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

Legal Rights on the Net

I thought I will share this interesting book I am reading titled “Cyber Rights-Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age” by Mike Godwin. As the name suggests, Mike in this book discusses free speech and first amendment issues like libel, malice, copyright, privacy on the Net and the laws relating to these issues. Towards the end of the book he talks about the Communication and Decency Act of 1996. What I do like about this book is that all the legal issues that Mike has dealt with are analyzed well but written in a story telling style which makes it easy and interesting to read, which might be due to the fact that Mike was a journalist before becoming a lawyer and started working for the Washington D.C. based Center for Democracy and Technology.

June 25, 2007 Posted by | Free Speech, Uncategorized | Leave a comment