Following on my post the other day about courts ordering the release of “private” data about net usage, an interesting case in point is a decision of the Dutch Supreme Court in late November, which ordered Lycos to reveal the identity of a user of one of its websites who had anonymously posted slanderous (or potentially slanderous) allegations against a postage stamp dealer.

The dealer apparently sued Lycos to determine the identity of the anonymous poster, so that he could proceed with a claim for damages against him. According to the posting:

Supreme Court spokesman Steven Bakker said the court found [the plaintiff’s] claim of having suffered damages sufficient to order Lycos to release its client’s name and address, even though no criminal offense had been committed. It issued a sweeping rejection of Lycos’s argument that personal client details should only be released if they are suspected of a crime and the information is wanted by the police.

This is not at all an uncommon type of claim: in Australia, Order 15A r 3 of the Federal Court Rules allows an applicant to bring an action to identify a person against whom the applicant believes he has a right of action in the Federal Court; similar rules are available in State courts.
That was the rule under which Sony obtained discovery in its suit against various universities in 2002.