Third-Party Content

Wong v. Tai Jing

Date: 

12/11/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Tai Jing; Jia Ma; Yelp! Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court for the State of California, Santa Clara County

Case Number: 

1-08-CV-129971

Legal Counsel: 

Mark A. Goldowitz - California Anti-SLAPP Project (for Tai Jing and Jia Ma)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Withdrawn

Description: 

Yvonne Wong, a pediatric dentist from Foster City, CA sued Tai Jing and Jia Ma, the parents of a boy she treated, after they allegedly posted a negative review about her on Yelp!, a consumer review website.  Wong also named Yelp! Inc. as a defendant. The complaint contained three causes of action: first, a claim of libel against all three defendants; second, a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against Jing and Ma; and third, a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress against Jing and Yelp!  Wong's attorney subsequently told the San Francisco Chronicle that he would dismiss the claims against Yelp because section 230 of the Communications Decency Act bars recovery against the website for publishing third-party content.

Update:

01/21/2009 - Tai Jing, Jia Ma, and Yelp! Inc. filed a special motion to strike the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP law (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16).

02/03/2009 - Wong voluntarily dismissed the claims against Yelp!

03/18/2009 - The court denied Tai Jing and Jia Ma's motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP law.

7/15/2009 -  Defendants filed their opening brief in the Sixth Appellate District.  Plaintiff responded on 9/14/2009 and Defendants filed their reply on 10/9/2009. 

11/9/2010 - The Sixth Appellate District issued a ruling dismissing all claims against Jia Ma and Yelp!, and both emotional distress claims against Tai Jing, under California's Anti-SLAPP statute.  The Court left intact the claim against Jing for libel.

05/12/2011 - On remand, the Superior Court awarded Jia Ma, Tai Jing, and Yelp! a total of $80,741.15 in legal fees for the claims dismissed under California's Anti-SLAPP statute. Yvonne Wong's libel claim against Tai Jing (as sole author of the Yelp! review) remains pending. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

JS Editing

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Hammitt v. Busbin

Date: 

12/28/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ken Busbin; Teresa Watson; RomeNewsByWatson.Com, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

The Superior Court of Chattooga County, State of Georgia; United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Case Number: 

2007CA33153 (state court); 4:2008cv00162 (federal court)

Legal Counsel: 

W. Benjamin Ballenger - Office of W. Benjamin Ballenger (for Busbin); David F. Guldenschuh - David F. Guldenschuh, P.C.; Lyle Vincent Anderson - Office of Lyle Vincent Anderson (for Watson and RomeNewsByWatson.Com, Inc.)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

On December 28, 2007, Ed and Brenda Hammitt filed a defamation lawsuit in the Superior Court  of Chattooga County, Georgia against Ken Busbin, Teresa Watson, operator of RomeNewsByWatson.com, and RomeNewsByWatson.com, Inc.  The Hammits alleged that Busbin pseudonymously posted a comment on RomeNewsByWatson.com accusing them of conspiring to grow and sell marijuana. 

Watson and RomeNewsByWatson moved to dismiss the complaint based on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230).  Before the court ruled on the motion, all of the defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern  District of Georgia, claiming that the federal court had jurisdiction because of the federal law issue in the case.  The Hammits moved to remand the case to state court.  The federal court granted the motion to remand, holding that it could not exercise subject-matter jurisdiction over the case based merely on the defendants' claimed defense under CDA 230.

Currently, the case is pending in Chattooga County Superior Court.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

AVM 6/17/09 UPDATE: I could not find any of the documents from the remanded action in Chattooga court. But the case was ongoing as of 1/13/09 (see pretrial list, page 3). Nothing on westlaw

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

RSS

Subject Area: 

IGIA, Inc. v. Xcentric Ventures, LLC

Date: 

01/11/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Xcentric Ventures, LLC; Edward Magedson

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Case Number: 

1:07-cv-00222

Legal Counsel: 

Maria Crimi Speth - Jaburg & Wilk P.C.

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Default Judgment
Withdrawn

Description: 

IGIA, Inc., a company that sells vacuum cleaners and other houseware products, sued Xcentric Ventures, LLC and Ed Magedson in federal court in New York over negative user reports published on the Ripoff Report, a consumer complaint website.  IGIA claimed that the reports constitued trade libel and unfair competition, and that Xcentric and Magedson engaged in extortion by operating the "Corporate Advocacy Program" (CAPS), in which companies accused of bad practices on the website can pay to have Xcentric verify published complaints and resolve disputes with consumers. 

IGIA filed suit after numerous negative reports about it appeared on the Ripoff Report website.  The complaint alleged that Xcentric and Magedson solicited negative reports and created fictional complaints and defamatory headings and titles, thereby losing the protection of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230).  It also claimed that operation of the CAPS program constituted extortion and wire fraud and violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Xcentric and Magedson failed to answer the complaint.  As a result, the court entered a default judgment in favor of IGIA.  Xcentric then moved to vacate the default judgment.  Subsequently, IGIA voluntarily dismissed the action.  It is not clear from the record whether this voluntary dismissal was the result of a settlement between the parties.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

EDF Ventures v. Ressi

Date: 

07/24/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Adeo Ressi

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara

Case Number: 

1-08-CV-118136

Legal Counsel: 

Adeo Ressi (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

In August 2008,  Michigan venture capital firm EDF Ventures subpoenaed Adeo Ressi, operator of The Funded, a website that enables entrepreneurs to rate venture capitalists anonymously.  The subpoena issued in connection with a defamation lawsuit against an anonymous commenter to the website, who warned readers to avoid EDF Ventures "unless you are desperate."

Ressi complied with the subpoena, but indicated that the records in his possession "showed nothing material about the identity" of the anonymous poster.  This is likely because The Funded has adopted affirmative measures to protect the anonymity of site users.

The disputed comment is still online.   

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Internet Solutions v. Garga-Richardson (2nd Lawsuit)

Date: 

07/10/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Archie Garga-Richardson; Does 1-25

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County

Case Number: 

BC394102

Legal Counsel: 

Archie Garga-Richardson (Pro Se); John H. Weston; G. Randall Garrou; Marc J. Randazza (on appeal)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

After voluntarily dismissing a nearly identical lawsuit in federal court in Florida, Internet Solutions filed a complaint against Archie Garga-Richardson in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging defamation, interference with business relationships, trade libel, and unfair competition under California law. Garga-Richardson moved to strike the complaint under the California anti-SLAPP statute (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16).

Update:

11/24/08 - The court issued a tentative ruling granting Garga-Richardson's motion to strike the complaint.

12/4/08 - Case dismissed.

1/2/09 - Internet Solutions filed a notice of appeal.

2/11/09 - Internet Solutions abandoned its appeal.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 1/22/09 - VAF

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Thompson v. Gelin

Date: 

12/09/2008

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

William Gelin

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Administrative

Court Name: 

Florida Bar

Legal Counsel: 

Norm Kent

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Jack Thompson, a former Florida attorney, recently disbarred, filed a complaint with the Florida Bar against JAABlog publisher and attorney William Gelin. Thompson is seeking to have Gelin sanctioned by the Florida Bar (potential punishments range from reprimand to disbarment) because his JAABlog site "traffics in rumors, gossip, and scandal about members of the legal community, including primarily judges." The site allows unmoderated, anonymous posting of blog comments. The complaint centers on the anonymous comments. Thompson's allegations have caused the Florida Bar to draft a letter of inquiry to Gelin on December 5, 2008. Thus, in accordance with Florida Bar rules, a new file was opened and generated by virtue of Thompson's latest complaint.

(Portion above submitted by Guest.)

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

User Submission Form

Subject Area: 

Brodie v. Independent Newspapers, Inc. (Subpoena)

Date: 

08/01/2006

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Independent Newspapers, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Intermediary
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County, Maryland; Court of Appeals of Maryland

Case Number: 

17C06011665 (Circuit Court); No. 63 (Court of Appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

Bruce W. Sanford - Baker & Hostetler, LLP; Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Real estate developer and business owner Zebulon Brodie subpoenaed Independent Newspapers, Inc. ("INI") seeking the identity of three anonymous commenters to a community forum hosted by INI.  The subpoena issued in connection with a defamation lawsuit Brodie filed against INI and John Doe defendants in Maryland state court. 

According to a brief filed on appeal, the lawsuit revolves around statements criticizing Brodie for selling his historic, pre-Civil War home to another developer (the home subsequently burned down) and accusing him of maintaining a dirty Dunkin' Donuts establishment and letting trash "waft" into a nearby waterway.  Appellant's Brief, at 4-6.  INI removed the disputed comments after Brodie complained to it, but Brodie sued nonetheless.

INI moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) immunized it from liability for comments posted by third parties.  At the same time, Brodie served a subpoena demanding that INI identify the Doe defendants "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here."  INI moved to quash the subpoena and for a protective order, arguing that Brodie had failed to make the legal and evidentiary showing necessary to overcome First Amendment protection for anonymous speech.  The trial court dismissed the lawsuit against INI based on CDA 230, but ordered INI to provide identifying information for the anonymous commenters.

INI filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court granted.  On reconsideration, the court determined that the statements about the sale and burning of Brodie's home were not defamatory statements "of and concerning" Brodie, and thus could not support a claim for defamation or a subpoena seeking the identity of those posters.  The court determined, however, that the statements relating to his Dunkin' Donuts establishment could support a claim for defamation, and it ordered the unmasking of the individuals who made those statements. 

INI then requested the specific allegations of defamation related to the food-service establishment, and Brodie's counsel responded with a letter and a copy of the relevant forum threads indicating that the posters responsible for the statements about the Dunkin' Donuts were "RockyRacoon MD" and "Suze," who were not named as defendants in the complaint.  Brodie served a new subpoena seeking to identify these two posters as well as "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here," who had been protected by the court's earlier decision on reconsideration because their statements only related to the burning of the house.  INI moved to quash this second subpoena, but the court denied the motion and ordered INI to comply.  

INI appealed.  The Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case on December 8, 2008.

Update:

2/27/2009: The Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed the district court and quashed the subpoena.  It held that disclosure of the posters' identities would be improper because Brodie did not have a valid cause of action for defamation against any of them.  Specifically, the court held that Brodie could not obtain the identities of "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here" because the trial court had already ruled that their statements were not "of and concerning" him.  The court held that Brodie had no valid cause of action against "RockyRacoonMD" and "Suze" because the statute of limitations barred his any claim he might have had against them -- he had not named them in his original complaint nor timely moved to amend his complaint to include them. 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Public Citizen

Subject Area: 

Brodie v. Independent Newspapers, Inc. (Lawsuit)

Date: 

05/26/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Independent Newspapers, Inc.; "CorsicaRiver"; "Born &amp Raised Here"; "chatdusoleil"

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County, Maryland; Court of Appeals of Maryland

Case Number: 

17C06011665 (Circuit Court); No. 63 (Court of Appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

Bruce W. Sanford - Baker & Hostetler, LLP; Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Material Removed

Description: 

Real estate developer and business owner Zebulon Brodie sued Independent Newspapers, Inc. ("INI") and three anonymous commenters to a community forum hosted by INI for defamation and conspiracy. According to a brief filed on appeal, the lawsuit revolves around statements criticizing Brodie for selling his historic, pre-Civil War home to another developer (the home subsequently burned down) and accusing him of maintaining a dirty Dunkin' Donuts establishment and letting trash "waft" into a nearby waterway. Appellant's Brief, at 4-6. INI removed the disputed comments after Brodie complained to it, but Brodie sued nonetheless.

INI moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) immunized it from liability for comments posted by third parties. At the same time, Brodie served a subpoena demanding that INI identify the Doe defendants "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here." INI moved to quash the subpoena and for a protective order, arguing that Brodie had failed to make the legal and evidentiary showing necessary to overcome First Amendment protection for anonymous speech. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit against INI based on CDA 230, but ordered INI to provide identifying information for the anonymous commenters.

INI filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court granted. On reconsideration, the court determined that the statements about the sale and burning of Brodie's home were not defamatory statements "of and concerning" Brodie, and thus could not support a claim for defamation or a subpoena seeking the identity of those posters. The court determined, however, that the statements relating to his Dunkin' Donuts establishment could support a claim for defamation, and it ordered the unmasking of the individuals who made those statements.

Subsequent proceedings revealed that two anonymous posters not named in the complaint or previous subpoena -- “RockyRacoonMD” and “Suze” -- were responsible for the comments about the Dunkin' Donuts establishment. Brodie served a new subpoena seeking to identify these two posters as well as the three others whose identity had been protected by the court's early opinion on reconsideration. INI moved to quash this second subpoena, but the court denied the motion and ordered INI to comply.  INI appealed.

Update:

2/27/2009: The Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed the district court and quashed the subpoena.  It held that disclosure of the posters' identities would be improper because Brodie did not have a valid cause of action for defamation against any of them.  Specifically, the court held that Brodie could not obtain the identities of "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here" because the trial court had already ruled that their statements were not "of and concerning" him.  The court held that Brodie had no valid cause of action against "RockyRacoonMD" and "Suze" because the statute of limitations barred his any claim he might have had against them -- he had not named them in his original complaint nor timely moved to amend his complaint to include them. 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Public Citizen

Subject Area: 

RSA Enterprises v. Ripoff Report

Date: 

04/23/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Rip-Off Report.com; Google.com

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey

Case Number: 

2:07-cv-01882

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Other

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

In April 2007, building contractor RSA Enterprises, Inc. and its owner Raffi Arslanian sued Ripoff Report for defamation and trade libel over a negative report submitted to the consumer complaint website by a dissatisfied customer. In addition, RSA sued Google for disseminating the allegedly defamatory content as part of its search results. In August 2007, RSA filed a  a stipulation of dismissal without prejudice, likely because section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunized both Ripoff Report and Google for the alleged misconduct. 

The disputed report remains online, but it is now paired with a rebuttal from Raffi Arslanian.      

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Stewart v. Oklahoma Publishing Co.

Date: 

05/13/2002

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

The Oklahoma Publishing Co.; Griffin Television (KWTV-Ch.9); NewsOK LLC

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Oklahoma District Court, Creek County; Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals

Case Number: 

No. CJ-02-490 (district court)

Legal Counsel: 

Robert Nelon - Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Material Removed

Description: 

Dennis Stewart sued the Oklahoma Publishing Co. and others for publishing the Oklahoma Department of Corrections sex offender registry on NewsOK.com, a regional news website.  The registry incorrectly listed Stewart's address as associated with a registered offender who had previously lived at that address.  The complaint included claims for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. 

An Oklahoma jury awarded Stewart $200,000 in compensatory damages and $3.5 million in punitive damages. The defendants appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the judgment, holding that the defendants could not be liable because the fair report privilege covered publication of the sex offender registry.

According to the MLRC, NewsOK.com voluntarily removed the registry in February 2002 because of problems with out-of-date addresses in the data provided by the Department of Corrections.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Subject Area: 

Manchanda Law Offices v. Xcentric Ventures

Date: 

07/25/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Xcentric Ventures, LLC d/b/a Ripoff Report.com, d/b/a Ripoff Reprt, d/b/a BadBusinessBureau.com; Edward Magedson; Nitin Rana; John Does 1-4

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Case Number: 

1:07-cv-06708

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

In July 2007, Manchanda Law Offices, PLLC and attorney Rahul Manchanda (collectively "Manchanda") sued Xcentric Ventures over negative "rip-off reports" about the firm published on the Ripoff Report website, which provides a forum in which consumers may accuse companies and individuals of various "rip-off" and "bad business" practices.  According to the complaint, user statements appearing on the website falsely accused Manchanda of engaging in unethical billing practices and providing poor legal services. Cmplt.¶¶ 11-14. The complaint included claims for defamation and false light, and sought damages, a declaration that the disputed statements were false, and an injunction against future defamatory statements.

On October 10, 2007, Manchanda filed an amended complaint that named former client Nitina Rana as one of the Ripoff Report posters.  The amended complaint shifted the defamation claim to Rana alone and also brought against her a breach of contract claim and a false advertising claim under the Lanham Act. The amended complaint also included claims against Xcentric Ventures and founder Edward Magedson for violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and tortious interference with contract.

In November, 2007, four months after Manchanda filed the lawsuit, the firm still had not served the defendants with any pleadings. On November 26, 2007, Manchanda filed a motion to withdraw the lawsuit without specifying a reason.  The court granted the order without prejudice.

Manchanda apparently has not refiled the case.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: SEOmoz.org

Note for whoever reviews this for publication: it appears that Rahul Manchanda (a plaintiff, who appears as counsel Pro Se) and Rahul Dev Manchanda (counsel for Rahul Manchanda and the firm) are two different people.  If there's a better way to reflect this in the counsel field, feel free. {MCS}

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Baylor v. The Herald Bulletin

Date: 

06/30/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

The Herald Bulletin; Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Intermediary
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Madison County Circuit Court (Indiana)

Legal Counsel: 

Charles Braddock; Jimmy McDole

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Darrell Baylor, an Indiana insurance agent, sued two anonymous defendants who allegedly defamed him in on the Hey Martha forum, a cross-platform forum hosted by local newspaper The Herald Bulletin and other websites. Baylor alleged that forum users "Jack Deth" and "Brent Leroy" accused him of drinking alcohol, whereas he claims it is "a well known public fact that the Plaintiff has not had any type or form of alcoholic beverage since 1994."

Baylor subpoenaed The Herald Bulletin and its parent company Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., seeking the identities of the posters.  According to a Bulletin report, the paper filed a motion to quash the subpoena on the ground that it did not own or operate the forum and did not have the requested information. The paper also argued that the subpoena was invalid because it was overbroad and possibly violated the posters' privacy rights.

At a court hearing, the judge ordered the Bulletin to tell Baylor who had responsibility for the forum so that Baylor could serve a subpoena on that party.  Lawyers for the Bulletin identified Seattle-based Groupee Inc. as the operator of the forum.  The Bulletin's lawyers also argued that the court should appoint counsel to represent the anonymous posters in defending their right to remain anonymous.  

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

No court docs yet.  Perhaps could contact the Bulletin's lawyers. {MCS}

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Google News

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

George S. May International v. Xcentric Ventures

Date: 

09/15/2004

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Xcentric Ventures, LLC; Rip-Off Report.com; BadBusinessBureau.com; Ed Magedson; Various John Does, Jane Does, and ABC Companies

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Case Number: 

1:04-cv-06018

Legal Counsel: 

James Kenneth Borcia; David O Yuen; Maria Crimi Speth

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued
Material Removed
Settled (total)

Description: 

In September 2004, management consulting firm George S. May International Company (GSMIC) filed a  lawsuit against Ripoff Report, a consumer review website.  GSMIC's complaint included claims for defamation, "false descriptions and representations" in violation of the Lanham Act, trade libel, and deceptive trade practices.  It alleged that the site and operator Ed Magedson published false and misleading user comments accusing the company of "illegal and immoral activities." Cmplt.¶¶ 11-12

A federal district court in Illinois granted GSMIC's motion for a temporary restraining order.  The TRO prohibited Xcentric from "making, hosting or transmitting false or deceptively misleading, descriptions, statements or representations concerning George S. May, its business, owner, officers, employees and/or agents." GSMIC also requested a preliminary injunction, but the parties ultimately agreed to extend the TRO and the court never ruled on it.  In October 2008, GSMIC successfully moved the court for a finding of contempt of court for violating the TRO, and Xcentric subsequently removed eight postings that the court found violated the TRO.

Before resolution of a  complex series of motions, including one for partial summary judgment arguing that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) protected Xcentric and Magedson from liability, the parties settled the case on undisclosed terms. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: seomoz.org.

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Hy Cite Corporation v. Badbusinessbureau.com

Date: 

12/10/2004

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Badbusinessbureau.com, LLC; Xcentric Ventures, LLC; Edward Magedson

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Arizona

Case Number: 

No. CIV 04-2856

Legal Counsel: 

Maria Crimi Speth - Jaburg & Wilk, P.C.

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Hy Cite Corporation, a company that sells dinnerware and cookware under the trademarked name "Royal Prestige," sued Xcentric Ventures, LLC and Edward Magedson in Arizona federal court for defamation, RICO violations, and other torts over reports published on the Ripoff Report website, which provides a forum in which consumers may accuse companies and individuals of various "rip-off" and "bad business" practices.

Ripoff Report hosted 35 "rip-off" reports concerning Royal Prestige, which complained about Hy Cite's sales tactics, misleading promotional offers, the quality of its dinnerware and cookware, and its refusal to abide by the terms of its sale contracts.  The complaint alleged that these reports contained false, misleading, and defamatory statements.  The complaint further alleged that Ripoff Report itself partially created and/or developed this content by creating its own editorial comments and titles, producing original content contained in the rip-off reports, and soliciting individuals to submit reports in return for compensation. 

Hy Cite also alleged that Xcentric and Magedson violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by engaging in threatened extortion and wire fraud.  Specifically, Hy Cite claimed that Xcentric and Magedson created and solicited defamatory content and then offered to alter the content to portray the company in a good light in return for $50,000 and a $1,500 monthly retainer.  

Xcentric and Magedson moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) immunized it from liability for publishing the statements of its users, and that Hy Cite failed to state a viable RICO, Lanham Act, or common law unfair competition claim. 

The district court granted in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss.  The court held that CDA 230 did not justify dismissal because Hy Cite had alleged that Xcentric and Magedson personally created defamatory content in editorial comments, titles, and in the rip-off reports themselves.  Slip op. at 8.  The court also indicated that Hy Cite's allegation that Ripoff Report solicited individuals to submit reports in return for compensation could support a finding that the website was responsible for the creation and development of information.  Id. (As Eric Goldman points out, this last conclusion is at odds with other case law.)

The district court treated Hy Cite's RICO claims as if they were outside of the protection of CDA 230 and held that Hy Cite adequately stated a claim based on the predicate acts of threatened extortion and wire fraud. Here, the court relied on Hy Cite's allegations that defendants created and solicited false and defamatory complaints against businesses and used these complaint to extort money from businesses through its mediation program. See id. at 10-12.

Finally, the district court dismissed Hy Cite's Lanham Act claims for false advertising, unfair competition, and disparagement, holding that the criticism of Hy Cite's business appearing on Ripoff Report was not competitive injury actionable under the Lanham Act.  Id. at 13-15. The court concluded, however, that Hy Cite's state law unfair competition claim survived because common law unfair competition is broader than the Lanham Act in imposing liability for a false and misleading misrepresentation that is likely to cause commercial harm.  Id. at 15.

The parties later settled the case.  The terms of the settlement are not public.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Doe v. MySpace II

Date: 

12/06/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

MySpace, Inc., Kiley Ryan Bowers

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

District Court of Dallas County, Texas; United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Case Number: 

07-14369 (state court); 3:08-cv-00309 (federal court)

Legal Counsel: 

Thomas S Leatherbury, Christopher V Popov - Vinson & Elkins; Kiley Ryan Bowers (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

The family of a 15-year-old girl who comitted suicide is suing MySpace, alleging that the site was negligent in its safety practices. The girl apparently had committed suicide after a sexual relationship with a 27-year-old man she had met on MySpace. The family filed suit against MySpace in state court in Texas in December 2007, also naming as a defendant Kiley Ryan Bowers, the man who allegedly had a relationship with the deceased.

Bowers removed the case to federal district court in Texas, but the court remanded the case to state court. The CMLP has not been able to determine what has transpired since the case returned to state court in late April 2008.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

entry-VAF

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Two New Ripoff Report Cases Filed

Eric Goldman reminds us (here, here) that angry companies and individuals are still suing Xcentric Ventures, LLC and Ed Magedson left and right over reports submitted to Ripoff Report.  Ripoff Report is a website that allows users to post reports about individuals and companies that they believe have "ripped them off" or treated them unfair

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

GW Equity v. Xcentric Ventures

Date: 

06/01/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Xcentric Ventures, LLC; Edward Magedson

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Case Number: 

3:07-CV-976

Legal Counsel: 

Jeffrey Scot Seeburger - Kane Russell Coleman & Logan; Maria Crimi Speth - Jaburg & Wilk PC

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

GW Equity, LLC, a mergers and acquisition firm that acts as a consultant to middle-market business owners who seek to sell or merge their businesses, sued Xcentric Ventures, LLC and Edward Magedson in Texas federal court for defamation and other torts over reports published on the Ripoff Report website, which provides a forum in which consumers may accuse companies and individuals of various "rip-off" and "bad business" practices.

In its complaint, GW Equity alleged that Ripoff Report published false and defamatory reports submitted by users without verifying their accuracy. In an effort to circumvent the immunity for website operators provided by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230), GW Equity further alleged that Xcentric and Magedson created, developed, and published defamatory titles, headings, and metatags for these reports concerning GW Equity. It also claimed that Ripoff Report generated defamatory content by providing users with drop-down boxes containing defamatory tags, such as "corrupt companies," which were applied by users to reports about GW Equity.

After completing discovery, Xcentric and Magedson moved for summary judgment. In October 2008, a federal magistrate judge issued his report on the motion, recommending that the district court grant Xcentric and Magedson's motion for summary judgment. The magistrate judge found that Xcentric and Magedson were entitled to the protection of CDA 230 because GW Equity had failed to raise a genuine issue of fact concerning their development or creation of defamatory content. The court indicated that providing drop-down boxes with "a broad choice of categories from which a user must make a selection in order to submit a report [was] not sufficient" to deprive the defendants of immunity, especially because they "did not solely provide users with a selection of categories that were negative and/or defamatory in nature." Slip op. at 7, 10.

The magistrate judge also found that there was no competent evidence that any Ripoff Report employee ever wrote or significantly edited report titles and headings, or changed the category tag on a user report. See id. at 9-10. The magistrate relied in part on a report produced by Xcentric showing IP addresses and locations connected with the reports and rebuttals about GW Equity. This report showed the IP addresses of Ripoff Report servers and machines used by Ripoff Report staff, and noneof those IP addresses matched up with the IPs of a report or a rebuttal about GW Equity. See id. at 9.

Finally, the magistrate rejected GW Equity's argument that Ripoff Report's "Corporate Advocacy Business Remediation & Satisfaction Program" took the website outside of CDA 230. According to GW Equity, under this program Ripoff Report will, for a fee, investigate "rip-off" reports targeting member companies and post prominent rebuttals to those reports. The court indicated that "it is not a bar to immunity for an Internet provider to refuse to remove defamatory material created by a third party, or to otherwise use it to their advantage, even though the Internet provider’s conduct may be considered reprehensible and offensive." Id. at 12.

GW Equity has filed objections to the magistrate's report and recommendation, and the district court had not ruled on those objections as of November 14, 2008.

Update:

01/09/2009 - The district court affirmed the magistrate's report and recommendation and granted Xcentric and Magedson's motion for summary judgment.

 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 2/26/09 - VAF (just added documents)

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Barnes v. Xcentric Ventures

Date: 

11/03/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Xcentric Ventures, LLC (aka Rip Off Reports); Edward Magedson; Does 1-25

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, Northeast District

Case Number: 

GC 041766

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

A.H. Barnes, a California attorney who operates several businesses that help attorneys and other individuals find employment, sued Xcentric Ventures, LLC and Edward Magedson in California state court for defamation over reports published on the Ripoff Report website, which provides a forum in which consumers may accuse companies and individuals of various "rip-off" and "bad business" practices.

Barnes alleges that anonymous users of Ripoff Report submitted false and defamatory reports claiming, among other things, that he was dishonest, that he was "cooking the books," and that he had engaged in a pattern of criminal activity including breaching the privacy of his customers, software piracy, data theft, and deliberately violating federal anti-SPAM laws and regulations. Cmplt. ¶¶ 15-17.

Barnes alleges that Ripoff Report and Magedson updated the title of the defamatory thread about him to include the statement "UPDATE Ex-Employee responds . . . SCAM, FRAUD and tons of SPAM." Id. ¶ 18. He alleges more generally that Ripoff Report "deliberately and intentionally alters the content of its purportedly anonymous third-party postings to enhance the salaciousness and magnitude of known defamatory content." Id. ¶ 8. The complaint maintains that Ripoff Report's manipulation of purported third-party content "demonstrates that Rip Off, Magedson, or both exercised at least some degree of control over Rip Off's content thus losing the right to avail themselves of the safe harbor provisions of the Communications Decency Act." Id. ¶ 18.

While the complaint only includes a defamation claim, Barnes also alleges that Ripoff Report and Magedson extort money from companies by offering them the opportunity to participate in a "corporate mediation program," in which the injured company pays Ripoff Report "to help mitigate the damages caused by the defamatory content" posted by users of the website. Id. ¶ 10. Finally, the complaint alleges that Ripoff Report uses "intensive search engine-based technologies" to get unusually high search engine rankings for defamatory content, apparently as part of its alleged scheme to put pressure on companies. See id. ¶ 9.

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 1/29/08 - VAF

7/7/09 - no new information (CMF)

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Cambridge Who's Who Publishing v. Xcentric Ventures

Date: 

12/12/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Xcentric Ventures, LLC (dba Rip-Off Report and/or Ripoffreport.com and/or Bad Business Bureau and/or Badbusinessbureau.com); Edward Magedson

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Case Number: 

2:06-cv-06590

Legal Counsel: 

Maria Crimi Speth - Jaburg & Wilk, P.C.

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Cambridge Who's Who Publishing, Inc. ("Cambridge") sued Xcentric Ventures, LLC and Edward Magedson in federal court in New York over user reports published on the Ripoff Report website, which provides a forum in which consumers may accuse companies and individuals of various "rip-off" and "bad business" practices. Xcentric also allegedly operates a "Corporate Advocacy Business Remediation and Consumer Statisfaction Program" (CAPS), in which companies accused of bad practices on the website can pay to have Xcentric verify published complaints and resolve disputes with consumers. 

Cambridge filed suit after a number of negative reports about it appeared on the Ripoff Report website.  The complaint alleged that Xcentric operates an extortion scheme centered around the publication of defamatory consumer reports about Cambridge and other companies in an effort to extract "protection money" (in the form of the CAPS program) to portray Cambridge and others in a positive light on the website.  Cambridge claimed that this conduct constituted extortion and violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).  It also claimed that Xcentric's conduct constituted defamation, tortious interference with contract and prospective economic gain, trademark infringement, and conspiracy to injure in trade, business and reputation. 

Xcentric and Magedson moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.  Cambridge cross-moved the court for permission to take discovery on matters relating to jurisdiction.  The court denied Xcentric's motion with permission to renew it after the completion of limited discovery on the question of Xcentric's ties to New York, specifically in connection with its CAPS program. The court limited discovery to the CAPS program, indicating that publishing consumer reviews, selling books, and giving consumers advice online was not sufficient to show that Xcentric transacted business in New York.  Slip. op. at 7-8. The court refused to consider Xcentric's argument based on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, indicating that CDA 230 does not affect a court's personal jurisdiction over a defendant.  Id. at 3-4 n.1.

The parties settled the case, and Cambridge voluntarily dismissed its complaint in January 2008. The terms of the settlement are not public.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Gatelli v. Does

Date: 

05/25/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Joseph Pilchesky; Joanne Pilchesky; John and Jane Does 1-98

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

2007-CV-1838

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen Litigation Group, George Barron (attorneys for seven Doe defendants); Joseph Pilchesky (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced
Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Joseph Pilchesky, operator of the website Doherty Deceit, sued Judy Gatelli, the President of the Scranton, Pennsylvania City Council, for defamation after she canceled a city council meeting in response to what she called threats of violence posted on the website.  Gatelli filed a counterclaim for defamation, conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Pilchesky, his wife, and more than ninety anonymous posters to a Doherty Deceit message board.  Gatelli petitioned the Pennsylvania state court to compel Pilchesky to reveal the identities of the anonymous posters.  Mr. Pilchesky objected, indicating that he would not disclose the identities of his site users.

Paul Levy of Public Citizen appeared on behalf of seven anonymous defendants and also opposed Gatelli's petition for discovery.  The court initially ruled that Gatelli's request did not provide sufficient information to warrant disclosure.  In response, Gatelli filed an amended petition that listed forty-two posters and identified specific statements by each. She also submitted an affidavit stating that the identified statements were false and that she had suffered reputational and emotional injury as a result of their publication.

In a second ruling, the court ordered Pilchesky to reveal the identities of six of the posters, but denied disclosure as to all other posters. The court applied the standard for disclosure set forth in Polito v. AOL Time Warner, 2004 WL 3768897 (Ct. Comm. Pls. Jan. 28, 2004), which requires a plaintiff to show the following things before obtaining compelled disclosure of an anonymous commenter's identity: (1) that she satisfactorily states a cognizable claim under Pennsylvania law; (2) that the identifying information is directly related to her claim and fundamentally necessary to secure relief; (3) that she is seeking the requested information in good faith and not for some improper purpose such as harassing, intimidating, or silencing her critics; and (4) that she is unable to discover the identity of the anonymous speakers by alternative means.  Slip. op. at 4-5.  This test appears to require only valid allegations, not evidence to support each element of the underlying defamation claim.

Applying this standard, the court determined that six statements alleging "serious sexual misconduct" formed the basis of a cognizable defamation claim under Pennsylvania law, and ordered disclosure of the identities of the authors of those statements.

Pilchesky has indicated that he will appeal the judge's order.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

CyberSLAPP.org

Subject Area: 

Pages

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