Video Professor v. Justin Leonard

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: 

Subpoena

Date: 

07/11/2007

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Nevada

Disposition: 

Lawsuit Filed

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
Justin Leonard runs the websites infomercialratings.com and infomercialscams.com. These websites give consumers the opportunity to voice their criticisms and defenses of various products and services. Pages on these websites are devoted to criticisms and defenses of Video... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Justin Leonard; Leonard Fitness, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Location of Party: 

  • Colorado

Location of Party: 

  • Nevada

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy
Description

Justin Leonard runs the websites infomercialratings.com and infomercialscams.com. These websites give consumers the opportunity to voice their criticisms and defenses of various products and services. Pages on these websites are devoted to criticisms and defenses of Video Professor, Inc., a Colorado company that develops and sells video tutorials on a variety of computer-related topics. Apparently, a number of anonymous posters made critical statements about Video Professor's products on these forum pages.

On July 11, 2007, Video Professor's president sent a letter to Justin Leonard, requesting that Leonard provide the company with contact information for each person who had posted comments to his websites relating to Video Professor. Leonard did not respond to this request.

In August 2007, Video Professor filed a John Doe lawsuit against 100 anonymous defendants (and some anonymous corporations and LLCs too!) in federal court in Colorado. The complaint includes claims for violations of the Lanham Act, violations of a Colorado consumer protection statute, tortious interference with business relations, and common law product disparagement/defamation. The complaint states that the anonymous defendants made false and defamatory statements about Video Professor's products, but does not identify any specific statements.

Video Professor moved ex parte for an order authorizing it to conduct discovery, in the form of third-party subpoenas requiring the recipients to produce documents identifying the anonymous posters. The court granted the motion.

On September 6, 2007, Justin Leonard's company, Leonard Fitness, Inc., received a subpoena, requesting that it produce identifying information for the author of every post on Leonard's websites relating to Video Professor. Along with the subpoena, Video Professor provided a check for $40.81 to compensate Leonard for his expenses in complying with the subpoena.

The Public Citizen Litigation Group took up the matter on behalf of Leonard and sent a letter to Video Professor's counsel objecting to the subpoena and laying out the reasons why, in its view, the subpoena was invalid.

Specifically, the letter argued that the subpoena encroached upon the rights of the anonymous defendants to engage in anonymous speech on the Internet without meeting the legal requirements necessary to justify disclosure of their identities. It also argued that the subpoena was unduly burdensome because it called for information relating to all postings about Video Professor on Leonard's sites, rather than identifying which postings were allegedly defamatory or otherwise unlawful. Finally, the letter stressed that the check provided with the subpoena was not sufficient to compensate Leonard for the work he would have to do to comply with the subpoena.

Communications ensued between Public Citizen and counsel for Video Professor. Video Professor narrowed the list of anonymous posters to 43. It also endeavored to provide Public Citizen with evidence supporting its allegations for each of the postings.

On or around October 18, 2007, Public Citizen sent a notice to each of the 43 posters identified by Video Professor. The letter informed the posters of the pendency of the lawsuit and the request for identifying information about them. It encouraged them to hire a lawyer and explained that Leonard would not produce any documents before October 31, 2007, in order to to give them the opportunity to file a motion to quash the subpoena in federal court. It also indicated that Public Citizen had asked Video Professor for evidence to support its claims, and that Public Citizen (on behalf of Leonard) would move to quash the subpoena should it determine that Video Professor had not done so.

On October 19, 2007, Public Citizen sent Video Professor a letter, explaining that it had sent the notice. The letter also questioned the legal adequacy of the Lanham Act claims and the adequacy of Video Professor's factual showing on the defamation claims. It requested more documents to establish, among other things, the falsity of the statements at issue.

We are not aware of the filing of any motion to quash yet.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
  • Third-Party Content
  • Trademark
  • Section 230
  • Anonymity
  • Trade Libel
Court Information & Documents
CMLP Information (Private)

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: monitor status