In Chan v. Ellis, Case No. S14A1652 (decided March 27, 2015), the Georgia Supreme Court addressed an unusual application of Georgia’s anti-stalking law. The Court held that mean or abusive postings on a party’s own website that were not sent to the alleged victim did not amount to illegal stalking.
Mr. Chan operated a website in which and others published commentary critical of copyright enforcement practices that they considered predatory. Ms. Ellis is a poet whose efforts to enforce her copyrights had drawn the attention of Mr. Chan. On his website, Mr. Chan had published varied posts about Ms. Ellis that the Court described as “mean-spirited” and “distasteful and crude.” Opinion, p. 1. Among the posts was one written in the style of an open letter to Ms. Ellis.
Seeking a remedy for Mr. Chan’s attacks, Ms. Ellis sued for injunctive relief under Georgia’s anti-stalking law, O.C.G.A. § 16-5-90, et seq. She alleged that the electronic post violated the provision of the anti-stalking law that prohibited “contact” with another party for certain purposes without that party’s consent. The Court held that postings about a person were not equivalent to communications directed to that person. Although there were multiple insulting posts about Ms. Ellis, there was no evidence Mr. Chan had sent his commentaries to Ms. Ellis or made any effort to bring those postings to her attention. It was not sufficient for liability that Mr. Chan might reasonably have anticipated that Ms. Ellis would come across the posts. Opinion, p. 7.
Whatever remedy might exist in Georgia law for cyber-bullying through this type of web postings, it is not found in Georgia’s anti-stalking law. The Opinion is available here.
For more information on Georgia’s anti-stalking law, contact your Appellate Counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell.