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chefsos
08-13-2005, 03:28 PM
My knowledge of the law is minimal. Blogs? Less. But I figured some of you here might like a heads up. Local story, maybe larger implications.



http://www.newszap.com/articles/2005/08/12/dm/central_delaware/dsn01.txt

Published: Aug 12, 2005 - 10:39:31 pm EDT
High court to hear blog suit; Smyrna councilman claims anonymous defamation
By Drew Volturo, Delaware State News



DOVER A lawsuit seeking to identify anonymous posters to an Internet Web log will be decided in the Delaware Supreme Court, a case some say could set precedents for free speech online.

The case, filed last year by Smyrna Town Councilman Patrick J. Cahill and his wife Julia, alleges that four anonymous posters to a community issues blog "defamed" the councilman and his wife in late 2004.

Blogs are electronic public forums that allow residents to post their ideas, opinions and comments on a variety of issues, becoming a new arena of community commentary.

Many of those who post on blogs remain anonymous or use nicknames to identify themselves.

Although blogs and bloggers are new to the lexicon, the concept of free and anonymous speech is not, said Drewery Fennell, executive director of the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union.


"Part of our whole system of commentary on government has always had a place for anonymous speech," Ms. Fennell said.

"During Revolutionary War times, many of the writers of pamphlets (advocating revolution) were anonymous."

The suit seeks to unmask the four posters, identified only as "John Does" and by their blog nicknames.

One of the Does identified as John Doe No. 1 or Proud Citizen filed for a protective order to block his or her identity from being revealed.

New Castle County Superior Court Judge Joseph R. Slights III denied the protective order request June 14.



While anonymity on the Internet is essential for a free exchange of ideas, Judge Slights said there is a difference between exchanging ideas and "using it as a cover to defame others."

The defendant has appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which the Doe's attorney said is of great importance.

"This may be the first time the highest court in any state has decided this type of case," John Doe No. 1's attorney David L. Finger said in a recent interview.

"The important issue here is the First Amendment right to speak anonymously without fear of retribution.

"In this case, the anonymous speech is centered on the fitness and health of an elected official."

The suit will be argued before the state Supreme Court Aug. 24 in Dover.

"There are a number of appellant rulings in other jurisdictions or in federal court," said Paul Levy, an attorney for Washington D.C.-based Public Citizen, a group that defends First Amendment rights on the Internet.

"However, if the (Delaware) Supreme Court fully addresses this issue and determines what the appropriate standard is in the situation, it will have been the first Supreme Court to fully weigh in on this issue.

"This is a very significant case."

The complaint



In September 2004, the defendant wrote about Mr. Cahill on the Smyrna-Clayton Issues Blog, a public forum for residents to write about issues facing their local community.

"Anyone who has spent any amount of time with Cahill would be keenly aware of such character flaws, not to mention an obvious mental deterioration," the poster wrote, according to the lawsuit.

The Doe also referred to Mr. Cahill as "Gahill," which the councilman said could lead people to believe his is having an extramarital, homosexual affair.

In the opening brief to the Supreme Court, Mr. Finger wrote that the First Amendment "strongly disfavors defamation suits brought by public officials."

"Mr. Cahill is subject to a much tougher standard as a public official in a defamation suit," Mr. Finger told the Delaware State News.

Wilmington attorney Robert Katzenstein is representing Mr. and Mrs. Cahill in the case.

"The First Amendment doesn't give someone the right to say something defamatory to someone else," Mr. Katzenstein said in a recent interview.

"The anonymity of the Internet should not give people licenses to defame people without facing legal consequences of defamation."

Joining the case

The state ACLU and two other free speech groups, Public Citizen and Electronic Frontier Foundation, have joined the case in order to submit briefs and oral arguments as interested parties.

"One of the important things about the Internet is that even someone who doesn't have access to a printing press can bring criticisms of public officials to others," Mr. Levy said.

"It's a leveling of the playing field.

"John Doe No. 1 seems to have been making opinion-based comments rather than false statements of fact."

Ms. Fennell said the ACLU believes the standard for revealing an anonymous speaker should be "very high."

"Slander and libel laws are tougher for public figures," she said. "You have to prove actual malice.

"In some ways, this is uncharted territory, and in others, this type of anonymous speech has been around since people were scrawling on cave walls."

Post comments on this issue at newsblog.info/0405.

Staff writer Drew Volturo

Rain Man
08-13-2005, 03:37 PM
This could affect my future postings about Brett Williams.

tk13
08-13-2005, 03:44 PM
That doesn't just affect bloggers, it'd really pertain to all of us here too.

tk13
08-13-2005, 03:45 PM
Plus it'd mean the end of that gossip rag Zachishere.com!

Pitt Gorilla
08-13-2005, 03:58 PM
Boo ACLU!! (right? right?)

irishjayhawk
08-13-2005, 04:04 PM
Rediculious. Bush would have filed like 288232x10^3948374938049 lawsuits if he got angry about his non-supporters.

Count Alex's Losses
08-13-2005, 04:04 PM
What a load of shit.

Halfcan
08-14-2005, 12:11 AM
Dang I am going to get sued now for saying Culpecker!! Gahill, that was pretty good. What is the site? We should flood their blog and call this moron every name we can think of plus the stupid c#cksucker judge trying to make a name for himself.
signed John Doe #69

|Zach|
08-14-2005, 11:54 AM
There are a lot of stories about bloggers being fired for this and that. Most large companies have added language in their code of ethics or rules about blogging so there is some kind of standard. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out...

Bowser
08-14-2005, 12:03 PM
Is this Cahill related to KCJohnny?

Garcia Bronco
08-14-2005, 12:05 PM
LOL....either the suit gets beat down...or it's time to start storing arms

Simplex3
08-14-2005, 12:09 PM
Anyone ever notice how every time someone starts a suit because "they've been slandered on the Internet" it seems to revolve around a politician or a celebrity? All I remember reading in the article was that the guy said the politician and his wife were fat. Big f**king deal. Get over yourself.

This screams term limits to me. I'd bet you this tool is a career politician.

BigRedChief
08-14-2005, 12:10 PM
There are a lot of stories about bloggers being fired for this and that. Most large companies have added language in their code of ethics or rules about blogging so there is some kind of standard. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out...

You can say whatever you want about any subject or person in any forum if its presented as an opinion as long as a few criteris are met

It's not a pattern of defament/slander against an individual(if they are not considered a public official) or company

You don't work for the company you are speaking about.

|Zach|
08-14-2005, 12:13 PM
You can say whatever you want about any subject or person in any forum if its presented as an opinion as long as a few criteris are met

It's not a pattern of defament/slander against an individual(if they are not considered a public official) or company

You don't work for the company you are speaking about.To be honest with you I didn't read the topic post. This is kind of a weird case.

Most of what I read about has to do relations between a company and its employee in the blogging world which is more of a grey area IMO.

jspchief
08-14-2005, 12:14 PM
I didn't know we had a constitutional right to anonymous speech.

BigRedChief
08-14-2005, 12:48 PM
To be honest with you I didn't read the topic post. This is kind of a weird case.

Most of what I read about has to do relations between a company and its employee in the blogging world which is more of a grey area IMO.

Its not a grey area as far as maintaining your employment. You diss your company or boss you can get fired.

Garcia Bronco
08-14-2005, 01:04 PM
You don't have a right to a job...that much is certain