Cohen -v- Google not a skank decision

New York Supreme Court by Djmutex

New York Supreme Court

There has been a degree of consternation in the blogging community about the New York Supreme Court decision in the Liskula Cohen -v- Google, Inc “skank” case, given that it requires Google to disclose the identity of a blogger, subsequently revealed to be Rosemary Port.   The decision has even been described in some UK press as a precedent-setting case.

This is a surprise, given that the Supreme Court appears merely to have applied the facts of the case to Civil Procedure Law Rules 3102(c).  Having determined that calling Miss Cohen a “skank” and “ho” etc., together with posting sexually provocative photographs of her, amounted to actionable defamation, the Court then applied the rule to enable Miss Cohen to obtain a court order “to identify the proper defendant with respect to a known cause of action”.

In the English Civil Procedure Rules there is no direct equivalent of the New York CPLR 3102(c), at least as a means to identify an unknown defendant.  Instead, the court does have jurusduction following a House of Lords’ decision in Norwich Pharmacal -v- Commissioners of Customs & Excise [1974] AC 133, using what is now commonly referred to as a “Norwich Pharmacal order”.   Norwich Pharmacal orders have been made in similar circumstances, i.e. to obtain the account details from internet service providers of alleged authors of defamatory material on the internet (see Totalise plc -v- The Motley Fool Ltd [2001] EWCA Civ 1897, Keith-Smith -v- Williams [2006] EWHC 860 (QB) and Sheffield Wednesday -v- Hargreaves [2007] EWHC 2375 (QB)).

The outcome of the Cohen case should therefore not be a surprise to UK bloggers.

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