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Kentucky lawsuit seeks anonymous commenter's identity

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
A Kentucky woman is seeking the identity of an Internet commenter who she says defamed her on a newspaper forum,…

A Kentucky woman is seeking the identity of an Internet commenter who she says defamed her on a newspaper forum, The Courier-Journal of Louisville reports. The newspaper is trying to use Kentucky’s shield law to protect the commenter’s information. 

Kymberly Clem sued the anonymous commenter, who left a message on a forum linked to The Richmond Register, last year. The Register had written a story about a confrontation Clem had with security at a local mall, in which she was told to leave the mall because her dress was deemed too short. The Web commenter said Clem had intentionally exposed herself, and she sued for defamation, The Register reported at the time.

The newspaper is now asserting privileges under the Kentucky shield law and the First Amendment to withhold the commenter’s identity in a case of first impression for the commonwealth, according to The Courier-Journal.

Judges in Florida, Oregon and Montana have allowed news organizations to withhold identifying information of anonymous commenters based on those state’s shield laws. But a judge in Illinois did not allow the shield law there to protect anonymous commenters.