Right to Read Anonymously

Forensic Advisors, Inc. v. Matrixx Initiatives, Inc.

Matrixx Initiatives sued numerous anonymous posters over comments they made on message boards. In a purported attempt to learn their identities, Matrixx subpoenaed a stock newsletter called the Eyeshade Report that had published an unfavorable article on the company. Matrixx sought the names of every person who read the report, every source of information for the report, and all notes and drafts. The company did not identify any connection beween the Internet posters and the Eyeshade Report. It only speculated that some readers of the publication, or sources, may have been the Internet posters in question. Public Citizen, joined by six other groups — the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, the Association of American Publishers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Freedom to Read Foundation, Inc., and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — filed an amicus brief arguing that the Maryland news media privilege prevented disclosure of sources and information collected in the course of reporting, and that the First Amendment right to read anonymously barred disclosure of a list of readers and subscribers.