Is A Spoofed Email Identity Theft?

from the gets-tricky dept

There are a ton of currently hazy legal issues being raised by a case heading to the Maine Supreme Court concerning one family’s attempt to find out who sent out an unflattering email about them to neighbors – using a fake email address. The email address in question was made to look as though it were from Ron Fitch (the person now suing to find out who sent the email), though it used a fake email address, and not Fitch’s real email address. The email included a cartoon making fun of Fitch and his family for their ongoing efforts to change the small island they live on. The family is now suing to try to find out the identity of who sent out the email. So, there are a variety of legal questions that need to be answered – and not all of them are that clear. First, is sending out an email that could possibly (but not necessarily) be interpreted as being from someone else be considered “identity theft” of that person, as Fitch is claiming? Next, is sending out an unflattering cartoon of your neighbor over email protected free speech – such as satire? Finally, should an ISP be forced to reveal the identity of an email sender just because someone doesn’t like the content of the message – or does the sender have a right to privacy? The answers to the first two questions probably impact the last one – though, the lawyers are likely to argue with that. The last question, if you listen to the entertainment industry these days, is already answered – but that might get a little murkier when people realize that just about anyone can try to get the identity of anyone else sending emails. It’s easy to say that the right to privacy online ends when you break the law, but it’s not always such a clear cut case.

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Comments on “Is A Spoofed Email Identity Theft?”

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Nipsey says:

No Subject Given

The fictional e-mail address was “fitchisland”
– “fictional” e-mail address? as opposed to…?
– so the e-mail address was “fitchisland” and not “Bill Fitch”….big difference to me
Also – “Sandra Fitch says the length John Doe is going to hide his or her identity makes her wonder about his or her motive….”But when they push it so far, it leads one to believe that there was real malice here.””
– I would say that Sandra is the one going to great lengths!!! She’s filing a lawsuit over a cartoon that doesn?t seem to be slanderous or libelous. This guys lengths are just saying he doesn?t want the people suing him to know his name!

Holly says:

Re: fitchisland

Daer Nipsey,
The hotmail account created to send the email in question was set up in Mr. Fitch’s name — down to address, date of birth and middle initial. The email name was fitchisland. The password cue — name of a favorite animal — was Ron’s dogs name. I find it pretty scary that someone could set up a hotmail account IN MY NAME at that level of detail, and I don’t think Sandy can be blamed for wanting to know who would go to such bizarre lengths.

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