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While by default many of those that post anonymously on this site might like to root for the Franchisee, The Washington Post reported today on one case they should be happy to see that the Franchisee lost. As the Post's article reports, the highest court in Maryland ruled against a Dunkin Donuts owner, in a defamation lawsuit involving some anonymous posts. In this particular case, at issue were posts made by one or more people using a pseudonym on the website, NewsZap.com, not unlike what happens here on Blue MauMau on a daily basis. The anonymous posters made comments about this Dunkin franchisee's store being dirty, in an exchange on their forum back in 2006.
In its ruling the court did not say that people have an unlimited right to post anything, but moved even further then a previous court ruling in NJ to affirm the right to post anonymously. As the article reports, "The plaintiff must then identify in court filings the exact statements purportedly made by each anonymous poster, as well as show how those comments have caused damage."
Pointing out specifically where this court went further the the NJ court, the article said that the Maryland court ruled that the plaintiff, "might have to provide specific evidence supporting each element of the defamation claim. Finally, it indicated that judges also have to balance the anonymous poster's right of free speech against the need to disclose a defendant's identity."
As to how to balance those conflicting rights, the article quoted from the ruling saying, "the court used the case to recommend a strict, five-step process for judges to follow 'to balance the First Amendment right to anonymous speech on the Internet with the opportunity on the part of the object of that speech to seek judicial redress for alleged defamation.' "
I for one am happy that the franchisee lost this particular case, and was happy to see the court handled this one right, ruling that free speech rights must be protected.