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.

Filed Under: andy lehrer, canada, court order, defamation, hosting, lawsuits, secondary liability, takedowns
Companies: easydns


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 2:43am

    So he doubled down on Barbra (can't use Streisand, Mike trademarked it).

    Fortunately EasyDNS has pockets deep enough to let common sense prevail.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 4:12am

    Idiot uses public courts, is more annoyed the public becomes aware how thin his skin is.

    One wonders if his current actions are much more damaging than anything said about him on the website. I do hope that EasyDNS can recover legal costs for a frivolous suit(s).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 4:33am

    That is one ugly ass website!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 4:44am

    How long until Techdirt is dragged into this for writing about writing about it?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 4:45am

    Not only did EasyDNS not take down the site as Andy Lehrer requested, but they wrote about it ... and used his name !!1111

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

  • identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, 9 Jan 2015 @ 4:53am

    The irony is he looks like a total jerk for doing this, so he's probably damaging himself as much as removing this website will help him. Probably even more due to Streisandification.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 5:56am

      Re:

      I think this quote applies to the Litigious Mister Lehrer.

      “If complete and utter chaos was lightning, then he'd be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting 'All gods are bastards!”

      ― Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 2:58pm

      Re:

      Will he have to sue himself next for the damage his own actions inflict upon his reputation?

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

  • icon
    Josh (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 6:14am

    EasyDefense

    Your Honor, Nike shoes were used to all the murderer of XXX to run away, should Nike be held accountable?

    Dell's computer was used in hacking of company XX, should Dell be held accountable?

    LA county's Health and Human Services department was used for fraud, should they be held accountable after doing their due diligence?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 6:36am

      Re: EasyDefense

      You'd like to think it would be an easy win, yes, but given how many courts have gone completely bonkers in various countries, unfortunately it's not safe to assume they will choose the path of sanity here.

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 2:59pm

      Re: EasyDefense

      Given how many gunshot victims try to sue the gun manufacturer instead of the gunman, I'd have to say that line of thought is unfortunately all too common.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2015 @ 1:24am

        Re: Re: EasyDefense

        How much of that is due to the manufacturer having money, and the gunman not having any?
        Also, how much of that is in the expectation that the company will settle out of court?:

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

        • identicon
          Pragmatic, 14 Jan 2015 @ 2:52am

          Re: Re: Re: EasyDefense

          Since the NRA (mostly supported by gun manufacturers) pushes back against laws that make it harder for bad guys to get hold of guns, I understand this course of action.

          That said, the gunman alone bears responsibility for his actions, not the gun or the people who made it.

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

  • icon
    Avatar28 (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 6:53am

    small claims court limits

    Maybe it is different where he is in Canada but isn't $25,000 WAY over the maximum damages that can be awarded in small claims court? Like almost an order of magnitude over?

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

    • identicon
      Mario, 9 Jan 2015 @ 7:05am

      Re: small claims court limits

      The maximum is $25k in Ontario small claims.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 10:59am

      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.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_claims_court#Small-claims_courts_in_Canada

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

  • identicon
    Daniel Fletcher, 9 Jan 2015 @ 6:59am

    No Way

    Even in Canada the sense of entitlement has gone off the deep end. Grow up and get over it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 10:55am

      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?

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

      • icon
        Gwiz (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 11:11am

        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.

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

      • icon
        Dan (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 2:31pm

        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.

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

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 3:13pm

        Re: Re: No Way

        Yes. It's called being entitled to human rights guaranteed to you by the Canadian Bill of Rights.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 8:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: No Way

          Companies should have more human rights than human beings? You're not Mitt Romney by any chance, are you?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 7:02am

    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"?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 7:24am

      Re: Why blame yourself when you can blame everyone else?

      The kind of person who would do well in politics, where committing a crime isn't the problem, people finding out about it is.

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

  • identicon
    Michael Brutsch, 9 Jan 2015 @ 7:16am

    crybabies

    > Once again, we're left amazed at how some people assume that anything they don't like online must be illegal

    Yeah, I got a lot of that a few years ago. Idiots.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 10:53am

      Re: crybabies

      I'm amazed people think the right to free speech includes the right to libel. It doesn't, and never has.

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

      • identicon
        JEDIDIAH, 9 Jan 2015 @ 12:16pm

        Re: Re: crybabies

        The accused has not committed libel.

        The only statements they have made are statements of fact. Those are the same facts that can be found in the court record and any database that aggregates these records (Lexus/Westlaw).

        Beyond that. They have only upheld the letter of the law.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 1:40pm

        Re: Re: crybabies

        Nobody has said otherwise, so I'm not sure what your point is.

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

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 3:17pm

        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.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2015 @ 3:11pm

        Re: Re: crybabies

        If only lying about what imaginary people said was a form of libel.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 8:15am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Notional Host, 9 Jan 2015 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      It's legal, but it's also a dick move because it means you're causing the libel to be repeated. If you're being sued the smart thing to do is to make your arguments in court rather than in your blog.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 10:59am

        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.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 11:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Given that, why should they NOT be a dick?"

          Because malice (ie being a dick) opens the door to punitive damages.

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

          • icon
            Gwiz (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 11:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Because malice (ie being a dick) opens the door to punitive damages.

            Really? Do you have any citations where someone was hit with additional punitive damages for publishing court documents and commenting about their own involvement in the case?

            I'd love to read though that, assuming you can actually supply a reference.

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

          • icon
            Bergman (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 3:21pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Given how vehement you are that a mere accusation of wrongdoing should strip someone of their human rights...

            Is your name Andy by any chance?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 12:26pm

        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.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 12:27pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Or if I used the telephone service to spread gossip and defamation and someone sued the phone company. Requiring the phone company to prove that what was said over their service isn't defamation for every phone call and every defamatory accusation would be ridiculous.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 12:34pm

        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.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 1:42pm

        Re: Re:

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

        That all depends. If you're being sued for something that is outrageous, taking it to the public can be the smartest thing you can do.

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

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 9 Jan 2015 @ 3:20pm

        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.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 8:46pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Companies aren't human beings and don't have "human rights". People do.

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

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 10 Jan 2015 @ 6:50pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Just because someone works at a company, it does not suddenly strip them of their right to talk about what they want, in this case the lawsuit aimed at them for refusing to follow the demands of someone too damn lazy to get a court order before ordering something removed.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 8:30am

    It should be note that EasyDNS is not "hosting" the website; its just a DNS provider. It takes the name causepimps.ca and turns it into a numerical address (when the site is hosted elsewhere), which of course just weaker on a whole nother level.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2015 @ 9:34am

    Actually....

    easyDNS is hosting the website. They started offering hosting awhile back.

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

  • icon
    Coyoty (profile), 10 Jan 2015 @ 9:30pm

    Andy Lehrer!

    Andy Lehrer Andy Lehrer Andy Lehrer! ANDY LEHRER!!!

    Kirby's no fun any more.

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

  • identicon
    Math, 23 Feb 2015 @ 10:31pm

    lawsuit

    Wow, I must admit I did not understand all the legal lingo in the article, but what I did understand is pretty scary. Our judicial system will have to catch up with the new digital reality.

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

  • identicon
    locker, 4 Mar 2015 @ 3:25am

    lawsuit

    Our judicial system will have to catch up with the new digital realit indeed! And quite fast!

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


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