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Anonymous Blogging- Freedom of Speech or Getting Away With Defamation?
We all know the 1st Amendment protects our freedom of speech, but that this does not cover any and all kinds of speech. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater, and you can’t publicly defame someone in a way that negatively affects their livelihood.
Two anonymous bloggers, moderators of fightcopyrighttrolls.com and dietrolldie.com are faced with law suits for defamation. The bloggers claim to be protected under the 1st amendment. Even when the blogging platform WordPress was subpoenaed to reveal the identities of the bloggers, they refused and called the subpoena “legally deficient and objectionable.”
Bloggers or Trouble Makers?
What are these bloggers in trouble for? They both consider themselves watchdogs for “copyright trolls.” Copyright trolls are generally law firms who target citizens that download music and movies using BitTorrent, or peer-to-peer file sharing. Those against the copyright trolls claim the law firms exploit the stiff penalties that can come with copyright infringement, scaring those who downloaded a movie into settling out of court once faced with seemingly huge penalties. Law firms have sent threatening letters to these defendants claiming they may have to pay up to $150,000 in damages. Fightcopyrighttrolls.com even claims that some of these lawyers are uploading their client’s work to torrent sites on purpose in order to entrap those who download the movie. Usually the IP address is obtained from the Internet Service Provider in order to locate the individual who did the downloading.
What Is Wrong With Pursuing Copyright Infringements Through Downloading?
You may wonder why people are so against this, after all, isn’t downloading movies illegal? Yes it is, but the means by which these law firms are going after these copyright infringement cases is the real problem. As mentioned above, there are accusations of entrapment. It is also argued that an IP address is not the same thing as a person. Furthermore, these watchdogs groups state that Due Process is violated by these lawyers, as defendants are not represented properly. In order to fight the subpoena, the defendant must go public. As long as they settle, the defendant can remain anonymous. It is likely that this is the reason these law firms also tend to target those who have downloaded pornography. Again, it could be argued that the defendant shouldn’t have downloaded porn illegally to begin with, but many people agree that the fact that porn downloads are targeted is a bit shady. The overall feeling is that these law firms are casting out a huge net to see who they can get to settle.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Blogging?
Both fightcopyrighttrolls.com and dietrolldie.com are being sued by lawyer Paul Duffy and his law firm Prenda Law LLC, who claim to have been defamed by these blogs. Despite the subpoena, neither moderator has revealed their identities.
The Internet has grown so fast, it is hard for laws to keep up, especially when creating new laws is a notoriously slow process. Either side of this debate can be argued, and cases like this will be the precedent for future cases to come.