US Supreme Court declines ISP liability case

Justices deal another blow to the Nanny State

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear objections to a lower-court's dismissal of a lawsuit filed against Prodigy after an impostor sent a threatening e-mail and posted two vulgar bulletin board messages in the name if a fifteen-year-old lad. The Justices denied an appeal filed on behalf of New Yorker and Boy Scout Alexander Lunney, who unsuccessfully sued Prodigy for defamation and negligence over the incidents which occurred in 1994. In addition to two vulgar bulletin board messages posted in Lunney's name, the impostor sent an obscene e-mail message to a local Scout troop leader, the subject of which was "HOW I'M GONNA KILL U." Prodigy cancelled the bogus accounts, but never succeeded in identifying the impostor. It apologised to Lunney, but the boy's father, far from satisfied, brought the suit on his son's behalf. The New York court dismissed the suit on grounds that Prodigy was not the publisher of the e-mail or the BBS postings. Last December the New York Court of Appeals also found Prodigy not liable. Lunney's lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming that the case was "perhaps the most egregious of a series of Internet-related liability cases." The Court, obviously, saw it differently. While this is a far cry from a Supreme Court decision, anything the Justices choose to do or not do can influence the future decisions of lower courts. One consequence of today's denial could be to inconvenience heavyweight copyright crusaders such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in their efforts to influence ISPs which host sites containing material or links to material which they find threatening. ®

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