In the recent New York case Tan v. Doe, co-plaintiff Miah was involved in a business dispute concerning UrFilez, a company that he co-founded. Things turned ugly:
[Prior to the dispute being settled] Plaintiffs allege that several derogatory posts began to appear on various blogs about them, including one containing their wedding photo, which accused them of fraudulent and unethical conduct, including siphoning money out of UrFilez. Plaintiffs allege the blogs have spread to other social media websites over the past several months, with resulting damage to both of their professional and personal reputations.
Co-plaintiff Tan is a law grad, and the couple filed a pro se complaint against the unknown defendant responsible for this conduct. Their complaint alleges “copyright infringement, violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, defamation, tortuous interference, and false light”, and they also sought to subpoena nonparties including Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook, in order to reveal the Doe defendant.
Let’s start with the CFAA claim. As you may recall:
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is a criminal statute that prohibits, among other things, “intentionally access[ing] a protected computer, without authorization,” and “recklessly caus[ing] damage” or “caus[ing] damage and loss” as a result of the subject conduct... Plaintiffs assert a claim under these provisions alleging the Defendant “accessed Tan’s personal pictures on her personal Facebook account, and knowingly used her private wedding pictures in the negative blog post without her authorization.”
The court disagrees with this particular claim in three different ways. Firstly, no evidence was presented that “a protected computer” was accessed. Nor was there anything to suggest that any damage was caused to the underlying photo. Finally, the plaintiffs failed to indicate any real loss suffered as a result of the Doe defendant’s conduct. So, three strikes, and the CFAA claim is dismissed.
The rest of the claims are also dismissed, just as summarily. The complaint doesn’t indicate that the plaintiffs “possess a legally valid copyright” on the photograph, and so they cannot claim copyright infringement. Having dismissed the CFAA and copyright claims, the court doesn’t need to address the state law arguments, and dismisses those too.