McMann v. Doe 1

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

10/06/2006

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Massachusetts

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Subpoena Quashed

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
Paul McMann, a Massachusetts real estate developer, sued the anonymous operator of an Internet "gripe site" about him. The website contained a photograph of Mr. McMann, the statement that he "turned lives upside down," and a suggestion to "be afraid, be... read full description
Parties

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Paul McMann

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • Massachusetts

Legal Counsel: 

None
Description

Paul McMann, a Massachusetts real estate developer, sued the anonymous operator of an Internet "gripe site" about him. The website contained a photograph of Mr. McMann, the statement that he "turned lives upside down," and a suggestion to "be afraid, be very afraid." The website announced that it would soon be updated with specific evidence of McMann's alleged misdealings. McMann claimed that the unknown party operating the website violated his statutory and common law right of privacy, infringed his common-law copyright, and committed defamation. McMann sought to subpoena ISPs to discover the identity of the website operator.

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because McMann asserted only state-law claims and did not identify the citizenship of the anonymous defendant. The court observed that diversity of citizenship between McMann and the ISPs that he sought to subpoena could not bestow subject-matter jurisdiction on the court. The court stated in the alternative that it would dismiss the underlying case for failure to state a claim. Relying on Doe v. Cahill, 884 A.2d 451 (Del.2005), an important case from the Delaware Supreme Court, the court opined that First Amendment protections for anonymous speech requires courts to impose a heightened preliminary burden on plaintiffs seeking to discover the identity of anonymous posters.

The court concluded that McMann could not meet this heightened burden because his complaint failed to even state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Specifically, the court held that the unknown website operator's publishing of a description of McMann's business activity and distributing a publicly available photograph did not impinge McMann's statutory right of privacy as a matter of law. It also found that McMann could not recover for misappropriation of his likeness because the website operator had not used his photograph for a commercial use, but rather for purposes of criticism. The court also held that Massachusetts does not recognize a common law cause of action for false light invasion of privacy, and that McMann's common law copyright claim was preempted by federal copyright law. Finally, the court indicated that McMann's defamation claim was fatally flawed because the statements at issue were non-actionable personal opinions that could not be proven true or false. McMann v. Doe, 460 F.Supp.2d 259 (D.Mass. 2006).

McMann later filed a nearly identical suit in Arizona.
Details

Content Type: 

  • Photo
  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Website

Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
  • False Light
  • Right of Publicity
  • Anonymity
  • Gripe Sites
  • Real Estate
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • Massachusetts

Source of Law: 

  • United States
  • Massachusetts

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Court Type: 

Federal

Case Number: 

1:06-CV-11825

Relevant Documents: