Technology and Business Law Blog

Online Anonymity and Defamation

A Maryland Circuit Court has ordered a newspaper company that owns a website in which a defamatory statement was posted about a business, to reveal the identity of the person who made the statement. Read here.

The U.S Supreme Court has upheld the right to anonymous  political speech under the First Amendment. The judge of the Maryland Circuit Court has sent the message that free speech is fine but will not tolerate defamation. There is a delicate balance between defamation and free speech. In defamation law suits courts balance reputation against free speech. If a defamatory statement about an individuals business is made, as it was in this case the business which was a donut shop was described as one “of the most dirty and unsanitary-looking food-service places I have seen,”then the statement will fall under the category of trade libel and it will be actionable. In a trade libel, the economic interests of the business owner has to be affected and the person making the defamatory statement must have made the statements with reckless disregard of whether the statement was true or false.

December 13, 2008 Posted by | Defamation, Free Speech, On-line world | 1 Comment

Cyberlaw is Being Tested in Indian Courts

A business based in India is suing Google India (which was used as a blogging platform by a blogger) for hosting material that the plaintiff found to be defamatory and stated in its petition that a series of articles that amounted to a ‘hate campaign’ against the company were posted on Google’s blogging site with a title ‘Toxic Writer’ between January and February.

Cyberlaw is a new area of law that is still in its infancy all over the world and India is no exception. A case of this nature is for the first time being litigated and the court’s decision will set a precedent for similar cases to follow. The courts have to weigh this carefully before forming a judgement.

In the U.S. bloggers have the same constitutional protections as mainstream media and the First Amendment rights of free speech are zelously protected. According to EFF, First Amendment protections for publications are strong and can help you defend against unwarranted legal threats. If one receives a notice of a subpoena and they wish to retain their anonymity, they can file a motion to quash (drop) the subpoena. Many courts have required the subpoenaing party to show a compelling need for the information that outweighs the speakers’ constitutional rights to free speech and privacy.

Investigations by the Mumbai police’s cyber crime cell police could not make a break through as Google’s India office refused to co-operate.

August 16, 2008 Posted by | cyberlaw, Defamation, Free Speech, Google, India | 3 Comments

Defamation on the Internet

With the Internet being a forum that is free for all to write, it becomes a double edged sword when anyone can anonymously write about anyone either in the form of a blog, opinion or in terms of a rating of a business or a professional. Good reviews are great but what when a single individual can write numerous reviews and opinions which are negative that could tarnish a professionals or businesses reputation which has been achieved with great effort, numerous years of training and education and hard work, all to be wasted merely by some ill meaning malicious comment then some recourse is needed.

Internet Service Providers are not responsible for user generated content and they cannot be held responsible for the content that is put up in their sites unlike in the other conventional medium such as television, radio or print,defamatory or untrue statements can be addressed by filing a civil suit for libel or slander.

In the medical industry to combat unwarranted defamatory and libelous statements in the Internet physicians are having patients sign an agreement before treatment is given to respect the physician’s privacy. Under this contract a patient can file a lawsuit against the physician if there is a genuine dispute but the expert witnesses used to testify must be from the doctor’s speciality and must be board certified and agree to abide by the code of ethics designated by their specific speciality. The question then to be considered is what if a defamatory statement about the physician is made by someone who is not a patient or if the patient has someone else make the statement who signed no such contract? According to this article the purpose of the contract is to enable the physician to force an Internet service provider to take offensive material down.

In the legal industry there is a site called Avvo.com which rates lawyers but really does not state the parameters that is used to rate the lawyers, and on checking the site out it seemed totally arbitrary based on the information stated in the State Bar website. This site is very different from what I have mentioned above, but Avvo popped up in my mind when I read the article written about the medical industry.

December 18, 2007 Posted by | Defamation | Leave a comment