Doe Plaintiffs: A Case Study in On Line Reputation & Privacy

I recently gave a talk at Berkeley School of Law to a privacy class regarding a recent case I filed involving a Doe Plaintiff who faces a serious on-line reputation disaster after a former boyfriend posted photos and images of her to a user generated porn site. It is a pending case, so my comments were about the general issues facing individuals in these situations and the questions a lawyer must consider before filing such a case.

The most interesting thing for me (so far) in this case was learning about the option of filing a case as a "Doe Plaintiff." This is important because people faced with these problems must deal with the unwelcome additional publicity that may surround their filing suit. Filing a public lawsuit may exacerbate the problem, not help. There is little law on Doe Plaintiffs in the context of cyber-bullying and cyber-privacy concerns (esp. when not involving children). In our case, the court recently granted our motion to proceed anonymously (which the defendant did not oppose) but the order is not published (except for on the court's docket).

I'm interested if the community of privacy attorneys have other experiences in filing Doe Plaintiff cases? Since there are no published opinions on the matter that I could dig up, I suspect these cases either settle, or are resolved through non-legal measures. Thoughts? Ideas? Please share in the comments.

I've had requests for a copy of my slides. They are available at flickr. As you can see, they are not particularly detailed (in part because this is a pending case, so my remarks were limited to generalities).

UPDATE 2/9/09: Thanks to a commenter, the Defamation Law Blog has a short and relevant post from November 08 on the issues of doe/anonymous plaintiffs.


You may want to look at my blog post listed above. You're right, there isn't a whole lot of case law on the issue of anonymous plaintiffs, but this may help.

I'll definitely check it out Adrianos. Thanks!

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