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Wednesday, September 6, 2000

United States v. ApolloMedia

A Texas court lifted a year-long gag order from ApolloMedia Corporation, a San Francisco-based multimedia company. Following an opinion to reconsider by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the District Court lifted the gag order, an action that enables ApolloMedia, the publisher of the annoy.com Web site, to finally discuss its role in the controversial case.

In June 1999, the U.S. government ordered ApolloMedia to disclose the identity of a user of annoy.com's e-greeting card service, a service that facilitates anonymous communications. The information they were seeking followed a similar attempt in April 1999 by the University of Houston, who tried unsuccessfully to obtain ApolloMedia records. Paragraph 7 of the Magistrate's June 16, 1999 Order prohibited ApolloMedia from discussing not only the details of the government's investigation and the content of the order with anyone until authorized by the court, but also the very existence of the order and its application.

"Though we may have been silenced for over a year, what continues to be of utmost importance to us is that we are able to extend the dialog regarding Internet privacy and the freedom to publish information regarding the case," said ApolloMedia's president, Clinton Fein.

The United States v. ApolloMedia case continues to challenge existing notions of on-line privacy and to raise First Amendment issues of free speech on the Internet. All relevant documents and background information regarding United States v. ApolloMedia can be found on the Internet at www.ejournalism.com.

ApolloMedia has been involved in litigation since the inception of their controversial Web site, annoy.com, including a high profile U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit against Attorney General Janet Reno. Although that case challenged a provision of the Communications Decency Act that criminalizes "indecent" Web content, Apollo's latest legal battle has centered more specifically on the issue of individual privacy and freedom of the press.

"The gag order violated the First Amendment ban on prior restraints and the statutory requirement that it have a definite duration. It was not issued upon affidavits establishing probable cause. It did not arise during an investigation of a bomb threat or kidnapping or comparably serious crime," stated Cooley Godward's Michael Traynor, one of the attorneys who represented ApolloMedia in the case. "ApolloMedia's successful challenge in the courts is an important step toward limiting unjustifiably secret investigations of communications over the Internet."


Ungagged CEO of Annoy.com sinks teeth into critics
San Francisco Business Times

UH played small role in Annoy.com case
The Daily Cougar, University of Houston

Gag Order Lifted In Annoy.com Case
Wahington Post, Newsbytes


Annoy.com, the web site that pushes the first amendement envelope, has emerged victorious in their most recent court ruling. Haven't heard of the case? That's not surprising. The magistrate's gag order covered not only the details of the case, but also the very existence of the case.

Gag Order Lifted for annoy.com Publisher
FindLaw: LegalMinds

On the other hand it is sites like Annoy.Com that are going to kill online privacy and create popular support for government intervention. A story about the case on the indictment includes a link to the anonymous e-mail greeting card that got this whole case started, though be warned it is graphically pornographic both visually and the text.
Anonymity for Thee...


Houston, We Have a Problem: The Full Story Behind United States v. ApolloMedia

ApolloMedia's Motion to Stay Paragraph 7 Of Order Of June 16, 1999 And Motion to Unseal the Record

Declaration Of Clinton Fein In Support Of ApolloMedia's Motion To Stay Paragraph 7 Of Order

ApolloMedia Motion to Quash Order under 18 U.S.C. 2703(d) Denied

United States' Response to ApolloMedia's Motion to Quash

Order Denying ApolloMedia's Motion To Stay And To Unseal The Record

Motion Of Sealed Appellant 1 To Augment Record And Strike Misstatements In Appellee's Response Brief

Redacted Brief Of Plaintiff-Appellee (Government Releases Name of Alleged Victim in Redacted Brief)

Unredacted Brief Of Plaintiff-Appellee (By Court Order)

Reply Brief Of Sealed Appellant 1

Proceedings held before the Honorable Emilio M. Garza, the Honorable Harold DeMoss, and the Honorable Carl E. Stewart, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, 600 Camp Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, on Thursday, the 4th day of May, 2000.

United States Court of Appelas for the Fifth Circuit Opinion


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