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Bank Julius & Co. v. Wikileaks

Topic(s): Internet Free Speech - Miscellaneous

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A federal judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order that barred Wikileaks, an Internet community with web sites hosted all over the world on which the public can post "leaked" documents that may expose government and corporate wrongdoing, from posting documents leaked from a private Swiss bank. The judge also issued a "permanent injunction" against the domain name registrar that both froze the domain name wikileaks.org (so that it could not be moved to a different registrar) and disabled the name so that it could not refer to anything more than a blank page. This permanent injunction, which was submitted with the consent of the domain name registrar, would if successful have prevented public access to ANY of the documents or comments on documents that appear on wikileaks.org. The district judge refused to extend the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction and issued a comprehensive opinion questioning the basis for a suit. Faced with the prospect of an anti-SLAPP motion that would have made an award of attorney fees mandatory, plaintiff withdrew its lawsuit.

Intervening in the suit, Public Citizen filed a brief pointing out that the case did not qualify for federal court jurisdiction because there are subjects of foreign states on both sides of the case -- the Swiss bank on one side, and Wikileaks, many of whose members are abroad, on the other side. In addition, we pointed out that the main cause of action on which the bank relied, section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code, applies only to unfair or unlawful "business practices" and hence does not apply to completely non-commercial web sites like Wikileaks.