Thursday, January 19, 2012

Federal Appeals Court Shields Anonymous Source in Defamation Suit

English: DC Court of Appeals court sealImage via WikipediaThe United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week in Software & Information Industry Association v. Solers, Inc. (Case No.10-cv-1523) held that the mere filing of a defamation suit doesn't overcome an individual's First Amendment anonymous speech right where the plaintiff could not demonstrate it was damaged by the allegedly false statements.

The three-judge appellate panel said software company Solers, Inc. failed to prove it suffered financial or economic damage from the allegedly defamatory statement by an anonymous source who in 2005 reported to software industry trade association Software & Information Industry Association ("SIIA") that Solers was using unlicensed software. The anonymous allegation sparked a probe of Solers, Inc., by SIIA, but did not result in legal action.

Solers alleged its legal fees and the time and money expended by its employees to respond to the allegations constituted damages, but the appellate court said the purported harm did not trump established case law that recognizes anonymity as an important aspect of free speech. Tip of the hat to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press ( for its detailed coverage of the case.

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