Have you been wronged, but are unsure by whom? There's an
app for that! An application, that is...for a Norwich
In the age of the internet, it is increasingly easy to commit
wrongs anonymously. Violations of legal rights via the internet can
take many forms. From defamation to copyright infringement to
breach of confidence and contract, when a wrong has been committed
against you or your company but the wrongdoer's identity is
unclear, the first step is to obtain that information. If an
innocent third party such as a website has enabled the perpetrator
to commit the wrong, a Norwich Order can be sought.
A Norwich Order1 is an order for pre-action
discovery—it is a way to compel information before you
commence a claim.
The good news is, applications for Norwich Orders are
often unopposed. While most websites will not provide the
identifying information of a wrongdoer in the absence of a court
order, they will often choose not to oppose the order. Therefore,
as a practical matter, reach out to the website's legal counsel
early on in the process with a view to negotiating a form of order
that the website will not oppose.
Often, a discussion with website's counsel will also inform
you of the type of identifying information that you will likely be
able to obtain through a Norwich Order. For example,
certain websites require posters to enter their name(s), e-mail
address(es), and other information before posting information.
While you might not obtain a poster's true identity by gaining
this information (we all know that the name(s)/address(es) might
not be genuine), if you do, then you know who to sue. If not, as
long as you get an e-mail address, you will at least have a means
by which to contact the poster—perhaps to send a "cease
and desist" letter as an initial step.
If the information that you are able to obtain through a
Norwich Order is likely to be more vague, for example,
only an IP address, then you may have to be prepared to bring more
than one application. Once you obtain the IP address of the
wrongdoer, you will then have to apply for another Norwich
Order against the applicable internet service provider to discover
the identity behind the address. Therefore, the knowledge of the
type of information you are likely to obtain if the application is
successful will help you weigh the importance of discovering the
wrongdoer's identity with the potential costs of obtaining
In deciding whether or not an application for a Norwich
Order is likely to be successful, consider the following
Do you have sufficient evidence to
show that you have a valid, bonafide or
reasonable claim against the wrongdoer?
Is the third party from whom the
information is sought somehow involved in the acts complained
Is the third party the only
practicable source of the information available?
Can the third party be indemnified
for out of pocket costs to which it may be exposed because of
Do the interests of justice favour
If the Court agrees that the answer to all of the above is yes,
then the test for a Norwich Order has been met.
Although all five of the above factors warrant careful
consideration, factors 1-4 are the simplest to assess. As with many
legal tests, the "interests of justice" branch (factor 5)
will cause the most angst. In obtaining a Norwich Order,
the analysis requires "balanc[ing] the benefit to the
applicant of revealing the desired information against the
prejudice to the alleged wrongdoer in releasing the
It is your job to convince the court that prejudice to the
alleged wrongdoer should not tip the scales. Fortunately, evidence
to assist you with this task is often right at your fingertips:
search the third party's website for policies and/or warnings
about the possible release of identifying information if certain
terms are breached by the user and/or if such disclosure is
"required by law". Demonstrating that users of the
website ought to have a reasonable expectation that their personal
information might be disclosed in the circumstances of your case
should provide some comfort to the court that granting the order is
The Norwich Order can be a powerful legal tool; if you
find yourself in the right circumstances, do not be afraid to use
 GEA Group AG v. Ventra Group Co., 
O.J. No. 3457 at paras. 50 and 91 (C.A.).
 Named after the seminal case Norwich Pharmacal
Co. v. Customs & Excise Commissioners,  AC
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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