Monday, October 22, 2007
Two recent UK cases suggest that website owners may have to disgorge the names of anonymous individuals who post defamatory comments. In one case, John Finn, owner of a development company, had admitted to posting anonymous comments about a rival firm. He and his organization are now liable for thousands of pounds in legal fees, some payable immediately. In another, unhappy sports fans had made derogatory comments about the team owners and shareholders. The judge had determined that some comments could be understood as "abusive" or jokes, but some could "reasonably be understood to allege greed, selfishness, untrustworthiness and dishonest behaviour"--that is, they fell within the traditional categories of defamatory statements. Therefore, the website operator must reveal the posters' names since the plaintiffs' interests outweighed the posters' right to anonymity. Read more in a Guardian article here.