Online defamation is an unfortunate reality for many businesses and individuals. Negative online reviews can deter customers away from a business; undermine employee morale; and divert resources to respond to defamatory commentary. Similarly, for individuals, online defamation has the potential to cause hurt feelings, embarrassment and lasting damage to one’s professional reputation.
A person defamed online by identifiable parties has the right to sue the person responsible for the defamation to claim damages and possibly other court-ordered remedies. But what options are available to someone targeted by defamatory statements published anonymously? If the target of defamation does not know the identities of the defamers, is he or she out of luck? Not necessarily.
The identities of anonymous authors of defamatory online reviews or messages may be discovered in appropriate circumstances through a legal mechanism known as a “Norwich order”. Named after the 1974 House of Lords decision Norwich Pharmacal Co. v. Customs and Excise Commissioners, a Norwich order is a particular kind of court order which compels a third-party to disclose information within its knowledge and control which is not otherwise available to the person seeking the Norwich order. In the context of internet defamation, Norwich orders have been used to obtain the internet protocol (“IP”) addresses and other identifying information of website, email and social media users.
To obtain a Norwich order in relation to internet defamation, the person applying for the order must satisfy the court of the following five-part test:
Specific examples of courts granting Norwichorders in the context of internet defamation include:
These examples show that, in appropriate cases, a Norwich order may offer targets of online defamation a means to identify those responsible for defaming their business or reputations and, to this end, a path to obtaining a legal remedy.
We encourage you to contact Pinto James LLP for further information relating to defamation law, cyber-defamation, or bringing court proceedings to obtain Norwich Orders.