EFF Protects Anonymity Of MySpace User

from the good-for-them dept

While not necessarily true in other countries, the US courts tend to do an excellent job protecting the rights of individuals to criticize others anonymously. Of course, when you're the victim of that anonymous criticism, it's often not very enjoyable -- and many assume that what they don't like must be illegal, and therefore sue. This is especially true in anonymity cases, where the victims feel that it positively must be illegal to be anonymous and make such statements.

The EFF has been defending a number of these cases, and recently filed an amicus brief against the town president of a Chicago suburb who had filed a lawsuit seeking the identity of whoever had set up a MySpace profile mocking the guy. The EFF explained how revealing the identity of the user, without having the president of the town first show proof of defamation, would be a violation of the poster's First Amendment rights to privacy. Luckily, after seeing the EFF's argument, the guy withdrew his lawsuit, though it remains to be seen if he'll try to file again with more proof of defamation.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Kamu, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 2:26am

    The real solution

    Ban the internets.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Jakomi Mathews, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 2:34am

    Privacy & ISP

    Come on this is a serious issue. Why can't this person sue? He has been clearly defamed. The fact someone can put up a myspace site and defame anyone and get away with it is taking the piss.

    It is time the ISPs and portals took some responsibility. It is only through their broadband infrastructure and bandwidth that people can defame and also steal copyrighted material.

    To stand by enabling people with your technology to go and steal and defame and do nothing about it even though it is your company which is the only entity with the power to stop it is not good enough.

    In reality it makes the ISPs and Portals accessories to crimes. As such they should be treated as such and prosecuted!

    Without rich media content to consume ISPs and Portals would have no reason to sell ever increasing broadband speeds and bandwidth. Hence they would not have a business.

    Are ISPs theives? No. But they are accessories to crimes as their networks enable file sharing and can track it to prevent but they do not do so.

    On the flip side I'm sure if rich media content producers worked out a way to make the ISPs and Portals IP free and also enabled cnsumers to defame their trademarks and then turned a blind eye and encouraged it to be given away for free the the ISPs and Portals would be straight to court issuing law suits left right and center against rich media content producers for theft and defamation?

    For a more indepth analysis of this check out this article:

    http://themusicvoid.wordpress.com/2008/06/09/are-isps-thieves-of-music-in-the-digital-re alm

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Kamu, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 2:51am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    It is anything but a serious issue. Oh praise jesus! Not a fake MySpace page.

    Oh and as for your blatant restricting of your rights, don't you ever come near me or my rights. Just because you want your internet access to be limited, monitored and priced up doesn't mean all the sane people do as well.

    Maybe you should run for political office! You'd fit in perfectly with those who sell out the people they are supposed to be representing for money.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    technomage, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 3:47am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    Interesting...Maybe the ISP's should sue you, as you just defamed them by calling them criminal and negligent. Please go back to your book burning, but watch the flames, wouldn't want your delicate pages caught in the backdraft. Better yet, enjoy your new cushy job as an RIAA/MPAA troll.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Jake, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 4:34am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    Actually, it sounds to me like all the EFF were asking is that due process of law be followed in both letter and spirit; if the defendant can demonstrate that what the accused wrote was both harmful to his good name and untrue, there would be reasonable grounds to supoena MySpace in order to establish the identity of the accused. But until that point, there is no good reason to do so because it's not yet been proven that the accused has abused their First Amendment rights.

     

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  6.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Jun 16th, 2008 @ 4:52am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    lol, that's pretty funny. for a minute there i thought you were serious.

    let's not forget, people use the electricity grid, the phone system, the highway system, and the postal system for all sorts of bad things.

    drunk drivers couldn't hurt people without roads, so we need to hold local and state highway systems accountable for not making their roads drunk proof. the automotive industry profits form drunk driving as well, we should hold them accountable too. companies that make guns profit from the drug trade, get them too. allergy medication gets used to make crystal meth, clearly the pharmaceutical companies profit from meth and need to be sued as well.

    in fact, i am pretty sure that everything bad in this world is the fault of a company somewhere, and bad parenting, sue them all and that will surely fix all the things that have gone wrong.

     

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  7.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 16th, 2008 @ 6:09am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    Come on this is a serious issue

    Who said otherwise?

    Why can't this person sue?

    No one said he can't sue. What they said is he can't ask for the identity of the person without first proving defamation.

    He has been clearly defamed.

    No. He has not. If he had, then this wouldn't be an issue. All the EFF was asking was that he prove the defamation first. You can't assume defamation.

    The fact someone can put up a myspace site and defame anyone and get away with it is taking the piss.

    You don't know if he defamed the guy. Just because the guy doesn't like it, doesn't mean it's defamatory.

    It is time the ISPs and portals took some responsibility. It is only through their broadband infrastructure and bandwidth that people can defame and also steal copyrighted material.

    Which is why we blame the highway authority for any bank robbery that involves a car.

    And it's why we blame the telephone company for any crime that involves a phone.

    No. It is not time that ISPs take responsibility. They supply the infrastructure. Nothing more. Holding them responsible for the actions of their users makes no sense at all. Just as it makes no sense to blame an airline when someone robs a bank and then flies out of town.

    To stand by enabling people with your technology to go and steal and defame and do nothing about it even though it is your company which is the only entity with the power to stop it is not good enough.

    That's why we blame Ford everytime there's a car accident, right? After all, Ford enabled the car accident by building a car.

    I'm sorry, but I'm hoping your comment was satire. If it wasn't, we'd have no innovation at all, because the liability would just be too great. Any time anyone did something bad you blame the infrastructure provider? Ugh.

    You're moving the blame off of those responsible to a third party for no reason other than they're a big target. That's awful.

    In reality it makes the ISPs and Portals accessories to crimes. As such they should be treated as such and prosecuted!

    Again, and this is why Ford is an accessory to a crime every time there's a car accident.

    Oh wait, that's not true, because it makes no sense.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Woadan, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 6:25am

    First off, it was a "mock" MySpace page. That means it was published, and if a tort has been committed, it is libel (a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person). Also, please don't forget, the purportedly libeled gentleman is "the town president of a Chicago suburb". That makes him a pubic figure. It will be harder to prove libel, especially if the purpose of the "attack" was to mock or satirize him. Also, and this is from the linked article: "In addition, the federal Stored Communications Act prohibits government entities such as Dominick -- who brought the petition in his official government capacity -- from obtaining identifying customer information through the ordinary civil discovery process." It could still be that the profiles (there were two according to the article in the link) are indeed libelous. But until the politician can prove that, he has no just cause to unmask the perpetrator. Woadan

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anon, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 6:33am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    LOL, this is great...

    oh wait, he was serious

     

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  10.  
    icon
    JS Beckerist (profile), Jun 16th, 2008 @ 7:03am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    Wait what? This has nothing to do with ISPs, and even if they COULD monitor everything their customers do, do you know how much storage would be required to LOG it all?

    This also has nothing to do with digital music or copyrighted material.

    OFF TOPIC, and really not far off of a troll...

     

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  11.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jun 16th, 2008 @ 8:38am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    Wow, you went a long way round just to plug your own blog, didn't you?

    Let me see:

    1. "He has been clearly defamed."

    No he hasn't. Re-read the article. All that's being asked is that he follow the correct procedure for this kind of thing. If he's been defamed, he proves that first, then he can find out who said it. If it wasn't defamation, free speech applies 100%.

    2. "It is only through their broadband infrastructure and bandwidth that people can defame and also steal copyrighted material."

    Oh, here we go. Using a defamation case as leverage to go on a pro-**AA rant. Would you really be comfortable with ALL of your information being logged, scanned and recorded indefinitely just because your ISP thinks that you're stealing for someone? I sure as hell wouldn't.

    Bandwidth? Oh, FFS, how much bandwidth do you think it takes to set up a MySpace page? Nope, you're just on a deluded path right here.

    3. "Are ISPs theives? No. But they are accessories to crimes as their networks enable file sharing and can track it to prevent but they do not do so."

    Well why stop there? Everyone who's ever made a threatening phone call has used a phone network - let's sue the lot of them! How about the post service - they're responsible every time someone posts a pirated DVD! Not to mention the roads - everyone who's every robbed a bank has driven away on public roads - let's sue the highways AND the car manufacturers.

    Nope, the way round this is to use common sense. ISPs can, and probably should, help with criminal investigations where crimes have been committed by their customers. But first, you have to prove that a crime has in fact taken place, and that's where the guy mentioned in the article, the MPAA, the RIAA and all their cronies have spectacularly failed thus far.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    chiropetra, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 9:32am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    If the town president has to do is demonstrate that he has probably in fact been defamed within the legal meaning of the term.

    That is in fact a pretty low standard at the level required to support a suit. The fact that it wasn't supported in this case -- and how quickly it was dropped -- leads me to believe this is another example of a politician flying off the handle and filing suit before engaging brain.

    It may come as a surprise to you to learn that saying nasty things about someone, whether on the internet or in person, is not against the law.

    If the guy was in fact defamed -- within the legal meaning of the term -- let him make a credible effort to show it.

    The rest of the argument hardly deserves comment and I'll leave it to others to fillet it in an appropriate manner.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Pickle Monger, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 9:46am

    Privacy

    There's a contitutional right to privacy?! And it is garanteed by the first amandment?!?! Really?!?!?! Any chance that the poster in question might have a Right to Free Speech instead?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    jb, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 9:55am

    Who cares

    People are becoming too weak and soft. Who cares what someone says or posts, if you are that weak and lame maybe you deserve it.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 10:00am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    Umm... He wasn't defamed. Satire is not defamation. And EFF clearly explained that revealing the identity of the user, without having the president of the town first show proof of defamation, would be a violation of the poster's First Amendment rights to privacy. So if it actually was deamatory, he would have gotten that information and been able to sue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Liquid, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 10:39am

    Re: Privacy & ISP

    You sir/madam are a complete moron. You should turn your TV, Cell Phone, Laptop, PC, and Radio off (all kinds). You should close the blinds, lock your doors, lock your windows, and never remove your self from you domicile again. Make sure you get LOTS of books to read ones that make you smart in the head... And make sure you ask the government to remove the do-dads in your head that big brother uses to send you messages...

    Why would anyone in their right ming want to give up their freedoms???

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Liquid, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 10:56am

    Re: Who cares

    I agree jb. Society into todays times is getting weaker, and weaker. Kids shooting kids because one called one a bad name, or picked on him/her. What happened to the days when you just get mad and beat the crap out of each other instead of running away with your tail between your legs??? This is the same things. This right here does nothing but show future generations that its ok to do crap like this. Maybe its just me.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Another Guy Named Jake, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 11:22am

    Anyone know about Hustler v. Falwell? Hustler won because their magazine, though it published a very defamatory and untrue photo of Jerry Falwell, is NOT and will never be a refutable, reliable, or honest source of information. It was made for entertainment and therefore nothing about it can be considered libel.

    MySpace... the same thing. It's not CNN. It's not the New York Times. It's a platform for social entertainment. Anyone who would take information on MySpace that seriously is an idiot.

    And I agree with jb as well. The guy suing is lame.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    The First Jake, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    In this guy's defence, I've met a great many people who really are dumb enough to take MySpace seriously, at least one of whom held a position of responsibility over others. Nevertheless, this sort of thing is a well-established occupational hazard in politics, so unless the fake page implied his hobbies include molesting young boys or something the case probably won't make it to trial.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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