Has AutoAdmit Been Pwn3d?

AutoAdmit xoxohth Anthony Ciolli Above the Law blog.JPGAnthony Ciolli, the former Chief Education Director of the AutoAdmit.com website, and various posters on that message board have been sued. A civil action has been filed against them in federal district court in Connecticut.

The claims made against defendants are as follows: copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. § 501; appropriation of another’s name or likeness; unreasonable publicity given to another’s life; publicity that places another in a false light before the public; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; and defamation.

For more details, check out this thread at AutoAdmit.com. There was some debate over at AutoAdmit concerning the authenticity of the posting. But we emailed David Rosen, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case, and he confirmed:

We did post something giving notice of a lawsuit. I'm not available for comment for the moment. You can check with Dorothy McLaughlin at Keker & Van Nest -- they are lead counsel.

We have contacted Dorothy McLaughlin Sachs and will let you know when we hear back from her.

Our speculation is that the "Doe I" and "Doe II" plaintiffs are two of the individuals interviewed in this Washington Post article about AutoAdmit. The individual attacked on AutoAdmit.com who figures most prominently in the Post article is a female Yale Law School student. Plaintiffs' counsel, David Rosen, is an alumnus of Yale Law School who also teaches at YLS.

This is a developing story. We'll bring you more information as soon as we have it. If someone might be able to send us a copy of the summons and complaint, we'd be most grateful. Thanks.

Update: The WSJ Law Blog has a detailed post, including lots of additional information, over here.

For those of you who are curious, the full text of the AutoAdmit.com posting appears after the jump.

(Gavel bang: commenters.)

Notice of lawsuit pending vs. certain AutoAdmit posters [AutoAdmit.com / Xoxohth]
Students File Suit Against AutoAdmit Director, Others [WSJ Law Blog]
Harsh Words Die Hard on the Web [Washington Post]
David N. Rosen bio [Yale Law School]
David Rosen & Associates [Best Lawyers in America]

Here is the full text of last night's posting at AutoAdmit.com:

Date: June 11th, 2007 8:38 PM
Author: DavidRosen
Subject: Notice of lawsuit pending vs. certain AutoAdmit posters

To the defendants listed below, you are being sued in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. The defendants are the persons using the following pseudonyms on the website autoadmit.com or xoxohth.com: Pauliewalnuts; neoprag; STANFORDtroll; :D; :D (Hillary v. Jeb’08); MoreDoughHi; Remember when I said I would kill you last? I lied; lkjhgf; yalelaw; Spanky; ylsdooder; Community Norm; HI; David Carr (Glass of water for Mr. Grainger); vincimus; Beach Body Brady; Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey; Todd Christopher; A horse walks into a bar (saving one CPGWBT at a time); The Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rollah; DRACULA; Sleazy Z; Whamo (Let me lay it on the line, he had two on the vine); Ari Gold; Ugly Women; playboytroll; Get_to_da_choppa; Dean_Harold_Koh. The allegations are as follows: copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. § 501; appropriation of another’s name or likeness; unreasonable publicity given to another’s life; publicity that places another in a false light before the public; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; and defamation.

The plaintiffs are attempting to serve you with a complaint and summons in a civil action. The text of the summons appears below. So that we may deliver a copy of the summons and complaint to you, please provide your complete contact information to the following email address: drosenlaw@gmail.com.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
SUMMONS IN A CIVIL CASE
CASE NUMBER: 307CV00909 CFD

I. (a) PLAINTIFFS

DOE I, and DOE II

v.

DEFENDANTS

Anthony Ciolli; Individuals, whose true names are unknown, using the following pseudonyms: Pauliewalnuts; neoprag; STANFORDtroll; :D; :D (Hillary v. Jeb’08); MoreDoughHi; Remember when I said I would kill you last? I lied; lkjhgf; yalelaw; Spanky; ylsdooder; Community Norm; HI; David Carr (Glass of water for Mr. Grainger); vincimus; Beach Body Brady; Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey; Todd Christopher; A horse walks into a bar (saving one CPGWBT at a time); The Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rollah; DRACULA; Sleazy Z; Whamo (Let me lay it on the line, he had two on the vine); Ari Gold; Ugly Women; playboytroll; Get_to_da_choppa; Dean_Harold_Koh

YOU ARE HEREBY SUMMONED and required to serve upon PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY

David N. Rosen, Esq.
David Rosen & Associates, P.C.
400 Orange Street, New Haven, CT 06511

an answer to the complaint which is herewith served upon you, within twenty days after service of this summons upon you, exclusive of the day of service. If you fail to do so, judgment by default will be taken against you for the relief demanded in the complaint. You must also file your answer with the Clerk of this Court within a reasonable period of time after service.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of AutoAdmit.com (scroll down).


TrackBack

Use this Trackback URL for this entry:
http://www.dealbreaker.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/8743

Comments

any actual lawyers want to comment on the (potential) merits of this suit or whether this method of service is authorized under CT law?

When a Yale student can’t get an offer, her school is shocked and her professors sue. When a tier 2 student can’t get a job, his professors tell him to “work for free at legal aid, so you can get something on your resume.”

"The plaintiffs are attempting to serve you with a complaint and summons in a civil action. The text of the summons appears below. So that we may deliver a copy of the summons and complaint to you, please provide your complete contact information to the following email address: drosenlaw@gmail.com."

YEAH OK BUDDY I'LL GET RIGHT ON THAT

Naming "John Doe" defendants, which is what this is in essence, is permissible in some states (not sure about CT). Through discovery with Ciolli and whoever else the plaintiffs might be able to track down IP addresses so as to identify the defendants.

The idea that the people who are in a position to control and delete the posting of derogatory text about someone have no liability whatsoever seems bizarre to me.

If the Nat'l Enquirer posted an untrue article about me being an alcoholic prostitute I could sue them.

But if a blog wrote, "Is Jane Doe an alcoholic prostitute?" and 80 commenters attacked me in the attached thread, i'd have no legal recourse?

At least the Enquirer is ungoogleable.

The real question here -- what happens to the anonymous commenteers? They are named in caption and will likely furiously defend their identities from disclosure. Will a judge grant a subpoena of their ISP to expose their names?

L2L, let me help you get a head start on the rest of your posts for the day. Just fill in the blanks!

At Tier 1 law school, you _____ _____. At Tier 2 law school, _____ _____s you!

See, a Tier 1 student searches for jobs like this ... [insert stilted, stuffy imitation of Tier 1 student locutions]. But now, a Tier 2 student, he looks for jobs all like this ... [insert "loose," "cool" imitation of Tier 2 student jive].

If you ______, ______, and ______, and STILL can't find a job to pay off your loans ... you MIGHT be a Tier 2 graduate.

Why did I always figure that L2L was female?

How exactly is this going to work? Somehow I doubt these guys are going to come forward.

Mostly I don't know how John Doe suits proceed, but I'm pretty sure that they don't immediately get a default judgment without first serving the defendants per FRCP.

Also, does anyone REALLY believe that autoadmit was the only thing going on when a 2L at YLS gets no job offers at all out of fourteen? That 100% of the firms she interviewed with (1) found the threads in question and (2) chose not to hire her based on them alone? Something is missing in that story.

arent the website operators pretty well protected under the CDA ala Dimeo v. Max?

White Girls With Asian Guys

The identity of one of the posters "pauliewalnuts" a.k.a "pensive", who was one of the key instigators of the whole mess, is widely known within the Autoadmit community. I imagine that personal service upon him will be forthcoming in a more traditional manner.

12:26 - You'd have recourse, just not against the blog. You'd have to attack the commenters directly.

Question from a corporate lawyer who's forgotten how to litigate (well, except for a couple of weird torts facts): if they don't show up and identify themselves, could the case be tried in absentia and a default judgment entered, to be enforced once they figure out who they are?

finally Dean Koh will be brought to justice.

"12:26 - You'd have recourse, just not against the blog. You'd have to attack the commenters directly."

How does that work in practice,, out of curiosity? If you wanted to find out, say, my identity, how would you go about it?

Please, 12:58, you're not fooling anyone - we all know who you are...

I suspect the request for contact information is just to bolster the inevitable discovery request for IP addresses and other contact information from AutoAdmit & Ciolli, allowing plaintiffs to argue that other means weren't successful. Plaintiffs probably also hope tipsters come forward with the identities of at least some of the posters.

1:11 is right.

I imagine that the attorneys' inboxes are going to be flooded with tips about pauliewalntus today. Those alone will probably justify his deposition.

Why isn't Cohen named as a defendant?

Interesting that the AutoAdmit owners are so very concerned about the First Amendment, but not in the least concerned about the Sixth. For those who don't have a constitution handy, that's the one that guarantees the right to confront one's accuser. The scum posting those ad hominem attacks are more than happy to destroy the reputations and job prospects of their fellow students, but don't want to be identifiable because they know it would hurt their own job prospects. The AutoAdmit people said as much, and used that as a justification for protecting the dirtbags.

'k, that's great, tracy, but the right to confront one's accuser applies only in criminal trials. it has nothing to do with anonymous tirades on the internet, as cute as your theory is.

i agree with tracey. and before you nerds jump in, obviously tracey is analogizing to the 6th Amend, not asserting that the plaintiffs in this case actually have a 6th Amend right.

Tracy,

I hope you're not a lawyer, because you've just completely distorted the meaning of the 6th amendment. First of all, it's only in criminal cases. Second of all, it is a right of the accused, as in the defendant. Third of all, it only applies to those testifying against that defendant.

I've never heard of the 6th amendment giving a plaintiff a right in a civil suit to "confront" those he/she is accusING.

nino scalia, are you able to read? just making sure.

Yes, I can read, but this website has got to be one of the slowest ever, so I was a few comments behind before I posted. Gotta run. Oral arguments start in a few...

12:57, nice.

Here's hoping they nail these pricks...

12:58 - In practice, you do basically what the autoadmit people did - file a doe complaint, then subpoena the blog.

Hey idiots -- john doe defendants are commonly named in all sorts of federal lawsuits. they are not grounds for a default judgment when a suit is filed. the idea is that discovery yields their names and the complaintis then modified to include those names. this is basic stuff people. really basic. as in clerk for a day or take or a class or wake up today and you should know it. Get some lives.

Gallion OUT!

even if tracy was reasoning by analogy, it's a really shitty analogy. comparing threads on a web board with a criminal trial? seriously? the justifications for the procedures of the latter do not apply at all in the context of the former.

1:11 is right about the inevitable discovery requests to get behind the IP addresses. you cannot file a john doe complaint without also naming a known defendant, because in that case, there is nobody to issue a discovery request to, and you cannot issue a subpoena in a case where no adverse parties have appeared. but here, there is a real live defendant in Ciolli who will be forced to give up the identities of the other john does, or else be subject to sanctions and possibly contempt.

Speaking of shitty analogies, how about any effort to apply the First Amendment to actions by non-governmental actors? But nobody seems to care about that. If we're going to interpret the First Amendment in a broad conceptual sense, treating it as the idea that anybody is allowed to say anything they want, then let's interpret the Sixth Amendment in a similarly broad way: you have the right to know who is saying these things about you, so both sides are on equal footing. Allowing these dirtbags to hide behind anonymity while they destroy other people's lives for their own amusement is a disturbing interpretation of our constitutional liberties.

I suppose Ciollli now gets to take some time away from Bar Bri to file a supplement to his Character & Fitness application in Massachusetts since he is now a party to pending litigation.

What do people think? Will it change the over-under on him passing the C&F review? The question is academic, of course, because no law firm that would pay him enough to allow him to service his law school loan debt is going to touch him.

I'm not sure where you're going with that. The First Amendment may be at issue here in terms of the extent of defamation claims, what's held to be public information etc. The Sixth is decidedly not at issue.

Tracey, I get the sense that you may have been "victimized" by this website. But what the hell are you talking about?

Since Doe I has squarely put her law firm interviews at issue - her lack of a job is part of her damages claim - if I were one of these defendants, I would subpoena the sixteen law firms in question and depose the interviewers. How the law firms react to those subpoenas will be a very interesting part of this case.

OK so how do you really find these people - can you really somehow find IP addresses from looking at a stale message board? Does the web host server have this info? Would Ciolli even have access to it?

tracy, stop being stupid. the first amendment does not apply only to government actors, but also to private causes of action. if the state of connecticut or the federal government tried to give me a cause of action to sue you for saying retarded things, for example, or for expressing conservative ideas, that would be unconstitutional. note that this is true even though i am a "non-governmental actor." the sixth amendment applies ONLY TO CRIMINAL TRIALS. do you see the difference yet?

4:30--

It would be the same process the RIAA/MPAA use to sue people for file-sharing.

Ciolli/Cohen should have logs for the IP addresses of each post. Subpoena #1 to them gets the logs. Each IP address will have been issued by a particular internet service provider to a particular customer of the ISP. Subpoena #2 gets the name of the user who was using that IP address at that time from the ISP.

4:26 - i like this idea.

Short 4:37 - Two subpoenas away!

4:37 -

Ciolli claims he doesn't keep logs. Then what?

gonna be real interesting to find out whether cohen/ciolli actually do have logs...

Why is Cohen not being sued? Didn't he claim that he, not Ciolli, had sole power over the site?

RULE12(b)FAILURETOJOINANINDISPENSIBLEPARTYPWN3D?

What the heck does PWN3D mean?

5:40, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pwn

According to the complaint, you have to have a working email address to post on Auto Admit. If so, even if there are no IP logs they could use the email addresses to subpoena the IP addresses from the email service providers.

Ok, so getting the posters' identity would involve:


- Ciolli keeping records of the IP addresses of his posters.
- Ciolli handing over the IP addresses
- Then, a subpoena to Verizon, Comcast, or whatever other ISP.
- Survival of a motion like the one at link

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group, is also working with some individuals who say their screen names have been the subject of RIAA subpoenas, but it has not yet filed any challenges with the court. However, the group said in other kinds of cases such as libel and defamation, the law allows individuals to intervene in ISP subpoenas when their privacy is at stake.

"The most important issue is that if you are innocent, if the RIAA has screwed up, it is critical that individuals have the ability to challenge the subpoenas before their identifies are compromised," said Fred von Lohmann, an EFF attorney.

"If so, even if there are no IP logs they could use the email addresses to subpoena the IP addresses from the email service providers."

So this is a FOUR step process, then.

1. Force Ciolli to fork over email addresses (if he has them).
2. Subpoena google, hotmail
3. Get IP addresses from google, hotmail (good luck with that).
4. Subpoena Verizon, Comcast, et al to give you the name of the person who pays the ISP bill who is connected with the IP address.

Now, what if these were some assholes posting on their law school's wireless? What then?

The email addresses are not verified when you sign up - you can put anything in and it will be accepted. Very few posters, if any, actually use real email addresses. I know I didn't; not because I type anything offensive...I just didn't want any spam mail.

there HAS to be someone reading this thread with both the technical and legal know-how to confirm how anon posters can be identified for suit?

Of course, those whom tipsters have identified can be deposed under oath before subpoeanas are issued, and the discovery requests can take advantage of any damaging admissions.

At first blush—never having heard of AutoAdmit—I assumed it to be some kind of legal software. Which seemed quite counter-intuitive as likely to be “useful” to us trial lawyers. Because we don’t like to admit anything. Let alone automatically. (Bad karma, in my OPINION.)

I see now this is a website trading on the (in some cases futile) hopes and dreams of collage and graduate school applicants and their parents. (In my OPINION.)

And yes, anon posters can always be identified through the IP address, domain, time log, and subsequently obtained and/or subpoenaed data. TAKE NOTICE Gallon out and Loyla 2L.)

And it don't take "technical...know-how" to confirm; just common knowledge.

In-orther-words 7:14 a.m., you are potentially fucked if you posted for the reason I think you posted.

7:33 is right: the John Does in this suit will all be identified. It probably won't even take subpoenas.

"It probably won't even take subpoenas."

Ok, geniuses, if you know how they'll be identified, then why won't you EXPLAIN how? You've given no coherent explanation.

Answer: you have no fucking clue.

BabyCan Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

June 12th, 2007 at 8:18 pm
http://drhelen.blogspot.com/

THURSDAY, JUNE 07, 2007
Your Right to Leer
When I look at my husband with affection, am I leering?

I guess not since I’m a woman and can do no wrong except for being a right-leaning libertarian. However, if you’re a man, particularly a Republican man, who looks at his wife with affection, you are now accused of “leering”–especially if you are Fred Thompson. For those of you not familiar with the story from the other day, MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough made a crude comment about Thompson’s wife “working the pole.”

I then read this post by someone named “Libby” at The Newshogger’s Blog, saying:
But what really struck me about this piece was the photo. If you didn’t know, you would think it was a father and daughter, well except for the slightly lecherous look in his eyes. It’s clear he’s proud of his beautiful young wife, who is actually four years younger than his real daughter….

Even assuming they fell crazy in love and just had to be together, it’s somewhat jarring to see them together in the photo. She looks so young, you expect that she signs her name with a little smiley face instead of a dot on the “i” at the end. In studying that shot, I couldn’t help but think if Fred has been dating her only a few years eariler it would have been considered a sex offense [see update].

Now Libby updates her post to mention that she misread Ms. Thompson’s age, thinking she was in her 20’s when she was actually forty but I say, so what? This is yet another example of a woman who deep down believes that men have no right to leer at women, lest it be considered a sex offense. And she is not alone, there are many other women who feel that unless one is Bill Clinton or the object of their own lecherous desires (of course, for these women, their own desire is called empowerment–not lechery!), a regular joe has no right to look at a woman–not even in pictures–with desire in his heart. In their eagar quest to control men’s sexual rights, some “feminist” women (and other prudish ones too!) go to extremes to shame, expose or intimidate men who let their lust for women dare come to the surface.

In an extreme example, one of my commenters (thanks!) linked to this website called Porn Detective whose mission is to catch men reading porn and reprimand them. If this site is real, isn’t this intimidation and stalking to take pictures of men going into porn stores and posting them on the internet? How would women feel if a site called Abortion Detectives elected to take pictures of women going into abortion clinics and post them on a website? I bet the site would be shut down pretty fast.

My point here is that men have a right to sexual expression just as women do and leering or even an interest in porn is not a crime–but if some women have their way, it soon may be. So, I say to you men out there who believe in your right to sexual freedom, stand up for your right to leer–or it may soon be a thing of the past.

Update: Ann Althouse weighs with some keen observations: “But back to Fred Thompson. He’s leering at his own wife. Does that make it okay? Well, there are lots of things you can do with your wife that people don’t want to see in public. But what are people seeing with Fred Thompson? He doesn’t stare at her breasts, does he? More likely, you’re staring at her breasts, and then you’re looking at him — egad! he’s older! — and you’re projecting your own feelings on to his face — including, perhaps, the feeling that you don’t want him to be President. You can still insult him. Go ahead! Just know what you’re doing.”
Labels: men’s rights
posted by Helen at 6:28 AM 122 COMMENTS

Not sure what exactly Dr. Helen Smith means by:

In an extreme example, one of my commenters (thanks!) linked to this website called Porn Detective whose mission is to catch men reading porn and reprimand them. If this site is real, isn’t this intimidation and stalking to take pictures of men going into porn stores and posting them on the internet? How would women feel if a site called Abortion Detectives elected to take pictures of women going into abortion clinics and post them on a website? I bet the site would be shut down pretty fast.

Subpoenaing IP addresses is ridiculous. First of all, many IPs change frequently, daily, or hourly even.

Second, even if an IP address is tied to a specific customer, it cannot identify who actually made the posts. What of people who live in shared housing? What of those who post via wireless at starbucks? At the library?

Regardless, this suit is both ridiculous and embarrassing. Unbecoming of a YLS prof IMO.

8:09 and 8:46 are right - anyone who thinks they are going to get this stuff is really delusional.

"Many IPs change frequently, daily, or hourly even" but most are static and assigned to a specific person.


Second, if cookies are enabled, the site can potentially track the name of the computer.

Bottom line: Don't post anything on a blog that you would not feel comfortable sitting in the witness stand explaining.

Does everyone understand the purpose of the suit is not necessarily to win, but to get the posters' identities out there for their firm, friends, and school to see?

Hmmmm.

"there HAS to be someone reading this thread with both the technical and legal know-how to confirm how anon posters can be identified for suit?"

1. Tracking by email address is usually suspect since many websites don't actually verify the user's stated email address.

I.e. just because I use "vice_president@whitehouse.gov" as my email address doesn't mean that I'm actually VP Cheney. Plus if I use the email address "spam@spamalot.com" doesn't mean I'm actually registered for email at that domain.

Even if the website does make an effort at verifying the user's email by sending a an email with a registration key to the user's stated email address, this doesn't mean anything because there are many ways of getting an email address that doesn't actually reference anything real.

As an example you can get an email address at Yahoo.com with completely fictitious information. If you were to track this email address all you'd get is pretty much nothing. Particularly if the user involved didn't use that email address for anything that might identify the user.

Hmmmm.

Tracking by IP address is also something of a hit or miss operation since it depends entirely on how well logging is implemented on *every* network that connects a user to a website, including the network of the website server, and the logging on the website itself. If at any point there is a gap in the IP logging then the trail may end right there.

Then there's the issue of getting the logs themselves. One aspect of websites is that they are, unless on a secure intranet, open to the world. So if I'm living in Vermont, use my ISP to remotely log into a network in India, pass through connect to a networked computer in Sweden and then log into AutoAdmit.com to post some swill, then AutoAdmit's logs will show the Sweden IP address. At this point someone will have to roll back through the trail and attempt to deal with the different legal systems of both Sweden and India along with whatever companies or organizations that actually own the hardware involved.

And if the local or national laws of any country in the trail either don't address the situation or the people involved don't give a hoot, then it's doubtful that anything will progress.

*shrug* IP addresses are an extremely ephemeral thing. A lot of organizations don't keep good logs and often the the logs that do exist are really little more than garbage. Sure it's information about IP addresses, but there may not be anything in those logs that would allow you to decipher anything useful. Additionally the tracking of IP addresses is also highly dependent on the structure or architecture of the networks involved.

It's not unknown for networks to grow much faster than administrators can handle. And in most cases IP logging is about the lowest priority there is and not everything that should be logged will be.

*shrug* you pays your money, you takes your chances.

me thinks Rosen serving the notice on autoadmit by posting it was also a plea for tipsters to throw him some info. i think that will get him more info than through any legal means.

A summons addressed to pseudonyms, posted on a blog?

Yeah. Good luck with that, counselor.

Or, as the original DRACULA said so succinctly: Bleah! Bleah!

OMG XOXO IS SO SHOCKING OMG OMG I AM SO SHOCKED AND AGHAST I AM MORE SHOCKED AND AGHAST THAN YOU OMG OMG!

Yeah, it might be pretty hard to identify a poster on AA who posted only once from an internet cafe.

But how many of these people posted only once and only via anonymous connections? For most, there will be multiple IP addresses, multiple logs, and multiple time/location coordinates that may just possibly converge on one user.

Especially if the anonymous fucktard, secure in his supposed anonymity, got a warm fuzzy feeling from building up an edgy reputation by making sure to sign all his messages with the same username. ("Wow ImASmallDickMisogynist, you rock! You sure showed her! Yay! 180, woot.")

New thread on this case (incl. many links to other blogs):

http://www.abovethelaw.com/2007/06/an_update_on_doe_v_ciolli.php