Maryland’s Highest Court Adopts Dendrite Standard for Unmasking Anonymous Forum Posters in Defamation Actions
By Evan Kubota –- Edited by Miriam Weiler
Independent Newspapers, Inc. v. Brodie
Court of Appeals of Maryland, February 27, 2009, No. 63
On February 27th, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed a lower court’s order compelling discovery of the identities of five anonymous Internet forum posters in a defamation action. The court had granted certiorari on its own initiative. While the court’s holding required it to consider only a pleading issue, it went on to offer guidance to lower courts in future cases involving anonymous Internet speakers in a defamation action. In doing so, the court adopted the standard from Dendrite International, Inc. v. John Doe No. 3, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001).
Nixon Peabody’s Digital Media/Internet Law Blog offers analysis of the opinion, concluding that the Dendrite test is “emerging as the leading test across jurisdictions in anonymous Internet speaker cases.” Ars Technica compares this case to other unsuccessful attempts to uncover the identities of anonymous Internet posters. The Washington Post quotes Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer for the consumer advocacy group that argued the case for Independent Newspapers, who characterizes the opinion as reaffirming the First Amendment right to speak anonymously.