Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

In an unprecedented move by a B.C. Court, ex-Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke is now allowed to sue people online.

Brian Burke has recently gone on a rampage and now has 18 people on his “hit list,” twenty-year-old Zack Bradley being numero uno on that list. In order to sue people with anonymous profiles, this permission needed to be granted as traditionally, in order to be served with a lawsuit someone had to physically present a piece of paper to that person. However, without a physical address this was previously physically impossible to do.

What Brian Burke intends to do is to email a link to the “you’ve been served” page on his website. In effect, he will be emailing a “notice of a notice.”

To clarify, this is done only when all other resources used to physically contact such a person have been exhausted and there is no other means in which to contact these people, especially when they’re only known by their usernames. In this case, the defendants in the motion are listed under such Internet usernames as “NoFixedAddress,” “Lavy16” and “Slobberface.”

We just tried contacting Mr. Bradley through his Twitter channel “THEzbrad,” only to find that it had been deactivated. Just one example of how flawed this method of online “legal serving” is.

  1. Anybody can freely create and delete a profile or email account at will. Therefore, the power to sue is only as valid as the profile virtually online.
  2. Let’s say that someone clicks on the URL of the sentence letter. The most that someone will get out of it is the IP address of the internet modem associated with the online connection of the visitor. That person can in theory take a laptop or smartphone to another location with wireless access and visit the page from there, thereby generating multiple IP addresses. Or, someone can forward that email to his friends to click on, thereby generating many more IP addresses, which would only serve to confuse the legal authorities and spend even more money on tracking down the correct culprit.
  3. If the email goes into someone’s spam folder, it’s practically impossible for the receiver to ever know that he was served.

The above examples show how weak this case is, and how dangerous the internet can be in terms of being able to successfully spread libel and slander. The only real solution to all of this is for us to realize that

  1. As a public figure in sports or politics, you can and will likely be slandered by the public, and
  2. We all need to govern ourselves accordingly with our own individual code of ethics. The internet is powerful to the point where someone that knows what he’s doing can do a lot of damage to one’s reputation.
  3. Reputation Management on the web is tricky but it is better to be preventative than find yourself in the mess Brian Burke is in.

iRISEmedia is an online advertising agency that specializes in Internet Law and Reputation Management on the web. We service clients in Toronto, Ontario and the GTA as well as throughout Canada.

This post was co-written by Jim Bensimon and Rafi Hecht.

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