Posts Tagged ‘defamation’

Yang-Ming Tham: Honest to Blog

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Yang-Ming Tham has published a comment in the Villanova Sports and Entertainment Law Journal titled, Honest to Blog: Balancing the Interests of Public Figures and Anonymous Bloggers in Defamation Lawsuits.

Here is an excerpt:

Post-Internet 2.0 free speech is most commonly represented by the blog, websites devoted almost solely to giving voice to a person’s thoughts and beliefs using the Internet as the medium of free exchange. … As blogs continue to proliferate, diversify and become increasingly complex, the potential for tort suits, such as defamatory libel, increases. The laws of tort and constitutionally based free speech were developed in the absence of the Internet, mostly to address the concerns of the more traditional news media outlets. As an ever-increasing number of citizen journalists continue to supplant blogs and other Internet-based social networks, courts are being challenged to apply legal standards developed for traditional media jurisprudence to blogs and bloggers. Recently, courts have had to determine the proper legal standard for public figure defamation and First Amendment protection for the blogosphere.

This Comment, through a hypothetical lawsuit in which a public figure plaintiff alleges libel by an Internet blog, explores the issue of tort defamation by anonymous bloggers in connection with the legal challenge of balancing constitutional First Amendment protections, and the complicated regime of legal requirements developed pursuant to those standards.

The cite is 17 Vill. Sports & Ent. L.J. 229.

The article is available as a downloadable pdf.

Bengals Cheerleader Sues and Wins $11M Judgment Against Wrong Blog

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Sarah Jones (Photo, Cincinnati Bengals)

A federal court has entered an $11 million default judgment for defamation against a blog that was apparently sued by mistake, says Politico.

The blog at the root of the dispute is TheDirty.com, a site dating back to 2007 which posts pictures of people and then holds them up to extreme ridicule.

As Cincinnati.com explains, TheDirty.com allegedly posted pictures of Sarah Jones, a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader and Kentucky high school English teacher, and then made claims that she had sexually transmitted diseases, was having an affair with a player (a violation of Bengal cheerleader rules), and had sexual intercourse in her classroom.

This is the kind of off-the-charts fact pattern you can usually find only on a law school exam. It’s the belt-and-suspenders approach to trying to become a defamation defendant.

Assuming the allegations were false, then Jones had a granddaddy of a defamation case.

As a professor who teaches torts and media law, take it from me, this is not what you would call a gray area. As defamation claims go, this is hardy. You could drop it off in the Gobi desert with nothing more than a stick of chewing gum and it would gain 20 pounds of pure muscle and come flying back on a chartered jet sipping champagne.

And yet there was a problem.

It appears that Jones sued TheDirt.com – leaving out the “y” in TheDirty.com.

News of the $11 million dollar judgment must have come as a surprise to TheDirt.com, a fledgling gossip site that seems to have come online only last month.

Now, I have no reason to think that it is, but I tell you if this was typosquatting, it sure backfired. That would be like surreptitiously fishing for perch and landing a great white shark. The silver lining for TheDirt.com, I guess, is that it’s drawing some traffic now.

Hmmm, could this be the makings of the world’s strangest theory of trademark infringement? Imagine: “We demand that you immediately cease and desist from conduct that is acquiring lawsuits that should rightfully belong to us … ”

More: TechDirt, Slashdot, TheDirt.com.

9th Circuit Allows Amway to Unmask Kvetching Bloggers

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The Ninth Circuit has upheld a trial court’s order compelling the disclosure of the identity of anonymous bloggers.

Citizen Media Law Project has analysis here: Ninth Circuit Weighs In On Internet Anonymity, Consumer Griping At Risk.

This bruhaha stems from a lawsuit involving Amway (a/k/a Quixtar). The anonymous bloggers targeted took various potshots at the company famous for its multi-level, pyramidal marketing system.

My opinion: You don’t need to hear allegedly defamatory statements about Amway to know it’s bad news. All you need to know is that John Tesh does commercials for them. I worked in radio, and as a former disc jockey, I’ve got to say that John Tesh and his radio show are utterly offensive. He defiles the medium.

But back to the law …

The Ninth Circuit, in the course of its opinion, characterized the statements criticizing Amway as commercial in nature, and therefore entitled to less First Amendment protection. That’s worrying. CMLP said:

While the Ninth Circuit is correct that the First Amendment generally extends less protection to commercial speech, its decision is troubling for a couple of reasons. First, the court’s sense of what qualifies as commercial speech seems unduly broad. It is hard to draw a principled distinction between the derogatory statements here (e.g., “Quixtar currently suffers from systemic dishonesty”) from some of the more extreme statements that might appear on a consumer review site or gripe site.

Jalopnik Libel Suit Settled by Deleting Post and Issuing Correction

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Gawker Media has settled a defamation lawsuit with Confederate Motors over a post on its Jalopnik blog. Online Media Daily reports Gawker bailed out by deleting the post and issuing a correction, with no money being paid as part of the settlement. Gawker COO Gaby Darbyshire said the case was settled “because it was too trivial an issue to take to court,” adding that “[o]ne must pick one’s battles.”

The allegedly defamatory statement that passed the judge’s early scrutiny was that “Last we heard the Alabama-based company was being sued so heavily in state courts by disgruntled owners that they were unable to do business [in New York.]”

Gawker Media has backed off that representation with their correction.

The above quotes and an explanation of the case and the settlement are in Wendy Davis’s Online Media Daily story.

Ben Sheffner’s Copyrights & Campaigns blog has a March 2010 post describing the lawsuit and a June 2010 update on the settlement.

Confederate motorcycle on salt flats

A motorcycle of plaintiff Confederate Motors. It looks cool, no doubt. But the bike's maker has been hit with blog cracks about reliability problems and litigation turmoil. (Image: Confederate Motors)

Anonymity in a Canadian Internet Case Defamation Case: Warman v. Fournier

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Canadian Defamation Law Blog provides analysis of Warman v. Fournier, 2010 ONSC 2126 (Div. Ct.), regarding ordering disclosure of e-mail addresses and IP addresses of persons making anonymous internet posts in the context of a defamation case.

(Ha’p: Inforrm’s Blog)