For Immediate Release:
Oscar Michelen, prominent litigation and intellectual property attorney of Manhattan-based Cuomo LLC, is prosecuting an appeal on behalf of anti-troll website founder, Matthew Chan. Michelen, working with Georgia firm, McKenney & Froehlich, was admitted into Georgia for this case on August 27, 2013 and is the lead counsel for Chan. Michelen is working “pro bono” to help Chan challenge and overturn a Permanent Protective Order issued against him earlier this year by Judge Frank Jordan of Muskogee County Superior Court.
Michelen filed Chan’s Appellate Brief with the Georgia Court of Appeals on September 30, 2013; he also simultaneously filed a motion to transfer the appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court because of the Constitutional issues raised in the brief. The brief is now available online: https://goo.gl/MoTTPY
In February 2013, Chan and his anti-troll website, ExtortionLetterInfo.com (“ELI”), became embroiled in a legal battle against Linda Ellis, poet and author of “The Dash.” In her initial complaint charging Chan with stalking, Ellis claimed that Chan posted her home address, photos of her house, family information, and made death threats. All of the activity allegedly occurred on ELI. Many of the posts Ellis complained about were made by other forum participants on ELI, not Chan himself. Ellis had never written or contacted Chan to take down the allegedly offensive posts.
There were also no allegations that Chan ever actually contacted Ellis directly or in person; Ellis discovered the offending posts when she voluntarily visited and read the ELI website. After a three-hour hearing where Chan represented himself (“pro se”) against Ellis’ attorney, Elizabeth McBride, Ellis was awarded a sweeping Permanent Protective Order against Chan requiring that he remove every single post on the ELI website referencing Ellis.
First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
At the Forefront of Legal Arguments
Michelen contends that the Order violates Chan’s First Amendment rights and ignores Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity to website owners for other people’s content.
“I thoroughly reviewed and studied Chan’s case and the permanent protective order issued against him. The local court was excessive and ruled beyond what is legally allowed by ordering Chan to remove all 1,900 posts regarding Ellis. This protective order effectively restricts and forbids Chan and ELI readers from discussing Ellis and her business practices forever.”
In March 2013, Chan quietly removed himself as Editor-in-Chief of ELI and placed himself in self-imposed exile in protest of the overreaching protective order. He no longer contributes, writes, or manages the website which discusses and reports on copyright trolling and other intellectual property issues. Volunteer community members have taken over the day-to-day responsibilities and the moderation of the website.
Why Michelen Is Working This Case “Pro Bono”
This Order is so unusual and sweeping in its scope and its potential negative impact so wide, Michelen volunteered to work on Chan’s case on a “pro bono” basis.
Michelen states, “ELI is an active forum very popular among its readership. The protective order has chilled and suppressed Matthew’s and his many readers’ First Amendment right to report, comment, discuss and share information with one another. If this Order remains unchanged, similar actions may be taken against other website owners and forum moderators across the Internet.”
The current Order has created unintended consequences. Michelen explains, “Matthew and the ELI readership have paid a high price for the local court’s suppression of open reporting and the exchange of information on ELI this past year. While ELI continues to operate in his absence, his readership has been deprived of his unique and distinctive style of reporting, commentary, and passionate advocacy of extortion letter victims. To have Matthew, in addition, suffer the financial burden of paying legal fees to reinstate his First Amendment rights and to reinforce the validity of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was very wrong to me. I felt I had to do something to help correct this injustice.”
Michelen wants website owners to learn from this case and understand why the outcome of this appeal is significant. Michelen states, “First, we cannot have website owners being held responsible for the posts of others. Second, we cannot have local courts apply local laws in disregard of the First Amendment and federal laws governing free and protected speech. To let this pass unchallenged is something I could not in good conscious allow. Finally, as legal advisor to ELI, I stand by Matthew and want to do my part to restore ELI to the way it was, a vibrant forum for discussions.”
Contact: Oscar Michelen