Saturday, March 19, 2005 Time Warner Ordered to Identify Sender of Offensive Email

InternetCases is running a summary of a recent Maine decision in which the Court ordered cable provider Time Warner to disclose the identity of an individual who allegedly impersonated the plaintiff in the case, sending an offensive cartoon. The US legislation requires that the cable company give the John Doe notice of the request; in this case, the unnamed individual was represented at the hearing: Time Warner Ordered to Identify Sender of Offensive Email:

"In the case of Fitch v. Doe, the Supreme Court of Maine has held that while the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 generally prohibits a cable operator's disclosure of subscriber information, an exception provided in the Act allows disclosure to nongovernmental entities pursuant to court order, so long as the subscriber has received notification thereof.

On Christmas Eve 2003, an anonymous person sent an email under Plaintiff Fitch's name with a derogatory cartoon attached. Fitch filed suit in Maine state court against the unknown sender of the email (John or Jane Doe). Fitch then sought an order directing Time Warner (the ISP of the account from which the message was sent) to disclose Doe's identity. Doe's counsel objected to the disclosure, arguing that the disclosure was forbidden by the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, 47 U.S.C.A. s 551 (the 'Act'), and that Doe did not consent to allow Time Warner to disclose his identity. The trial court ordered disclosure, finding that Doe's agreement with Time Warner provided such consent.

Doe appealed to the Maine Supreme Court, but the lower court's decision to order disclosure was affirmed. Although the court concluded that the lower court erred in determining Doe had consented to disclosure, such disclosure was authorized under an exception found in the Act...."

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