The Indiana Court of Appeals will hear oral argument on December 12, 2011, in a case of first impression in Indiana. The Indianapolis Star v. Jeffrey M. Miller, et al., Case No. 49A02-1103-PL-234, presents the novel question of whether a litigant can compel a non-party newspaper to disclose the identity of an internet user who posted an anonymous comment on the newspaper’s website.
Jeffrey and Cynthia Miller allege they were defamed by anonymous user comments posted on the Indianapolis Star’s website in response to 2010 news stories about a controversy involving a charitable project Mr. Miller had managed. The Millers sued the charitable organization (Junior Achievement) and others for defamation in connection with Mr. Miller’s ouster from the organization and sent nonparty discovery requests to the Indianapolis Star demanding that the paper identify anonymous authors of allegedly defamatory material posted on the newspaper’s website. (Under the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. sect. 230, the Star itself is immune from liability for defamatory material posted by third-party users of the Star’s website.) The Star objected to the subpoena, but the trial court ordered the Star to comply.
The Star’s appeal will be heard by the following panel of Indiana appellate judges: Hon. Carr Darden, Hon. Ezra Friedlander and Hon. Nancy Vaidik. A decision could be expected by early 2012.