Korbel Sues To Force Comcast To Reveal Identities Of Anonymous Critics

The Santa Rosa, California Press Democrat says that Korbel Champagne Cellars will ask a Sonoma County judge to force Comcast to reveal the names of anonymous Craigslist posters who criticized the company.

The anonymous posts alleged that Korbel retaliated against employees who reported sexual harassment, bribed law enforcement and was planning on cutting down redwood trees on its property. Korbel says the allegations damaged the company and is trying to force Comcast into revealing the identities of the posters.

Comcast says it will comply with a court order if one is given — but only after informing its customers that their identities are being sought.

“Our policy is to give our customer notice and sufficient time to decide whether to contest the disclosure,” [a Comcast spokesperson] said.

If they do not choose to fight, their identities would be revealed.

Korbel wants Comcast to ID anonymous critics [Press Democrat]

Comments

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  1. SteelersAreGo says:

    gfy, First Amendment and Whistleblower Shield laws :(

    Hopefully a court tosses this one.

    • Erwos says:

      @SteelersAreGo: Neither of those defenses are valid if the stories are untrue.

      • sonneillon says:

        @Erwos: Have they proven the allegations are untrue. The burden of proof is on the Champagne company.

        • Erwos says:

          @sonneillon: Um, no. The burden of proof is upon _the accuser_. Some anonymous people claimed they were doing something. It’s up to those people to prove it in court.

          • JustThatGuy3 says:

            @Erwos:

            No, it’s not. In a libel case, in the US, the burden of proof is on those claiming libel to show that the statements were false and damaging. In the UK, the rules are different – truth is not in and of itself a defense against libel.

            • Erwos says:

              @JustThatGuy3: It’s stupidly easy for them to prove that such statements were damaging and false (if they were!) – they show some coverage of the issue and then testify that none of the statements were true. I thought this kind of went without saying, but there you go.

              At that point, the defenders need to use an affirmative defense like “it’s true!” So, you’re right, I mis-stated the situation.

    • Beerad says:

      @SteelersAreGo: Uh, yeah, First Amendment would apply how in this situation? A private citizen allegedly defaming a company has what to do with to your right to free speech?

      And I’m not really aware of any whistleblower laws that entitle you to protection for anonymously alleging that a company is breaking the law on Craigslist. Might need to actually, you know, report the company to the proper authorities for that.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So comcast keeps web logs of all customer activity?

    Or are they getting the IPs from CL logs?

    • dragonpup says:

      @DexterHalomiosis: My guess is that they are seeking the customers identity from the IP address.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        @dragonpup: What I don’t understand is, what if a friend uses your computer while you are doing something else?

        Should I be held responsible if, while my friend uses my computer to check his Gmail account, he posts on Craigslist?

        Or what if someone is stealing WiFi from me because Comcast didn’t properly set up my security when they hooked up my modem/router? Someone jacks my signal, posts on Craigslist, and I’m to blame?

        • JustThatGuy3 says:

          @AlteredBeast:

          That’s certainly a defense that you could make, and a judge or jury would decide if it’s plausible. Similarly, you could claim that someone else was using your car when it was involved in a drive-by, but the police are certainly going to haul you in to discuss the matter.

        • OscarWinner_GitEmSteveDave says:

          @AlteredBeast: IIRC, yes, you are responsible. I think it’s even in the users agreement you agree to when you sign up for service. You’re only hope is to have an alibi during the time in question.

          • Shadowman615 says:

            @OscarWinner_GitEmSteveDave: But how much does your user’s agreement with Comcast apply to an unrelated dispute with Korbel?

          • mechanismatic says:

            @OscarWinner_GitEmSteveDave: Comcast can put it in the user agreement that you’re responsible for who uses your internet access and thus they may use such a policy to cancel your service if they want, but the issue at hand is liability in court. You’re not liable to Korbel if your friend uses your internet connection to commit defamation unless perhaps you were aware that your friend’s purpose in using your connection was to commit the defamation.

            • dvdchris says:

              @mechanismatic: No one has answered DexterHalomiosis’ question. Did they get IP logs from Craigslist? CL was wishy washy with that answer in the article, but they obviously must have if Korbel knows what ISP to go after.

    • CharlieInSeattle says:

      @DexterHalomiosis: They got them from craigslist, that is the only way they would have been able to obtain them. Unless the person that posted them, was stupid enough to reply to an e-mail from korbel. Even then depends what they were using for an e-mail service.

  3. youbastid says:

    Is it legal to credit comcast for doing something right for a change?

    • Darrone says:

      @youbastid: They haven’t exactly picked up a sword, they’ve just stated they will take the least-likely-to-be-sued avenue. If they release the names without a court order, it could expose them to legal issues from users.

    • P_Smith says:

      @youbastid: They’re only doing “right” because those whose names are sought have rights.

      If the people were in China, cumcast would be handing out names, addresses and ID numbers with a coupon to any government official who asked.

      • youbastid says:

        @P_Smith: That’s not true. The PATRIOT Act made it legal for them to hand out names without notifying the named.

        • sonneillon says:

          @youbastid: Only when the government wants to do unfriendly things, or protect it’s own financial interests. The government doesn’t care about this.

          • youbastid says:

            @sonneillon: Um, it would be the government – a court order – that would be what’s making them release the names to begin with. At that point, they have no obligation to notify the person that their info is being sought. But that’s what they’re doing.

    • jake7294 says:

      @youbastid: somebody call Comcast Frank or Bonnie!

  4. lars2112 says:

    Who uses CL to post reviews? Come on you are in Yelp country.

    On a side note, I have to agree with Korbel, if you were sexually harassed go the the police and file a report, if were going to cut down redwoods go to Berkley and find some tree hugging hippies to “move in” to the tree.

  5. philmin says:

    If these posts really damaged Korbel, then I’m fine with a court forcing identities to be revealed.

    On the other hand… how in the hell could random anonymous craiglists posts do any damage to a company? I cant fathom that part.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @philmin: When the company files a lawsuit and makes a big deal about something no one knew about. Now everyone on the internet is going to know about this and most likely a few tv news anchors are now going to bring the story up.

      Even if Korbel wins the lawsuit, no one is going to discount these claims. Everyone is going to see a company using a whistle blower to suppress the truth.

      • Corporate_guy says:

        @Corporate_guy: Everyone is going to see a company suing a whistle blower to suppress the truth.

      • philmin says:

        @Corporate_guy:

        “Everyone is going to see a company using a whistle blower to suppress the truth. ” What do you mean by that? Who is the whistle blower?

      • Hank Scorpio says:

        @Corporate_guy:
        Exactly. This is a case where Korbel should have just let it blow over. They didn’t. Now, everyone knows about this, whether those allegations were true or not.

      • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

        @Corporate_guy:

        “@philmin: When the company files a lawsuit and makes a big deal about something no one knew about. Now everyone on the internet is going to know about this and most likely a few tv news anchors are now going to bring the story up.”

        Is that from the any PR is good PR school of thought? :)

      • ExtraCelestial says:

        @Corporate_guy: I think this is the first time I have ever (EVER!) agreed with you on this site! Mazel tov!

    • TerribleDecade says:

      @philmin: If Korbel has problems with a few insipid Craigslist postings, there’s gotta be something wrong. Perhaps their insecure about their alcohol selections?

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @philmin: Yeah, the whole thing is ludicrous. Korbel is doing nothing but drawing more attention to something that few people would have otherwise cared about — the Striesand Effect, as others have mentioned.

      It’s like their response almost even gives the anonymous post more credibility in that sense. They would have been better off just ignoring it.

  6. adamczar says:

    Well, if it’s a libel issue the situation becomes more complicated. On the one hand, privacy is a right, but on the other hand, you can’t just go around ruining reputations by spouting false information anonymously.

    • johnva says:

      @adamczar: I realize this isn’t the view of the law, but I don’t think that anonymous posts should really be considered libel. How can it be libelous if the source of information has no credibility? No one reasonable should just believe what they read in an anonymous Internet post.

      • adamczar says:

        There’s been a few comments on this article alone where people say they won’t shop Korbel anymore, so I don’t know.

        • johnva says:

          @adamczar: But they are mostly saying that over this lawsuit, not the original unsourced accusations. This article, for example, is not libel, because it’s just reporting on the facts of the lawsuit. And the lawsuit information comes from a credible source. I know that I’m annoyed by SLAPPs and such more than I am stupid allegations that may or may not be true, although it’s not clear that this is a SLAPP in my opinion.

    • econobiker says:

      @adamczar: “On the one hand, privacy is a right, but on the other hand, you can’t just go around ruining reputations by spouting false information anonymously.”

      Sure anyone can post information anonymously since ripoffreport, pissedconsumer and a few other so called “complaints” websites want companies to PAY to remove or negate “bad reviews” no matter who has posted them. I am guessing Korbel has done that pay stuff already.

      Now the other item is that most of the craigslist postings expire after a certain time so the poster must be reposting the information…

  7. Corporate_guy says:

    What a terrible author. Of course craig’s list gave up the ip addresses and the time stamps of the posts. Otherwise there would be no way for Korbel to know what ISP to target and without time there would be no way for comcast to identify who used that ip address at that time.

    Hopefully it is a business running free wifi. It would be pretty sad if someone released damaging information about a company without using a public access point or a foreign proxy.(Or both)

  8. prag says:

    Clearly Korbel has something to hide. I will choose other brands from now on.

  9. HIV 2 Elway says:

    Lets take a look at the allegations:

    Sexual harassment – okay so someone drank too much delicious Champagne and got a little handsy, it happens.

    Bribed law enforcement – who couldn’t be bought off with delicious Champagne?

    Cutting down redwood trees – to make more room for grapes? Grapes that will be turned into delicious Champagne?

    No harm, no foul sez me.

    • HurfDurf says:

      @HIV 2 Elway Resurrected: I know, doesn’t it seem a little whiny? But, but, they said they were going to cut down *gasp* REDWOODS /snivel

      • RvLeshrac says:

        @HurfDurf:

        You aren’t allowed to cut down redwoods because you can’t simply throw a redwood seedling down and have it take root and live for the next hundred years.

        If you want to cut down a redwood, you need to figure out how to replace it. There’s a reason we use evergreen trees for pulpwood.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @HIV 2 Elway Resurrected: I am with you on that. But Korbel just took something no one cared about and made it news. They are demanding that an ISP identify a user over something dumb, which is going to upset a lot of people.

      They are going to have to prove they were damaged by these statements. As long as the negative PR from this lawsuit does not count(as it shouldn’t) I don’t see what they are going to cite as proof of damages. Hate emails from random people claiming they will never buy your product isn’t going to cut it. And you can’t blame the effects of the bad economy on this “defamation”.

    • samurailynn says:

      @HIV 2 Elway Resurrected:I think Korbel is about the nastiest tasting excuse for wine I’ve ever had. What could damage them further than having a crappy product?

    • Ajh says:

      @HIV 2 Elway Resurrected: reading those allegations I wouldn’t pay any mind to them. In this case now though… it’s the company protesting so much that they look guilty from it.

  10. MarleneMops says:

    Stuff like this gets posted on CL under ‘Rants’ all the time. Check it. It’s crazy the things people rant about. I actually stopped shopping at a local bakery because of it (the establishment was questionable before I read the ‘rant’s).

  11. ThickSkinned says:

    These posts damaged Korbel more than them selling a bottle of champagne for $10.99?

  12. Alexander says:

    Anybody got a link to the craigslist posting? Korbel is dumb, because now they are causing the story to spread. Most of us would have never heard about it if not for Korbel itself…

    • HIV 2 Elway says:

      @Alexander: Yes but the allegations are negligible at best. Planned on cutting down trees? I think the average Champagne drinker, myself included, gives two shits about that. It gets their name out there, and we all know, there is no such thing as bad press.

  13. FrankenPC says:

    I was under the impression libel didn’t apply to online content.

    • adamczar says:

      @FrankenPC: So if I founded a website named FrankenPC-is-a-[horrible accusation].com that would be totally fine? I don’t know, I’m not sure why online content would be different.

    • floraposte says:

      @FrankenPC: Are you thinking of slander vs. libel, maybe? It’s a fixed medium, so it’s libel, and there have been cases tried over it since the early 1990s.

    • joellevand says:

      @FrankenPC: Libel suits have been extended to the internet since the 1990s. There were cases, in the early days of online journals BB (BB–before blogs) when posting one’s life on the internet was crazy, weird shit and diarists (as we were known) were sued by family members, friends, employers, etc. Of course, as the intertubes were not yet a series of tubes that everyone used and cared about, it didn’t get much press. But it did happen. I remember, one person had it brought up in her divorce that she was sued for libel by the soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law and therefore should be discredited.

  14. RodAox says:

    So I cant say Korbel sucks without getting sued….

    • lowercase says:

      @RodAox: No, you can probably say that. But if you want to make damaging accusations, particularly if they are (in Korbel’s opinion) false, they might sue you.

      I agree that they’re probably being counterproductive in pursuing this so far, but that’s their decision.

    • wgrune says:

      @RodAox:

      You can say “Korbel sucks” all you want without being sued. You cannot, however, say “Korbel sucks because [insert false statement here]” as that would be libel.

      • trujunglist says:

        @wgrune:

        That doesn’t make sense. What if people ask you for a reason? If you say “because”, then that could be vaguely interpreted as “any reason at all,” which could get you sued. “Sucks” is a personal opinion and should be taken as such. The reason this case is going on is because someone said specific things about Korbel, which may or may not be true, but which are not matters of opinion.
        I dunno much about where the line is drawn from something going from subjective to getting your ass sued though. You could reasonably say Korbel sucks because it is made from the blood of innocent puppies and think that was true, and since it sucks to you, whether the reason is reality-based or not, it is true that it sucks. Anyway, just in case, Korbel, to my knowledge, is not made from the blood of innocent puppies.

    • FrankenPC says:

      @RodAox: You can’t say false statements that are partially true. For instance: Korbel sucks because they use compressed CO2 (vs. method du champagne..or whatever). That’s an assertion of a fact which isn’t true (or maybe it is, I don’t know).

      Insider remarks are the easiest to prosecute. Ex-employees posting info about the inner workings of Korbel that are true enough to be believable but false. Like, Korbel’s CEO molests children and his name is {insert name here}.

      • FrankenPC says:

        @FrankenPC: I believe you can always add “In my opinion” to virtually anything and get a free get out of jail card. That’s free speech. Look at the absolute murder Rush Lumbutt gets away with.

  15. sideshowmel says:

    Remember when free speech meant “Free Speech”? F**K Korbel, I’m only buying Kristal and Don P now. :)

  16. corinthos says:

    Korbel touched me in my no no place and impregnated my girlfriend.

  17. econobiker says:

    This may be related to the spoiled daughter’s quest for a trust fund amount. Alot of weird stuff at the winery apparently:

    [www1.pressdemocrat.com]

    • cordeliapotter says:

      @econobiker: Yeah, sounds like the dad thinks the daughter wrote that CL stuff and wants to use it as evidence in whatever lawsuit is going on between them.

  18. albear says:

    Korbel and Champagne do NOT belong in the same sentence.

    • hairyseaword says:

      @albear: QUICK! Snare his IP! Report him! Turn him in! Now!

    • cordeliapotter says:

      @albear:

      Cassandra: I don’t believe I’ve ever had French champagne before…

      Benjamin: Oh, actually all champagne is French, it’s named after the region. Otherwise it’s sparkling white wine. Americans, of course, don’t recognize the convention so it becomes that thing of calling all of their sparkling white champagne, even though by definition they’re not.

      • wgrune says:

        @cordeliapotter:

        My girlfriend was looking for champagne at the liquor store and she says to me “all there is is sparkling white wine”. I told her if she enjoyed Wayne’s World as much as I do, she would know what she was looking for.

  19. Corporate-Shill says:

    Bribing law enforcement?

    Bribing law enforcement?

    Shouldn’t the DA/AG/US-A take a sudden interest in such comments?

  20. savdavid says:

    Korbel is bringing more attention to the claims by going after this/these person/folks so publicly.

  21. atomoverride says:

    Korbel the worst company ever and their shit sucks.

  22. failurate says:

    Would the names be made public, or would they just be released to Korbel, with them deciding whether or not to pursue any other action?

  23. Nathan Oliver says:

    Aha, now things make a lot more sense! Thanks for the link.

  24. RedSonSuperDave says:

    Anybody see the recent full-page ads in, among others, Time Magazine, talking about how Korbel isn’t really “champagne” as true champagne can only be manufactured in France. Apparently being a collective whiny little bitch is a problem endemic to ALL champagne companies, domestic AND foreign. I mean, I just lost my job at the factory due to outsourcing and I have to eat peanut butter and ramen noodles three meals a day, the city just cut the water and gas off at my house this morning, but those POOR champagne companies! One of them is having nasty things said about it anonymously on the Internet and one of them is suffering the indignity of having another company claiming to manufacture champagne…

    Somebody give these people a reality check!

  25. StreamOfConsciousness says:

    What. In. The. Fuck??

  26. drb023 says:

    There’s no such thing as bad press.

    Point in case: I have never heard of Korbel until today.

  27. MichaelLC says:

    If those were the statements made, then I would have to go with Korbel on this one.

    Saying their sparkling wine is crap is opinion, but making claims about bribery, etc. need to backed by facts.

    Posting on-line is not a magical free-for-all, people! It’s called accountability – try it. With a nice bottle of real champagin, perhaps.

    • Ajh says:

      @MichaelLC: No but the people that posted it had no credibility and posted it on a site that’s known for people not making credible claims. I don’t see a reason that anyone would say “oh I won’t drink their champaign because of what that anonymous guy wrote, probably because he couldn’t afford a bottle or something.”

  28. quizmasterchris says:

    It shouldn’t be too hard to locate the Comcast customer whose internet was up and running…

  29. zibby says:

    KORBEL TASTES LIKE URINE.

    Enjoy the lawsuit.

  30. LilyGalopagus says:

    Good timing. I was just about to switch over to Comcast, but not now. Comcast has a slightly better broadband service in my area, but apparently no balls.

    It is hard for me to imagine any IP not wanting to fight for the first amendment rights for its customers, especially against a company that produces cheap champagne.

    My provider might do the same thing, but until it does, Comcast has lost a potential customer.

    For those of us who enjoy champagne, Korbel’s reputation is hurt more by its products than the comments of some anonymous internet posters.

  31. Rajiv Varma says:

    I never understood this – even if Korbel has a *unique* IP address, how can they prove *who* was using the computer at the time? Couldn’t the accused say that another person was using the computer?

    Rajiv

  32. Jfielder says:

    In my spare time I cruise CL looking for people complaining about a champagne company that I could care less about…

  33. brodie7838 says:

    It’s great that Comcast is protecting these users without a court order, but I have a problem when it comes to a customer using BitTorrent, they will just hand that info right over to the RIAA (or whoever asks).

    Seems to me that “court order” translates to “fist-full of cash”

  34. neuman1812 says:

    The problem they have is all the Vinegar in the basement
    [img9.imageshack.us]