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Merkey v. Yahoo SCOX (2005)

25 August 2005 Published in Resolved Cases

Right to Anonymous Free Expression - On August 17, 2005, the ACLU of Utah and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the First Amendment right to speak anonymously on issues of public concern. The brief was in regards to a U.S. District Court case that arose, in part, out of anonymous postings from a Yahoo group and several weblogs.

Utah plaintiff Jeffrey Merkey requested an expedited process for serving subpoenas unmasking anonymous critics who participated in an online discussion about another court case in which the Utah-based technology company SCO Group, Inc. is suing IBM. The ACLU of Utah and the EFF argued that before an online speaker is exposed, litigants must show that the anonymous poster’s identity is central to their claims, that those claims are viable, and that the litigant can acquire the information in no other manner. The Utah District Court agreed and demanded that Merkey submit additional information showing his good faith efforts to contact the defendants, the likelihood of jurisdiction, and the viability of his claims. Instead, Merkey declined to submit the requested information and, on August 26, he dismissed the anonymous Yahoo message board defendants from the case.