Chan v. EllisAnnotate this Case
Matthew Chan ran a website on which he and others published commentary critical of copyright enforcement practices that they considered to be predatory. Linda Ellis, a poet, drew the ire of Chan and his fellow commentators by her efforts to enforce the copyright in her poetry. Chan's website published nearly 2,000 posts about Ellis, many of which were mean-spirited, distasteful and crude, and some of which publicize information about Ellis that she would prefer not to be public. In an "open letter" styled post to Ellis, the commentator threatened to publicize additional information about Ellis and her family if she continued to employ the practices of which Chan and the other commentators disapproved. It is undisputed that Chan never caused any of these posts to be delivered to Ellis or otherwise brought to her attention. But it also was undisputed that Chan anticipated that Ellis might see the commentary on his website, and he may have even intended that she see certain of the posts, including the open letter to her. Ellis eventually did learn of the posts, and she sued Chan for injunctive relief under the Georgia stalking law, alleging that the electronic publication of the posts was a violation of OCGA 16-5-90 (a) (1), which forbids one to “contact” another for certain purposes without the consent of the other. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court agreed that the electronic publication of posts about Ellis amounted to stalking, and it entered a permanent injunction against Chan, directing him to, among other things, delete “all posts relating to Ms. Ellis” from his website. Chan appealed, contending that the evidence simply did not show that the publication of posts about Ellis on his website amounts to the sort of “contact” that was forbidden by OCGA 16-5-90 (a) (1). The Supreme Court agreed with that contention, and reversed the trial court’s judgment.