Comcast Averts Order in Bizarre UK Libel Case

     WASHINGTON (CN) — Comcast need not produce subscriber records for a U.K. defamation case involving the abduction and murder 12 years ago of a woman in Lebanon, a federal judge ruled.
     Issam Hourani, a U.K. citizen, brought the underlying defamation suit in London against PsyberSolutions LLC, its CEO Allison Blair and two other parties.
     He says they engaged in a campaign “to assassinate his character” by implicating him in the 2004 abduction, rape and murder of Anastasya Novikova in Beirut, Lebanon.
     The case describes websites and various social media accounts that the defendants allegedly created to publish defamatory posts about Hourani, falsely connecting him to Novikova’s murder.
     Hourani says the defendants once organized a vigil for Novikova outside his home, and they commemorated the 10th anniversary of her death with protests in London’s Hyde Park and outside the Lebanese Embassy. They uploaded footage of these demonstrations to YouTube
     Believing that the demonstrations were orchestrated, filmed and uploaded by a hired hand, Hourani obtained a discovery order from the U.K. court to unmask that individual by his IP address.
     Hourani served Comcast with the U.K. discovery order and threatened to pursue legal remedies, prompting Comcast to file a federal complaint in Washington.
     Back in February, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer told Comcast to inform the subscriber about the proceedings and invite him to object anonymously. Hourani’s
     The subscriber did just that, and Collyer decided last week that she would not enforce the discovery order under Section 1782 of Title 28.
     Concluding that “the U.K. order seeks information that is not relevant to the allegations of the U.K. complaint,” Collyer noted that Hourani’s U.K. suit alleges that last incident of defamation and harassment occurred in December 2014.
     Yet the U.K. order “seeks information regarding the identity of a Comcast subscriber who used IP address 98.204.52.170 ‘between 23 May 2015 and 23 July 2015 or the earliest possible time after these dates,'” the ruling states.
     “Under these circumstances, the request for an order under § 1782 will be denied,” Collyer added.

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