Kirkpatrick and Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis (K&L Gates) has scored a brace of High Court orders for Sheffield Wednesday FC that will force websites to name anonymous bloggers who voiced their dissatisfaction with the club’s management.
The orders will make it more difficult for internet posters to maintain their anonymity. The larger of the two cases involved website owlstalk.co.uk, which provides an internet chat forum for Sheffield Wednesday fans.
The club’s board sought to reveal the identity of those making the postings to bring libel proceedings against them.5 Raymond Buildings silk Richard Parkes QC heard the case as a deputy judge in the Queen’s Bench Division.
Parkes wrote in his judgment: “The claimants’ entitlement to take action to protect their right to reputation outweighs, in my judgment, the right of the authors to maintain their anonymity and their right to express themselves freely.”
K&L Gates partner Dominic Bray acted for the chairman, chief executive and five directors of Sheffield Wednesday who brought the case.
“It’s a reaffirmation of the existing law,” said Bray. “It will serve as a reminder to people who post defamatory content on a website thinking they’re anonymous that they aren’t.”
Bray instructed One Brick Court’s Aidan Eardley. George Davies Solicitors advised owlstalk.co.uk operator Neil Hargreaves, instructing Caroline Addy at One Brick Court.
In the same week, K&L Gates associate Sarah Aspinall won a separate court order for Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dave Allen to reveal the identity of a blogger who wrote defamatory comments on the BBC website. High Court judge Mr Justice Field gave the order.
“Because of data protection laws, the BBC can only reveal the identity of a poster if presented with a court order,” said Bray.
Aspinall instructed Eardley, while the BBC used its in-house team.