Web-based Proof of Identity for Service of Documents
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted an interim injunction in Busseri v. John Doe (no hyperlink available), relying on inferences drawn from the nature of activity on the web both to establish the identity of the defendant in the case and to justify the injunction. The applicant was the CEO of a publicly traded corporation called Route 1: the website Stockhouse.com maintains bulletin boards devoted to discussion of individual corporations, one of which dealt with Route 1. A Stockhouse.com user named simonquinn had posted a number of allegations about Busseri on Stockhouse.com, and Busseri brought an action for defamation and applied for an interim injunction.
The first issue in the application was whether Busseri had actually served notice on the person who had made the postings and against whom the injunction was brought. The evidence was that Busseri had received emails from email@example.com which contained text identical to messages posted by simonquinn. Further, simonquinn had posted texts of emails on the Stockhouse.com which he claimed he had emailed to Busseri. There was also technical evidence connecting posts on Stockhouse.com with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, and so the application judge concluded that simonquinn and the user of the email address email@example.com were the same person.
The IP address associated with firstname.lastname@example.org was registered to Kim Rathburn of 177 1/2 Pitt Street, St. John, New Brunswick. She indicated that she has a wireless Internet router which until recently had not been password protected. The application judge then noted that a Google search of email@example.com revealed a posting with that email address in a classified ad website for Saint John, New Brunswick, and that a search of Canada411.ca showed a Bruce Prince living at 177 Pitt Street in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Finally, counsel for Busseri sent several messages to Prince at firstname.lastname@example.org, requesting his address for service and informing him of proposed court dates. Prince replied in ways which were, as the application judge noted “to put it mildly, dismissive of this Court’s process”: specifically, Prince repeatedly replied “go f##k yourself”, and referred to posting on Stockhouse.com. The application judge concluded that Prince was thereby effectively identifying himself as simonquinn, and therefore concluded that proper service had taken place.
The application judge also found that he had jurisdiction to grant the interim injunction, and did so. The tort was partly committed in Ontario, and that was where Route 1 carried on business. The statements made were defamatory, and the fact that they had been posted on the internet and would otherwise continue to be met the test for irreparable harm. The trial judge noted that the evidence showed the postings had been viewed over 500,000 times and had prompted considerable further discussion, as well as causing shareholders to contact Busseri. As a result the interim injunction was granted.