SW Legal Educational Publishing

No Prior Restraint on Internet Postings, But Poster of Protected Materials May Face Liability
Description Federal judge denied Ford Motor's request to enjoin a website operator critical of Ford from posting certain materials; such an injunction would violate Free Speech rights. However, the website operator may face liability for obtaining trade secrets or other confidential materials that are the property of Ford.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Website Postings; Trade Secrets; Free Speech
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Lane published a website under the domain name fordworldnews.com (later changed to blueovalnews.com because Ford objected to his use of the name Ford) that published information about Ford. Lane published internal documents from Ford he was sent by anonymous sources. The more Ford threatened him, the more documents, some of which were marked "confidential," "property of Ford," "proprietary," or "copyright protected," he published. Ford sought an injunction to prevent the website from posting copyrighted material and misappropriated trade secrets.
Decision "Although Ford has presented evidence to establish that Lane is likely to have violated the Michigan Uniform Trade Secrets Act, the Act's authorization of an injunction violates the prior restraint doctrine and the First Amendment as applied under these circumstances." While prior restraint would violate free speech rights, Lane could be subject to criminal prosecution for improperly obtaining confidential information. The following order is granted, since Lane has agreed to these terms: "Lane is restrained from destroying, despoiling or electronically deleting or erasing documents in his possession originated by or for Ford Motor Company." He is also restrained from "committing any acts of infringement of Ford's copyrights" and from "interfering with Ford's contractual relationship with its employees by soliciting Ford employees to provide Ford trade secrets or other confidential information."
Citation Ford Motor Co. v. Lane, 67 F.Supp.2d 745 (E.D. Mich., 1999)

Back to Cyberlaw Listings

©1997-2001  South-Western, All Rights Reserved