In Which We Serve (1942) is a classic wartime film, winning Noel Coward a Special Academy Award (Oscar) for its production. It is an evocative propaganda film, following the exploits of a fictional HMS Torrin from its commissioning in 1939 to its sinking in 1941.
Sadly, the first use of Twitter to serve a court document does not appear to have been in such an heroic cause. A blogger and lawyer well known for being on the right of the Conservative Party, Donal Blaney, took exception to the Twitter account @blaneysblarney purporting to be him. Donal appears to claim that the person behind this Twitter Account, who uses a photograph of Donal as the account’s avatar, is infringing Donal’s intellectual property rights. The details of the claim have yet to be published.
As Donal does not know the identity of his Twitter impersonator, he cannot serve upon the impersonator any statement of claim or injunction. In many cases, a person in Donal’s position could seek to obtain a Norwich Pharmacal Order, but this is not appropriate in these circumstances as the person with the relevant identity information, Twitter, is outside of the jurisdiction. This left Donal to seek other means. Fortunately, the Court can use any alternative method for a claim form under Rule 6.15 of the Civil Procedure Rules:
“where it appears to the court that there is a good reason to authorise service by a method or at a place not otherwise permitted in this Part” (Rule 6.15(a))
This rule can be applied to injunctions:
“Rule 6.15 applies to any document in the proceedings as it applies to a claim form” (Rule 6.27)
Where has getting the service of the injunction by Twitter got Donal? It must be immediately obvious that enforcing an injunction served or attempted to be served by Twitter against an unknown party is near impossible. This appears to have been realised by another (or the same) Twitter user, judging by the new Twitter account that appeared on the day after the date of the injunction, 1 October 2009, @blarney_blaney (complete with Swastika avatar), to taunt Donal even further.
However, being the first claimant to obtain service by Twitter has brought Donal Blaney, his law firm Griffin Law and his barrister Matthew Richardson considerable publicity.