Archive: March 6, 2009

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Court Addresses Tension between Defamation Victim’s Rights and First Amendment Protection of Anonymous Internet Speech, Provides Guidance on How to Proceed

Court Addresses Tension between Defamation Victim’s Rights and First Amendment Protection of Anonymous Internet Speech, Provides Guidance on How to Proceed

Indep. Newspapers, Inc. v. Brodie, 2009 WL 484956 (Md. Feb. 27, 2009)

Finding plaintiff/appellee failed to show a valid cause of action for defamation, the appellate court vacated an order requiring appellant to identify the alleged anonymous defamers and remanded the case for entry of an order granting appellant’s motion to quash.

In this defamation case, plaintiff/appellee Brodie sought to enforce a subpoena to compel the production of the identities of several persons who posted allegedly defamatory statements about the plaintiff, anonymously, on defendant/appellant Independent Newspaper’s (“Independent”) Internet forum.  The circuit court granted Brodie’s motion and ordered Independent to identify the anonymous forum participants.  Independent appealed.  Finding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it denied Independent’s motion for a protective order because “Brodie had not pleaded a valid defamation claim against any of [the anonymous forum participants],” the appellate court vacated the prior judgment and remanded the case with instructions to grant defendant’s motion for a protective order and quash the subpoena. 

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