Target: Members of the Georgia Court of Appeals
Goal: Urge the Court to overturn the unconstitutional restraining order made against Mathew Chan
A few weeks ago, a Georgia Superior Court issued a restraining order against Mathew Chan, the operator of a web-based message board dedicated to providing information for recipients of settlement demand letters about copyright infringements. The restraining order was in response to a complaint filed by Linda Ellis, a notorious “poem copyright troll” who, after learning that her poem “The Dash” (which is free to view on her website) had been re-posted by other internet users who liked the poem, proceeded to send copyright infringement letters to every user that she discovered had re-posted her poem.
The letters threatened the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 (which doesn’t include attorney fees) but also included a clause wherein Ellis would be willing to settle for “a mere $7,500.” This practice, known as “copyright trolling”, quickly caught the attention of Chan and his message board and soon many users of Chan’s website (including Chan himself) began flooding the board with negative comments and even veiled threats aimed at Ellis. When Ellis found out, she filed a complaint with the Georgia Superior Court who in turn ordered Chan to remove all posts relating to Ellis from his website after deciding he was responsible not only for his own posts but also the posts of his users.
While Chan and his website’s other users were certainly in the wrong for their behavior towards Ms. Ellis, the Superior Court’s ruling was a grossly overbroad and dangerous way to respond since it signifigantly affects Chan’s rights to free speech. The Electronic Frontier Foundation released its own statement summarizing the Court’s misstep:
“Removing ‘all posts relating to Ms. Ellis’ is neither narrowly tailored nor the least restrictive means of addressing any true threats. It fails the First Amendment test because of the collateral damage: it will take down constitutionally-protected criticism of the copyright troll and her demands for money. For example, Ellis complained that ‘there were vile posts of blasphemy.’ While blasphemy is doubtless offensive to Ellis, it remains protected speech. “
Fortunately, while the order is severe, it is not ironclad. A Georgia Court of Appeals could potentially overturn the Superior Court’s decision, ensuring that Chan’s rights aren’t violated. Help urge the Court of Appeals to take such action by signing this petition letter.
Dear Representatives of the Georgia Court of Appeals,
While cyber-harassment and bullying are unacceptable forms of behavior, the decision the Georgia Superior Court made to punish Mathew Chan in the case of Chan vs. Ellis was an overbroad and unconstitutional error on their part. While Ms. Ellis is entitled to feel safe and secure, we cannot protect the rights of one person by so heavy-handedly constricting another’s.
By signing this petition letter, I am expressing my hope that you’ll see fit to overturn the Superior Court’s decision and find a better way to protect Ms. Ellis’s rights. What Chan and his users did was wrong, but even they don’t deserve to have their rights to free speech suppressed for the sake of one other person’s comfort.
[Your Name Here]