Federal Court: Lawsuit Against Revenge Porn Site Owner Eric Chanson (And His Parents) May Go Forward

Just in time for Mother’s Day, a Federal court in San Diego ruled that a lawsuit against Eric Chanson, the one-time operator of revenge porn site “YouGotPosted” (aka UGotPosted), and his parents, may move forward.

The site, which allegedly posted the nude photos of 10,000 people, was shut down shortly after its main operator, Kevin Bollaert, was interviewed by California authorities.  Bollaert was subsequently indicted on thirty-one felony counts of extortion and identity theft. 1

The court’s order denying the Chansons’ motions to dismiss (and denying a motion for sanctions against the plaintiff’s lawyers, Marc Randazza and friends) is below. 2

The San Diego case involves a plaintiff who was fourteen years old in the photographs and is one of four lawsuits pending against the site’s alleged former operators.  In each, the Chansons have sought unsuccessfully to have the cases dismissed. 3

Eric Chanson: The Revenge Pornographer Who Lived At Home

The only heart Eric Chanson has

Eric Chanson’s Empty Heart

The source of the Chansons’ misery is their son, Eric Chanson, who admittedly operated YouGotPosted with Kevin Bollaert until March 2013.  In a rambling letter to the court (which the court interpreted to be a motion to dismiss), Eric says that his parents were not involved in the site and that, anyway, he had already sold the site to his partner, Kevin Bollaert.  He invites the court to read the attached documents to see that he had nothing to do with the site.  Except, of course, those documents only transferred the domain name and trademark — and explicitly states that Eric continued to own YouGotPosted’s content. 4

Despite having nothing to do with the site, Eric promised that if “we” knew when the plaintiff was posted to the site, they could find out who posted her photos.  Because, after all, it’s difficult to keep track of the ten thousand people pictured on the site. 5

Eric Chanson’s Parents Get Roped In

Chanson’s parents, after briefly involving an attorney, resorted to an overseas totally-not-legal-advice outfit to draft their initial oppositions to the lawsuits filed against them.  After a court chided them for allowing someone else to ghostwrite their pleadings, the Chansons were left to their own pro se devices.  This rarely turns out well.

The Chansons argued that (1) they were not involved in the site; and (2) the San Diego court lacked personal jurisdiction over them. 6

The Chansons were outraged, disgusted and extremely disappointed when they found out their son may have participated in such a website.

Chanson’s parents state that they have “no first-hand knowledge of Eric’s business activities” and that what knowledge they do have has only “come from several lawsuits that have been filed against Eric”, but they don’t know whether those allegations are true.

To contradict this, plaintiff introduced the declaration of Randazza Legal Group associate Ronald Green, who states that, during a phone call with Eric and his father, Eric’s father stated that he and his wife were assisting Eric in “changing all of the watermarks” on images on YouGotPosted, a process which was “arduous and time-consuming.”  The watermarks apparently had to be changed from an “IsAnyoneUp” watermark to the new name of the site, “YouGotPosted.”

Eric Chanson and his parents were first sued by James McGibney’s ViaView, Inc. (which had previously bought out Hunter Moore’s “Is Anyone Up?” site and shut it down) in September 2012.  This may explain why the watermarks on YouGotPosted images had to be changed: YouGotPosted had previously used the name “IsAnyoneUp” until it was sued for violating the trademark.

The day after the “IsAnyoneUp” trademark lawsuit was filed, a chat transcript filed with the Nevada court purports to show Eric Chanson (under the pseudonym “Eric Steven”) discussing how he planned to evade service of the lawsuit:

they might no (sic) my parents address but it does not mean i really live in the location i could just be over every night then go home they dont no (sic) […] as long as u dont accept any packages or sign for anythin (sic) then your (sic) fin[e] […] dont answer the front door unless u know before hand […] my parents are saying to anyone i left because i did leave so its all good

It’s unclear whether Eric was still living at home at that point, but it’s apparent that his parents were aware of the site and the impending legal action against their son — in September 2012.  Yet, Eric continued to own the site until he purportedly sold it to Bollaert six months later, in March 2013.  If the declarations of Eric’s parents are accurate, they suggest that his parents did not ask him about the site while he presumably still lived with them, over the course of six months.  I’m skeptical that his parents were “outraged” when they learned about the “repugnant” website, but didn’t take steps to learn about their son’s “business” after first catching wind of it.  That Eric continued to own the site for the next six months — while presumably living with his parents — is disappointing, at best.

Having acknowledged their son’s possible participation in the site, the Chansons express sympathy for the plaintiff and chide her ‘participation’:

[The Chansons] feel for [Plaintiff] and her family. It is difficult to learn your child has participated in posing for ‘lascivious sexually explicit photos’ let alone they are posted on the internet. The Chansons cannot claim responsibility for this action.

Yes, it can be difficult to learn of your child’s behavior on the internet.  One of these offspring was a child masquerading as an adult; the other, an adult engaging in sociopathic, intentional harm.  Which of the two deserves our scorn?

The Trouble of Involuntary Porn Sites and 18 U.S.C. § 2257

This case is a prime example of the inherent danger of involuntary (or “revenge”) porn sites.  In order to deter the distribution of child pornography, most adult websites must comply with 18 U.S. Code § 2257, which requires sites to maintain records showing that the persons in sexually-explicit content are over the age of 18.  Sites like YouGotPosted attempt to defer this requirement to the uploader, making them promise that they have the records required by § 2257.

This practice is, at best, willful blindness.  The uploaders are encouraged to provide nude photos in order to get revenge.  The people pictured on the sites are, with rare exception, posted against their will.  The chance that the uploader has any such records (which, by regulation, include a copy of the photo identification of the person pictured) is about as high as the probability that Donald Sterling will set the NBA record for single points scored in a game next season. 7

San Diego YouGotPosted Lawsuit: Order Denying Motions to Dismiss and Motion for Sanctions

Additional Documents

Complaint
Motions to Dismiss
Eric Chanson’s Motion to Dismiss
Opposition to Eric Chanson’s Motion to Dismiss
Eric’s Parents’ Motion to Dismiss and Declarations of Eric’s Mother and Father
Opposition to Eric’s Parents’ Motion to Dismiss, and Declaration of Ron Green
Surreply by Eric’s Parents
Supplemental Evidence by Plaintiff

Motion for Sanctions
Opposition to the Motion for Sanctions
– Declarations of Ron Green and Marc Randazza (which includes a declaration by James McGibney)

Court’s Order denying the motions to dismiss and motion for sanctions

Notes:

  1. While it is unclear what, if any, role Eric Chanson played in the extortionate operation of YouGotPosted, the complaint against Bollaert notes that the ‘takedown’ site, ChangeMyReputation.com, was opened “with the assistance of known and unknown conspirators”. Eric Chanson should be worried: email records indicate that the PayPal account linked to the ‘ChangeMyReputation.com’ email address was connected to his bank account. None of the Chansons has been indicted.
  2. Because the plaintiff is or was a minor, I am redacting her name.
  3. Bollaert has, until recently, largely ignored the cases, leading to a $300,000 default judgment against him and the fictitious “Blue Mist Media, Inc.,” which purported to run YouGotPosted.  Bollaert is currently in default in the San Diego case.
  4. One agreement states that “this Agreement does not relate to any Website content, which shall remain the property of the Seller [Eric Chanson]”.  Eric’s inadvertent admission that he may still own the site’s content is even more boneheaded when you consider that on a motion to dismiss, as here, the court can only consider the pleadings.  It doesn’t matter how many exhibits Eric sent to the court: they were all ignored.
  5. And, according to the complaint, the FBI had already informed YouGotPosted that the plaintiff was a minor.
  6. In non-legalese, this means that they argued that it would be unfair to have to face a lawsuit in California because they had no ties to California.  The court rejected this argument because the plaintiff had alleged, correctly, that YouGotPosted listed her hometown in California and harmed her in California.
  7. I don’t understand sports.
  • That_Anonymous_Coward

    It is just shocking that what someone was once very proud of they try to hard to distance themselves from when the going gets tough.
    I also enjoyed another round of blame the girl from the moral paragons of virtue who helped their offspring change the watermarks on pictures posted to get revenge and payments for their removal…. reminds me of the story of a rich man caught using a credit card he found on the ground, he felt entitled to use it and stick someone else with the bill. When caught he thought he could just pay cash for the pizza and still walk away from attempting to use a credit card he found.

  • Michael Graves

    Excellent article! while few comment, I know many like myself have bookmarked your blog and read every thing you write. Yes, Eric should be worried! Mark only did what tens of thousands of others would have loved the opportunity to do! This scum bag put thousands of lives in jeopardy by stealing those photos he posted and now we all have a face to go with the name we all hated for so long! You seem to come up with these gold nuggets! Bravo! Eric Chanson, you just got posted, and rightly so. How does Kevin feel about taking the heat and possible jail time for his buddies crimes?