Archive for December, 2011

Dr. Darm Settles Defamation Suit Against Blogger Tiffany Craig in Portland, Oregon

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Jerry Darm headshotOregon plastic surgeon Jerry Darm (Image: Darm, via YouTube)

Blogger Tiffany Craig (Criminally Vulgar, @tcraighenry) has reported that the lawsuit between her and plastic surgeon Jerry Darm has been settled.

This happened back in October, but you’re just now finding out about it on Blog Law Blog, where, with paywall-less blogging, you get what you pay for.

Darm sued for defamation, but then dismissed the suit. It looks like Darm just bailed after he realized that all that was likely to happen was that he would lose and get stuck with legal fees for both sides, thanks to Oregon’s anti-SLAPP law. The complained-of tweet and blog post are staying up.

The suit appears to have arisen out of this blog post, in which Craig embedded a YouTube video, since removed, of an uploaded Dr. Darm television commercial. Underneath, Craig wrote:

Seen that around? Sure you have. If you watch television in Portland Dr Darm is ubiquitous. Especially on those local channels that show endless reruns of Two and a Half Men. He wants to fix you up good and spend thousands on cosmetic procedures that will get funneled straight into his Lake Oswego home.

What he should have added with his Results May Vary disclaimer is Dr. Darm Handed Over His Medical License Due To Disciplinary Action. …

EFFECTIVE 10/18/01 RECEIVED A LETTER OF REPRIMAND FROM OREGON, REQUIRED TO HAVE A CHAPERONE WHEN EXAMINING FEMALE ADULTS, AND ADDITIONAL CONTINUING MEDICAL EDUCATION COURSES. EFFECTIVE 01/08/09 STIPULATED ORDER OF 10/18/01 IS TERMINATED.
That’s right, he was censured by the state because he was examining female patients without a chaperone. If that’s not bad enough? Apparently needed just a teensy bit more education about how to respect the boundaries of his patients.

Oh and California just decided that he shouldn’t be licensed at all. If he tries to get licensed in California, he has to reapply.

And maybe you’re thinking, “so what if he examined a female patient without a chaperone? How is that a big deal.” You should really read the judgement which says:

“Licensee examined Patient A on August 3, 2000 and September 21, 2000 to evaluate the treatment results. Patient A repeatedly expressed concern about some “spider” veins on her legs, but that she could not pay for additional treatment. Licensee informed Patient A that he would provide her with free treatment at his clinic closing time. On or about November 16, 2000 at about 9:30 PM, Licensee used a laser to treat Patient A’s condition on her legs. At the conclusion of the treatment, as she was reclined on her back, Licensee leaned over Patient A and made intimate physical contact with her and inferred that would be his payment.”

That’s right, he tried to get a woman to sleep with him in exchange for cosmetic surgery.
I’m don’t think Results May Vary is quite enough to warn people off being treated by Dr. Darm.

Assuming the quotes are accurate, how could this be defamatory?

A report on the settlement by Alex Zielinski in the alternative weekly newspaper, the Portland Mercury, implies it was this:

Craig … didn’t note that Darm’s license is now renewed in Oregon.

So what? If the reasonable implication of Craig’s post was that Darm wasn’t licensed in Oregon, then, true, that could be actionable. But when I read Craig’s post, I certainly do not come away with the idea that Darm is unlicensed in Oregon. Quite the opposite. Craig’s post seems to imply that he still is licensed in Oregon.

A better candidate for the allegedly actionable content is this:

That’s right, he tried to get a woman to sleep with him in exchange for cosmetic surgery.

Indeed, the quoted material Craig uses does not support the literal truth of that statement. Making “intimate physical contact” with a patient and “inferr[ing] that would be his payment” does not literally mean that Darm tried to get the patient to sleep with him. But American defamation law is tolerant of this kind of poetic license. An instructive case on this point is another litigation I blogged about out of the District of Oregon in 2011: Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox. (What is up with the onslaught of Oregon defamation-by-blog cases?) According to heritage Portland newspaper The Oregonian the papers filed by Craig’s attrorney, Linda Williams, argued that “the gist” of the blog post was true and that the statements, in context, were opinions based on verifiable facts.

More:

Newton’s Third Law of Intellectual Property

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Test firing of rocket engine with blue flamesIn Monday’s post, I noted that Dutch M.P. Marietje Schaake linked America’s proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) with China’s censorship of political expression (a point also picked up by Techdirt’s Glyn Moody.)

So, is it really fair to equate shutting off internet access because of claims of intellectual-property infringement with shutting off internet access because of unapproved political expression? Yes it is. Here’s why.

It’s what I call Newton’s Third Law of Intellectual Property. This is actually my thing, not Isaac Newton’s. But it is analogous to Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

In physics, Newton’s famous Third Law is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

My law, is that for every intellectual property entitlement, there is an equal and opposite reduction in freedom.

So, if someone has a trademark entitlement with regard to a certain word or phrase, the extent of that right is exactly coextensive with the public’s lost ability to legally use that word or phrase. Same for copyright: A copyright over a musical melody means a loss of freedom of everyone else to play that melody.

I don’t mean for Newton’s Third Law of IP to impugn all intellectual property. Just because something reduces freedom doesn’t mean it’s unjustified. But it does mean that there is an inescapable tradeoff. When one person gains an IP right, everyone else loses a freedom. Perhaps the loss of freedom is worth it for the good that the IP entitlement does, such as encouraging innovation. But it is intellectually dishonest to argue or imply that intellectual property entitlements don’t come without a surrender of some amount of liberty.

Image: NASA

How Can You Teach Free Speech’s Limits if You Don’t Understand Them Yourself?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011
miniaturized version of portion of front page of website

From the front page of American Justice Associates' website

As a postscript to yesterday’s post about court-ordered free-speech lessons for Occupy L.A. protesters, let’s look at one more heaping spoonful of irony.

Jeffrey P. Hermes at CMLP blog pointed out that American Justice Associates, who has been tapped to run the course, bills itself on its website as “a supportive arm of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office since 1995.” Yet, as Hermes notes, the company is a private firm and not a branch of the government.

That’s pretty funny, because you imagine that one of the first things they will say in this free-speech class is that the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression is not absolute. And that’s true. Of course, one of the hallowed examples of speech that’s not entitled to protection is false advertising. There’s federal and California state law that prohibits false statements in advertising. And saying your organization is an “arm” of the city attorney’s office, when it’s really a private contractor, sure seems false to me.

Patent diagram of a crutchBut I’m going to try to be thorough and fair before I accuse anyone of making false and misleading statements.

I’ll begin with the obvious: The word “arm,” when used in conjunction with an organization, is ordinarily understood to mean a branch of the organization.

Now, American Justice Associates could argue that you’ve got to look at the fact that they use the word “arm” in context with the word “supportive.” They claim to be “a supportive arm.” But then we have to ask, what the heck is a “supportive arm” anyway?

If “supportive arm” doesn’t mean a helpful branch of the government, then it’s oxymoronic. Arms don’t support. Okay, well, I guess arms are supportive for someone who is down on their hands and knees. So is that what American Justice Associates is saying about justice in Los Angeles? That it’s crawling on the floor? That’s pretty rough.

So, I have to conclude that “arm,” as American Justice Associates uses it, is false and misleading.

I think what they probably should revise it to is “crutch”: American Justice Associates – The Crutch of the LA City Attorney’s Office. That’s what they seem to mean when they put themselves out there as the solution to a justice system too overburdened to try defendants and put the guilty ones in jail.

Liberty L.A. Style: Free Speech School or Jail

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

View of the LA City Hall skyscraper under a blue skyL.A. City Hall (Photo: EEJ)

Jeffrey P. Hermes at the Citizen Media Law Project Blog has spotted a small volcano of irony erupting from Los Angeles: The L.A. City Attorney’s Office has announced that it won’t press charges against Occupy L.A. protesters arrested on low-level misdemeanor offenses if they complete a free-speech course.

But freedom isn’t free: The lessons for the pre-trial diversion program will be supplied by a private-contractor, American Justice Associates, which will charge $355 per person for the course. Checks can be made out to “The One Percent, LLC.”

It’s a move Hermes calls “a dramatic, last-minute effort to win the prize for ‘Most Obnoxious Law Enforcement Tactic of the Year.’” Hmmm. Well put. As he explains:

Let’s reflect for a moment on this one, shall we? … This is, after all, the city that was on the wrong end of a $1.7 million verdict after police assaulted a journalist covering a rally in 2007, and attempted to control coverage of Occupy L.A. by excluding all media except a hand-picked pool of reporters. And let us not forget Special Order No. 11, which among other things directs the LAPD to file a “Suspicious Activity Report” about any photographer who takes pictures “with no apparent esthetic value.”

But there’s another side to this. As a Los Angeles Times article explains, the city wants to save on the expense of prosecuting the hundreds of people it’s rounded up. Fair enough. We all know how California is hurting for money. (Actually, in recent years the office has suffered a 25% budget reduction.)

Look, I think I’ve got an easy fix: Just require Occupy protesters to complete community service by teaching the class themselves, with LAPD higher-ups enrolled as students.

Dutch Conference on Internet Freedom Highlights Plight of Bloggers Under Oppressive Regimes

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Logo for Freedom Online 8 & 9 December 2011 Joint Action for Free Expression on the InternetEarlier this month the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a conference called Freedom Online: Joint Action for Free Expression on the Internet. The conference was attended by more than 20 countries and NGOs, including the United States, which sent Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

One particular subject of discussion was the need to help bloggers in countries ruled by oppressive regimes. There’s a good write up by Toby Sterling of the Associated Press: EU official: Protect bloggers from repressive governments.

Secretary Clinton, who opened the conference, issuing a call for companies to refuse to sell surveillance technologies to repressive governments. It’s wonderful to see the U.S. take a leadership stance on internet freedom, but there’s some irony as well.

Syrian blogger Amjad Baiazy, who was arrested and tortured earlier this year because of his online writing, noted that Western companies surveillance system that Syria’s been using to ferret out internet dissidents.

And Dutch member of parliament Marietje Schaake, while dittoing Clinton’s call for restraint among tech companies, took the U.S. to task for Congressional consideration of SOPA (the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act,” which, she said, “give great incentives to governments like China to do the same,” blocking access to expression they find inappropriate.

Important points, all around.

SOPA Stopped – For Now

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Under a wave of phone calls and social-media attention, Lamar Smith (R-Texas) abruptly called an end to the hearings on SOPA, saying they would be rescheduled for the future. Lamar Smith is a toughie. So getting him to take a step backward is quite an accomplishment!

More:

Please Call Right Now to Stop SOPA

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

CALL NOW - Capitol HillThis is it. This is the time to make your voice heard on Capitol Hill before the disastrous Stop Online Piracy Act is passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Go to EFF’s action page on SOPA and type in your zip code to instantly get the phone number of your rep. And you can bet I’ve called.

SOPA is a threat to blog freedom and internet freedom in American and abroad.

Make the call, and blog on!

This is a Key Week in the Fight Against SOPA

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

This is a key week in the fight against SOPA – a sledgehammer law, ostensibly to fight copyright infringement, that would be a disaster for bloggers and for the internet in general. The bill is approaching a vote in the House Judiciary Committee. Please consider taking some time learn about the issue, and if your member of Congress is on the House Judiciary Committee (list below), please write them!

The Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society (where I am an affiliate scholar), recently hosted a panel discussion called What’s Wrong with SOPA? You can now watch the video of the event.

Julie Ahrens of CIS did a really nice post explaining concisely why SOPA is such a bad idea, broken down into five points:

1. SOPA violates due process.
2. SOPA censors lawful speech.
3. SOPA breaks the Internet’s infrastructure.
4. SOPA blows up the safe harbor.
5. SOPA kills innovation.

She provides an explanation and cites to further reading for each.

Here is the membership of the House Judiciary Committee. If your rep is on here, please call and e-mail!

Adams – (R) Florida, 24th
Amodei – (R) Nevada, 2nd
Berman – (D) California, 28th
Chabot – (R) Ohio, 1st
Chaffetz – (R) Utah, 3rd
Chu – (D) California, 32nd
Coble – (R) North Carolina, 6th
Cohen – (D) Tennessee, 9th
Conyers Jr. – Ranking Member – (D) Michigan, 14th
Deutch – (D) Florida, 19th
Forbes – (R) Virginia, 4th
Franks – (R) Arizona, 2nd
Gallegly – (R) California, 24th
Gohmert – (R) Texas, 1st
Goodlatte – (R) Virginia, 6th
Gowdy – (R) South Carolina, 4th
Griffin – (R) Arkansas, 2nd
Issa – (R) California, 49th
Jackson Lee – (D) Texas, 18th
Johnson – (D) Georgia, 4th
Jordan – (R) Ohio, 4th
King – (R) Iowa, 5th
Lofgren – (D) California, 16th
Lungren – (R) California, 3rd
Marino – (R) Pennsylvania, 10th
Nadler – (D) New York, 8th
Pence – (R) Indiana, 6th
Pierluisi – (D) Puerto Rico, Resident Commissioner
Poe – (R) Texas, 2nd
Polis – (D) Colorado, 2nd
Quayle – (R) Arizona, 3rd
Quigley – (D) Illinois, 5th
Ross – (R) Florida, 12th
S?nchez – (D) California, 39th
Scott – (D) Virginia, 3rd
Sensenbrenner Jr. – (R) Wisconsin, 5th
Smith – Chairman – (R) Texas, 21st
Waters – (D) California, 35th
Watt – (D) North Carolina, 12th

FTC Wins Settlement from FB

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

wobbly Facebook logoFacebook has entered into a big settlement with the Federal Trade Commission – America’s top consumer cops – regarding privacy of user data. As part of the deal, FB will warn users about privacy changes and must submit to biennial privacy audits for the next two decades.

I love the FTC. They do good stuff. Of course, it’s good to note also that FB has done a lot of backpedaling on privacy issues because of user backlash – a kind of semi-organized consumer pressure that is possible these days because of social networking technologies like, um, Facebook!

Here’s what Zuckerberg said in his blog post about the settlement (which he rosily calls a “settlement”):

… I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes [including] a small number of high profile mistakes, like Beacon four years ago and poor execution as we transitioned our privacy model two years ago …

[W]e’re making a clear and formal long-term commitment to do the things we’ve always tried to do and planned to keep doing — giving you tools to control who can see your information and then making sure only those people you intend can see it. In the last 18 months alone, we’ve announced more than 20 new tools and resources designed to give you more control over your Facebook experience.

I actually think Facebook is getting quite a bit better – not just about privacy, but about being a better service altogether. I predicted the demise of Facebook earlier this year. If Facebook keeps changing fast enough, it might hold on. But I just don’t think it will. Fundamentally, the company seems out of touch with what people want. Like the Facebook ticker feature that was new this fall – that’s just creepy.

Here are the words from the parties:

Here are some write-ups:

Stanford CIS to Host Panel on SOPA

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Stanford Center for Internet and Society logoThe Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society, where I am an affiliate scholar, is hosting a panel discussion on SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act – and the Protect-IP Act that are making their way through the U.S. Congress.

The discussion – WHAT’S WRONG WITH SOPA? – is open to the public and will take place on Wednesday, December 7, 2011, at 7 p.m. PST in Room 290 of the Law School Building at Stanford. There will also be a 6 p.m. reception on the Neukom Terrace, at the Neukom Building. You’re encouraged to RSVP.

Woo-Hoo! I Made the ABA Blawg 100

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Blawg 100 logo

The ABA Journal’s list of the top law blogs of 2011 is out and Blog Law Blog is among the honorees!

This is completely awesome. I’d like to thank Eric Goldman, for nominating me and for saying kind things, which were quoted in the write-up, and I’d like to my wife, for reading many of my draft blog posts – especially the ones where I try to be funny. And maybe now that this is a Top 100 blawg, she might even read it when I don’t specifically ask her to. I’d like to thank the American Bar Association for this honor. And of course, I’d like to thank all of my readers – the ones who write, the ones who comment, and all the ones who show up as blips on my Google Analytics reports. Without you, blogging would be a silly exercise in self-aggrandizement, which, of course, many people conclude it is anyway (but look how awesome I am now!). And I’d also like to thank – wait! Don’t play the music yet! I’d also like to encourage you to vote for Blog Law Blog in the ABA Journal’s fan favorite polling that is going on now through December 30. Thank you!

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Backing SOPA Even as Members Back Away from the Chamber

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Declan McCullagh at CNET has a worthwhile post about one lobbying group’s puzzling and unfortunate support for SOPA:

The Chamber claims SOPA is good for businesses, but the businesses that oppose it include eBay, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, AOL, and LinkedIn. Yahoo has quit the Chamber now, and the Consumer Electronics Association and Google may soon do the same.