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Inc. Zeran v. America Online - Significance, A Nightmare In Seattle, Distributors As Publishers, Impact

decision aol chief judge


Kenneth M. Zeran


America Online, Inc. (AOL)

Appellant's Claim

That AOL's delay in responding to notification of defamatory messages posted on their Internet system constituted libel in violation of the First Amendment.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

John Saul Edwards

Chief Lawyer for Appellee

Patrick Joseph Carome


Chief Judge Wilkinson (writing for the court), Circuit Judge Russell, and U.S. District Judge Boyle


North Carolina

Date of Decision

12 November 1997


Upheld district court decision that AOL was free of liability for anonymous third party postings on their system.

Related Cases

  • Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe, Inc., 776 F.Supp. 135 S.D.N.Y. (1991).
  • Statton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services, Co., WL 323710 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1995).
  • Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 512 U.S. 824 (1997).
  • Doe v. America Online, Inc., No. CL 97-63 (Fla Cir. Ct. 1997).

Further Readings

  • American Civil Liberties Union. Website, http://www.aclu.org.
  • Guenther, Nancy W. Good Samaritan to the Rescue: America Online Free from Publisher and Distributor Liability for Anonymously Posted Defamation. Communications and the Law, Vol. 20: pp. 35-95, 1998.
  • Keeton, W. Page, editor. Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts. (5th ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 1984.
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