Koch Industries v. John Does (Youth for Climate Truth)
Through this lawsuit, Koch Industries sought to unmask the identities of environmental activists who used an Internet spoof to bring public attention to Koch’s controversial role in bankrolling climate-change denial. Our activists created a press release purporting to announce a decision by Koch to stop funding organizations that deny the scientific consensus on climate change and posted the release on a website (koch-inc.com) designed to look like Koch’s. Although the site was up for only a few hours-and no reporter was fooled by the spoof-it succeeded in drawing additional media attention to Koch’s political activities. Koch filed suit and sought to expose the activists identities by obtaining subpoenas directed to the company that hosted the website. Although this case arose out of a harmless prank, it raised serious constitutional issues. Representing the activists, we moved to quash the subpoenas we argued that the subpoenas violated our clients First Amendment rights to anonymous speech and that the claims asserted in Koch’s lawsuit (for trademark infringement, cybersquatting, computer hacking, and breach of contract) were groundless attempts to stifle political speech.
On May 9, 2011, the court dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety, quashed the subpoenas, and issued an order barring Koch from using or disclosing any identifying information it may have obtained about the activists.