opinions, everybody's got one...
Friday, October 07, 2005
Supreme Court Blogger Case - What does it mean?
I have been studying Wednesday's Delaware Supreme Court Case in: John Doe #1 v. Patrick Cahill and Julia Cahill. I offer this entry as a lay-blogger's quick translation. If you are an attorney, or otherwise if you are looking for a strict legal evaluation of the case, don't read this. Instead, I refer you to directly to the opinion link in yesterday's post. It is a clearly written opinion.
For the rest of us... the Court's ruling makes it harder for people to use (or misuse) the court system to find out who wrote anonymous blog entries. It is still possible to get a court order to disclose the identity of the writer, but the plaintiff will have to show that he has a real case, not just a case.
We are still responsible for what we say, and we still may be sued for libel and slander, but our free speech rights are still there as well. Our right to make statements anonymously are protected unless we step over the line.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Delaware Supreme Court Protects Bloggers
In a great decision for bloggers, the Delaware Supreme Court decided to protect an anonymous blogger's identity, reports the Wilmington News Journal .
I'm scouring the web for a copy of this late breaking opinion *** see below ***. It is reported to require a fairly high burden of the plaintiff in a defamation suit before he has the right to demand the identity of an anonymous blogger.
This doesn't mean that people can go out and defame persons on the internet with immunity. But it does support the proposition that anonymous political free speech is still a right, and a right that will be protected.
So when does free speech cross the line and become defamatory?
Here's the answer provided by Duke Law & Technology Review:
Although defamation in the United States has changed substantially over the years, it is now fairly well-established. For today?s plaintiff to prevail in a defamation action, he must prove publication of the defamatory statement, identification of the plaintiff, falsity, defamatory content, injury and fault.12 If the plaintiff is a public official or public figure and the subject matter is a matter of public concern, or if the plaintiff is a private individual seeking punitive damages for a statement involving a matter of public concern, he must prove actual malice to establish the fault element.13 Otherwise, states are free to establish their own fault standards for recovery.
Addendum: The winning attorney, David L. Finger, Esquire, was kind enough to supply me with a copy of the Court's Decision. (beware, its 33 pages of pdf)
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Anonymity and Social Responsibility
I began this entry with thoughts of advising the public of the laws against using license plate frames that cover any portion of the plate. I will eventually get around to some of that. But in doing some research for that topic, I discovered products on the market designed to obscure license plate numbers in ways that I was not previously aware.
I found sites that sell products specifically designed to distort the view of the number or hide the number from photography. (I refuse to place the links to the sites here because I do not want to promote illegal acts, or even to increase traffic to sites that promote illegal acts) There were claims on those sites that their products are legal, even a copy of a news broadcast with a study conducted by the Denver Police Department demonstrating the effectiveness of these products.
Much of the propaganda used to sell these products say that you should use these products to prevent getting a ticket. I suggest to you instead, that you should avoid breaking the traffic laws to avoid getting a ticket. Much to my chagrin, the increased population and mobile aspects to our society lend to these types of efforts to remain anonymous in the violation of our safety laws, and in so doing attempt to clothe oneself with the illusion that the laws don't apply.
Responsibility for our actions doesn't just attach when we are caught, it should come from our own morality and acceptance of the sacrifices that we each must make to live in an orderly world with other people.
As with anything however, that concept can be taken too far. Balance is the key.
I quickly then flipped through the Delaware Code to find what I recalled as being a pretty basic prohibition against covering up the data on the plate, and found much more.
Our code seems to be up to date on these issues and thoroughly prohibit using and selling all such obscuring materials, even if they are not apparent to the naked eye.
21 Del.C. 2126
(c) No number plate, or any portion thereof, shall be covered
with any tinted material, nor shall any other material be placed
on or around a number plate which would conceal and/or obscure
any information contained thereon, including the registration
expiration sticker. Plate frames that do not conceal and/or
obscure any information contained on the plate, including the
registration expiration sticker, are not prohibited by this
(d) Whoever violates subsections (a), (b) or (c) of this
section shall be fined not less than $25 nor more than $50.
(e) It shall be unlawful to sell, offer to sell, transfer,
possess or use any kind of device, product, plate cover, or
object, including any image altering device or spray, for the
purpose of hindering, inhibiting, impeding, impairing, or
preventing the photographing, recording or imaging of a license
plate in connection with the enforcement of this motor vehicle
code or any local or municipal traffic laws. Any person convicted
of a violation of this subsection shall, for the first offense, be
fined not less than $50 nor more than $1,000. For each subsequent
violation occurring within 3 years of the date of the original
violation, the person shall be fined not less than $200 nor more
(f) It shall be unlawful to sell any license plate cover or frame
which would violate subsection (c) of this section if placed on a
Delaware license plate unless the seller posts a sign in close proximity
to the product which states clearly and conspicuously to the public that
it is illegal to place the license plate cover or frame on Delaware
license plates. Any person convicted of a violation of this section shall
be fined not less than $50 and not more than $100 and shall pay
restitution to the purchaser of the license plate cover or frame in the
amount of ten times the purchase price.
The Newark City Code differs from the State Code significantly on several points. But I will save that for another discussion.
I frequently hear folks say . . . " I see these things all over, so I assumed they were legal". Well, all I can tell you is there are a lot of people violating these laws. The police tell me that they are bringing them in, one at a time.
Check your plates to make sure you are in the clear.