6
Jan/03

Registrar Immunized Under CDA Regarding Fictitious Whois Info


Via BNA Internet Law News we learn of a decision from the Eastern District of Louisiana, Greg Lloyd Smith v. Intercosmos Media, civ no. 02-1964 Section C, 2002 US Dist LEXIS 24251 (ED La Dec. 17).  Plaintiffs brought state tort claims against Defendant, a domain name registrar.  Plaintiffs claimed to have been libeled by various domain name registrations.  The name of the domain registrants were fictitious and plaintiff advised the defendant, which did not block the websites and did not revoke the registrations for the domain names. Defendant argued that the state claims for defamation and libel and for damages and injunctive relief were preempted by the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C.S. §  230, and that the CDA provided immunity for all the claims. The plaintiffs also alleged claims for (a) negligent performance of duties of a domain-name registrar under La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2315; and (b) injunctive-relief claim for defamation.

Held:  Defendant was immunized from liability for the negligence claim because it met the three requirements of the CDA immunity: (1) it qualified as an interactive service provider; (2) it was not the source of the alleged defamatory statements; and (3) the claim treated it as the publisher of the alleged defamatory statements. The claims for injunctive relief with regard to either defamation and libel, or negligence and fault under art. 2315, were precluded by the immunity afforded by 47 U.S.C.S. §  230(c)(1).

Irony: The CDA was supposed to encourage policing by intermediaries such as ISPs.

Strange Concept: Treating a domain name registrar as an ISP.

Strange Background: Google Greg Lloyd Smith Bonnier to get some strange background on plaintiff.

Bad Side Effect of Decision: Registrars will spend even less effort weeding out obviously fraudulent whois info.

But The Real Question Is: What Does Ernie Think?

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