Quixtar (also known as Amway) brought suit in Michigan against Signature, a competitor, for tortious interference with contract and other torts, and claimed that Signature was conducting a “smear campaign” through anonymous Internet criticisms. It sought discovery in Nevada from one of Signature’s senior staff members, who refused during his deposition to identify the authors of statements on several online sources. The deponent opposed this discovery, arguing for the application of the Cahill standard; the trial court initially questioned the basis for the deponent’s standing to raise the free speech rights of the Does but required notice to the Does so that they could decide whether to seek to protect their own rights, which they did. The district court then applied the Cahill standard in deciding that the Does from three online sources should be identified, but the Does from two other online sources protected from identification.In another article on the Consumer Law and Policy Blog talks about the recent ruling by a federal judge that helps to protect the owners of websites where people may post complaints from lawsuits. Here is a portion of that article.
Lawrence White created a simple, anonymous web site at careeragentsnetwork.biz to warn prospective small business owners to check carefully before investing their savings in a the “health care employee recruiting business” opportunity offered by a company called “Career Agents Network.” Career Agents Network sued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, claiming that the domain name infringed its trademark and constituted cybersquatting. Even though Sixth Circuit precedent foreclosed both causes of action, plaintiff moved ex parte for a temporary restraining order and obtained relief compelling the identification of White, and freezing the domain name, by concealing the controlling authorities from the Court. The defendant got summary judgment (represented by private counsel) by citing the controlling cases; but it cost the defendant nearly $20,000 to defend his rights.We have all heard the phrase "Freedom of Speech", but how much do we really think about that. Is speech really "free" when lawsuits can be brought against owners of websites and end up costing them thousands of dollars for that "freedom"?
Here is something to think about . . . have you ever been in a public restroom and seen a person's name and phone number written on the bathroom wall? I know I have, sometimes with the comment "For a good time call". Now, using the same line of thinking as the people who bring these groundless lawsuits against bloggers and website owners, does the person who had their name written on that bathroom wall have a case against the establishment where their name was written on the wall? Can they force them to paint that bathroom to cover their name and remove it from their wall? No. So why is it different when that "wall" is on the internet?