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Q: Forum libel question ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Forum libel question
Category: Computers > Internet
Asked by: chatmaster-ga
List Price: $30.00
Posted: 14 Aug 2006 04:12 PDT
Expires: 13 Sep 2006 04:12 PDT
Question ID: 755774
I have a website with a forum and have what is (I think) a simple
question regarding libel laws.

Is it possible to be sued for libel of defamation of the forum name, a
name that has no links back to the poster's real life name eg a post
such as "batman1234 please stop asking for cyber sex"?

Is there any laws related to this specifically or any legal precedent
when suing for defamation of a forum name has happened before?

The server is located in the US.

Kind Thanks.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 15 Aug 2006 08:19 PDT
The literal answer to your question is " is possible", simply
because there is nothing to stop anyone from filing such a suit. 
People can sue one another for just about anything, regardless of how
far-fetched the complaint may be!

I think you're probably asking whether such a suit could prevail in US
court, which is another matter entirely.  I am not aware of any
precedence for the particular scenario you described.

Can you clarify what sort of information you need, beyond what I just provided.


Subject: Re: Forum libel question
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 15 Aug 2006 09:14 PDT
Dear chatmaster-ga;

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question. Keep in
mind that, by virtue of our disclaimer, we cannot provide legal advice
in this forum. What we can do however is point out published
information about the subject you are inquiring about. For best
results of course you should probably consult a licensed legal

The closest two precedents I can find are these landmark cases. The
first is entitled ?Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co.,
1995 WL 323710 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1995)?.

1995 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 229, 1995 WL 323710, 23 Media L. Rep. 1794 (N.Y.
Sup. Ct. May 24, 1995)

In this case Stratton contended that anonymous persons in a ?Money
Talk? forum provided by Prodigy libeled them and because the specific
actors could not be identified they turned their sights on both the
board leader and the service provider for failing to adequately
restrain the members of the forum. The case was partly responsible for
portions of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.


The second case is Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe, Inc. (90 Civ. 6571, SDNY)

In this case plaintiffs contended that statements made about them by
unnamed parties in it?s newsletters and forums provided by Compuserve
were defamatory and little more than malicious lies, rumors and
gossip. The court eventually ruled in favor of CompuServe finding that
the Internet service provider was not liable for the statements
printed in the newsletter transmitted through its system, however,
?Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy? effectively overturned this

If the offending party cannot be identified it is, in my opinion,
unlikely that this particular individual would be personally named in
a suit. However you must remember that IP addresses are traceable.
Even though a person is seemingly ?anonymous? it is possible in
certain circumstances to identify where the post originated. An
especially motivated and aggressive attorney could theoretically
pursue the matter through subpoenas to determine who the original
poster is and could, hypothetically, name that person is a subsequent
suit as a defendant or co-defendant. Here again, a plaintiff could
also name the service provider, server owner, etc on down the line as
the defendant along with ?unnamed parties? or ?unnamed co-defendants?.
Depending on the response of the service provider the matter could, as
they say in the vernacular, roll down hill ? possibly with the help of
the named parties. If the service provider chose to disclose the names
of the parties involved, the original offender might actually be named
and swept up into the ensuing legal storm.

In answer to your question about ?laws? the bottom line is this: You
can?t get blood out of a turnip. If you can?t name the offender you
usually can?t pursue them, but you can go after others where that is
possible. Depending where the offender is in the hierarchy of things
and how difficult it is to name him, and depending on how much more
convenient it might be to choose a target higher up the chain of
command, it is indeed possible to sue. While ?batman1234? may
personally escape such a suit for the time being, it?s entirely
possible for the service provider and/or the forum leader (owner,
moderator, editor, publisher, et al) to suffer the consequences. But
here again, through cooperation in an effort to lessen their own
liability they could eventually help to identify him and drag him into
the mix. Is it likely? In my unlicensed opinion, probably not. If it
were, the line outside civil courts in this country would be a mile

I hope you find that my answer exceeds your expectations. If you have
any questions about my research please post a clarification request
prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating and your
final comments and I look forward to working with you again in the
near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;
Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher





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