UPDATE: the judge in this case eventually granted Façonnable‘s request for a court order revealing the names of the anonymous posters. Soon after, news broke that both parties had reached an agreement and Façonnable filed a voluntary dismissal (with prejudice).
Clothing Retailer Seeks Redress Over Derogatory “Facts” Added To Company’s Wikipedia Page
Clothing retailer Façonnable is embroiled in a noteworthy anonymous defamation case. The defendants — currently only known by their IP addresses and identified as John Does 1-10 — allegedly modified a Wikipedia entry to say that Façonnable supported the Lebanese terrorist group, Hezbollah. Administrators have since removed the allegations from Wikipedia, but Façonnable is now attempting to uncover the defendant’s identities in service of a trade libel lawsuit.
The clothing company requested a subpoena compelling ISP Skybeam to disclose the Does’ identities. However, the court granted Skybeam’s motion to stay. The appeals court, which reviewed the lower court’s decision, said the case involved a “delicate balancing of the Does’ First Amendment rights” with Façonnable’s “right to litigate its claims .”
When Must ISPs Turn Over The Names Of Private Citizens For An Anonymous Defamation Lawsuit?
Under what circumstances can a court order a company to reveal the personally identifiable information of a private citizen? In Arizona, the case of Mobilisa, Inc. v. John Doe 1 and The Suggestion Box, Inc. adopted a standard set in New Jersey by the case of Dendrite Int’l, Inc. v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001). Because of Dendrite, five criteria points must be met to secure subpoenas compelling businesses to reveal anonymous speakers:
- The plaintiff must make a good faith effort to notify the defendant of the subpoena request so that the accused can respond.
- The plaintiff must accurately identify the defamatory statements that the defendant made.
- The plaintiff must establish that he or she has a prima facie cause of action.
- The plaintiff must provide evidence of each element of the cause of action.
- “[T]he court must balance the defendant’s First Amendment right of anonymous free speech against the strength of the prima facie case presented and the necessity for the disclosure of the anonymous defendant’s identity.” If the defendant’s interests in this balancing test outweigh those of the plaintiff, the subpoena will not be granted, even if all other elements have been met.
As long as Façonnable made a good faith effort to notify the defendants (for example, by sending them a private message on Wikipedia), and was specific in its request, they should have no problem getting a court order. The only contentious issue will be sorting out whose rights deserve greater protection — the plaintiff’s or the defendant’s.
Get In Touch With An Anonymous Defamation Lawyer
For more information about how the Dendrite test may apply to you as an anonymous publisher or a person who has been defamed by an anonymous publisher, contact an Internet defamation lawyer.