Archive for the ‘jurisdiction’ Category

Professor Ludington on Loosening Jurisdictional Hurdles Against Bloggers

Saturday, October 13th, 2012
Headshot of Sarah H Ludington

Professor Ludington (Photo: Campbell U.)

Professor Sarah H. Ludington of Campbell University has just published Aiming at the Wrong Target: The ‘Audience Targeting’ Test for Personal Jurisdiction in Internet Defamation Cases in the Ohio State Law Journal (73 Ohio State L.J. 541). She takes issue with a blogger-friendly Fourth Circuit case that said someone publishing on the internet can’t be sued for defamation outside of their state unless they specifically targeted an audience in that state. Professor Ludington would prefer for bloggers to be able to be sued away from their home so long as they have “minimum contacts” with jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is being brought.

Here’s the abstract:

In Young v. New Haven Advocate, 315 F.3d 256 (4th Cir. 2002), the Fourth Circuit crafted a jurisdictional test for Internet defamation that requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant specifically targeted an audience in the forum state for the state to exercise jurisdiction. This test relies on the presumption that the Internet — which is accessible everywhere — is targeted nowhere; it strongly protects foreign libel defendants who have published on the Internet from being sued outside of their home states. Other courts, including the North Carolina Court of Appeals, have since adopted or applied the test. The jurisdictional safe harbor (ironically) provided by the veryn ubiquity of the Internet is no doubt welcomed by media defendants and frequent Internet publishers (e.g., bloggers) whose use of the Internet exposes them to potentially nationwide jurisdiction for defamation. But it may go too far in protecting libel defendants from facing the consequences of their false and injurious statements. For every libel defendant insulated from jurisdiction in a remote location, there is also a libel plaintiff who has potentially been denied an effective remedy in a convenient location. This article argues that the jurisdictional test created in Young is flawed and particularly should not be applied to libel defendants. It concludes with a simple suggestion: that the appropriate test for personal jurisdiction over libel defendants in cases of Internet defamation is the standard minimum contacts analysis.

Ha’p Media Law Prof Blog.

State v. Turner: Incitement to Violence and Jurisdictional Questions

Friday, October 21st, 2011
Mugshot of "Hal" Turner from the Connecticut State Capitol Police

Connecticut State Capitol Police mugshot of blogger Harold Turner

As a new feature here at Blog Law Blog, I’m publishing selected court opinions in their full form.

The first opinion I am putting up is State v. Turner, a new trial court opinion out of Connecticut.

In this criminal matter, blogger Harold Turner (“Hal Turner”) is alleged to have violated Connecticut’s incitement statute with material he posted to his Turner Radio Network or “TRN” blog (which Google’s Blogger has taken offline).

Upset by a pending bill in the Connecticut legislature regarding finances of the Catholic church, Turner, while being located in New Jersey, is alleged to have blogged:

TRN advocates Catholics in Connecticut take up arms and put down this tyranny by force. To that end, THIS WEDNESDAY NIGHT ON THE “HAL TURNER SHOW” we will be releasing the home addresses of the Senator and Assemblyman who introduced bill 1098 as well as the home address of Thomas K. Jones of OSE. …

It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die.

If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they’re going to get uppity with us about this, I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down too …

Turner was arrested after this post and before the home addresses were released.

Turner claimed he was protected by the First Amendment and that, as a jurisdictional matter, the Connecticut statute shouldn’t apply to blogging he did in New Jersey.

On the extraterritorial jurisdiction issue, the court quoted precedent to hold that since the threatened action was “closely tied to the public welfare of” and was “intended to produce … detrimental effects within” Connecticut, the court had jurisdiction under the statute.

On the First Amendment question, the court applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s standard announced in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969). Under that case, in order to qualify as incitement, and therefore be denied First Amendment protection, the speech at issue must be “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” In other words, the keys are imminency and likelihood.

The court held that blogging Tuesday about “THIS WEDNESDAY NIGHT” qualified as imminent.

As to likelihood, one might wonder how likely it really was that such a blogged rant would actually produce action. Indeed, it does seem a little dubious to believe that Turner had some reader out there ready to do his bidding. But the court held – properly I think – that this issue should go to the jury. In sum, the judge’s reasoning was: These are crazy times and there are lots of crazy people out there. In the court’s own words:

Of course, most Connecticut Catholics or other citizens would not have been persuaded by the defendant’s message to take up arms and attack state officials with physical force. However, the court cannot overlook the fact that we live in an age of terrorism and violence, including violence concerning difference in religious doctrine, and that there are unstable individuals with access to firearms … One need only go back approximately ten years from today’s date to recall the devastation that religious fanaticism can produce in this country.

The full court opinion:

More:

Eric Goldman on Two Personal Jurisdiction Decisions

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Eric Goldman reviews two recent personal-jurisdiction decisions, including Shymatta v. Papillon, 2011 WL 1542145 (D. Idaho April 21, 2011), about which Eric says, “This ruling is nice because it denies jurisdiction not only for normal blogging activities but also ‘enhanced’ blogging activities like putting podcasts behind a paywall.”

Zuckerberg is Officially a Californian, Sorry New York

Monday, April 4th, 2011

A federal court in New York, after thinking through the issue thoroughly, has decided that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is domiciled in California. That means that the federal court will hold on to jurisdiction in Ceglia v. Zuckerberg, instead of kicking it to state court. Oddly enough, it doesn’t look like Zuckerberg’s Facebook profile information settled the issue. Evan Brown blogs it.

Prince Albert Takes Defamation Claim to Paris

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
Port of Monaco

Monaco. That's the prince's boat on the right. The big one. (Photo: CIA)

Libel tourism alert: The best place to vacay with your tarnished reputation continues to be Paris, France.

Prince Albert of Monaco is petitioning a Paris court to remove blog posts that His Serene Highness says are defamatory, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Robert Eringer, a blogger based in Santa Barbara, California, has accused the principality’s ruler of Olympic-Games-related corruption, saying he accepted the gift of a Russian-built dacha on Monaco’s outskirts. That’s suspect apparently because of its timing in relation to Sochi, Russia’s successful bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Albert is a member of the International Olympic Committee and a bobsledder who’s competed in several Olympics.

Eringer’s claim to expertise is that he is a former intelligence adviser to the prince. That sounds crazy, but apparently in a previous California lawsuit over backpay, court papers filed on Albert’s behalf confirmed that Eringer carried out “intelligence missions” for the prince.

Wow. Let’s just stop there for a second. What does Monaco need with spies? I guess that’s not fair on my part. If you’re going to have an independent sovereign nation, no matter how small (about 31,000 people and less than one square mile), you might as well do it up right with your own coinage, postage stamps, bobsled team, spies, and everything else.

But shouldn’t you have your own courts too? Why can’t Albert bring this action in Monaco? Is he afraid he won’t get a fair trial? Maybe it has to do with internet access. French wi-fi probably covers a large portion of the principality. Or maybe its just the allure of French libel law, as easy as a Sunday afternoon on the Champs-Élysées.

Internet Speech Freedom on the Line in Paris

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Professor Joseph H.H. Weiler

Joseph H.H. Weiler, an extremely well-regarded scholar of international law (and my teacher back in law school) has completed his criminal trial for libel in France. The verdict isn’t due back until March 3rd, but Weiler’s account of the trial is up on his journal’s blog, and it’s great reading.

The case stems from an unflattering review of Dr. Karin Calvo-Goller’s book The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court. Weiler didn’t write the review, but he did publish it on Global Law Books, a website of the European Journal of International Law. Weiler is and was editor-in-chief of the EJIL.

Calvo-Goller was offended and demanded that Weiler pull the review down. Weiler offered to publish Calvo-Goller’s response, but he refused to remove the review. After his investigation, Weiler determined the piece contained no factual inaccuracies.

While the case involves a book review, not a blog entry, the stakes for blog law are high. That’s because of what Calvo-Goller did next.

She didn’t sue Weiler where he lived. Instead, Calvo-Goller filed a criminal complaint in Paris.

From Weiler’s post:

Why Paris you might ask? Indeed. The author of the book was an Israeli academic. The book was in English. The publisher was Dutch. The reviewer was a distinguished German professor. The review was published on a New York website.

Beyond doubt, once a text or image go online, they become available worldwide, including France. But should that alone give jurisdiction to French courts in circumstances such as this? Does the fact that the author of the book, it turned out, retained her French nationality before going to live and work in Israel make a difference? …

Paris … is very plaintiff friendly.

In France an attack on one’s honor is taken as seriously as a bodily attack. Substantively, if someone is defamed, the bad faith of the defamer is presumed just as in our system, if someone slaps you in the face, it will be assumed that he intended to do so. Procedurally it is open to anyone who feels defamed, to avoid the costly civil route, and simply lodge a criminal complaint. At this point the machinery of the State swings into action.

The French Republic v. Weiler has been brewing for a while. But this month, it  finally went to trial.

The trial took place in in France’s version of Old Bailey – the hallowed Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris,
where Émile Zola was tried for libel over the publication of his J’accuse! letter. More than 100 years later, France is still criminally prosecuting alleged libel.

Especially interesting for me was Weiler’s account of the procedural aspects of the quick trial, which he described as “a strange mélange of the criminal and civil virtually unknown in the Common Law world.”

Despite its unfamiliarity, Weiler expressed considerable admiration for a procedure that was steadfastly “aimed at establishing the truth.”

“The trial was impeccable by any standard with which I am familiar,” Weiler wrote in the post. “Due process was definitely served. It was a fair trial.”

Read Weiler’s full account. It’s worth it. The stakes in this case are high. Blog freedom, along with Weiler, is “in the dock.”

Vegas Court Rules it has Jurisdiction Over Out-of-State Righthaven Defendant

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Street-level view of modern Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas in daytime

The Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas

Judge Roger L. Hunt of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada in Las Vegas has ruled that his court has jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant in one of the Righthaven copyright infringement suits.

Righthaven is thugster ad litem for the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a campaign of no-warning copyright infringement suits filed against bloggers and others who have reposted stories or portions of stories from the newspaper.

Many Righthaven defendants were hoping to get their lawsuits dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. With this ruling, it appears defendants will have to look to other tactics if they are to ward off Righthaven claims.

In a case against a Texas law firm, Righthaven LLC v. Dr. Shezad Malik Law Firm P.C. (Case No. 2:10-cv-0636-RLH-RJJ), Judge Hunt denied a motion to dismiss with an order employing analysis that would seem to be applicable to all Righthaven defendants:

… Defendant itself cites to a case both on point and dispositive of this issue. Applying the “effects” test of Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984), the Ninth Circuit found that where a defendant “willfully infringed copyrights owned by [the plaintiff], which, as [the defendant] knew, had its principal place of business in the Central District [of California], “[t]his fact alone is sufficient to satisfy the ‘purposeful availment’ requirement.” Columbia Pictures Television v. Krypton Broadcasting of Birmingham, Inc., 106 F.3d 284, 289 (9th Cir. 1994). It is common knowledge that the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper is published and distributed in Las Vegas, Nevada by the party which assigned the copyrights together with the right to seek redress for past, present and future infringements. Accordingly, this Court has jurisdiction over Defendant, based upon the allegations of the Complaint.

Steve Green reported the decision in the Las Vegas Sun.

Chris Reed: Think Global, Act Local

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

A new scholarly article discusses cross-border jurisdictional issues that are relevant for bloggers. The paper is Think Global, Act Local: Extraterritoriality in Cyberspace. Its author is Chris Reed, Professor of Electronic Commerce Law, Queen Mary University of London School of Law, Centre for Commercial Law Studies.

Reed argues that, although countries can apply their own national laws to foreigners outside the country for what they do online, countries should refrain from doing so. From the abstract:

“Laws which are in practice unenforceable reduce the normative force of law as a whole and create the risk that otherwise respectable cyberspace actors will become deliberate lawbreakers. Instead states should attempt to reduce the reach of their laws into cyberspace except where doing so is the only way to protect an essential interest of the state.”

(Ha’p: Media Law Prof Blog)

Daily Kos Planning to Sue Polling Company

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Mega-blog Daily Kos has announced that it is preparing to sue the Maryland-based firm Research 2000 over political polling data that firm provided to the blog.

Based on a review of the data by statistics experts, Kos claimed, “the weekly Research 2000 State of the Nation poll we ran the past year and a half was likely bunk.”

Greg Sargent of Washington Post’s The Plum Line blog spoke with Kos lawyer Adam Bonin to get details on the pending litigation. Bonin told Sargent that the claims will be breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud (which usually means intentional misrepresentation). Bonin told Sargent that they are planning to file suit in federal court in Northern California, where the blog’s founder, Markos Moulitsas, is based.

I’m not sure why the Daily Kos is announcing all of this. They sure aren’t proceeding as if they want a settlement. Announcing the lawsuit before it is filed seems to invite Research 2000 to strike first and gain home-court advantage by filing an action for declaratory judgment, and maybe defamation if they could allege it, in Maryland.

We’ll see what happens.

Company Assisting Adult-Content Industry Sues Chicago College Student Over Anonymous Blog Posts

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Remove Your Content, LLC is suing a Chicago resident over blog posts. Remove Your Content, according to its complaint, “was formed to help combat copyright infringement and piracy on the internet. Plaintiff provides various services to its clients, such as searching for illegally uploaded content, sending Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices, and working with websites to remove the stolen content.”

The specialty of Remove Your Content is working with adult entertainment industry clients who believe their content is being hosted on other persons’ websites. The complaint accuses the Chicago-area college student of being behind anonymously authored websites such as removeyourcontentsucks.blogspot.com, which criticizes Remove Your Content and its owner, including with regard to the use of takedown notices.

The student denies he is behind the blogs, and he claims in motion papers that evidence coming out of the Rule 26(a) disclosure proves that he is not the individual responsible for the critical blogs.

Remove Your Content’s allegations are, according to the student, based on information gathered through subpoenas sent to Google, AT&T, and a university.

In addition to questions on the merits, there is also a jurisdictional question. Remove Your Content filed the lawsuit in its home state of Texas. The defendant avers that he has never traveled to Texas prior to the lawsuit.

[This post was revised in a few minor substantive ways after June 3, 2010. My policy is to eliminate typo-type problems on an ex-post basis without notation; but where I change things around more than that, just for the sake of good record-keeping, I make a note. – EEJ]