EasyDNS Sued For Refusing To Take Down Website Without Court Order; Then Hit Again For Writing About The Lawsuit

from the this-is-not-a-good-idea dept

Oh boy. Back in August of last year, EasyDNS announced that it was being sued in an Ontario small claims court for refusing to take down a website. The lawsuit was filed by a guy named Andy Lehrer, who was upset about another website that makes fun of Andy Lehrer (and may, possibly, include defamatory statements). Whether or not that site is defamatory is between Lehrer and whoever made the site (and, potentially, a court of law). Lehrer demanded EasyDNS take the site down, but the company (rightfully) pointed out that it would need a court order before doing so. But, instead, Lehrer went after EasyDNS in a lawsuit, naming it as a “co-defendent” and demanding $25,000 and injunctive relief (i.e., that the site be taken down).

In November, EasyDNS wrote about the case again, pointing out that it was seeking to get out of the case, because it shouldn’t be considered liable for what a user did on his own site just because EasyDNS hosts it. Also, small claims court doesn’t provide injunctive relief as a remedy anyway. In response, it appears that Lehrer has decided to amend his complaint against EasyDNS, specifically arguing that the company further damaged him by writing about the case. Seriously. From the lawsuit:

54) Further, the Defendant EasyDNS has, on August 22, 2014, November 13, 2014 and December 10, 2014, posted publicly about this lawsuit on http:/blog.easydns.org and directed people to the Defendant Rourke’s content despite knowing that the Plaintiff views this content as defamatory. According to a chart posted on the Defendant EasyDNS’s November 13, 2014 posting, the earlier blog entry of August 22 resulted in substantial increase in the number of individuals viewing the causepimps.ca website. The postings by EasyDNS constitute egregious and non-content neutral behaviour which is contrary to the EasyDNS’s claim of “innocent dissemination” and deserves the censure of this court.

55) In addition, in reaction to the within proceeding, the Defendants easyDNS and Rourke have both published the statement of claim on their respective websites. In addition, Defendant EasyDNS has published the statement of claim on the online publishing platform Scribd. The Defendants have thus furthered the libels after being put on notice of the defamation. Their conduct is egregious, is deserving of the censure of this court including the imposition of punitive damages.

56) The Plaintiff pleads that the Defendants deliberately, intentionally or recklessly harmed and damaged the Plaintiff by publishing and distributing the defamatory words and that they acted with actual malice by either publishing and distributing the defamatory statements with the knowledge that the information was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.

Got that? Merely writing about the case apparently is a cause of new action, as is, apparently, posting the public document filed in the lawsuit. But that’s absurd. Lehrer’s entire lawsuit is premised on the idea that the content is obviously defamatory, but as EasyDNS pointed out to him, that’s a matter for the courts to decide, not a hosting provider.

In the US, thankfully, things like Section 230 of the CDA would immunize against any kind of legal attack like this — but Canada doesn’t have an easy out like that, which means it’s likely that EasyDNS will have to go to court and defend itself using basic common sense on liability, noting that it’s just the host and not responsible for the content, and that it would be absolutely insane to hold it liable for the content. Finally, as of this amended complaint, it will have to explain why talking about a lawsuit and filing the public documents related to that lawsuit is not some sort of egregious behavior that deserves “the imposition of punitive damages.”

Once again, we’re left amazed at how some people assume that anything they don’t like online must be illegal, and everyone else must be responsible for it.

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Companies: easydns

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Comments on “EasyDNS Sued For Refusing To Take Down Website Without Court Order; Then Hit Again For Writing About The Lawsuit”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: small claims court limits

According to Wikipedia:
Monetary limits for small-claims courts in Canada vary by province:

Alberta: The Provincial Court—Civil hears civil claims up to $50,000.
Nova Scotia: The maximum claim that may be recovered in the Small-Claims Court cannot exceed $25,000.
British Columbia: The maximum claim that may be recovered in the Small-Claims Division of the Provincial Court is $25,000.
Manitoba: Small-Claims Courts adjudicated claims up to $10,000.[3]
New Brunswick: Claims to the Small-Claims Court of New Brunswick must be less than $12,500.
Newfoundland and Labrador: The Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador hears civil claims up to $25,000.
Ontario: The new limit for small-claims is $25,000.[4]
Quebec: The new limit for claims to the Small-Claims Court of Quebec per January 2015 is $ 15.000.
Saskatchewan: Claims within the Civil Division of the Saskatchewan Provincial Court cannot exceed $20,000 in value.


Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: No Way

Isn’t there a sense of entitlement behind thinking you can host a defamatory website and not be held accountable for it?

No more so than thinking you can rent a to car someone who uses it to rob a bank and not be held accountable.

Place blame on those responsible, not on the tool or the tool provider. This isn’t rocket science and it’s how it’s been throughout history. We’ve never blamed the blacksmith for providing swords that are used to commit murder.

Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re: No Way

Not at all. In the US, EasyDNS would enjoy complete immunity due to section 230 of the CDA, one of the few good parts of that legislation (and one of the few that hasn’t been struck down as unconstitutional). Of course, the parties and the lawsuit are in Canada.

So, on the general principle–web hosting companies have no control over what’s posted there. They don’t write the content, they don’t edit it, they don’t approve it. Why should they be responsible for what their customers post there? Should a web hosting provider be responsible to preapprove every piece of content that is posted to one of their customers’ websites?

“Ah, but what if someone complains?” So what? Just because somebody is butthurt about content on a website doesn’t make it defamatory. Should a hosting provider be obligated to investigate and make a determination as to whether particular content is defamatory? If so, under whose laws? Those where the customer is located? The host (and what if they have multiple data centers in different locations, ad many do)? The complainer?

EasyDNS’ position is not only right (IMO, of course), it’s also the only practical way to operate. They have neither the time, the obligation, nor the expertise to determine whether any of their hosted content constitutes defamation under the laws of the entire world. They leave it to the courts, who do (or at least should) have the time, expertise, and obligation to determine defamation, to do so. If the content is defamatory, they’ll take it down.

No affiliation with EasyDNS other than being a customer. Might be time for me to move another domain over to them, too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why blame yourself when you can blame everyone else?

I’m trying to figure out whether this guy is in denial, or just that lacking in self-awareness. What exactly is wrong with someone who can process “my reputation suffered because people found out about this lawsuit”, but not “my reputation suffered because I sued this company”?

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: crybabies

You’re right, it never has.

But the hosting company has not committed libel. The person who created the website may have, but we won’t know whether it was in fact libel until a court rules on it.

People in Canada, just like in the US, have the right to free speech and expression, which cannot and should not be stripped away merely on the strength of an accusation of libel.

From the court filings, it’s pretty clear that a lot of the claims of the plaintiff (if not all of them) are complete bullshit. Not libel, just someone offended by a truthful statement.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can’t help but notice that this appears to be pro se. If no lawyer has signed off on it, that increases the odds that his legal arguments might not hold up.

Not that I know anything about Canadian law. But in any sane country, publishing a filing is perfectly legal unless it’s sealed. Beyond that, this is NOT the same as simply republishing the defamation; by publishing the complaint you’re also republishing the entire denial of the defamation. Anyone reading that will know that there is a pending lawsuit over the falsity of the claims.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s legal, but it’s also a dick move because it means you’re causing the libel to be repeated.

You call it a dick move, but it’s in response to being sued for refusing to take down someone else’s website without a court order. Given that, why should they NOT be a dick?

And as I said, it doesn’t just repeat the libel, it also publishes the response that says the libel is false. That context is important.

If you’re being sued the smart thing to do is to make your arguments in court rather than in your blog.

Or what, they’ll make MORE bogus legal arguments against you? Anything you say can be used against you, but only if it can actually BE used against you. The overreach in trying to sue them for publishing a court document that HE filed is more likely to backfire than to work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

For service providers to try and prove that every accusation against someone that puts contents on their service isn’t defamation would be a bureaucratic nightmare. The parties involved are in a much better position to make these determinations, not intermediary service providers. It would be akin to suing the mail delivery service because someone used it to spread defamatory statements and requiring USPS to then go through the process of proving that what was spread isn’t defamatory. That’s not their job and they aren’t in a position to even know or handle every case, doing so would create a disaster for them and would easily put them out of business. The correct target for alleged defamation is the person making the claims. Only a jerk would go after the service provider because to police every single possible defamation claim would easily put just about every service provider out of business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“it means you’re causing the libel to be repeated.”

It hasn’t been determined to be libel yet. There is due process to determine whether something is libelous. It’s not the service provider’s position to make these determinations. Expecting service providers to do so on a case by case basis would likely cripple them and only a jerk would request such a thing (I guess that makes you a jerk, doesn’t it). If the court determines that such and such is defamation and needs to be taken down then the service provider can respond from there.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It might be a dick move. But it’s an incredibly worse dick move to deny someone their human rights simply because they were accused of something.

Just because you’re being sued doesn’t strip you of your rights, and it’s not libelous to truthfully report facts, such as the information contained in public court documents.

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