Blogger Found Liable for Copyright Infringement Nevertheless Maintains Anonymity

by Paul Alan Levy

A few months ago, I blogged about an important Sixth Circuit ruling on the issue of online anonymity. Signature Management Team v. Doe, 876 F.3d 831 (2017), came close to endorsing the Dendrite approach to deciding whether a defendant who has been sued for allegedly inappropriate behavior should be denied the right to remain anonymous while the issue of his liability is being determined. This case presented the further question of whether anonymity could be preserved even after a finding of liability. The case was remanded to the district court in Michigan to decide whether a defendant whose violation waas purely technical, but who faced a serious risk of significant harassment and retaliation, could remain anonymous.

In a decision issued today, won by Joshua Koltun, a Bay Area lawyer who has maintained a remarkable track record in such cases, the district court applied the factors enumerated by the appellate majority, also addressing some of the concerns articulated by the Sixth Circuit dissenting judge.  The Court decided that the Doe's interest in keeping his speech anonymous outweighed the plaintiff's interest in learning who it was that had, however briefly, been guilty of infringing its copyright in an outdated version of an instructional manual that is sold online for $1.98, for which plaintiff had chosen not to seek damages.


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