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Embroidery Fans Fight for Anonymity in Online Discussion Group


EFF Battles Heavy-Handled Tactics in Copyright Lawsuit

August 09, 2006, San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a motion to block a brazen attempt to unmask the identities of anonymous members of an online discussion group for embroidery fans.

The online group was created to share information about a long-running campaign to threaten purchasers of embroidery designs and software with copyright infringement lawsuits. The Embroidery Software Protection Coalition (ESPC), a purported coalition of embroidery pattern design companies, is behind the heavy-handed campaign. Last month, ESPC filed defamation claims against some members of the group and then issued a subpoena for detailed personal information about every single person who joined the discussion group -- whether or not they had ever posted a single message.

“ESPC’s shotgun approach is aimed not at redressing defamation, but at intimidating those who have sought to raise public awareness of its ham-fisted tactics,” said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. “The First Amendment forbids such abusive use of the courts and the discovery process.”

This case is the latest in EFF’s long fight to protect anonymity online. EFF lawyers have represented or provided amicus support in anonymity cases in California, Colorado, and Delaware. Most recently, in Oklahoma, a school superintendent withdrew his attempt to unmask anonymous online critics after EFF filed a motion to quash his subpoena.

“The right to engage in anonymous communication is fundamental to a free society,” said McSherry. “It’s critical that judges resist these attempts to turn courtrooms into vehicles to harass and intimidate people out of speaking their minds. Thankfully, court after court has recognized that plaintiffs can’t pierce anonymity just because they don’t like what someone has said.”

For EFF’s motion to quash:

For more on anonymity online:


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