Third-Party Content

Gillespie v. Marlowe

Date: 

09/16/2005

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Mike Marlowe; American Online; Bob Charpentier

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Medina County Court of Common Pleas (Ohio)

Case Number: 

05CIV1255

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$221.80

Legal Counsel: 

Bob Charpentier (Pro Se); Michael S. Gordon (for AOL)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Default Judgment
Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

George Gillespie of Ohio filed suit on September 16, 2005 against two chat room users who allegedly humiliated him in AOL chat discussions.  The defendants, Bob Charpentier and Mike Marlowe, lived in Oregon and Alabama respectively at the time the suit was filed. Gillespie also sued AOL for allowing the alleged harassment to occur.

According to Law.com, Gillespie alleged that the chat room participants "acted in an outrageous manner, which they knew or should have known would cause serious emotional distress to the plaintiff . . .  The Defendants' conduct was so extreme and contemptible as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency."  Gillespie also alleged that Charpentier and Marlowe intruded into his "private affairs" and claimed that Marlowe  drove from Alabama to Ohio to photograph his home (for posting on the web) and/or to file a change of address form with the local post office in order to disrupt his mail.  Marlowe denied traveling to Ohio.

On January 30, 2006, AOL moved to dismiss the suit or stay it for improper venue. Judge Christopher J. Collier dismissed the suit against AOL on February 14, 2006, but the grounds for dismissal are unclear. Charpentier, acting pro se, filed a response and sought to reserve the right to file a $125,000 countersuit against Gillespie.  Following an oral hearing, the court dismissed Charpentier from the suit.  The case docket indicates that the court entered a default judgment against Mike Marlowe on April 28, 2006 in the amount of $221.80.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Docket information for this case (and possibly other related cases?) is available at: http://www.co.medina.oh.us/medct_epublicnodr/pages/search.aspx.  Search for George Gillespie's name.

Source: Law.com

 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

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

Date: 

11/12/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

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.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

User Submission Form

Subject Area: 

Palazzo v. Willamette Week

Date: 

03/04/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Willamette Week; Ian Gillingham

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Multnomah County Circuit Court, 4th Judicial District of Oregon

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Retraction Issued

Description: 

On March 4, 2009, Randall Palazzo, a custom home builder in Oregon, sued the Willamette Week, a local newspapaper that also publishes a website, for defamation.  According to OregonLive, several editors and staffers, including Ian Gillingham, the paper's web editor, were also named as defendants. 

The lawsuit concerns a March 12, 2008 story in the paper's "Rogue of the Week" column, which reported neighborhood complaints about rude and aggressive behavior by Palazzo and his employees.  The Willamette Week posted a correction to the original article and let Palazzo Custom Homes publish a lengthy response after the lawsuit was filed, according to Palazzo's attorney (see comment below).

OregonLive reports that the complaint seeks to hold the Willamette Week liable for publishing defamatory user comments, despite the obstacle to such a claim posed by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: OregonLive.com

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Noiseux v. Avila

Date: 

06/22/2005

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ed Avila, Donna Avila, Jennifer Hart, Raymond Sulich

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Putnam Superior Court (Conn.)

Case Number: 

CV05-4002154

Legal Counsel: 

Melissa G. Melnick, Jon Berk - Gordon, Muir & Foley (for the Avilas); April Haskell (for Jennifer Hart); Lloyd L. Langhammer (for Raymond Sulich)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

In June of 2005, Robert Noiseux sued Donna and Edward Avila, Jennifer Hart, and Raymond Sulich after statements about him appeared on Canterbury Web: Canterbury's Un-Official Town Forum.  According to the complaint, the Avilas owned and operated the website, and Hart and Sulich served as administrators.  Noiseux alleged that Sulich and Donna Avila defamed him by "caus[ing] to be published" critical statements about him on the forum.  He alleged that the remaining defendants were liable by virtue of their responsibility to monitor website content.  

After several months, Noiseux dropped the suit against the Avilas and Jennifer Hart.  Sulich, the other site administrator and alleged poster, settled for part of Noiseux's legal fees (unspecified) and an apology.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: The Day (New London, CT).  The Canterbury Democrats link above is a copy of The Day's article, which is no longer online.  A copy of the original The Day article is in the physical "Cases for Database" file in the CMLP filing cabinet.

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Novins v Cannon (Lawsuit)

Date: 

02/13/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Kevin A. Cannon; Kevin Michael Fries; Jim Kelso; Rhonda Lea Kirk AKA Fries; Vincent Lamb; Carl Osterwald; Rick Mather; Albert C. Young; Sean Monaghan; Google, Inc.; TSB Bearings, Inc.; DataBasix; Oakland Community College; XYZ Partnerships (1-100); J

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Large Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County

Case Number: 

L-705-09

Legal Counsel: 

Kevin A. Cannon (Pro Se); Joseph A. Manzo (for Defendant Carl R. Osterwald)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

On February 13, 2009, Charles Novins, a New Jersey attorney, filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself and his law firm, alleging that nine individuals posted defamatory statements about him "in a world-wide forum." Novins attached to his complaint a copy of a post made to the Usenet newsgroup alt.culture.alaska, claiming that Novins employed drug addicts at his firm. Novins alleged that his firm's revenue "declined demonstrably during this period after the publication on February 13, 2008," and he is seeking "compensatory and punitive damages, plus interest, and costs of the suit."

The complaint also names Google, Inc., TSB Bearings, Inc., Databasix, Oakland Community College, and John and Jane Roes (1-100), as defendants, but no cause of action or claim is made in the complaint against any of these defendants.  According to some Usenet posts (here and here), TSB Bearings, Inc and Oakland Community College are employers of defendants Kevin A. Cannon and Vincent Lamb, respectively.  Novins' complaint also "demands judgment" against defendands ABC Corporation 1-10, XYZ Partnership 1-10, and John and Jane Doe 1-100, who the complaint states are "persons, identities unknown, who acted, assisted, and/or participated in the assault on the plaintiff."

Prior to the lawsuit, Novins sent a letter to defendant Cannon stating his intention to file a lawsuit against him, his employer, and unnamed others.  See CMLP's related database entry, Novins v. Cannon (Letter), for details. 

Update:

04/15/09 - Kevin Cannon filed an answer and cross-claims for contribution and indemnification against his co-defendants.

04/27/09 - Carl Osterwald filed an answer, cross-claims for contribution and indemnification against his co-defendants, and a counterclaim against Novins.

09/25/09 - The court granted Cannon and Osterwald's motion to dismiss without prejudice for failing to answer interrogatories. 

10/20/09 - The case was removed to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

04/22/10 -  Novins voluntarily dismissed the action with prejudice as to Kevin Michael Fries and Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries.

04/27/10 -  The court granted the motion of defendants Lamb and Osterwald for judgment on the pleadings, relying on Section 230. The court ordered that defendants Kelso, Young, Mather, Monaghan, Google Inc., TSB Bearings, Databasix, Oakland Community College, Lamb, and Osterwald are terminated as parties in the action, leaving only Cannon.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

User Submission Form

Subject Area: 

Parker v. United States Chess Federation

Date: 

02/20/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

United States Chess Federation; Samuel H. Sloan; William Goichberg; Continental Chess Association; Paul Truong; Susan Polgar; Susan Polgar Foundation; Joel Channing

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

2:08−CV−00829−JCJ

Legal Counsel: 

Anita B. Weinstein - Cozen O'Conno (for William Goichberg, United States Chess Federation, and Continental Chess Association); William T. Salzer - Swartz Campbell LLC (for Paul Truong and Susan Polgar); Jamie Samanns - Weber Gallagher Simpson Staplet

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

On February 20, 2008, Gordon Roy Parker filed a lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania against the United States Chess Federation and several of its board members, including William Goichberg, Paul Truong, Susan Polgar, and Joel Channing. Parker alleged that current and former board members had impersonated him (and others) on a USENET chess forum.

The court dismissed Parker's original complaint for lack of clarity.  He re-filed in October 2008.  The amended complaint included claims for libel, negligence, Lanham Act violations, Title VII and PHRA retaliation, conspiracy, RICO violations, and fraudulent misrepresentation.  

In December 2008, the court dismissed the complaint with respect to Channing, Goichberg, and the United States Chess Federation.  Judge Joyner partially granted and partially denied Polgar and Truong's motion to dismiss the complaint, ruling that, in order to pursue his claims, Parker must properly serve Polgar and Truong and establish that the court has jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Dart v. Craigslist, Inc.

Date: 

03/05/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Craigslist, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court Northern District of Illinois

Case Number: 

1:09-cv-01385

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Thomas Dart, the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, filed a lawsuit against online classified site Craigslist, alleging that the site is a "public nuisance" because its users have posted ads in the "erotic services" category that facilitate prostitution.

The civil complaint, filed by the Sheriff in his official capacity, seeks an injunction, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys' fees.  According to the complaint, Craigslist creates a "public nuisance" because its "conduct in creating erotic services, developing twenty-one categories, and providing a word search function causes a significant interference with the public's health, safety, peace, and welfare." Compl. ¶ 92.

Update:

5/4/2009 - Craigslist filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings.

7/10/2009- Dart filed a response to Craigslist's motion for judgement on the pleadings.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

via Eric Goldman

status checked 6/17/09 - CMF

Updated 7/15/09 - AVM added dart's response to motion for judgment

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Cook County Sheriff Sues Craigslist for Creating a "Public Nuisance"

Last Thursday, Thomas Dart, the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, filed a lawsuit against online classified site Craigslist, claiming that the site is a "public nuisance" because its users post ads in the "erotic services" category that facilitate prostitution.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The top law enforcement officer in Cook County is using a civil lawsuit to go after Craigslist because he believes users of the si

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Woodhull v. Meinel

Date: 

01/11/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Carolyn Meinel

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Second District Court of New Mexico; Court of Appeals of New Mexico

Case Number: 

D-202-CV-200700346 (district); No. 27,959 (appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

Bryan J. Davis; Andrew G. Schultz

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Angela Victoria Woodhull sued hacker Carolyn Meinel after Meinel allegedly posted two false and defamatory statements about her on Meinel's website The Happy Hacker.  In 2003, Meinel posted on her website an email message from Woodhull entitled "Please contact me" and stating "I have a job for you."  According to the appellate court opinion in the case, Meinel then added her own commentary, stating that, when she called Woodhull, Woodhull asked her to hack into a news website that had written unflattering comments about her. 

In 2006, Meinel made a second posting, which recapped the 2003 incident and went on to state that Meinel's only recourse against Woodhull for her alleged unlawful request was "to make fun of her on this website." This posting also contained the content of an email exchange between Meinel and Michael Gimignani, a staff member at The Independent Florida Alligator, a student run newspaper at the University of Florida. Gimignani's email discussed a dispute between Woodhull and the newspaper over whether a Woodhull play contained "dancing penises and condoms."  Meinel added more of her own commentary, stating that further research revealed that Woodhull had "been on America's Funniest Home Videos" and "says she is proud to be known as Wedgie Woman."

In January 2007, Woodhull filed a defamation lawsuit against Meinel in New Mexico state court.  Meinel filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the statute of limitations barred Woodhull's claims, and that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("Section 230") immunized her from liability for publishing Gimignani's emails.  The lower court agreed and dismissed the case.

Woodhull appealed, and a New Mexico appellate court reversed.  The appellate court held that, while New Mexico followed the single publication rule for Internet publications, a jury could find that the 2006 posting was sufficiently different from the 2003 posting to constitute a separate publication, resetting the statute of limitations.

The appellate court also held that a jury should decide whether Meinel's use of Gimignani's emails qualified for Section 230 immunity.  The court stated that Meinel meight be an original "information content provider" because she solicited the information from Gimignani for her own stated purpose of "making fun" of Woodhull, and incorporated this material into a overall posting along with her own thoughts.  The court noted, however, that a jury could view Meinel's posting as containing two distinct components -- her statements and Gimignani's statements -- and thus find Section 230 applicable to the component including the Gimignani's statements.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Eric Goldman

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Finkel v. Facebook

Date: 

02/16/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Facebook, Inc.; Michael Dauber; Jeffrey Schwartz; Melinda Danowitz; Leah Herz; Richard Dauber; Amy Schwartz; Elliott Schwartz; Martin Danowitz; Bari Danowitz; Alan Herz; Ellen Herz

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

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

Case Number: 

102578-2009

Legal Counsel: 

Lisa T. Simpson and Aaron G.R. Rubin - Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP (for Facebook); Lina C. Rossillo - Morris Duffy Alonso & Faley (for Elliot, Jeffrey, and Amy Schwartz)

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Teenager Denise Finkel sued four of her former high school classmates, their parents, and Facebook after the students created a private Facebook group called "90 Cents Short of a Dollar," which allegedly contained false and defamatory statements about her. 

The complaint alleges that statements appearing on the private Facebook group asserted or implied that she "was a woman of dubious morals, dubious sexual character, having engaged in bestiality, an 'IV drug user' as well as having contracted the H.I.V. virus and AIDS." Cmplt. ¶ 23.  The postings are attached as an exhibit to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Facebook should be held liable for publishing the defamatory matter, explaining that it "should have known that such statements were false and/or have taken steps to verify the genuineness" of the statements. Id. ¶ 28.  

The complaint also alleges that the students' parents are liable for negligently failing to supervise their children.

Update:

9/15/09 - Court granted Facebook's motion to dismiss, finding that Facebook is immune from liability under Section 230 of the CDA.  Court rejects plaintiff's argument that Facebook's Terms of Use which grant it an "ownership interest" in the allegedy defamatory content makes Section 230 inapplicable.

 7/22/10 - After removal to state court, state judge dismissed the remaining claims, writing that, "Taken together, the statements can only be read as puerile attempts by adolescents to outdo each other" (slip op. at 7).

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Newsday

  • Supreme Court Records On-Line Library - Docket for Finkel v. Facebook (search for Index Number 102578-2009)  THIS DOCKET SEARCH IS NOT CURRENTLY PULLING UP ANYTHING -- NEED TO CHECK AND RE-POST WHEN IT IS WORKING.
  • CR- Searching by Plaintiff=Finkel works.  The case number is correct, but the search doesn't pull up the case
  • avm 6/10/09 - pulled up case fine, uploaded motions to dismiss and attorney info, no rulings yet

 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Doty v. Molnar (Subpoena to The Billings Gazette)

Date: 

01/01/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

The Billings Gazette

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County

Case Number: 

DV 07-022

Legal Counsel: 

Martha Sheehy - Sheehy Law Firm

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Russell Doty, a former candidate for local political office in Montana, subpoenaed The Billings Gazette, seeking identifying information for three anonymous individuals who posted comments to an article on the newspaper's website in 2008 using the pseudonyms "CutiePie," "Always, wondering," and "High Plains Drifter."  Doty issued the subpoena in connection with a defamation lawsuit against his former political rival, Brad Molnar, in which he alleged that Molnar made false statements in 2004 concerning Doty's qualifications to run for office. 

Doty alleged that Molnar was one of the pseudonymous posters (Molnar denied this in a deposition), and that the other posters might serve as witnesses about the harm to his reputation caused by Molnar's 2004 statements.  The Billings Gazette filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that Montanta's shield law protected it from having to disclose the commenters' IP and email addresses. 

On September 3, 2008, Judge Todd Baugh of Montana's 13th Judicial District granted the motion to quash, ruling that Montana's shield law protected the commenters' identifying information.  Montana's shield law says that a news organization or any person "connected with or employed by [a news organization] for the purpose of gathering, writing, editing, or disseminating news” may not be required to "disclose any information obtained or prepared or the source of that information . . . if the information was gathered, received, or processed in the course of [a reporter's] employment or [a news organization's] business."  Mont. Code § 26-1-902(1).  Judge Baugh agreed with the Gazette's argument that this language is broad enough to encompass data gathered when a newspaper website user posts a comment. 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Gibson v. Craigslist

Date: 

09/04/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

craigslist, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Case Number: 

1:08-CV-7735

Legal Counsel: 

Justin Nolan Kinney; Elizabeth L. McDougall-Tural

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

New York City store owner Calvin Gibson sued craiglist, Inc. after a gunman shot him with a handgun allegedly purchased on craigslist. Gibson's lawsuit reportedly claims that neighbor Jesus Ortiz told police he had shot Gibson and that he had obtained the gun through a craigslist classifieds advertisement.  Gibson accuses craigslist of negligence and seeks $10 million in damages.

Craigslist filed a motion to dismiss the suit on the ground that section 230 of the Communication Decency Act ("Section 230") insulates it from liability for content posted by its users.  Gibson has opposed the motion, primarily arguing that Section 230 does not apply to common law claims such as negligence.

6/15/2009 - The court dismissed the complaint, relying on Section 230.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Westlaw Alert

Subject Area: 

Juicy Campus Dies - Holmes' Posse Rejoices

Juicy Campus -- often the target of anti-free-speech types in higher education has died. And I am glad.

Subject Area: 

Sinclair v. Democratic Underground

Date: 

04/01/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Democratic Underground; Digg.com; Google, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization
Large Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Case Number: 

1:08-cv-00434

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen (for mzmolly and Democratic Underground)

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

In March 2008, Lawrence Sinclair sued three pseudonymous Internet users -- TubeSockTedD, mzmolly, and Owningliars -- for defamation in federal district court in the District of Columbia. 

In late 2007/early 2008, Sinclair published a YouTube video and blog claiming that he had engaged in sexual activities and done drugs with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. This sparked a vociferous response from many Internet users, who criticized Sinclair and challenged his claims about Obama. 

According to court documents, one such Internet user, "TubeSockTedD," allegedly posted a video on YouTube that stated "Larry Sinclair is Spreading Lies About Obama."  Days later, another Internet user going by "Owningliars" allegedly posted a statement on Digg.com, linking back to an unspecified video, urging readers to watch it as "proof" that Sinclair was lying, and stating that Sinclair was in a mental hospital when he claimed to have met Obama.  Later still, another Internet user going by "mzmolly" allegedly posted a comment on a forum on Democratic Underground, repeating the claim that Sinclair was a former mental patient.

After Sinclair filed suit, he subpoenaed Democratic Underground, Google, and Digg seeking identifying information about the pseudonymous defendants.  Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen, representing both mzmolly and Democratic Underground, objected to the subpoena in a strongly worded letter. Sinclair then moved to compel Democratic Underground to disclose mzmolly's identity, and both mzmolly and Democratic Underground opposed the motion to compel, arguing that First Amendment protection for anonymous speech shielded mzmolly's identity from disclosure under the circumstances. 

In February 2009, the district court issued an opinion denying the motion to compel and dismissing the complaint in its entirety.  The court held that Sinclair was not permitted to compel the identification of the three pseudonymous defendants because he could not meet the heightened standard required by the First Amendment.

Specifically, the court held that Sinclair's complaint was facially invalid because it did not plead facts necessary to establish the court's subject-matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction over the pseudonymous defendants.  In addition, the court ruled that Sinclair's defamation claims failed as a matter of law because he did not plead either actual malice or special damages, and because section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protected mzmolly and Owningliars for "simply summarizing and reporting information obtained from" a third party.

Although it quashed the subpoena and dismissed the complaint, the district court refused to award mzmolly and Democratic Underground sanctions against Sinclair because of the novel areas of law involved. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

There are tons of other motions filed in this case; Sinclair has attempted to subpoena Digg and Google alongside the others, and various memos and responses have gone back and forth on these and other issues. Whoever looks at this may want to look through to see what is interesting in these -- or see what others around the web have picked out of them. {MCS}

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Public Citizen

Subject Area: 

Sinclair v. TubeSockTedD

Date: 

03/13/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

TubeSockTedD; Mzmolly; Owningliars

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Case Number: 

1:08-cv-00434

Legal Counsel: 

James R. Klimaski - Klimaski & Associates, P.C., Ray Beckerman - Ray Beckerman PC (for TubeSockTedD); Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen (for mzmolly and Democratic Underground)

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

In March 2008, Lawrence Sinclair sued three pseudonymous Internet users -- TubeSockTedD, mzmolly, and Owningliars -- for defamation in federal district court in the District of Columbia. 

In late 2007/early 2008, Sinclair published a YouTube video and blog claiming that he had engaged in sexual activities and done drugs with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. This sparked a vociferous response from many Internet users, who criticized Sinclair and challenged his claims about Obama. 

According to court documents, one such Internet user, "TubeSockTedD," allegedly posted a video on YouTube that stated "Larry Sinclair is Spreading Lies About Obama."  Days later, another Internet user going by "Owningliars" allegedly posted a statement on Digg.com, linking back to an unspecified video, urging readers to watch it as "proof" that Sinclair was lying, and stating that Sinclair was in a mental hospital when he claimed to have met Obama.  Later still, another Internet user going by "mzmolly" allegedly posted a comment on a forum on Democratic Underground, repeating the claim that Sinclair was a former mental patient.

After Sinclair filed suit, he subpoenaed Democratic Underground, Google, and Digg seeking identifying information about the pseudonymous defendants.  Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen, representing both mzmolly and Democratic Underground, objected to the subpoena in a strongly worded letter. Sinclair then moved to compel Democratic Underground to disclose mzmolly's identity, and both mzmolly and Democratic Underground opposed the motion to compel, arguing that First Amendment protection for anonymous speech shielded mzmolly's identity from disclosure under the circumstances. 

In February 2009, the district court issued an opinion denying the motion to compel and dismissing the complaint in its entirety.  The court held that Sinclair was not permitted to compel the identification of the three pseudonymous defendants because he could not meet the heightened standard required by the First Amendment.

Specifically, the court held that Sinclair's complaint was facially invalid because it did not plead facts necessary to establish the court's subject-matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction over the pseudonymous defendants.  In addition, the court ruled that Sinclair's defamation claims failed as a matter of law because he did not plead either actual malice or special damages, and because section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protected mzmolly and Owningliars for "simply summarizing and reporting information obtained from" a third party.

Although it quashed the subpoena and dismissed the complaint, the district court refused to award mzmolly and Democratic Underground sanctions against Sinclair because of the novel areas of law involved. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

There are tons of other motions filed in this case; Sinclair has attempted to subpoena Digg and Google alongside the others, and various memos and responses have gone back and forth on these and other issues. Whoever looks at this may want to look through to see what is interesting in these -- or see what others around the web have picked out of them. {MCS}

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Public Citizen

Subject Area: 

Juicy No More

You know the economy's bad when even college rumor-mongering isn't making a profit any more.  That's right, JuicyCampus.com, the website dedicated to anonymously posted collegiate gossip, has closed up shop.  In a post announcing the shutdown, Matt Ivester, the founder and CEO, put the blame on "these historically difficult economic times,&q

Subject Area: 

California Anti-SLAPP Project Takes Up Case for Yelp and Parents Sued Over Negative Dentist Review

On January 21, the California Anti-SLAPP Project (CASP) filed a special motion to strike the complaint of Yvonne Wong, a pediatric dentist who sued Yelp! Inc. and two parents based on a negative review of her services the parents posted on Yelp

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Benitah v. Law

Date: 

10/31/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Linda Law; Yelp! Inc.; TheSqueekyWheel Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco

Case Number: 

CGC-08-481471

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

In October 2008, David Benitah, a San Francisco-based immigration attorney and business consultant, sued Linda Law and consumer review websites Yelp and TheSqueakyWheel.com for defamation and trade libel in a California state court. The complaint alleges that the defendants "published false statements regarding plaintiff on the internet," but does not identify any specific statements. Law's negative review of Benitah is still posted on the SqueakyWheel.com, but Yelp appears to have taken the material down.

On January 21, 2009, the court ordered Benitah to appear in court on February 17 to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed for failure to serve the defendants and file proof of service within 60 days of filing the complaint.

Update:

2/4/2009 - Benitah filed response to order to show cause

2/5/2009 -  Proof of service order to show cause hearing set for 2/17/2009 ordered off the calendar by the court

3/18/2009 - Order to show cause hearing set for 5/18/2009, later continued to 6/29/2009

Both Benitah  and Globolex have noow elected to represent themselves Pro Se.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Deborah Gage at SF Chronicle

VAF 2/19/2009 

AVM 6/12/09 - Updated from docket. 

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

User Feedback

Subject Area: 

Johnson v. ComplaintsBoard.com

Date: 

06/26/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Elizabeth Arden d/b/a ComplaintsBoard.com; ComplaintsBoard.com; Michelle Reitenger; InMotion Hosting, Inc.; Melanie Lowry; Kathleen Heineman

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of Putnam County, Missouri; United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri

Case Number: 

No. 08AJ-CC0047 (state court); No. 5:08-cv-6103 (federal court)

Legal Counsel: 

Stacey R. Gilman, Katherine K. Gonzalez - Berkowitz, Oliver, Williams, Shaw & Eisenbrandt, LLP-MO (for Defendant Heineman); Raymond E. Probst, Jr. - The Probst Law Firm P.A. (for Defendant InMotion Hosting); Melanie Lowry (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Default Judgment
Dismissed (total)
Material Removed

Description: 

Susan and Robert Johnson, owners of Cozy Kittens Cattery, LLC, sued consumer review site ComplaintsBoard.com, its (alleged) publishers Elizabeth Arden and Michelle Reitenger, and two ComplaintsBoard users who commented on a complaint thread about Susan Johnson and her cat breeding business. The Johnsons also sued InMotion Hosting, Inc., the hosting service for the website. The complaint alleges injurious falsehood, defamation, and intentional inflication of emotional distress against all six defendants.

The complaint also includes a federal trademark infringement claim against one of the commenters, Kathleen Heineman, who allegedly violated the Johnsons' trademark rights in their "Cozy Kittens" trademark by "use of the name 'Cozy Kittens and Cuddly Cats'" in connection with her competing cat breeding business. (This allegation is puzzling given that Heineman's business appears to be called Boutique Kittens.)

The claims against Arden, Reitenger, ComplaintsBoard.com, and InMotion seek to hold them liable for publishing third-party content (Lowry and Heineman's comments) and refusing to remove this content upon demand by the Johnsons. These claims are likely barred by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but it does not look like any defendant has asserted this defense so far.

The Johnsons originally filed suit in state court in Missouri in June 2008, but Heineman removed the case to federal court in October 2008. After removal, Heineman, a resident of Colorado, moved to dismiss the complaint against her for lack of personal jurisdiction. This motion was pending as of January 15, 2009.

Before removal, the state court entered a default judgment against Melanie Lowry, who did not appear in the case. Lowry later challenged the default judgment by sending a letter to the federal district judge.

InMotion moved to dismiss the complaint in state court (grounds unknown), but did not refile the motion in federal court after removal. Based on InMotion's failure to answer or file a motion to dismiss in federal court, the Johnsons moved for entry of a default judgment against it. InMotion then appeared, arguing that the court should deny the Johnsons' motion for entry of default and hear its motion to dismiss on the merits.

Arden, Reitenger, and ComplaintsBoard.com have not appeared in the federal action. The reason for this is not clear -- they may have defaulted in the state court action, they may have settled with the Johnsons, or they may never have been served in the first place. The disputed comments no longer appear on ComplaintsBoard.com.

UPDATE:  

6/8/2009 - Court granted the Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Heineman, Lowry, and InMotion Hosting 

7/10/2009 - Court dismissed without prejudice the claims against Defendants Elizabeth Arden d/b/a ComplaintsBoard.com, ComplaintsBoard.com, and Michelle Reitenger 

8/4/2010 - 8th Circuit affirms dismissal of claims 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 2/12/09 - VAF

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Enterline v. The Pocono Record

Date: 

10/30/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., publisher of The Pocono Record

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

No. 3:08-cv-01934

Legal Counsel: 

Gayle C. Sproul - Levine Sullivan Kocht Schartz LLP

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Brenda Enterline subpoenaed The Pocono Record, a daily newspaper and news website serving northeast Pennsylvania, seeking the identity of individuals who made anonymous forum posts on its website.  

In September 2008, Enterline sued the Pocono Medical Center for sexual harassment.  The Pocono Record published an article about her lawsuit in its print and online editions.  A number of commenters posted to the website forum associated with the article, and some of the comments suggested that the authors had personal knowledge of the facts at issue in Enterline's lawsuit.  She then subpoenaed The Pocono Record, seeking information identifying eight of the anonymous speakers. The newspaper objected to the subpoena, arguing that it was premature (discovery had not yet commenced in the lawsuit), that it violated the First Amendment rights of the commenters, and that the reporter's privilege protected the identity of the commenters as sources.  Enterline line moved to compel The Record to comply and for sanctions.

The district court denied Enterline's motion. It held that The Record had standing to assert the First Amendment rights of the third-party anonymous commenters and that disclosure was not warranted under the circumstances.  The court refrained from determining "the full extent of the First Amendment right to anonymity," instead deciding the case based on the "good faith" standard applied in Doe v. 2TheMart.com, 140 F.Supp.2d 1088 (W.D. Was. 2001), which Enterline had argued for in her brief.  Under this standard, the court determined that disclosure was not appropriate because Enterline had not demonstrated that the information was unavailable from other sources.  The court did not address the newspaper's other grounds for refusing to comply with the subpoena.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

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