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$74k Judgment Against Craigslist Prankster 182

Posted by Soulskill
from the hope-it-was-worth-it dept.
jamie points out an update in the case of Jason Fortuny, the Craigslist prankster who was sued last year for publicly posting responses to a fake personal ad. The Citizen Media Law Project's summary of his case now includes a recently entered default judgment (PDF), fining Fortuny "... in the amount of $35,001.00 in statutory damages for Count I, violation of the Copyright Act; $5,000 in compensatory damages for Count II, Public Disclosure of Private Facts, and Count III, Intrusion Upon Seclusion." He has also been ordered to pay more than $34,000 in attorney and court fees.
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$74k Judgment Against Craigslist Prankster

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  • WHat?!?!? (Score:4, Funny)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:25AM (#27626935) Homepage Journal
    "$5,000 in compensatory damages for Count II, Public Disclosure of Private Facts, and Count III, Intrusion Upon Seclusion."

    These are actually real laws?!?!?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:31AM (#27626989)

      "$5,000 in compensatory damages for Count II, Public Disclosure of Private Facts, and Count III, Intrusion Upon Seclusion."

      These are actually real laws?!?!?

      Yes. In fact you are not allowed to disclose publicly that your girlfriend has clamps even if half of the town knows this anyways.

      There was a highest court decision in 1912 in Felderman vs. Proppenheimer, the so called "smelly labia" case (today it's called the "fishoil" case for PC reasons).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes. It's called invasion of privacy.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privacy_laws_of_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:WHat?!?!? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:32AM (#27626997)

      Public Disclosure of Private Facts

      Publication of non-newsworthy, private facts about an individual that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person (true defamation)(so intimate that outrage the public's sense of decency).

      Intrusion Upon Seclusion

      One who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

      I buy it. The guy posts a personal ad, then publicly posts the responses he gets. The responders had a reasonable expectation of privacy and it was violated in a most offensive manner. Seems like a lot of money, but maybe it will teach this douchebag a lesson.

    • Re:WHat?!?!? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nick Ives (317) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:48AM (#27627147)

      Yes, and rightfully so. A little Googling:

      http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/Press/faqs.aspx?id=14038& [firstamendmentcenter.org]

      Generally, the material published must be private information that "is not of legitimate concern to the public." Its disclosure must also be "highly offensive to a reasonable person." ... The pressing question in public disclosure of private-facts cases is whether the information is newsworthy or of legitimate concern to the public. ... "The right to privacy does not prohibit any publication of matter which is of public or general interest."

      http://epic.org/privacy/boyer/ [epic.org]

      Intrusion Upon Seclusion. Intrusion upon seclusion occurs where there is an invasion, through conduct offensive to an ordinary person, of an individual's information in which she has a "reasonable expectation of privacy." Amy Boyer's estate argues that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in her address and social security number, and that Docusearch's action in indiscriminately releasing this information was reasonably offensive.

      So basically private information of yours that nobody has any right to should never be published openly unless you can show a public interest angle. That's totally reasonable in my book.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by forkazoo (138186)

        So basically private information of yours that nobody has any right to should never be published openly unless you can show a public interest angle. That's totally reasonable in my book.

        So, these people felt nobody had any right to their private information. That's why they sent it to a complete stranger on the Internet.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nick Ives (317)

          So basically private information of yours that nobody has any right to should never be published openly unless you can show a public interest angle.

          You can give your personal information to anyone you want but their rights to use it and redistribute it are limited.

      • by Xaoswolf (524554)
        unless you can show a public interest

        Well, with the number of people who read the postings, I guess you could claim interest...

    • Re:WHat?!?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mikael (484) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @11:31AM (#27627541)

      When these laws were passed, their may not have been any internet, web sites or forums, but there were newspapers, notice boards, newsletters, circulars and mailing lists, and telegraphs. An individual-to-individual communication is expected to remain exactly that, unless the person sending the information gives permission for the information to be made public.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violation_of_privacy [wikipedia.org]

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2009 @12:06PM (#27627861)

      TO THE ATTENTION OF YOUR SILICITOR

      Good day sirs. I hope that I find you well. I am Mr. GAMBO ADAMS. I am the one that contacted you from NIGERIA in the business of wishing to transfer you your country a fund of $30,000,000 ( THIRTY MILLION US DOLLARS), for which I was willing to alow you with a 20% transfer fee $1,500, 000 (ONE POINT 5 MILLION US DOLLARS). You reasponded with a promise to complete this transaction. But you only promised and promised for months and months! I did everything you asked, including of the pictures of me holding a sign with sayings on it. I have since realized you are a SPAM BATER! Also you have put all of our PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL communication on your webs site.

      I am conacting you now on behalf of my silicitor that I will be courting you on VIOLATION OF THE COPYRIGHT ACT, PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF PRIVATE FACTS and INTRUSION UPON SECLUSION in the US courts, and searching for damages in the amount of $35,001.00 (THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND AND ONE US DOLLARS) and courst fees. Against the adversity of my silictor I am willing to settle in the amount of only $10,001.00 (TEN THOUSAND AND ONE USE DOLLARS) if you contact me IMIEDIATELY to deposit the amount in my account #3200-20032-20002 in the BANK OF NIGERIA. If you aggree to my generous proposal, please reply promptly.

      Yours in friendship,

      Mr. GAMBO ADAMS

      • by CTalkobt (81900)

        MR GAMBO ADAMS,

        As a representative of the Nigerian Government currently vacationing in the US I wish to congratulate you on your outreach and business communications with the citizens here. However, I feel that your email has reached me in error and must ask that you look further for the correct party.

        During a normal review of your email however, I did notice that you had been delinquient in filing appropriate fees, taxes and associated business licenses for the normal course of business in Nigeria. As such

  • by upto0013 (1144677) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:32AM (#27626999)
    Now I can send my naked pictures with no fear...
  • by localroger (258128) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:37AM (#27627049) Homepage
    This is exactly what I thought would happen, a large civil judgement, as I predicted in the original linked /. thread. Repeat after me: I do not own the content of letters I receive.. Letters you are sent are exactly like books you buy; you can keep them forever and read them all you want and even loan them to your friends, but you cannot publish them. This is an entirely non-controversial no-brainer in legal circles, no matter how silly you think it is, and it's why the guy got slammed. The extra helping of privacy violation is just icing on the copyright cake, and of course he gets the bill for feeding the lawyers too.
    • by toetagger (642315) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:50AM (#27627163)
      Good point, but where is the boundary between "sharing with your friends" and "publishing" these days? If I post those comments on Facebook, and allow everyone to see my profile, its publishing, but when I only share them with my friends, its OK? What if I let everyone in my network see it? Frankly, I'm almost a bit scared to "publish" something I don't own inadvertently...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by localroger (258128)
        This is a good question, and it's one area where electronics really have created a new gray area. In the past publication required making physical copies, which involved a certain amount of effort, and even if you weren't getting paid one could infer from the expense you put out yourself that you were creating value that wasn't going to the original author. Nowadays I would expect a decision to hinge upon whether access was active or passive, how much effort went into it, and the number of recipients. Th
    • by TheSHAD0W (258774)

      "Publishing", in the context of that law, means distribution for sale. I don't believe that's what the prankster did.

      The real reason he was fined so heavily is because he didn't show up at court. Judges strongly dislike that behavior.

      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        "Publishing", in the context of that law, means distribution for sale. I don't believe that's what the prankster did.

        [citation needed]

      • by Gorobei (127755)

        "Publishing", in the context of that law, means distribution for sale

        More like distribution OR sale.

        It's pretty clear: you own the physical letter that was sent to you. You do NOT own the copyright. So, you are free to burn the letter, frame the letter, etc, but you can't sell or give away copies.

    • Well I'm Confused (Score:3, Interesting)

      by poena.dare (306891)

      Does this mean that people who get nasty cease-and-desist letters from lawyers are in the wrong for posting them publicly?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by funkatron (912521)
        No not really. Anyone that does anything to piss a lawyer off is automatically right.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by localroger (258128)
        Tedhnically they are, but it would be much harder to get an actual judgement against someone for doing that. Something like a C&D is regarded more like a public notice than a private letter, although there have been exceptions (the draconian gag order bound notices sent out by the NSA when it demands that you help them wiretap being a singular example).
      • Does this mean that people who get nasty cease-and-desist letters from lawyers are in the wrong for posting them publicly?

        Well, I have no actual expertise here, but if we assume for a moment that the post from Nick Ives above [slashdot.org] with the little bit from the first amendment center is reasonably on target:

        Generally, the material published must be private information that "is not of legitimate concern to the public." Its disclosure must also be "highly offensive to a reasonable person." ... The pressing question in public disclosure of private-facts cases is whether the information is newsworthy or of legitimate concern to the public. ... "The right to privacy does not prohibit any publication of matter which is of public or general interest."

        I would think you'd at least have a decent shot at arguing that a cease-and-desist letter IS something of public or general interest. I don't know if the courts would agree with me, but I think the public has a right to know when the threat of civil or criminal prosecution is being used to coerce someone's actions. I don't know ho

        • The Nick Ives cite is about the "disclosure of private information" angle. That could have held up even if the coypright weren't an angle, and vice-versa. If I tell even one person, and it's the wrong person, about your jello and titties fetish I could have a problem with the first charge. But if you email me your perfectly innocent clown drawings I could safely show them to my friends, as long as my circle of friends isn't large enough to qualify as a "public." But even though they're not private infor
          • But even though they're not private information of yours I would not have the right to widely distribute them, either free or for money.

            That's a good point, though I think if you posted it up in sections with commentary, and without financial motive, you might have a good argument for fair use [chillingeffects.org]. That kind of legal threat is clearly a intended to silence public discourse, not to protect some lawfirm's property. I'm not alone [citmedialaw.org] in that thinking, but who knows where such a thing would actually end up. While I could find references to the threat of a suit over publishing C&D letters, I didn't actually find the outcome of any such action. The t

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by David Gerard (12369)
        I've had letters from lawyers pissed off that I published their C&D and demanding I take down the public copy of the original letter. I then publish the second letter too.
      • document, suitable for court presentation and you can share that with anyone you feel like.

    • by Raenex (947668)

      This is exactly what I thought would happen, a large civil judgement, as I predicted in the original linked /. thread.

      Did you predict it? Link or it didn't happen. I stupidly wasted my time searching through the original thread and didn't see a post by you.

  • Should've posted them on 4chan. The Public Disclosure of Private Facts thingy has been done on /b/ more than once, but as far as I know nobody has been sued yet. Also, there would have been even more 'epic lulz', from doing it. Don't get me wrong though. I think he got what he deserved. He should be happy for not doing jail time.
  • No show == guilty? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by burnin1965 (535071) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:48AM (#27627145) Homepage

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it was a Default Judgement [wikipedia.org], which means the plaintiff did not show. That is why he lost, not because there was a thorough review of the matter at hand.

    Somehow I doubt this will be valid as a precedent in future lawsuits.

    • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @11:04AM (#27627283) Homepage Journal

      It sounds like it was the defendant who didn't show.

      It also sounds like it was a civil trial, which doesn't go to a question of guilt, but of responsibility for damages.

      But I only read the summary, so who knows?

      -Peter

    • by JeffSh (71237)

      not showing up to your trial does not make you automatically guilty, but it does make it terribly difficult to defend yourself against accusation.

      The court still goes through the same process to determine damages or guilt. The plaintiff still has to present a case and request damages/compensation. The court just doesn't get to see any defense, so it more or less means guilty unless the plaintiff's case has no merit even on their own evidence.

    • by hob42 (41735) <[jupo42] [at] [gmail.com]> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @11:10AM (#27627347) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, the initial default judgement was entered in November.

      Status hearing held. Oral motion by Plaintiff's counsel for entry of default as to defendant is granted. It is hereby ordered that default is entered against Defendant, Jason Fortuny for failure appear or answer. Damages hearing is set for 1/7/2009 at 9:30AM.

      A motion to dismiss was filed with the court in December, that was dated as written in October, but it was already too late by then. He didn't show up to the damages hearing either, thus the plaintiff got everything they asked for.

      Lesson to be learned: If you have a court date, SHOW UP.

      • The defendant is, "with all due respect", a fuckwit. He's still tooling around the internet, patting himself on the back for his "EPIC LULZ", with a small band of sycophantic followers.
    • by debrain (29228) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @11:39AM (#27627621) Journal

      Default judgment occurs when a defendant fails to deliver some statement of defence (which procedurally occurs quite some time prior to trial, over the usual course). Failure to show for trial is a delinquency further to a failure to defend. In many jurisdictions you don't even have to give notice of a pending trial to a defendant noted in default.

      As a construction (fiction) of law, a defendant noted in default is deemed to have admitted everything in the plaintiff's claim.

      While it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, there is a general rule that if a defendant can show (1) that he didn't have notice, and (2) that he has a plausible defence on the merits, the default judgment may be set aside. The setting aside of default judgment may not result in rescission of the Judge's decision on costs (which are compensation for legal fees incurred), though that may depend on the manner and effectiveness of the notice of the plaintiff's claim.

      When a plaintiff fails to participate properly the claim may be deemed abandoned.

      YMMV by jurisdiction.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by haystor (102186)

        The key thing to note is that even with no opposition at all, the lawyers fees still amounted to half the judgement and they still probably take a portion of the rest.

        They, of course, will get their money first I'm sure. So let's see who really won.

    • Correct. This is not that big of a deal. Wish them luck in collecting this money.
    • by anagama (611277)

      Even if it went to trial with a full defense, it would not be generate a precedential decision. To be a precedent, the case must be reviewed by a higher court and the opinion published. In my state, there are two levels above Superior Court (trial court): Court of Appeals and Supreme Court (names may be different in different states). All Supreme Court cases are published and thus become precedent. The Court of Appeals decides on a case by case basis which of its cases to formally publish. Formally pu

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidR1991 (1047748) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:50AM (#27627161) Homepage

    Because the guy went entirely too far. If he had posted anonymous copies of comments they had sent etc then it probably would have been tolerable as an 'experiment'. However, he posted photos, names, emails etc. - which is fairly brutal when shared on the net

    On the over hand though, regardless of the false pretense, these people gave their data to him, and took a calculated risk as to whether the ad was genuine or not. It's not as if the data was stolen or anything. So it's a bit iffy, but overall, I'd say a good judgement

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      On the over hand though, regardless of the false pretense, these people gave their data to him, and took a calculated risk as to whether the ad was genuine or not. It's not as if the data was stolen or anything.

      Not really, actually. If you go an actual date, for instance, and your date proceeds to kick you in the groin, nobody would argue that you took a calculated risk as to whether the offer to go on a date was genuine, either.

      I agree it's a good judgement (although the amount seems a bit high); I just wish it'd been a "real" one, not just a default judgement because he didn't showup.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      If the guy promised to keep it anonymous, either through TOS or verbal agreement, then he breached the implied or express warranty of anonymity, and it is that breach he was sued for.

      Of course, I have grunts of derision for the fact that he let the judgement default.

    • So it's a bit iffy, but overall, I'd say a good judgement

      There's nothing iffy about a default judgment. If you don't show up (or don't follow some other required procedure), you lose.

      But I do agree with the rest of your post.

    • by 3vi1 (544505)

      On the over hand though, regardless of the false pretense, these people gave their data to him...

      If you factor that into the equation, you aren't considering the scenario where someone could decide to prank you by sending another guy like this YOUR information and picture.

  • by smchris (464899) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:57AM (#27627217)

    My freshman soc prof told us how _not_ to do research if we wanted to get published. I think the book was called the Lavender Tea Room if I remember. Guy hung out at public restrooms, took down license plates, got their address and then went door-to-door surveying. "Hello, sir. Wife? Kids? Occupation?" Discovered that a surprising number of regular family guys will stop by the restroom for a quick blow on the way to work. Sociologically interesting but no way that book was going to get distributed even without releasing subject names.

  • by cyn1c77 (928549) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @11:13AM (#27627361)

    Good.

    This little turd is only starting starting to get what he deserves.

    Personally, I am impressed that the individual wronged took him to court. If I had his name and address, I would have probably been a lot less gentle. People have been taking advantage of the anonymity of the internet to get away with completely unacceptable behavior for too long.

    Human beings are social creatures and the defective ones need to be corrected or weeded out.

  • by V50 (248015) * on Saturday April 18, 2009 @11:22AM (#27627463) Journal

    I can't say I sympathise with that bloke much. He posted an ad, and the people who responded to it did so under the assumption that it would be confidential. Not the smartest assumption, but a reasonable one nontheless.

    Then, he posts the responses, including names. While this doesn't hurt him much, it can easily lead to great embarrassment and potential destruction of reputation for those men.

    Regardless of what one thinks of the activities the guys thought they were responding to (sounded weird to me, but I'm a bit of a boring prude), the guy who posted people's identities is an asshat, and I can't say I feel much, or really any sympathy for him. He sounds like little more than an asshat.

    On a related note, I hope the asses who post those "feel free to come and take all my stuff" ads on Craigslist, that result in people's houses being stripped down to nothingness, also get sued. Those who respond to them and steal the poor bastard's items, too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You should never assume anything will be confidential, particularly on the internet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hatta (162192)

      Not the smartest assumption, but a reasonable one nontheless.

      Aren't "reasonable" and "not smart" mutually exclusive?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by HappyEngineer (888000)

        Aren't "reasonable" and "not smart" mutually exclusive?

        That's actually a good question. I think "reasonable" refers to what one expects from other reasonable people. The "not smart" refers to the fact that there are a lot of unreasonable people (aka. dickwads/asshats/griefers) on the net and they sometimes look just like the reasonable people (especially when one doesn't have access to a posting history).

  • As a general rule, taking trolling into real life and then going 'LOL I TROLL U IRL' after you act like a jackass will get you hit by the real life equivalent of a ban.

    There's a strange subculture that validates this kind of douchebaggery in the name of 'epic win', and I'm unsure if any of them are past the mental age of 15.
  • 4Chan's /b/tards must be lawyering up right now. Or posting image macros, one or the other.

    • Pick the one that doesn't require an attention span longer than ten seconds. You could also go with whichever one doesn't require more than $3.25 (all they've got in the couch).

  • I went to one of those sites that publishes information about my previous and current addresses and phone numbers and it really had my history down to the point I found it disturbing. These types of sites need to be closed.

  • Someone tell me why this is different than a police sting operation looking for johns or pedophiles?

    The police never get in trouble for this exact behavior.

    Perhaps the "perp" could call it a citizen sting operation.

    • Why? Is it illegal to look for a sexual partner on the internet?

      What a crappy analogy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Because:
      1- Internet dating is not illegal
      2- Being weird is not illegal
      3- Vigilantism IS illegal because
      4- Police are held to a higher standard than citizens in that
      5- Due process must be used in court and
      6- The police (typically) are not using sting ops for personal gain or aggrandizement and
      7- many other reasons
      8 goto 1

      -b

    • by kklein (900361)

      Someone tell me why this is different than a police sting operation looking for johns or pedophiles?

      Ummm... Because these men were breaking no laws and this asshat isn't a police officer?

  • WTF (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @01:55PM (#27628847)

    He has also been ordered to pay more than $34,000 in attorney and court fees.

    34K on a default judgment? Default judgment means he lost because he never showed up. How did you spend this much against a guy who never showed up to defend himself?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      34K on a default judgment? Default judgment means he lost because he never showed up. How did you spend this much against a guy who never showed up to defend himself?

      A good deal of the work a lawyer does is typically before the trial: lining up witnesses, developing a legal strategy, researching relevant cases, anticipating the other lawyer's strategy, etc. I'm sure the amount of preparation required varies depending on the type of case, but if your lawyer hasn't done this sort of legwork in advance you need a new lawyer.

    • 34K on a default judgment? Default judgment means he lost because he never showed up. How did you spend this much against a guy who never showed up to defend himself?

      Create a PACER account and look up "Fortuny, Jason" in the U.S. Party/Case Index [uscourts.gov] to find the history of the case (there is a charge of $0.08 per page, but I believe it is waived if your total is under something like $10 / year). There are 46 documents entered as part of this case. Not all of them were written by the plaintiff's lawyers, but a g

    • Even if he doesn't show up - there's been quite a bit of paper and leg work to get to this point.

  • It is a federal crime (Title 18, Section 875 US Code) to use a telecommunication devise with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass.

  • ...who has a problem with statutory damages being awarded when the law requires registration of the "literary work" to have this form of "protection". Copyright is extended automatically upon the creation of any "literary work", but registration with the Office of Copyright is still required to claim statutory damages. To claim such damages in the face of not having an actual registration does not seem kosher to me.

    I would believe that the plaintiff would have had to claim actual damages, unless he has

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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