December 9, 2005 9:12 AM PST

Police blotter: Nude 'profile' yields Yahoo suit

What: Cecilia Barnes sued Yahoo after ex-boyfriend allegedly posted a personal profile with nude photos of Barnes and her work contact information.

When: U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken in Oregon ruled on Nov. 8.

Outcome: Case dismissed.

What happened: To hear Barnes tell the story, her former boyfriend tried to harass her by creating a series of online profiles with nude photographs of her and her correct contact information at work.

The boyfriend, identified in local news reports as Randolph Russell, allegedly also entered chat rooms posing as Barnes and solicited other men to look at "her" profile. Barnes said those actions led to unwelcome suitors showing up at her workplace.

Barnes says she complained to Yahoo starting in January 2005--and obtained a verbal commitment from a Yahoo employee to help out--but the profiles were not deleted until the lawsuit was filed. Her lawsuit asked for $3 million in damages.

Yahoo argued that a federal law, part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, means that it's not liable for what other people post on its Web site.

Also called Sec. 230, that law says, "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."

Aiken agreed. The judge ruled that a string of precedents, including the 1997 Zeran v. America Online decision, immunized Yahoo from such lawsuits.

Barnes still has other options. Even though she lost out on a $3 million jackpot, she could still sue her ex-boyfriend for damages in state court.

Excerpt from court opinion: "Plaintiff's allegations similarly fall under the broad immunity provided Internet servers by Sec. 230. Plaintiff alleges she was harmed by third-party content and that the service provider (Yahoo) allegedly breached a common law or statutory duty to block, screen, remove, or otherwise edit that content. Any such claim by plaintiff necessarily treats the service provider as 'publisher' of the content and is therefore barred by Sec. 230.

"Plaintiff's argument that she seeks to hold defendant liable only for its alleged 'failure to fulfill its promise to remove the unauthorized profiles' does not remove this case from the immunity provided by Sec. 230. Plaintiff's claim remains an effort to hold the service provider liable for failing to perform the duties of a publisher, such as screening or removing third-party content."


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One time
One bloody time it is possible to read about a foolish lawsuit that
was properly tossed. Merry Christmas.
Posted by nicmart (1829 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But will she sue hed boyfriend for $3M?
That would be the right end for this story.
Posted by Hernys (744 comments )
Link Flag
just get the password
yahoo could have / should have givin her the password, and she could have deleted the profile her self!
Posted by sixela2005 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Boy's bathroom
Are you going to sue the school too?
Posted by richardis (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The guy sounds like a real yahoo!
If the photos were taken of her without her knowledge than she has a case, if she agreed to have her pictures taken, it's her own fault and should get no money at all.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Link Flag
What a bitch...
She shouldn't take naked pictures of herself in the first place and it's her fault if; she gave this pictures to her boyfriend!!!!
Posted by Hitokiri Batusai (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey wait a minute
This says "Also called Sec. 230, that law says, "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."

Does this dection also apply to DRM ? Does this mean that as a user of an interactive computer service like P2P should not be treated as the publisher?
Posted by GrandpaN1947 (187 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thats right - P2P not publisher
That is why napster was not guilty of all the
instances of infringement. It was guilty of
creating a system for infringing.
More of a RICO act violation than DMCA.

She should have Mitnicked Yahoo!
"Its my account and my boyfriend is messing with
it." "Just look at the pictures, its me,
so give me the password."
But that does not get you 3 MILLION DOLLARS
Posted by swwg69 (48 comments )
Link Flag

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