Oct 162009
 October 16, 2009  Posted by  Court, Online

John Byrne of the Chicago Tribune updates us on the online defamation case covered here a few weeks ago. The case involves a Buffalo Grove, Illinois politician, Lisa Stone, who is seeking the name of someone who allegedly defamed her teenage son in online posts.

Cook County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Lawrence ordered the Daily Herald to reveal the identity of the poster, Hipcheck16. The paper turned over the IP address, asserting that is all they had, so Stone sought to have the ISP turn over the corresponding name and details. Comcast contacted their customer, who hired an attorney but was unsuccessful in quashing the subpoena. Comcast turned over the name to the judge, and all parties will be in court on November 9 to argue whether the judge should turn the information over to Stone.

Byrne also quotes University of Notre Dame law professor Patricia Bellia  on what she sees as the trend in such cases:

Recent court rulings have tended to side with anonymous posters and against those who want their identities revealed, Bellia said. And judges are more likely to set a higher threshold when ruling on identifying anonymous sources in newspaper stories, although in this case the newspaper was merely hosting an online forum, not providing the content, Bellia said.

The trend, she said, hasn’t been in the direction Stone probably would like it to go.

In a related story, Jaikumar Vijayan of Computerworld quotes Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois:

Yohnka warned against a growing tendency by corporations and individuals to use defamation claims as a way to get the courts to force ISPs to unmask anonymous online commentators. “Saying something is defamatory shouldn’t be the trigger” for deciding when someone should be unmasked he said.

Image credit: Shadow of a Person by Jeremy Brooks/Flickr, used under Creative Commons License

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