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Baker Hostetler On Internet Anonymity Case

Publication Date: 
December 09, 2008
The Am Law Daily
Zach Lowe

Professor Mark A. Lemley is quoted in The Am Law Daily in an article that addresses an internet anonymity case that resembles the famous AutoAdmit case:

Newspapers usually fight to make public every bit of information they possibly can. Now, one newspaper company is on the other side in a critical First Amendment case in Maryland, and has hired Baker & Hostetler to argue its case.

In the case in question, state courts have so far ruled in favor of Zebulon Brodie, member of a well-known Maryland family who clicked onto an Internet forum run by Independent Newspapers in 2006 to find some pretty unflattering comments about a Dunkin' Donuts shop he owns. Specifically, the anonymous commenters were complaining about trash piling up outside the shop and dirty conditions inside.

This apparently enraged Brodie, who filed a defamation suit against both the newspaper company and the individual posters. His first request: that the identities of the anonymous forum posters be revealed. A judge at the Maryland circuit court for Queen Anne's County dismissed the defamation claims against the newspaper (the Communications Decency Act bars such actions) but agreed that Brodie was entitled to the identities of his critics.


The Maryland case stirs up memories of the infamous AutoAdmit case involving two female Yale Law School students who claim 39 anonymous defendants defamed them on the gossip site. The posters threatened to rape the women, claimed one had a sexually transmitted disease, and posted LSAT scores for the women that turned out to be inaccurate. That case is pending at U.S. District Court in Connecticut; attorneys for two of the defendants whose names are now known have called for the case to be dismissed.

The women have settled with three other anonymous defendants, says Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School who is also of counsel at Keker & Van Nest in the Bay Area. Lemley is handling the case along with David Rosen, a professor at Yale Law School.