Time Warner Ordered to ID Subscriber Who Sent Fake Emails

Rhett Pardon
PORTLAND, Maine – A victim of forged email has won a preliminary legal battle in an effort to unmask the identity and sue the person responsible for sending a derogatory message to his neighbors.

The Maine Superior Court ruled last month that Time Warner Cable must furnish information relating to the identity of the person who established an email account using the name Ronald Fitch.

The email was a bogus Christmas card that included a cartoon satirizing a dispute between Fitch and his neighbors. The card included offensive caricatures of his family, he says.

The email was sent on Dec. 24, 2003, to the board of directors of the gated community where Fitch resides.

Fitch filed a “John or Jane Doe” suit, alleging fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, criminal simulation and identity theft.

The lawyer for Doe has appealed the decision to the state high court contesting the lower court's finding that Doe had authorized Time Warner to release his or her identity to a court and arguing that no criminal activity has been shown.

Attorney George J. Marcus said the appeal would take six to eight months.

Judge Thomas D. Warren said Fitch had made "an adequate showing that the subscriber agreement used by Time Warner and its affiliates informs subscribers that their subscriber information, including their identity and address, may be disclosed when required by law or legal process and that consent to such disclosure is contained in the subscriber agreement."

Congress was concerned about protecting information about customers' bank records, shopping habits, political contributions, and other personal matters, the court said.

But there “is absolutely no indication that Congress was seeking to prevent disclosure of persons who are alleged to have committed a form of identity theft by sending e-mails under false names."

The case is Fitch vs. Doe, No. CV004-78 (Maine Supreme Court).