A Strange Twist to Revenge Porn
NEWARK (CN) - In a new twist to "revenge porn," the editor and publisher of the Newark Star-Ledger claim a disgruntled businessman who was featured in the newspaper is using their names in an Internet domain that directs users to hard-core pornography.
Editor Kevin Whitmer and publisher Richard Vezza sued Alfred Demola and Domains by Proxy LLC in Federal Court, alleging harassment, cybersquatting, cyberpiracy and privacy violations.
The newspaper itself is not a party to the lawsuit.
"Between December 2010 and October 2013, the Ledger published seven articles in the Business section of the Ledger as part of a weekly column entitled 'Bamboozled' concerning reports of defendant Demola's allegedly unscrupulous business practices in his waterproofing businesses," the complaint states.
The articles by freelance columnist Karin Price Mueller were based on customer complaints about alleged failure to return deposits and shoddy workmanship.
"On September 10, 2013, Demola contacted Ms. Mueller by phone after Ms. Mueller left him voicemail messages to offer Demola a chance to comment on a story that she was preparing concerning his business practices. He demanded that she stop writing about him," the lawsuit states.
"During his conversation with Ms. Mueller, Demola stated that she should 'talk to the owner of the newspaper and the editor' and to 'ask if they want to buy their domain names from me.
"Demola further stated to Ms. Mueller, 'somebody ... has his domain name. Ask if they want to buy their domain name,' in reference to his ownership of plaintiffs' domain names." (Ellipsis in complaint.)
That very day, Whitmer claims, Demola left him a voicemail message at work threatening to make public ".com names" of Star-Ledger employees, and called his home and spoke to his wife about the stories being written.
"Later that evening, Demola called plaintiff Whitmer by phone at his home at 8:20 p.m. Demola demanded that 'Mueller cease writing about him.' He also admitted to plaintiff Whitmer that he had contacted Ms. Mueller earlier that day and had asked if the owner and editor of the Ledger would want to buy their domain names. He also told Whitmer he understood why his earlier offer via the voice mail to exchange or give back domain names if the Ledger promised to stop writing about him would be considered a threat," according to the lawsuit.
After this conversation, Whitmer says, he called up the domain names kevinwhitmer.com and richardvessa.com. He claims both sites redirected him to the hardcore pornography site, "allfreeblowjobs.com."
Despite a demand from the Star-Ledger's attorney, Demola has not transferred the domain names or authorization codes needed to transfer them, the plaintiffs say.
"Upon information and belief, Demola, or a person authorized by Demola, purchased the domain names 'kevinwhitmer.com' and 'richardvezza.com' from the registrar GoDaddy.com," the complaint states.
"According to GoDaddy Whois records, the domain names were purchased on May 18, 2013, using the privacy protection services, defendant 'Domains By Proxy, LLC."
Whitmer and Vezza seek an injunction and damages of $100,000 per domain name.
They are represented by Keith Miller with Robinson Wettre & Miller, in Newark.
Revenge porn generally refers to the public posting of intimate photographs or videos, usually by a jilted lover. It is difficult to regulate in the United States, due to constitutional protections, and because the victim often consented to the initial filming.