In the case of Blockowicz v. Williams, 2009 WL 4929111 (N.D. IL 2009) Blockowicz sued the Williams for defamatory posts that he made on a number of sites, including the Ripoff Report website. Because Williams did not take down the offending material per the court’s order, the plaintiffs filed a motion to get the Ripoff Report to remove the posts. Ripoff Report opposed the motion alleging that the court did not have authority to force a non-party to the lawsuit to comply with an injunction. The court ruled that the only time a non-party can be forced to remove the materials is if such nonparty acted “in concert” with the defendant in the defamation. Because the court determined that the Ripoff Report did not act in concert with the defendant and had a policy indicating that they will not remove any material for any reason, the court would not order the removal by the Ripoff Report of the defamatory material.
This case brings up a curious issue. There are two statues which provide some immunity to the providers of internet services: The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA). The CDA applies to torts, while the DMCA applies to intellectual property. What this case shows is how differently these two statutes treat the issue of immunity. Although the court in Blockowicz did not rely on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Section 230 states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Assuming that the Ripoff Report is sheltered from liability by Section 230, the question becomes why can you force an ISP to take down infringing materials but not defamatory materials? The DMCA provides that Internet Service Providers can be shielded from liability arising out of copyright infringement if they comply with the procedures set forth in the act and remove the material. So although you may not hold an ISP liable under the DMCA; if you believe you have been infringed upon you can get the ISP to remove infringing material. However, if you are defamed you cannot force the removal of the materials under the CDA. The provider is shielded from liability whether or not they remove the offending material. Interesting.