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

Topic(s): First Amendment



Matrixx Initiatives sued numerous anonymous posters over comments they made on message boards. In a purported attempt to learn their identities, Matrixx subpoenaed the publisher of 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 between 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. The Eyeshade Report’s publisher moved to quash the subpoena, but the Maryland circuit court denied the motion. The publisher then appealed, and Public Citizen, joined by 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, and the Freedom to Read Foundation, Inc., filed an amicus brief in his support, first in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and then in the Maryland Court of Appeals. Public Citizen argued 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. Matrixx eventually dismissed its suit against the anonymous posters and the appeal was dismissed as moot.

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