WASHINGTON (CN) – Embarrassment does not justify masking the name of a woman upset that attorneys shared video of her sexual harassment, a federal judge ruled.
Bingru Wang, a journalist who filed suit last year as Jane Roe, shot the video secretly with her cellphone back in September 2012 to document a former supervisor’s treatment of her at Phoenix Satellite Television.
Having no interest in disclosing the video publicly, Wang managed to settle her claims against Phoenix without showing it to the company or to any family members.
Wang had showed the video to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in filing a complaint, but she did not provide the commission with a copy.
Several media outlets nevertheless made the video publicly available in 2013, however, after several of Wang’s co-workers retained Lynne Bernabei of Bernabei & Wachtel to sue Phoenix that July.
Confronted by friends and family about her connection to the video, Wang received a copyright registration for it in October 2013 and filed the suit against the lawyers in 2014.
The complaint named Meixing Ren, a plaintiff in B&W’s action against Phoenix, as a defendant. Wang claimed that she had allowed Ren to upload the video she shot to his computer because the co-worker was concerned about preserving evidence.
While Wang accused Ren of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, she accused the former co-worker and attorneys of violating the Copyright Act and federal anti-racketeering law.
The defendants moved to dismiss, and Wang moved belatedly to proceed under a pseudonym.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan preserved only the copyright claims on Thursday and said that the court lacks jurisdiction to let Wang proceed under a pseudonym since she did not timely move for such leave.
The ruling notes that certain concerns that warrant shielding the privacy of sexual-assault victims “are less applicable here.”
“Plaintiff’s complaint is not against her assailant and will likely not involve the graphic details of her assault, but is instead at least one step removed from the actual events of September 6, 2012,” Chutkan wrote. “Moreover, plaintiffs’ [sic] name is already publicly associated with the video and the underlying incident, through pleadings and motion practice in the Ren suit. The complaint in that action identifies plaintiff by name, as do briefs related to a subpoena served by the Ren suit plaintiffs (represented by Bernabei) on Lexero Law, counsel for plaintiff in this action.” (Parentheses in original.)
Wang informed the court she will proceed with the suit.
The ruling dismisses her RICO and CFAA claims but advances one count of direct copyright infringement and one count of contributory copyright infringement.
Though underlying facts are not copyrightable, Chutkan found that Wang “just barely” crossed the threshold of alleging creativity.
“Plaintiff has adequately alleged ownership of a valid copyright registration and copying of the piece, and has therefore adequately alleged infringement,” she wrote.
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