Robert Galbraith Outed as JK Rowling; Author’s Legal Recourse Relied on Digital Evidence

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What does author JK Rowling have to do with computer forensics? The Harry Potter author relied on computer forensic evidence to make a case against a user who publicly outed her pseudonym on Twitter. Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, opted for a pen name for crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling to “work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback,” according to NPR. Users outed Galbraith’s true identity three months after the novel’s publication.

Courts Dig Up Digital Evidence

Admissible digital evidence played a large role in Rowling’s case against lawyer Chris Gossage of Russell Solicitors and his friend, Judith Callegari. Computer forensics investigators cited Callegari’s tweets, one explicitly revealing that JK Rowling was writing as Robert Galbraith, in court. “Rowling accepted an apology from the law firm and substantial damages, in the form of a charity donation,” BBC News reports.

Computer and digital forensics also played a role in determining the validity of the original Tweets. The Telegraph explains: “Using various software programs, [investigator Patrick] Juola looked for authorial fingerprints by highlighting the most frequently used words. ‘Prepositions and articles and similar little function words are actually very individual,’ Juola told Time magazine. ‘It’s actually very, very hard to change them because they’re so subconscious.'” “Galbraith’s fondness for Latin quotes and a distinctly feminine way of describing women’s clothing” were also telling, computer forensics investigators stated.

Computer Forensic Science Overwhelmingly Pertinent

JK Rowling is not the only one to turn to digital evidence in court. According to NPR, divorce attorneys report an 80% increase in Tweets, Facebook posts, and text messages, for example, in family courts. Cellphone images and computer data may also play a significant part in the upcoming trial of Aurora Theater Gunman, James Holmes. Use of digital evidence is only expected to increase, especially with the ever-growing presence of smartphones and social media.

Digital evidence helped Harry Potter author JK Rowling get monetary restitution for Gossage’s violation of her privacy. Rowling’s case is hardly unique. The popularity of social media and smartphones is likely to create even more work for computer forensics investigators. Read more about this topic at this link.

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