

Legal Counsel: 

pro se

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

North Summit Company, LLC has sued Edward L. Petersen for publishing anonymous comments on ApartmentRatings.com. Plaintiffs have submitted no proof that Defendant is the party responsible for the postings, many of which were published as many as five years before Defendant first rented from Plaintiffs.

A motion for summary judgment has been filed, and is pending.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Hey, When Did This Slope Get so Slippery? The Danger of Self-Surveillance in Three-Strikes Internet Laws

I recall a Twilight Zone episode with a great twist: a man, in order to win a bet that he could stay quiet for an entire year, has had his vocal cords severed. The idea being, it is particularly gruesome to imagine a human being rendered mute for money.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Ninth Circuit Weighs In On Internet Anonymity, Consumer Griping At Risk

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision last Monday in In re: Anonymous Online Speakers, No. 09-71265 (9th Cir.

Subject Area: 

Louisiana Joins Unconstitutional Cyber-Bullying Statute Club

The first rule of Unconstitutional Cyber-Bullying Statute Club is you do not talk about Unconstitutional Cyber-Bullying Statute Club.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

N.C. Judge Unmasks Pseudonymous Blog Commenters

A North Carolina trial court recently ordered the editor of the local community blog Home in Henderson to turn over the names and addresses of six pseudonymous commenters who allegedly defamed former Vance County commissioner Thomas S. Hester, Jr.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Hester v. Does

Date: 

04/20/2010

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe 1, aka Beautiful Dreamer; John Doe 2, aka Confused; John Doe 3, aka Fatboy; John Does 4-20

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

North Carolina Superior Court, Vance County

Case Number: 

10-cvs-361

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In April 2010, Thomas S. Hester, Jr., a former Vance County commissioner running for reelection, sued 20 John Does for defamation in North Carolina Superior Court over comments appearing on the Home in Henderson blog. The comments in question were attached to a blog post entitled "Arrest Made in Elder Abuse Case," which appeared on Home in Henderson eight months prior. According to Hester's complaint, the commenters used screen names like "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Fatboy" to make false statements suggesting that Hester was a slumlord and should be jailed.

Hester served a subpoena on Jason A. Feingold, editor of the blog, commanding him to appear for a deposition and to turn over identifying information for the commenters. Feingold and Home in Henderson filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that both the North Carolina shield law and the First Amendment protect the commenters' identifies from disclosure.

On June 28, 2010, Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr. found that the statements of six of the twenty commenters were actionable and enforced the subpoena as to these commenters. The court quashed the subpoena with respect to the remaining commenters. Three days later, Robert D. Gupton identified himself on a local radio show as "Point Keeper," one of the six commenters.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Hester v. Home in Henderson

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Date: 

04/08/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jason A. Feingold; Home in Henderson, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

North Carolina Superior Court, Vance County

Case Number: 

10-cvs-361

Legal Counsel: 

C. Amanda Martin - Everett, Gaskins, Hancock & Stevens, LLP

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

On April 8, 2010, attorneys for former Vance County commissioner Thomas S. Hester, Jr. served a subpoena on Jason A. Feingold, editor of the Home in Henderson blog, commanding him to appear for a deposition and to turn over identifying information for 20 blog commenters. The comments in question were attached to Feingold's blog post entitled "Arrest Made in Elder Abuse Case," which appeared on Home in Henderson eight months prior. According to Hester's complaint, the commenters used screen names like "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Fatboy" to make false statements suggesting that Hester was a slumlord and should be jailed.

Feingold and Home in Henderson filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that both the North Carolina shield law and the First Amendment protect the commenters' identifies from disclosure.

On June 28, 2010, Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr. found that the statements of six of the twenty commenters were actionable and enforced the subpoena as to these commenters. The court quashed the subpoena with respect to the remaining commenters. Three days later, Robert D. Gupton identified himself on a local radio show as "Point Keeper," one of the six commenters.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Major League Baseball v. Charter Communications Inc.

Date: 

06/03/2010

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Charter Communications Inc.

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County

Case Number: 

107256/2010

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On June 3, 2010, Major League Baseball filed a petition for a court order requiring Internet service provider Charter Communications Inc. to disclose the names of users who posted "pornographic," and "indecent" material on MLB.com forums, Reuters reports.

Major Legaue Baseball traced the IP addresses of the offensive posters to Charter Communications and seeks the names of the posters so that it can pursue "appropriate action" against them. MLB.com has tried and failed several times to ban the "obscene" posts, many of which involve threats of unwanted sexual acts against other forum users, and images of genitalia, according to Reuters

 

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Court Filings

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

6/9/10 9.42am: I could not track down the petition for the court order so I relied heavily on the Reuters article. MH

Jurisdiction: 

Illinois Court Requires Newspaper Website To Identify Pseudonymous Commenter

A mid-level appellate court in Illinois ruled on Tuesday that the publisher of a local newspaper must reveal the identity of a pseudonymous Internet commenter.  In Maxon v. Ottawa Publishing Co., 3-08-0805 (Ill. App. Ct.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Yaldo v. Doe

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

12/10/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court, Eastern District Michigan

Case Number: 

2:10-cv-11886-JCO-MJH

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On May 10, 2010, Dr. Mazin K. Yaldo filed a lawsuit in federal district court against an unnamed Doe defendant, asserting claims for false light ant federal and state trademark infringement and unfair competition.  The claims were based on a Google AdWords campaign that used Plaintiff's trademark YALDO EYE CENTER to trigger an ad with the headline "Yaldo Eye Center Bankrupt" and the text "What you should know before considering yaldo" next to the URL "www.crainsdetroit.com" (a website that reports on local businesses in the Detroit area).  The link redirects to an article on the Crain's Detroit Business website titled "Eye surgery centers declare bankruptcy," which reported that "[f]ive companies headed by ophthalmologist and eye surgeon Dr. Mazin Yaldo have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection." 

According to the Complaint, Defendant purchased the keywords "Yaldo Eye Center," "Dr. Mazin Yaldo," "Dr. Yaldo," and "Mazin Yaldo" through the Google AdWords program.  The Complaint alleges that "Defendant's advertising is deliberately designed to cause consumers to believe that the advertisement was sponsored by Crain's Detroit Business and that the apparent warning is coming from a credible news source rather than Defendant," and that Defendant's acts were done "with the intent of urging consumers to reconsider their choice of vision correction services."  (Complaint ¶¶ 22-23)  Plaintiff further asserts that the advertisements are misleading, because they "deceiv[e] consumers. . . into believing that Crain's Detroit Business is offering a warning about the quality of services offered by Dr. Mazin Yaldo and or the Yaldo Eye Center." (Complaint ¶ 40)

According to the Complaint, Plaintiff complained to Google about the use of the YALDO EYE CENTER mark in the Google AdWords result, and Defendant subsequently modified the language of the advertisement to read "Yaldo LASIK Bankrupt," and "What You Should Know Before Considering Yaldo LASIK." (Complaint ¶¶ 29-31) 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Corbett v. Twitter

Date: 

05/06/2010

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Twitter, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Dauphin County Common Pleas

Case Number: 

190 M.D. Misc. Dkt. 2008

Legal Counsel: 

Timothy Yip

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

On May 6, 2010, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett issued a subpoena from the Statewide Investigating Grand Jury directed at Twitter, Inc.  The subpoena sought "[a]ny and all subscriber information pertaining" to the users of two Twitter accounts, using the screen names bfbarbie and CasablancaPA.

News reports indicated that the subpoenas may in part be an attempt to unmask the authors of a blog critical of Corbett.  According to other reports, a sentencing memorandum filed against former legislative aide Brett Cott, who was recently convicted on charges of theft of service, conflict of interest and conspiracy to commit conflict of interest, identified him as the author of the blog.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has agreed to assist one of the account holders in fighting the subpoena.

UPDATE: News reports indicate that Cott has been sentenced, and that prosecutors now consider the subpoenas to be moot.

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

RSS

Subject Area: 

Theriot v. Does

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/07/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-100

Type of Party: 

Individual
Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

24th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson

Case Number: 

687.191

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On May 7, 2010, the Parish of Jefferson in Louisiana and its interim President, Steve Theriot, filed a lawsuit in state court against unnamed Does for defamation.  According to the Complaint, the Does "systematically published messages on the Internet using the forums and blogs on Nola.com and Slabbed.wordpress.com," which comments were allegedly defamatory.  (Complaint ¶ 5)  The Complaint alleges that the defamatory material included statements "that members of Jefferson Parish Government such as Mr. Theriot are unethical and deceitful." (Complaint ¶ 6)  The Complaint seeks "[d]amages for embarrassment and emotional suffering[; . . . d]amages for loss of personal reputation; [. . . and d]amages for loss of business opportunity," as well as costs and attorneys' fees.

The same day the Complaint was filed, Plaintiffs issued a subpoena to New Orleans Net LLC, the operator of the Nola.com website, seeking the identities of the posters using 11 Nola.com screen names.

UPDATE: According to news reports, Theriot has dismissed the lawsuit.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

RSS

New Hampshire Supreme Court Upholds Free Speech Rights for Online News Sites

The New Hampshire Supreme Court today issued an important decision upholding the First Amendment rights of online publishers.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

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