Internet On Trial

Internet On Trial

Modern Day Litigation, Cyber Defamation, and Law in Sports & Entertainment

Chopped-up fingers and bruised egos: How can I find out who posted disparaging comments about me anonymously on the internet?

Posted in Defamation

People who believe their professional reputations or personal integrity have been unfairly impugned by materials anonymously posted on the internet are not defenseless against their unnamed tormentors.

Is it possible to discover the identity of those behind anonymous posts? Yes. But it’s not easy, especially if you don’t have experience communicating with the various webmasters, and a comprehensive understanding of not only the applicable federal laws in play, but also the various state laws, which differ, and can be especially confusing when you, the online troll, and the website are all in different jurisdictions. Sometimes the laws of more than one state may apply, which then raises an even more complicated legal issue called conflicts of law.

Nevertheless, unmasking the anonymous online troll requires a systematic and methodical approach that must be tackled step by step. The first question you must answer is — On which platform do the objectionable materials appear? Arguably you should first determine whether the objectionable material is actionable under existing law, however, the requisite standard for removing the objectionable material often differs depending on where the material is posted, which is why it’s usually best to start by identifying the medium, including ALL syndicated or duplicate publications.

Most online service providers (OSPs), like Facebook, Yelp, Google Plus, etc., have policies in their terms of service (ToS), which provide guidance for having objectionable content removed from their sites. Unfortunately, the process is different for every site. Website operators are faster, and more likely to remove objectionable materials when intellectual property violations, such as copyright or trademark infringement are involved. This is because the most important/prominent law governing online service providers, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), contains “safe harbor” provisions allowing OSPs, without penalty, to take down materials that infringe on people’s copyrights if they do so “expeditiously” upon learning of the infringements contained in postings.

Many people are successful at sending DMCA takedown notices themselves, and sometimes that makes the problem go away. But if your DMCA takedown notice is unsuccessful, or the OSP doesn’t respond, if you didn’t have an attorney who specializes in intellectual property and/or internet and privacy law, you will likely need one at that point.

The identities of anonymous posters are held by the OSPs, and most providers are going to require people seeking to discover the identities of those behind anonymous postings to get a court order before they will reveal their identities.  

Materials that anonymously or falsely malign a business almost cry out for a business owner or company to respond. If you are in a situation where your business is either being hurt or is going to be hurt, then there is really nothing to think about in terms of whether to fight back (unless you don’t care about your business). If you can prove the damaging statement is not true, and it’s truly defamatory, that’s a surefire way to get a court to issue a takedown order. There is no First Amendment protection for false and defamatory statements. If somebody calls you an “asshole,” that is objectionable, but it is not defamatory. But if you are a restaurant owner, and somebody says you put chopped-up fingers in the chili, that’s a different scenario. That gives a quest for redress a lot more teeth because of how obviously detrimental that kind of allegation could be to a restaurant’s business.

But what about fighting anonymous postings of the “asshole” variety? People may bristle at being branded that way on the internet, where the characterization can be seen by thousands, if not millions of people. But the opinions of a critic, anonymous or otherwise, are rarely defamatory unless they contain claims of fact that can be refuted. Calling a person a “crook” or a “thief,” for instance, is often objected to by the those alleged to be “crooks” or “thieves.” Even then, claims of defamation are difficult to prove. Anonymous opinions may bruise the egos of their targets, but getting real redress may prove even more bruising to the patience (and pocketbooks) of the maligned.

Is it defamation to … tell someone to eat shit?

Posted in Defamation

This is an easy one. No. By definition, defamation is a false statement of fact, which damages another’s reputation or character. So, telling someone to eat shit, which is nothing but a more colorful way of saying ‘go fly a kite,’ is not defamation. Then why did HBO get sued along with its show host, comedian John Oliver, for saying exactly that about the owner of West Virginia coal mine? This is where the answers get (slightly) more difficult.
Continue Reading

Is there a constitutionally protected right to record police activity?

Posted in First Amendment, Privacy Law

© 2011 by Adam Katz

Spoiler alert: It depends. Continue Reading

Own a gun? Hope you like jail.

Posted in New Jersey, Privacy Law

[image - gun w/U.S. Constitution]

For all intents and purposes, it’s a crime just to have or possess a gun in the state of New Jersey—unless you’re in your own home—and with new rules just announced by the New Jersey judiciary, people charged with gun-related crimes now will go to jail immediately, denied bail, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is but a fairytale. This would apply even to residents of other states, simply traveling through New Jersey with guns they lawfully carry in their home states. Continue Reading

Press Release: Joseph Bahgat Named a ‘Fastcase 50’ Legal Innovator

Posted in Privacy Law

For Immediate Release

Contact: Kevin Vermeulen, COO, Good2BSocial | Ph: (917) 679-7571

The Privacy Firm Managing Attorney’s Newest Award Solidifies His Reputation as a Legal Innovator and Tech Leader

July 14, 2017 | New York, NY — Joseph Bahgat, managing attorney of The Privacy Firm PC, was named a 2017 “Fastcase 50” honoree. Compiled by legal publisher Fastcase, the ranking highlights professionals who are charting a new course for delivering legal services.

According to Fastcase’s nomination criteria, Joe stood out among hundreds of nominees for being one of the “smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders in the law.” With offices in New Jersey and Ohio, his firm represents business owners, high-net-worth individuals, lawyers, and anyone affected by matters of internet and privacy law, including BitTorrent/ISP subpoena defense, defending against intellectual property trolls, cyber-defamation, and related IP litigation in entertainment and media law.

“I am honored to be featured in the Fastcase 50 along with industry leaders whom I deeply admire. Past honorees have included other lawyers, respected law professors, and many non-lawyers who truly inspire me to build bridges between my chosen profession and the modern world. I’m also humbled because this is a peer nomination, which also puts my name alongside these great legal innovators,” Joe said. “My mission is to change public perception about lawyers. I use technology to carry out that mission, and receiving this award is proof of its effectiveness.”

A rising star in New Jersey’s legal community, Joe has been one of the state’s most outspoken advocates for its courts to implement electronic filing systems, which would improve efficiency, and encourage transparency. Since joining his firm in 2010, he has lectured at the local, state, and national levels, encouraging law firms to embrace cloud-based practice management systems, and calling for courts to overhaul legal practice rules to reflect how forward-thinking lawyers use technology to deliver real-time legal services.

In 2014, Joe was a featured speaker at the inaugural Clio Cloud Conference in Chicago. He regularly blogs and writes about specific issues that need to be addressed by courts and other rulemaking bodies, including the American Bar Association, which eventually garnered the attention of the ABA Law Practice Division and resulted in his appointment to the #ABATECHSHOW Planning Board in 2014.

“I want our industry to embrace technology. When we realize its potential, it enables us to better serve our clients. This is possible because of efficiency that was unimagined 30 years ago, back when I knew I was destined to be an attorney,” Joe said. “We are at the precipice of a legal industry that looks nothing like it did even 10 years ago. The attorneys who’ll continue to survive and thrive will be the ones who embrace change. Through that, we can evolve our practices to focus on providing the legal services that can’t be replaced by technology.”

About Fastcase and the Fastcase 50

An American company based in Washington, D.C., Fastcase is a leading legal publisher focused on smarter legal software that democratizes the law. Using patented software that combines the best of legal research with the best of Web search, Fastcase helps busy users sift through the clutter, ranking the best cases first and enabling the re-sorting of results to find answers fast. Founded in 1999, Fastcase has more than 800,000 subscribers from around the world. Since the inaugural awards in 2011, the Fastcase 50 has spotlighted and applauded the most fascinating trailblazers and architects of the future of law and legal technology. For more information, visit and the Fastcase 50 award winners list.

About The Privacy Firm

The Privacy Firm (fka Bahgat + Bahgat LLC) focuses matters involving Internet and Privacy, BitTorrent/ISP Subpoena Defense and various aspects of Business Law, from offices in Philadelphia, Central New Jersey, and Ohio. The firm was founded in 1987 by Abe Bahgat, a renowned presence in Ohio’s criminal justice system. He was joined by son, Joseph in 2010, who has helped expand the firm’s practice areas. Recognized in the industry as an innovative law practice, The Privacy Firm is powered by a cloud practice management system and produces many freelance legal technology articles and popular blog, which helps other attorneys stay on top of protecting client information and discover the latest practice management news. Visit for more information.

Supreme Court Justices Battle Over The “Internet”

Posted in Internet & Media Law, Social Media Law


I admit I’m a grammar snob. Sue me. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember, long before I became an attorney. When I read something in which the author doesn’t know the difference between your and you’re, I instantly tune out. You’ve lost me at that point. Sure, I begin and even end sentences with prepositions, when appropriate. Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with that. Continue Reading

Judge “Likes” Service of Process Via Facebook

Posted in Internet & Media Law, New Jersey, Social Media Law

facebook thumbsWhen you get your mail out of the mailbox, have you ever received a small, orange, or other bright-ish colored paper notice indicating that they tried to deliver certified mail to you? Sometimes the mailman will make another attempt to deliver it to you, but more often than not, the certified mail will sit on a shelf at your local post office, until (a) you come pick it up, or (b) if nobody comes to claim it, then it’s returned to the sender, after a week or ten days . Depending on the state where you live, you could receive notice of a lawsuit via certified mail, but more often than not, people use certified mail so they can Continue Reading

If You Think Copyright Trolling is Over You Aren’t Paying Attention

Posted in Copyright, Privacy Law

Matthew Sag

Malibu Media recently filed 42 new copyright troll cases in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey alone, and including New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas, Malibu Media has filed nearly 150 new copyright cases in 2017. Needless to say, copyright trolling is far from over, Continue Reading

What is the “single publication rule,” and why should you care?

Posted in Cyber-defamation, Defamation, First Amendment, New Jersey, Ohio


© 2007 by inacheapwestern

© 2007 by inacheapwestern

You’ve probably heard the term statute of limitations before, and you might even know what it is — the time limit for filing a lawsuit, which is established by a state legislature or Congress, and defines the absolute deadline that a suit can be filed after the occurrence of the event that gave rise to the lawsuit in the first place. Statutes of limitation vary greatly from state to state, and also vary depending on the type of lawsuit at issue. For example, in Pennsylvania, you have only two years to file any lawsuit for personal injury, medical malpractice, products liability, or wrongful death; these limits are the same in New Jersey, but in New Jersey, you have six years to bring a claim for breach of a contract, while in Pennsylvania the limit is only four years. Ohio shares NJ’s limitation periods for personal injury, products liability, wrongful death, and oral contracts, but allows additional time to file suit on a written contract; Ohio also allows only one year to file a medical malpractice claim. All three states, however (along with a host of others) share the same one-year limitation period for claims of defamation. There are a few states, such as Florida, Missouri, and Indiana, which have a two-year limitation period for defamation cases, and Massachusetts is known for having the longest statute of limitations — three years. Continue Reading

Can Hackers Access Your Data by Copying Your Fingerprints?

Posted in Privacy Law
Photo courtesy of Samantha Celera

© 2008 by Samantha Celera

Unlocking your iPhone using biometrics (“fingerprint”) authentication is undoubtedly convenient, but have you considered the cost—the security tradeoffs you make in exchange for that added convenience? Although privacy and Fourth Amendment laws among the states are still very much in flux, it’s no longer just the police you have to worry about accessing your data. Digital photo technology has advanced far enough that hackers can use a high-resolution photo that includes your fingers—say, for example, you flashing a peace sign—to make a duplicate of your fingerprint. So what should you do? Continue Reading