I've argued, on more than one occasion, that thinking you can be anonymous on in the Internet is a fool's game. People who spout off about their jobs, spouses, or what have you online and then get angry when someone calls them on it aggravate me to no end.
Along those lines, over at Findlaw Julie Hilden looks at the issue of when a court can force an ISP to disclose the identity of of an anonymous poster in a defamation case. She endorses the approach from Maryland's highest court, which held that:
the plaintiff must establish facts sufficient to make out a prima facie case as to each of the elements of defamation, including damages and, if such a case is made, the court must balance the defendant's First Amendment right to anonymity against the plaintiff's right to seek a remedy for claimed defamation in deciding whether to unmask the defendant.But she also calls for a federal standard to apply nationally, which might not be a bad idea.
So, remember folks - before you badmouth somebody online, think about whether you can afford to pay the bill!