Family Loses Suit Over Child-Porn Goose Chase

     CLEVELAND (CN) – A family targeted in a federal child-pornography sting because of misinformation does not have a civil case against Time Warner Cable, a federal judge ruled.
     William, Barbara, Jonathan and Melissa Long filed suit after federal agents executed a search warrant at their house for child porn on April 20, 2012. During the search, agents allegedly realized that they were at the wrong house.
     Though the agents sought an Internet protocol address ending with 170, Time Warner had mistakenly given them the Longs’ IP address, which ends in 70.
     The Longs sued Insight Communications of Central Ohio dba Time Warner Cable Midwest for a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, negligent disclosure of private information, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract.
     U.S. District Judge Patricia Gaughan dismissed the action last week after finding no support for each claim.
     She noted from the outset that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) bars any civil action arising out of good faith compliance with a grand jury subpoena.
     “Although the complaint alleges that TWC’s conduct was ‘knowing, intentional, willful, wanton, malicious, and fraudulent,’ the complaint alleges that Agent Warner ‘explained to plaintiffs that a mistake had been made by the ISP TWC’ and that ‘Agent Warner was later advised by defendant TWC that they had ‘run the wrong IP address,'” Gaughan wrote. “Therefore, the allegations of the complaint show that TWC made a mistake, a typographical error, in responding to the subpoena. Given that § 2707(e) omits the language ‘in accordance with the terms of the subpoena,’ the intent of the statute was to provide a defense where a provider responds to a subpoena with a good faith belief that it was acting pursuant to that subpoena although a mistake was made in so responding. To find otherwise would render the omission of the language meaningless. To conclude that a mistake could negate the good faith defense would discourage the cooperation with law enforcement in providing information sought by a grand jury subpoena which public policy favors. In effect, a person could be punished for performing his legal duty in so cooperating. This would be contrary to the purpose of the ECPA which is designed to address wrongful violations done intentionally.
     “For these reasons, the claims against TWC are dismissed.”

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