Anonymity

Target Corp. v. Doe

Date: 

09/05/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe, Charles Emmerson William Harris

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division

Case Number: 

1:06-cv-02116-CC

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Target Corporation, a chain retailer, filed a lawsuit against an initially unknown Internet user with the handle “Target Sucks” for copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets for allegedly posting information on various retail-employee forums and blogs. Target identified the user as Charles Emmerson William Harris based on the information it received after subpoening Internet providers. Harris allegedly posted Target’s "Asset Protection Directives," an in-house theft prevention manual, on several websites critical of Target.

Target asserted in its two-count complaint that the user “acquired a copy of Target’s AP Directives from a recently terminated Target employee, Scott Hundt.” Target alleges that Hundt emailed a copy of the AP Directives to the user, as well as posting that information on the website www.targetunion.org. After learning of the post, Target threatened legal action against Hundt, who admitted wrongdoing and cooperated with Target's subsequent efforts to block the further dissemination of the AP Directives. Target and Hundt emailed cease-and-desist orders to the user and received no reply. Target alleges that instead of complying with its demands, the user posted the AP directives to “various retail-employee forums on the Internet.” Target sent cease-and-desist letters to those forums, and the AP Directives were removed. Target asserted that the user’s “dissemination of the Target AP Directives is deliberate, willful, malicious, oppressive, and without regard to Target’s proprietary rights.” Compl. ¶ 33. Further, the complaint asserted that user had disclosed “such information without the express or implied consent of Target, for the benefit of himself.” Compl. ¶ 42.

In an effort to discover the identity of the then-anonymous user, Target subpoenaed AOL, Yahoo!, Hotmail, Qwest, Comcast, and UPS.  Compl. Ex. B. The court granted these subpoenas. Based on the information it obtained through investigation, Target identified the user as Charles Harris. Target claimed that it confirmed this identification based on the documents relating to IP address and P.O. Box information it received in response to its subpoenas to website, email, mail, and internet providers. Req. for Service.

On 04/10/2007, a civil summons was issued for  Charles Emerson William Harris. However, attempts to locate Harris for service failed. On 12/21/2007, the court granted a motion for service by publication to the Fulton County Daily Report. This notice was posted on 01/15/2008.  On 07/16/2008 the case was dismissed for want of prosecution pursuant to Local Rule 41.3(A)(3) because the case had been pending for more than 6 months without a substantial proceeding of record.  

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: TechDirt

AVM 6/02

 

Subject Area: 

Remove Your Content v. Does

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/02/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-20

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Case Number: 

3:09-cv-00393-O

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email
Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Remove Your Content LLC, which bills itself as a "targeted adult content removal service," filed suit in federal district court in Texas against 20 unnamed defendants for defamation, business disparagement, tortious interference, assault, and trademark infringement.

Remove Your Content's claims stem from a series of anonymous blog posts (on the now-defunct websites ericgreensuck.blogspot.com and removeyourcontent.blogspot.com), forum comments (NSFW), and emails directed at Remove Your Content and its owner, Eric Green. According to the Complaint, the complained-of communications contain both physical threats against Mr. Green ("We tried to pay a visit to you dude," Complaint Ex. 1 and "Either quite (sic) bothering all these sites and blogs or will (sic) take the bet and nuke you with an early Christmas present," Complaint ¶7), and false and defamatory statements about Remove Your Content's business practices ("He gets paid by other sites (sic) owners to take down pirated content. However he does it in a totally illegal matter (sic)," Complaint Ex. 2 and "Most of his DMCA (sic) are not legid (sic) because he would reported (sic) unlicensed material or matrial (sic) he doesn't even own (sic) its copyright," Complaint Ex. 2).

Remove Your Content seeks exemplary damages and attorneys' fees in excess of $100,000, as well as preliminary and permanent injunctions barring the defendants from contacting Plaintiff's place of business, employees, and clients, and from making false and defamatory statements about Plaintiff and Plaintiff's employees. Further, Remove Your Content has indicated its intent to seek discovery to uncover the identities of Does 1-20 ("Plaintiff now sues in order to discovery and verify the identities of the Defendants and recover damages." Complaint ¶11)

The blogs involved --  ericgreensuck.blogspot.com and removeyourcontent.blogspot.com -- have been removed, and cached copies are no longer available on Google.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Threat Source: 

Westlaw Alert

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Westlaw Alerts

KAI - 6/3/09

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Gingrich v. The Truth About EFCA.Org

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

05/13/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

The Truth About EFCA.Org; EFCANOW; Tucows, Inc.; ContactPrivacy.com; Twitter, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Organization

Publication Medium: 

Micro-blog
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Counsel for Newt Gingrich, Saul Anuzis, and American Solutions for Winning the Future sent a cease-and-desist letter to The Truth About EFCA.org, a website advocating in favor of enacting the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. The website is run anonymously, so the letter was sent to its domain registrar ContactPrivacy.com (owned by Tucows, Inc.).  It was cc'd  to Twitter, Inc. 

The letter complains about a Twitter user going by the handle EFCANOW who tweeted the following on May 2, 2009:  "Join @newtgingrich @sanuzis in signing the EFCA Freedom Not Fear petition at http://action.americanright... WSJ." The letter demands "that you immediately take down an illegal and fraudulent posting on Twitter . . . which falsely purports to be written by our clients and unlawfully uses the name of Messrs. [Newt] Gingrich and [Saul] Anuzis."  

The letter asserts that the continued publication of the offending tweet "can expose any and all involved parties (including Twitter, ContactPrivacy.com and/or TwoCows [sic]) to substantial, ongoing, and even personal liability," and claims that the tweet constitutes trademark infringement, violation of Gingrich's and Anuzis' publicity rights, false advertising, false designation of origin, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage and contractual relations, common law and computer trespass, conversion, traditional fraud and wire fraud, breach of contract, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and RICO violations.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Leahy v. Grasmick

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/18/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Stephanie Grasmick; Duke St. Journal, and Does 1 - 25

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

General Sessions Court of the State of Tennessee for Williamson County

Case Number: 

37111A

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Micro-blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Settled (total)

Description: 

Michael Patrick Leahy, author and founder of "Top Conservatives On Twitter," filed a lawsuit against blogger Stephanie Grasmick, Twitter user "Duke St. Journal," and 25 anonymous Twitter users for libel, false light invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with contract.

Leahy, who appears to be handling the case himself, asserts that Grasmick posts on Twitter under the name StephanieInCA and is the operator of Teablogging, a site created "to chronicle the lead-up to the April 15 conservative hysteria Tax Day Tea Parties and to serve as a central repository for low-brow teabag-related sex jokes." His four-count complaint alleges, among other things, that Grasmick libeled him in a blog post on May 13, 2009, in which she falsely stated the he is:

  • a "major tax fraud";
  • a "delusional profiteering creep";
  • an "insane clown"; and
  • a "member of some alien race of Lizard People."

Compl. (First Cause of Action) ¶¶ 1-5.  Leahy also claims that Grasmick and Duke St. Journal repeated these false statements on Twitter.

Leahy also asserts a claim for false light invasion of privacy, although the conduct he complains about is more properly characterized as a claim for publication of private facts: the disclosure of his "residence in Williamson County, Tennessee."  Compl. (Second Cause of Action) ¶ 1. 

In addition to monetary damages, Leahy claims he is "entitled to see the complete records of all Facebook communications and telephonic commuications between Grasmick and her 283 Facebook friends, as well as public and private messages sent by Grasmick to those 469 persons she follows on Twitter, in order to determine the identity, if there is such, of any additional defendants who should be named in this complaint."  Compl. ¶ 18.

Update

May 22, 2009: Dispute resolved by mutual accord.  Leahy reported on his blog that "Grasmick has agreed to remove the false and misleading word from the headline of her May 13, 2009 blogpost which caused me to file a libel suit against her on May 18, 2009. I, in response, have withdrawn my complaint against her."  Grasmick confirmed the agreement and removed the word "fraud" from her previous blog post.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Google News

Top Conservative on Twitter Takes Critic to Court

Shortly after the election last November, a call went out within the conservative blogosphere to use Twitter to organize conservatives online.  Not long thereafter, Michael Patrick Leahy and Rob Neppell started the website Top Conservatives on Twitter and pushed like-minded conservatives to use the Twitter hashtag #TCOT (the # allows twitterers to

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Digital Broadband Networks v. Does

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

12/01/2003

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Dbbdisfunny; Dalilama; Stock Pick; Smoother 1999; WNSRFR; MrWrightAide; pseeker; Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey; Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen Litigation Group, Richard Ravin - Hartman & Winnicki, P.C. (for pseeker)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

Digital Broadband Networks and its president Patrick Lim sued seven pseudonymous internet posters in New Jersey state court for defamation over statements on electronic bulletin boards dedicated to Digital Broadband on Ragingbull.com and on general messages boards on Yahoo. The company alleged that the purpose of the postings was to drive its stock price down in order to reap profits through short selling.

Digital Broadband filed a motion for permission to engage in pre-litigation discovery to uncover the identities of the anonymous posters.  In a March 2004 hearing, the trial court granted the motion, allowing the company to subpoena Yahoo! and Lycos, the operator of the Raging Bull forum.  

One of the posters, "pseeker," filed a motion for permission to take an immediate appeal to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, in order to prevent the disclosure of his/her identity. Public Citizen's Litigation Group filed a brief supporting pseeker's right to appeal. The record is not clear about the result of this motion or what, if anything, happened after the appeal. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

St. Charles County Election Authority v. Doe

Threat Type: 

Criminal Investigation

Date: 

04/01/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

An anonymous blogger who sponsored a fake campaign for St. Louis Blues hockey player T.J. Oshie to become mayor of O'Fallon, Missouri posted a photograph of a ballot with Oshie's name written in. (Although the blog remains, the photo -- available here -- has been removed.) This is an apparent violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. § 115.637 (14), which prohibits a voter from "allowing his ballot to be seen by any person with the intent of letting it be known how he is about to vote or has voted." Violation is a a class-four election offense, punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and/or up to a year in jail.

What the blogger probably saw as a harmless prank was taken seriously by St. Charles County elections director Rich A. Chrismer, who told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the blogger "violated the law, and I'm going to prosecute." "They may have thought the photo was cute," he continued, "but it was very serious."

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Ecommerce Innovations v. Doe (Subpoena)

Date: 

08/05/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Xcentric Ventures, LLC

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Arizona

Case Number: 

2:08-mc-00093 (trial); 09-15488 (appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

David S. Gingras - Jaburg & Wilk, P.C.

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

On July 14, 2008, Ecommerce Innovations filed a suit in the Central District of California against several Does alleging defamation and trade libel for posts on Ripoff Report, a website that allows users to post reports about individuals and companies that they believe have "ripped them off" or treated them unfairly.  After filing suit, Ecommerce served a subpoena on Xcentric Ventures, LLC, the operator of Ripoff Report, seeking the identities of the anonymous posters.  Counsel for Xcentric objected to the subpoena, and Ecommerce filed a motion in federal district court in Arizona, seeking to compel Xcentric to produce the requested information.

The district court ordered Xcentric to complay with the subpoena.  In its ruling, the court held that Ecommerce was required to present evidence sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment for those elements of its defamation or trade libel claim that were not dependent upon knowing the identity of the anonymous poster. The court analyzed five specific allegedly defamatory statements and concluded that Ecommerce had presented evidence sufficient to survive summary judgment with respect to one of the statements.

Xcentric moved to stay the order pending appeal to the Ninth Circuit, and the district court granted the stay, finding that the question of what standard to apply before ordering disclosure of anonymous Internet posters was significant and unanswered by the Ninth Circuit.  The court also found that Xcentric could face serious hardship because "[o]nce the identity of the anonymous poster is revealed, relief from the Ninth Circuit will no longer be available to Xcentric."

Xcentric filed a notice of appeal on March 6, 2009.  According to the docketing statement, the issues on appeal are as follows: "(1)Whether, in light of the First Amendment's protection of anonymous speech, the District Court applied the correct standard for a subpoena seeking to obtain the identity of an anonymous author; and (2) whether the District Court erred in finding that Plaintiff/Appellee met its burden of presenting evidence sufficient to overcome the First Amendment rights of the anonymous author?"

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Eric Goldman

RPK

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Ecommerce Innovations v. Doe (Lawsuit)

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

07/14/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Central District of California

Case Number: 

2:08-cv-04596

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On July 14, 2008, jewelry retailer Ecommerce Innovations filed a lawsuit against anonymous Ripoff Report posters who allegedly made "false and disparaging statements of fact about the [company's] products and services." Ecommerce allleged that Does 1-5 posted the comments as agents for Does 6-10, unknown companies that are competitors of Ecommerce.

The complaint includes claims for defamation in violation of California law and "trade libel" in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(B), which ordinarily applies to false advertising claims.

After filing the suit, Ecommerce subpoenaed Ripoff Report in Arizona, seeking the identities of the posters.  See our related database entry, Ecommerce Innovations v. Doe (Subpoena), for details.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Eric Goldman

Jurisdiction: 

Equidyne Corporation v. Does

Date: 

05/16/2002

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does, including "Aeschylus"; Henry Rhodes

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court, District of Delaware

Case Number: 

1:02-cv-00430

Legal Counsel: 

Norman M. Monhait - Rosenthal Monhait Gross & Goddess, P.A. (for Aeschylus); Bayard J. Snyder - Snyder & Associates, P.A. (for Henry Rhodes)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Settled (partial)
Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

On May 16, 2002, Equidyne Corporation, a medical device company, sued twenty-one John Doe defendants (identified by pseudonyms) who posted statements about the company on the Yahoo! and Lycos financial message boards. Equidyne claimed that the defendants were current or former employees, that they signed confidentiality agreements, and that their postings to the websites violated their confidentiality agreements.  Equidyne also argued that the postings violated federal securities laws.

Equidyne obtained permission of the court to subpoena Yahoo and Lycos to obtain information that would identify who used the twenty-one pseudonyms.  Lycos identified five defendants.  Three of these defendants, including Henry Rhodes, moved to dismiss the complaint. Equidyne voluntarily dismissed its complaint against two of the defendants, but not Rhodes. The court ultimately granted Rhodes' motion to dismiss for improper venue.

Yahoo provided notice of the subpoena to its relevant subscribers by email.  One such defendant, going by the moniker Aeschylus_2000, filed a motion to quash the subpoena, invoking the First Amendment right to speak anonymously.  According to CyberSLAPP, the district judge applied the standard from Dendrite v. Doe and found that Equidyne had shown a prima facie case under federal securities laws and denied the motion to quash.  The court also denied a motion to reargue.  Aeschylus appealed to the Third Circuit arguing that the district court judge misapplied the Dendrite standard.

The case appears to have settled while on appeal.

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Subject Area: 

South Carolina Court Awards $1.8 Million Libel Judgment Against Blogger

The Sun News reports that a South Carolina state court has awarded Scott Brandon $1.8 million in damages for defamation arising out of statements published on the Myrtle Beach Insider blog.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

First Cash Financial Services v. Yahoo! Inc.

Date: 

07/30/2003

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Yahoo! Inc.

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County

Case Number: 

1-03-CV-002135 (California)

Legal Counsel: 

Mark Goldowitz - California Anti-SLAPP Project; Cindy A. Cohn - Electronic Frontier Foundation

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

First Cash Financial Services, a Texas-based company operating a chain of pawn shops and cash checking services, obtained a subpoena from a California state court requiring Yahoo to provide identifying information for an individual who posted anonymous comments to Fast Cash's Yahoo! Finance message board.  Fast Cash sought the information in order to identify the John Doe defendant in a breach of contract action it had previously filed in Texas state court.  (For details, see the related database entry, First Cash Financial Services v. Doe.)  The anonymous poster intervened and filed a special motion to strike the action (including the subpoena) under California's anti-SLAPP statute.  According to EFF, the California court denied the motion to strike, presumably allowing the subpoena to be enforced.

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

First Cash Financial Services v. Doe

Date: 

08/19/2002

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe, aka knowfcfs

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Tarrant County (Texas) District Court; Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County

Case Number: 

No. 96 19455202 (Texas); 1-03-CV-002135 (California)

Legal Counsel: 

Mark Goldowitz - California Anti-SLAPP Project; Cindy A. Cohn - Electronic Frontier Foundation

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

First Cash Financial Services, a Texas-based company operating a chain of pawn shops and cash checking services, sued a John Doe defendant in Texas state court.  The complaint alleged breach of contract arsing out of critical statements about the firm's accounting practices posted to Fast Cash's Yahoo! Finance message board

After obtaining permission of the Texas court, First Cash asked a California state court to issue a subpoena requiring Yahoo to provide identifying information for the anonymous poster.  A clerk of the court issued the subpoena, and the anonymous poster filed a special motion to strike the action (including the subpoena) under California's anti-SLAPP statute.  According to EFF, the California court denied the motion to strike, presumably allowing the subpoena to be enforced.

The CMLP was not able to find any information about what happened to the case upon its return to Texas state court. 

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Duffin v. Does

Date: 

03/01/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does; MySpace, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Settled (partial)
Withdrawn

Description: 

Cyd Duffin, principal of Colony High School in Palmer, Alaska sued MySpace, Inc. and John Doe defendants for defamation and invasion of privacy over the posting of a fake MySpace profile, which falsely depicted her "as a drug-using racist with a sexually transmitted disease who insults disabled students and likes books about pornography, anarchy and the Ku Klux Klan," according to the Anchorage Daily News.  The Anchorage Daily News also reported that Duffin dismissed MySpace from the case after the company agreed to cooperate by turning over records related to the creation of the fake profile.  

UPDATE:

7/14/2009 - Duffin dismissed the suit after two students confessed to authoring the fake profile. Though the two students were punished, Duffin did not disclose the severity of their punishment.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Threat Source: 

RSS

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Anchorage Daily News

checked 6/18/09; no new info - CMF

UPDATED 7/16/09 AVM added information on dismissal

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

New Hampshire Court Tramples on Constitution, Reporter's Privilege, Section 230, What Have You

A reader recently tipped us off to a troubling ruling from a trial court in New Hampshire: The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. v. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc., No. 08-E-0572 (N.H. Super. Ct. Mar.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Korbel v. Does

Date: 

08/29/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sonoma

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Korbel Champagne Cellars filed a John Doe lawsuit against 10 anonymous defendants. The defamation suit, filed in Sonoma County Superior Court, complains about a number of postings on a craigslist.org forum accusing Korbel of punishing employees who reported sexual harassment, plotting to cut down redwood forests on its property, and bribing law enforcement and court authorities.  Korbel contends that these accusations are false and have injured its reputation.

Korbel determined that some of the anonymous posters used Comcast's internet services.  At a March 4 hearing, Korbel requested that Judge Nadler order Comcast to turn over their names. According to Comcast spokesman Andrew Johnson, Comcast complies with such orders, but only after notifying its customers that their identities are being sought. This enables posters to defend their anonymity. "Our policy is to give our customer notice and sufficient time to decide whether to contest the disclosure," Johnson told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

No opposition appeared to challenge Korbel's request, and Judge Nadler issued the order, but stayed its operation to give the posters an opportunity to seek a protective order.  Judge Nadler ordered Comcast to notify the affected subscribers of the discovery request within one week and gave the subscribers one month to take action.

Threat Source: 

Court Filings

CMLP Notes: 

Sonoma County doesn't put up docs, and the original filing is over 6 mo old.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. v. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc.

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

11/12/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Implode Explode Heavy Industries, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Rockingham County Superior Court, New Hampshire

Case Number: 

08-E-572

Legal Counsel: 

William L. Chapman, Jeremy D. Eggleton - Orr & Reno, PA

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued
Material Removed

Description: 

The following is a user-submitted description:

Mortgage lender Mortgage Specialists filed a petition for injunctive relief against Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, a website that reports and publishes stories concerning the US housing-finance sector.  In one story, Implode Explode covered Mortgage Specialists, a New Hampshire corporation.  As part of the story, Implode Explode posted a .pdf copy of a document it received from an anonymous source, detailing Mortgage Specialists' loan volume in recent years.  Mortgage Specialists sued Implode Explode seeking an order compelling Implode Explode to refrain from posting the document, to disclose the identity of the source of the document, to produce all other documents obtained from the same source, and to disclose the identity of an anonymous poster who commented on the article about Mortgage Specialists and allegedly made defamatory statements.

The trial court rejected Implode Explode's arguments on personal jurisdiction and on the merits, granting all of Mortgage Specialists' requests for relief.  Implode Explode has a filed a motion to stay the injunctive order pending appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  Questions on appeal would involve: the right to publish under the New York Times standard; the protection of sources under the New Hampshire qualified reporter's privilege; the application of the test for injunctive relief where the petitioner's claims are against a third party and not the respondent; and the application of the Dendrite Test to the compelled disclosure of anonymous posters on websites.

Update:

4/7/09 - Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. filed a notice of appeal from Justice McHugh's order.

4/14/2009 - Justice McHugh stayed most of his order pending pending appeal.

6/22/2009 - Citizen Media Law Project and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press submitted amicus brief in N.H. Supreme Court. ML-Implode filed its appellant's brief.

7/22/2009 - Mortgage Specialists filed its appellee's brief.

8/6/2009 - Implode-Explode filed its reply brief.

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Threat Source: 

User Submission Form

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Connolly v. Cirencione

Date: 

01/01/2004

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Robin Lukowski; Robert Lukowski; David Jensen; Thomas Castiglione; Teri Durso; Robert Heieck; Suzanne Cirencione

Type of Party: 

Individual
Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

In 2004, Seneca County officials allegedly used improper means to obtain the identities of several anonymous posters on Fingerlakes1.com who posted critical comments about them.  The anonymous posters subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging abuse of process, violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, "First Amendment retaliation," and violations of the Cable Communications Privacy Act. The posters alleged that former sheriff Leo Connolly and former undersheriff James Larson forced the operator of Fingerlakes1.com to disclose their email addresses without a warrant or subpoena under the pretext of a pending criminal investigation, and that Connolly and Larson enlisted the help of other officials to send a"illegal subpoenas" to various ISPs in an effort to unmask their critics rather than to pursue a legitimate law enforcement objective.

Before the civil lawsuit was filed, an Ontario County prosecutor brought criminal charges against Connolly for, among other things, attempting to retalitate against the anonymous posters, and a jury found him guilty on two misdemeanor charges of official misconduct. Former undersheriff James Larson pleaded guilty to theft and misconduct charges in 2008, receiving a 21-month sentence.  Larson completed a 19- month prison sentence and Connolly's two-year sentence is stayed pending appeal.  

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Legal Technology (at Law.com)

Note: The officials' actions are the threat here.  The lawsuit is the threatened parties' response to the threat. 

 

RPK

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What We Often Take For Granted: Robust Protections for Speech

Over the past few weeks everyone at the CMLP and Harvard's Cyberlaw Clinic (with whom we share an office) has been focused on the question of what legal protections courts should apply to anonymous speech (see this post about our amicus participation in the Maxon v. Ottawa Publishing case).  When you are immersed in an issue like this, it is easy to forget how lucky we are to live in a country that has robust protections for speech.

In a post earlier this week, University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist reminds us that our neighbor to the north is grappling with this same issue, but has come up with a very different answer.  In his post, Geist reports that an Ontario court has ordered the operators of the right-wing Canadian forum site, FreeDominion.ca, to turn over personally identifying information for eight anonymous posters to the site.

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