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'Skanks' Case Over Google's Release Of E-Mail Address Tests Limits Of Bloggers' Anonymity

Publication Date: 
August 25, 2009
Source: 
USA Today Technology Live Blog
Author: 
David Lieberman

Professor Mark Lemley, faculty director of the Stanford IP Litigation Clearinghouse, is quoted in USA Today regarding free speech and the limits of online anonymity in the "skank" case:

Courts may have to wrestle with an odd mix of legally weighty issues, as well as seemingly frivolous ones, in the so-called "skank" case. A blogger is threatening to sue Google for obeying a court order to disclose her identity.

Among potential questions: Does the First Amendment protect the right of people to remain anonymous while using the Internet to impugn the character of specific individuals? And are such words meaningless trash talk, or clear accusations that can be proved to be defamatory and false?

...

But others say that the First Amendment has its limits. "Anonymity led to an unfortunate social dynamic where people got the impression that they can say anything they want about someone else, and they’ll never be called into account," says Stanford Law School professor Mark Lemley. "Suits like (the "skank" case) serve a valuable purpose of reminding the world that free speech is an important value, but it doesn’t give you an unrestrained right to lie."