SW Legal studies in Business

Software Company May Sue Party Who Falsely Reported Piracy by the Company

Appeals court held that a software company, falsely accused of piracy and copyright violation to an industry trade association, showed sufficient grounds to sue the party who made the false claim. The trade association that knew the name of the party may be forced to reveal that identity once the trial court reviews constitutional issues.

Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words

Defamation; Unlicensed Software; Identity; Subpoena

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Solers is a software company. The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) is a trade association for the software industry that helps “protect the intellectual property of member companies by fighting the software piracy that threatens to undermine the entire industry.” SIIA encourages sources with knowledge of piracy to report anonymously to SIIA by phone or Internet about piracy. John Doe reported that Solers was engaged in illegal piracy, including copyright infringement. SIIA contacted Solers about the charge and stated that it could be sued if it was involved in illegal activity. It demanded an audit of Solers’ software programs. Solers completed an audit that satisfied the SIIA that it was not engaged in any improper activity. Solers then sued John Doe, alleging defamation and tortious interference with prospective business opportunities, but could not learn his identity. It served a subpoena on SIIA to learn the identity of John Doe. SIIA would not provide that information. The district court granted SIIA’s motion to quash the subpoena and dismissed the suit. Solers appealed.


Vacated and remanded. Solers sufficiently pleaded harm so as to allow a claim of defamation and interference with prospective business opportunities to proceed. There is a reasonable inference that John Doe, who made a false report to SIIA, could be liable. Since there is a plausible claim, Solers has the right to attempt to learn the identify of John Doe. That information is necessary for the case to proceed. SIIA may attempt to squash the subpoena by claiming that enforcement would be a First Amendment violation that would have a chilling effect on associational rights, but that argument has not been developed.


Solers, Inc. v. Doe, ---A.2d--- (2009 WL 2460862, Ct. App., D.C., 2009)

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