Judge rules identity of domain investor “George Dikian” can be (partially) revealed

Dikian’s first name and last initial will be revealed shortly, and his full last name might be revealed later.

Man removing a mask to reveal his identity

A judge has ruled (pdf) that the true identity of pseudonymous domain investor “George Dikian” can be revealed, albeit just his first name and last initial for now.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit domain brokerage VPN.com filed against Dikian last year. VPN alleges that Dikian duped the firm out of $250,000; Dikian suggests that someone hacked his email to perpetrate the scheme.

VPN.com knows Dikian’s actual name and wants to use it in legal filings. Dikian wants to keep his identity private.

In deciding whether to allow a party to proceed anonymously in a lawsuit when the opposing party has objected, a district court must balance five factors:

  1. the severity of the threatened harm
  2. the reasonableness of the anonymous party’s fears
  3. the anonymous party’s vulnerability to such retaliation,
  4. the prejudice to the opposing party
  5. the public interest

Dikian argued that he would suffer harm because knowing his identity could help people steal his domains and that he’s innocent of claims. The court found his argument insufficient:

Defendant replies that he “has produced ample and undisputed evidence of his reasonable fear that he or his family will be targeted due to the value of his domain name assets. . .” (Reply at 3:8-9.) Mr. Dikian has produced, inter alia, an article written by Plaintiff that provides an overview of “Domain name hijacking” (See Ex. C); an article about a plot (and attempt) to steal a domain name “at gunpoint” (See Ex. D); and an affidavit that sets forth Mr. Dikian’s belief that his “valuable domain names would have been stolen by the email hackers, if not for [his] use of the Dikian public alias.” (Ex. A.) But while the Court has little doubt that the concerns Mr. Dikian expresses in his affidavit are genuine, the evidence he puts forth demonstrates only (1) the generalized existence of domain name thefts; and (2) that two of his email accounts may have been hacked. What is missing, though, is evidence sufficient to sustain a reasonable fear that if Mr. Dikain’s alias is lifted, he will be the target of domain-name theft.

In its ruling, the court agreed with Dikian that the harm that he fears is severe but said it could not conclude that the reasonableness and vulnerability factors weigh in favor of a pseudonym. The court found that the fourth factor is neutral—VPN would suffer little prejudice were Dikian to continue to proceed under a pseudonym—and the final factor, the public interest, weighs against granting Dikian’s motion.

But the judge gave Dikian a slight reprieve. For now, he will be identified only by his first name and last initial. The judge might force his full name to be revealed if the case proceeds to trial.

I suspect that once the first name and last initial are identified, it won’t take long for sleuthing domain investors to confirm his identity.

Post link: Judge rules identity of domain investor “George Dikian” can be (partially) revealed

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