Anonymity

Warranty Automotive Services v. Does

Date: 

04/06/2010

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-5 and ABC Corporations 1-5

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Case Number: 

1:10-CV-1006-JEC

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On April 6, 2010, Warranty Automotive Services Corp. filed a complaint in federal district court against unnamed Does for claims arising out of defendants' operation of a website at www.lifetimewarrantymyths.com. The Complaint indicates that plaintiff believes the defendants may be residents of Connecticut who own or are otherwise affiliated with a car dealership that is a former customer of Warranty Automotive Services, Premier Subaru, LLC of Branford, Connecticut. (Complaint ¶¶ 20-24.)

According to the Complaint, Warranty Automotive Services Corp. sells lifetime warranty services to automotive dealerships, which extend the manufacturer's limited powertrain warranty for new vehicles for as long as the original purchaser of the vehicle owns it. Plaintiff alleges that in January 2010, defendants began publishing a website at www.lifetimewarrantymyths.com that contains a number of false and defamatory statements about plaintiff's services, including allegations that plaintiff "has been guilty of causing 'consumer confusion,' . . . that plaintiff's lifetime warranty is and will be worthless. . . . that plaintiff has been 'fined' by the Federal Trade Commission, and that the warranty which plaintiff markets and sells is a 'marketing tool to compensate for inherent deficiencies in either [plaintiff's] product, their process or both.'" (Complaint ¶ 14.)  The Complaint further alleges that defendants, throught their website, make claims that plaintiff operates a fraudulent "pyramid scheme." (Complaint ¶ 15.)

The Complaint asserts causes of action for (i) defamation; (ii) tortious interference with prospective economic advantage; (iii) trade libel; (iv) unfair business practices in violation fo O.C.G.A. § 10-1-370 et seq.; and (v) violation of the Cyber Piracy Prevention Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d) (based on defendants' "labeling and positioning their website, 'www.lifetimewarrantymyths.com,' and by using metatags, and otherwise" in a manner alleged to have infringed plaintiff's rights in its WASCOR trademark).

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Westlaw Alert

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Lerner v. GalaxyFacts

Date: 

12/01/2009

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Michael R. Deluca

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey, Hudson County-Law Division

Case Number: 

No. HUD-L-672-10

Legal Counsel: 

Richard L. Ravin - Hartman & Winnicki; Paul Alan Levy, Gregory Beck - Public Citizen Litigation Group

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Slava Lerner, the President of the Galaxy Towers Condominium Association, sought pre-action discovery from Michael Deluca, publisher of GalaxyFacts, a website forum used by Galaxy Towers condo owners to discuss a variety of issues, including the Association’s governance and leadership.  Lerner sought the identities of anonymous commenters who "accused [him] of improprieties with Galaxy funds, and 'nasty personal attacks,'" Deluca told the Hudson Reporter.

Initially, a New Jersey trial judge granted Lerner's request to depose Deluca and to obtain information from the website.  Subsequently, with the help of Public Citizen, Deluca filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court granted in March 2010.  

In an oral ruling, Judge Hector Velazquez held that Rule 4:11-1, the New Jersey rule of civil procedure governing pre-suit discovery, does not authorize pre-suit discovery in order to learn the identities of potential defendants. Citing the Dendrite case, the court explained that “[New Jersey] courts have set forth a procedure whereby a party seeking to file a complaint for defamation can sue anonymous speakers even before he or she knows who they are,” adding that “in those circumstances, pre-complaint discovery would not be appropriate.” Tr. at 22. Because Lerner had not filed a John Doe complaint before seeking discovery, the court denied the requested discovery.   

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Content Type: 

CMLP Updates Legal Guide Pages on Protections for Anonymous Speech

Today, CMLP published extensive updates to its legal guide pages on the legal protections for anonymous and pseudonymous speech on the Internet. We overhauled the general page on First Amendment protections to reflect significant changes in the law over the past few years, and updated the state pages to include many new cases on the topic.

Subject Area: 

Town of Southborough v. MySouthborough.com

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

09/22/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

MySouthborough.com; Susan Fitzgerald

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Legal Counsel: 

Pro Se

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In September and October 2009, Aldo Cipriani, Town Counsel for Southborough, MA, exchanged letters with Susan Fitzgerald, publisher of MySouthborough.com, a blog dedicated to local politics. Cipriani's letters requested that Fitzgerald turn over the identity of a commenter going by the moniker "Marty" and cautioned Fitzgerald to "more closely monitor remarks made on the communication site ensuring that when individuals speak to issues they do so accurately and without false allegations of violating state law." A letter from late October also advised her to retain records of IP addresses and other information.

According to the Boston Globe, the dispute revolves around meetings of a search committee set up to select a new police chief:

Marty’s posts questioned whether certain search committee meetings held in executive session, behind closed doors, violated the state’s open meeting laws. The posts insinuated the committee had unfair partiality toward the police force’s interim chief, Jane Moran, during the search process. The longtime department veteran was hired for the permanent position in November. (source)

According to MetroWest Daily News, Cipriani's September 22 letter asserted that "[c]ertain comments have been made about the citizen volunteer duly-appointed Police Chief Search Committee wrongly suggesting improprieties under state law," and asked "that you . . .  furnish the contact information for 'Marty' and/or his attorney so that we may raise our concerns directly." 

In a September 30 response, Fitzgerald refused to turn over Marty's identity.  She later told the Globe that she considered Marty's statements expressions of opinion, noting that “I may not agree, but I believe it is the commenter’s right to say it.’’  

The issue resurfaced in March when Selectmen Sal Giorlandino and Bonnie Phaneuf said recent comments posted under a police lieutenant story compelled them to consider legal action.  Selectman Giorlandino told the Globe: "References that say I'm not masculine enough to do my job, and another reference that involved burning Bonnie's (Phaneuf) undergarments, went over the line."

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Roebuck v. Trib Total Media, Inc.

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/12/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Trib Total Media, Inc.; James Cuddy, Jr.; Frank Craig; John Doe a/k/a "None"

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

GD-10-000727

Legal Counsel: 

Ronald Barber

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Karen Roebuck, a former employee of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, commenced legal action against Tribune-Review publisher Trib Total Media, two of its editors, and a John Doe defendant over comments posted to the unaffiliated VoyForums site,  self-described as "a forum to talk about issues affecting the Pittsburgh media scene."

Roebuck used an unusual procedure which allows her to commence the action using a "writ of summons" without filing a complaint.  In a motion to extend time to file a complaint, Roebuck indicated that she intends to bring a libel action based on two statements posted on VoyForums by an unknown person using the pseudonym "None."   The court granted Roebuck 60 days to conduct discovery in support of filing a complaint.

In February 2010, Roebuck served a subpoena on VoyForums seeking documents showing the IP address for "None."  VoyForums posted a notice on its forum indicating that it would comply with the subpoena unless someone came forward to file a motion to quash within 30 days.

Defendants Trib Total Media, Frank Craig, and James Cuddy filed a motion to quash the subpoena on March 26, 2010, and supplemented it with a brief on April 5. The brief argues that the subpoena is a "nullity" because it was served on VoyForums, which is based in California, without issuing from a California court.  It also argues that Roebuck has not made the showing required to unmask a pseudonymous speaker under Melvin v. Doe, 49 Pa. D. & C. 4th 449 (Allegh. Co. 2000).

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Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Paving Hell: ACTA Encourages Oppression from Friend and Foe Alike

The drafting of the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) isn’t going so well.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

"Fred Ross" Files Anti-SLAPP Motion Against Patterson City Attorney

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend and all-around First Amendment bad ass Marc Randazza called on a bunch of law bloggers to make March "Anti-SLAPP Month" in honor of Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN)’s propos

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

George Logan v. Fred Ross

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/07/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Fred Ross; Does I-XX

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, County of Merced

Case Number: 

CV000745

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In January 2010, George Logan, City Attorney for Patterson, California, filed a lawsuit against John Doe defendants individually and collectively referring to themselves as "Fred Ross" over statements appearing on the Patterson IrriTator website and in comments posted to the Patterson Irrigator's website. According to the complaint, filed in California state court, the statements in question asserted that Logan was "in the pocket of developers" and a "joke."  The complaint includes claims for libel and conspiracy to libel.

A post on the Patterson IrriTator recommends that readers refrain from posting comments on the website "if you are concerned about your identity being revealed."

Update: 

03/10/2010-Fred Ross filed a motion to strike the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP law.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

McVicker v. Trib Total Media, Inc.

Date: 

01/22/2010

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Trib Total Media, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization
Media Company

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

2:09-cv-00436

Legal Counsel: 

Ronald Barber

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

William McVicker subpoenaed Trib Total Media, publisher of the South Hills Record and YourSouthHills.com, for "information that would disclose the true identities" of the users of seven identified screen names. McVicker, the plaintiff in an employment discrimination case, sought the identities of the posters in order to impeach the testimony of city council members who made the decision to fire him.  The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania denied McVicker's motion to compel the newspaper to turn over identifying information.

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Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Pennsylvania Court Refuses to Unmask News Website Commenters

Thomas O'Toole at TechLaw points us to an anonymous speech decision issued last week by a federal court in Pennsylvania.  In McVicker v.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Proman v. Google

Date: 

12/12/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Google, Inc.; John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, Nassau County

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On December 12, 2009, Matthew Brian Proman and NAPW, Inc. (d/b/a National Association of Professional Women) sued Google, Inc. and 10 John Doe defendants in New York state court, asserting claims for "misappropriation of Plaintiffs' names for trade and advertising purposes" and defamation.  (Complaint ¶1)

According to the complaint, Google hosts four articles about the National Association of Professional Women, through its Blogger and Knol services, that contain allegedly defamatory statements about NAPW and Proman. As alleged in the Complaint, the posts at issue call NAPW a "scam," and label Proman a "scam artist." (Complaint  ¶8).

The Complaint requested an injunction ordering Google to remove the allegedly defamatory posts, identification of the authors of the posts, and pecuniary and exemplary damages against the Doe defendants.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

New York v. The (Chester) Chronicle

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Date: 

10/01/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

The (Chester) Chronicle

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Organization
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, Orange County

Legal Counsel: 

Laura Handman - Davis Wright Tremaine

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

In October 2009, an Orange County grand jury subpoenaed The (Chester) Chronicle for information about the identities of two anonymous posters to its website. The comments in question related to the controversial tenure of Helen Anne Livingston, the Chester schools superintendent, according to recordonline.com.

The subpoena came after a series of informal requests from local public officials to have comments removed from the site and to reveal IP addresses of the posters.  According to The Chronicle, before the subpoena issued, a Chester police officer came to the newspaper's office requesting the same information.

In February 2010, Orange County Court Judge Nicholas De Rosa granted The Chronicle's motion to quash the subpoena, ruling that the government had not shown that the identities of the commenters were critical to an investigation before the grand jury. 

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

The Rhythm Method: Sinking U-boats and Online Anonymity Through Typing Tendencies

"If we walk without rhythm, we won't attract the worm.” – Dune; see also Weapon of Choice, Fat Boy Slim

Corporations are resurrecting a blast from the past in order to identify online users. And unlike earlier attempts to trace users, this method is behavioral. Get ready to go back to finger-pecking.

Subject Area: 

Apex Technology Group, Inc. v. Does

Date: 

12/01/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-10 and ABC Corporations 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey

Case Number: 

MID-L-7879-09

Legal Counsel: 

John Miano, Esq.

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

In December 2009, Apex Technology Group, Inc. and its principal Sarvesh Kumar Dharayan filed a lawsuit for defamation against John Does 1-10 and ABC Corporations 1-10 in New Jersey state court.  On December 3, 2009, Apex and Dharayan filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, seeking an injunction ordering the websites www.endH1B.com, www.itgrunt.com, and www.guestworkerfraud.com to remove certain forum postings about Apex and Dharayan that the plaintiffs claim are defamatory.  According to plaintiffs' motion, the postings include allegations that Apex "employees don't receive their salary at the end of the month. . . . [the salary] is usually received @ a random date in the following month, provided you are lucky," and that "once you file/transfer your H1B to them you more or less become their slave and you will get entangled in thier [sic] web of lies and legal documents."

On December 23, 2009, the court issued an order directing the websites' upstream hosts to disable access to the websites, and ordering Facebook, Yahoo! and Comcast to disclose the identity of the individual behind two email addresses associated with www.endH1b.com that plaintiffs alleged had included defamatory postings in an email newsletter.

Update:

6/25/2010 - Accordng to one of the defendants, the court granted his motion to dismiss the complaint and lift the court's Dec. 23, 2009 order.

CMLP Notes: 

checked the status of the motion online: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/acms/MOTN/CV0390W0E.ASP

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Pages

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