1999 John Marshall National Moot Court Competition in Information Technology and Privacy Law

Whether the Provider of an Online Archive of Previously Published Information can be Considered the Publisher of that Information, as Defined by 47 U.S.C. § 230(c), and Therefore, Liable for Public Disclosure of Private Facts


George B. Trubow, Ann Liebschutz & Maria Pope


VOL. XVIII • Fall 1999 • NO. 1 (table of contents)

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Every year The Center for Information Technology and Privacy Law of the John Marshall Law School hosts a moot court competition. This year's topic dealt with Internet hacking and subsequent harassment from personal information displayed on the web. The respondent, an Internet company that specializes in displaying pages from hacked websites, published a hacked page that contained personal information about the petitioner. The personal information included his social security number, home telephone number, and home address. Petitioner claimed invasion of privacy. The decision, from which the petitioner appeals, granted summary judgment in favor of the respondent.

The issues presented in the competition were: (1) whether the provider of an online archive of previously published information can be considered the publisher of that information, as defined by 47 U.S.C. § 230(C), and therefore liable for public disclosure of private facts, and (2) whether the information on the displayed hacked website constitutes a public disclose of private facts, or a reproduction of already published and public newsworthy material?

The petitioner accuses respondent of public disclosure of private fact. To be liable for the tort of public disclosure of private fact, the accused must give "publicity to a matter concerning the private life of another." The information published must by "highly offensive to a reasonable person" and not of "legitimate concern to the public." Respondent asserts the newsworthiness defense. To determine the newsworthiness of a private fact, the court must decide whether a published item was "of legitimate concern to the public" and in the process "properly balance the freedom of the press against the right of privacy."

Briefs from South Texas College of Law [for the Petitioner], and Levin College of Law' University of Florida [for the Respondent], follow this moot court competition bench memorandum.

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