Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Gregory D. Saxton and Ashley E. Anker on Financial Bloggers

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Seal of SUNY BuffaloGregory D. Saxton and Ashley E. Anker of SUNY Buffalo have recently posted to SSRN their paper The Aggregate Effects of Decentralized Knowledge Production: Financial Bloggers and Information Asymmetries in the Stock Market. The paper was published in the Journal of Communication, vol. 63, no. 6, pp. 1054-1069.

Here is the abstract:

New media have markedly enhanced individuals’ capacity to produce and disseminate original knowledge; however, the literature has not extensively examined the broad effects of such decentralized production processes. The current study thus focuses on a unique context — the stock market — in which it is possible to test the aggregate impact of blog-based information production. Using data on 150 top financial bloggers and stock returns from the S&P 500, this study supports the hypothesis that financial blogging activity diminishes harmful information asymmetries between key market investors. This study thus adds to the “media effects” literature, highlights the societal relevance of bloggers, and shows how economic concepts and financial market settings can be employed for powerfully testing communication theories.

Twitter Deserves Continuing Credit for Defending Privacy in Harris v. N.Y.

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

gavel coming down on twitter birdFrom what I see, Twitter is doing a strong job of standing up for user privacy in the case of the criminal prosecution of Malcolm Harris. In that case (CMLP summary) New York prosecutors are trying to get Twitter to hand over information about Harris, who has been charged with disorderly conduct relating to an October 2011 Occupy Wall Street protest on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Yesterday, Twitter handed over the requested information pursuant to a court order.

There has been a lot of traffic suggesting that Twitter gave up rather than continue to fight (e.g., Betabeat: “Twitter Caves”). But that’s unfair. Twitter is trying to get review from a higher court. And the records they turned over are sealed until September 21, when another hearing is set.

Twitter has done the right thing. It is right for Twitter to resist. But it is also right for Twitter to comply with the court order to turn over the information. (Even though the court was plainly wrong to issue the order.)

What Twitter should do – and what it is doing in this case – is use all available legal process to protect user privacy. Twitter should not, however, violate the law in order to thwart the courts and prosecutors.

Many reporting on the case have said something to the effect that Twitter decided to turn over the information rather than face expensive fine for being held in contempt of court. (EFF said something similar in an otherwise great post on the case.) Saying that makes it sound like Twitter cheaped out. But, as I see, and as I would see it if I were advising Twitter, the problem is not the expense, it’s that refusing to comply with the court order means Twitter itself is violating the law.

It’s true that reporters will often take a contempt citation and go to jail to protect an anonymous source. When they do, it’s civil disobedience, and it’s often heroic. I hate to say it, but the stake are simply lower here. Anonymous-source-based journalism outed Watergate. It’s cultural and societal importance looms very large. Journalists have tried to get shield laws passed to prevent contempt being used to compel the identification of anonymous sources. And shield laws have been passed in many states. For the remaining gaps, brave reporters have often acted in defiance of the courts and the law to uphold free-press values.

The battle Twitter is fighting is different. It’s more of a general internet privacy issue, and while important, it’s a different ball of wax. It’s worth fighting for the cause in the courts, in the legislatures, and on the international level. But I’m not convinced there are fundamental rights here which necessitate disobeying court process.

Freelancer Litigation from 1990s Has No End in Sight

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Front page of an old New York TimesAs Jonathan Tasini’s lawsuit against HuffPo and Arianna Huffington for unpaid blogging is still in its early stages, we have a story by Joe Mullin of PaidContent.org that reminds us how slow the wheels of justice turn: Court Rejects Freelancer Settlement: Still No Payment From Tasini Court Win

Ten years ago, Tasini won his landmark U.S. Supreme Court case against the New York Times for infringing the copyrights of freelance writers by putting material they had written in an online database. Huh? How could that happen? Well, when the NYT contracted with those freelancers back in the Stone Age (early 1990s), the geniuses at the NYT only bought rights to reproduce the stories in the printed newspaper. They had no clue they might want someday (i.e., just a few years later) to republish them electronically.

While Tasini himself has been paid, there’s still no settlement of the subsequently filed class action that sought to use Tasini as precedent to get recoveries for all the other freelancers against the New York Times and likes of Westlaw and Lexis/Nexis. The latest is that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has just thrown out a settlement agreement that seemed like it might actually put everything at rest. Now its time for a fresh start back in district court.

The original Tasini lawsuit goes back at least to 1997, when some district court judge name Sonia Sotomayor granted summary judgment to the New York Times. She got the analysis wrong, by the way. That’s not only my opinion, it was also the opinion of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in overruling her in 1999 and the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the appeals court in 2001. The good news is that Sotomayor may get a second chance to get it right, since, of course, she is sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s because Sotomayor has moved on in life, even if this litigation hasn’t.

This is how Mullin sums it up:

What looked like a solid and promising win for writers in 2001 may just be another indication of how copyright in the digital age is turning into an overcomplicated mess, to no one’s benefit but lawyers. It may still be years before the writers get paid.

That’s a rosy view. But as much as I would agree that copyright in the digital age is an overcomplicated mess, I don’t think this suit is an indication of that. The truth, in my view, is far worse: This suit’s another indication of how our entire civil litigation system is an overcomplicated mess.

Prosecutor Michael C. Green Should Resign

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Monroe County District Attorney Michael C. Green (Photo: Monroe County)

Prosecutors have dismissed their case against Emily Good, who was arrested for video recording Rochester, N.Y. police officers during a traffic stop. Good, who was doing the filming while on her own property, was charged with “obstructing government administration.”

The entire affair was a rank abuse of power.

The police involved should be disciplined. Many have chimed in to call for that, and an internal review is pending. But what I have not seen much discussion of is the role of the DA’s office in this.

Good was arrested May 12. It took until yesterday, June 27, for the DA’s office to get rid of this case. That is, they waited until after a media firestorm and protests erupted. The fact is, Good never should have been charged. The DA’s office in Monroe County, N.Y. failed in its obligation to protect the public trust. Instead, the district attorney’s office used its resources to intimidate a citizen obviously exercising constitutionally protected rights.

Monroe County DA Michael C. Green should tender his resignation immediately.

Unless there is something big that I’m missing – such as Green being in a coma for the last month – he bears the responsibility for the lion’s share of this disgrace. The police arrested Good. But it was the DA’s office who pursued the case.

The Monroe County DA’s office is a big place, and I understand that, but there is no way this could have escaped Green’s attention early on. Green should have taken action immediately to dismiss the charges and set this right. Instead, by pursuing the case as far as he did, Green – who is an elected official – sent a clear message that he will use the power of his office to protect local government from citizen scrutiny and intimidate its critics.

And, by keeping this going, he forced Good to hire a lawyer to defend herself from these sham charges. Someone had to pay for that. And no citizen should have to endure it. Absolutely outrageous.

Shame on Mike Green.

More:

Excerpts and My Analysis of Tasini v. HuffPo

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The complaint in Jonathan Tasini’s class-action lawsuit against the Huffington Post, owner AOL, and founder Arianna Huffington has been posted online.

I’ve gone through it. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here are excerpts I’ve transcribed that I think capture the essence of the complaint. (Italicized portions are my own paraphrasing. Otherwise, it’s quoted material.) As you’ll see, I’ve interspersed my own thoughts.

JUDGE GRIESA 11 CV 2472

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Jonathan Tasini, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. AOL Inc., TheHuffingtonPost.Com, Inc., Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, Defendants.

¶1:
This action seeks to vindicate the fundamental principle that creators of value deserve to be compensated and, in particular, addresses the important issues of (a) whether in the digital age, profitable digital media sites should be required to compensate the creators of valuable content from which such sites derive substantial revenues and (b) if so, how the creators of content should be compensated.

¶3:
Of the $315 million paid by AOL to purchase HuffPo, at least $105 million was due to the contribution of content by the unpaid bloggers.

¶6:
… TheHuffingtonPost.com’s continued assertion that it, alone, should be enriched by the valuable content provided by Plaintiff and the Classes has the broad detrimental effect of setting an artificially low price for the valuable digital content created by Plaintiff and the Classes, depressing the market for such content and, over the long term, having a serious depressing effect on the value of intellectual content being created by Plaintiff and the Classes and on the ability of Plaintiff and the Classes to support themselves as creators of high quality, engaging, digital content. According to Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, the purpose of copyright is “to promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts” by allowing creators to be appropriately compensated for their contributions. Yet, despite our founders’ intent, TheHuffingtonPost.com continues to assert that it, alone, should be enriched by the valuable content provided by Plaintiff and the Classes.

This leads me to one of the problems with this lawsuit. Should Tasini be successful with is unjust enrichment argument, which I don’t think he will be, he is vulnerable to a copyright pre-emption argument. That is, AOL and Arianna can argue that Congress’s legislation in this vein cuts off common-law causes of action that might otherwise exist. In fact, I think it was a bad choice for Tasini and his attorneys to put this reference to copyright and the Constitution in here; it just wraps up the pre-emption argument with a bow.

¶¶11, et seq.:
Bio of Tasini: Union leader, social activist, writer on work/labor issues, successful U.S. Supreme Court litigant.

Arianna, can there be any surprise that this guy ended up suing you with a résumé like his?

¶23:
There are approximately 9,000 unpaid content providers at TheHuffingtonPost.com

That makes it ripe for a class action, provided other elements are met …

¶¶29-33:
Jurisdiction and venue. Allegations to create subject-matter jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 and establish the appropriateness of filing the litigation in federal court in New York.

¶33:
Finally, the “Terms of Use” for TheHuffingtonPost.com states “Any dispute between us will be governed by New York law.”

Yikes – what an endorsement for the enforceability of terms of use! I wouldn’t have gone there. What else is in the terms of use that Tasini would not want to be enforced?

¶50:
… Defendant Arianna Huffington’s statements indicate her own belief that the creators of content should be fairly compensated for the value provided.

¶51:
For example, in her book “Third World America” (Crown 2010), Ms. Huffington … states: “… The middle class, by and large, plays by the rules, then watches as its jobs disappear. The corporate class games the system – making sure its license to break the rules is built into the rules themselves.”

¶52:
Towards the conclusion of “Third World America,” Ms. Huffington writes that to avoid a “Third World America,” she believes the nation needs to make certain it is “a place where economic opportunity is once again real for everyone, not just the economic elite” and “a place where greed and selfishness are no longer rewarded and the ‘least among us’ are given a helping hand, rather than the back of it.” (page 237).

That’s pretty funny. She’s something like the opposite of a “victim of her own success.” That is, Arianna is basically a “beneficiary of her own failure.” Well, okay, you can accuse limousine liberals of being hypocrites. You can wave at them through the tinted windows. But they are just going to drive off to the next black-tie fundraiser you’re not invited to.

¶53:
HuffPo is unlike other media outlets in that HuffPo selects its content providers and does not allow content from non-vetted providers.

¶56:
Plaintiff and the Classes were not officious contributors to the TheHuffingtonPost.com and, rather, were carefully selected, and in some cases recruited, by TheHuffingtonPost.com to perform services for it.

One of the purposes of those allegations, I suppose, would be to defeat sky-is-falling type arguments that HuffPo might make, such as, “Your Honor, if you award compensation to Tasini and the HuffPo unpaid bloggers, you’ll open it up for people to employ themselves by stuffing sites with unsolicited content and then sending the site owners a bill.”

¶57:
… the vast majority of the Classes’ members, like Plaintiff, are quasi-professional writers, meaning that they occasionally earn fees for their writing, but it was not their principal occupation. …

¶62:
Executives of AOL noted that $20 million in “cost savings” would be recognized by AOL due to TheHuffingtonPost.com’s history of not compensating Plaintiff and the Classes for high quality content. …

¶64:
Allegations about “The AOL Way” document discussing how each post is tracked and evaluated in terms of the cost required to produce it and the revenue gained from it.

¶69:
Upon information and belief, AOL only offers to pay amounts for content which are less than the revenue potentially earned from that content. …

That sounds suspiciously like capitalism to me.

¶71:
In sum, by eliminating all costs associated with content production and placing those costs with Plaintiff and the Classes, Defendants are being unjustly enriched.

¶77:
Despite the value provided, Plaintiff and the Class were only offered “exposure.”

¶85:
Because of the system set up by TheHuffingtonPost.com, Plaintiff and the Classes gave the Defendants more exposure than vice-versa, namely, Plaintiff and the Classes typically shared the link to the content provided with their social networks, sharing via electronic mail, Facebook, Twitter and the like (as so encouraged and directed by TheHuffingtonPost.com) – driving internet traffic to the HuffingtonPost.com and creating value for the Defendants.

¶91:
… Arianna Huffington, at a meeting in Beverly Hills, California, February 8, 2011 stated: “People have not fully adjusted to the fact that self-expression is, for many people, a new source of fulfillment and entertainment … We have 9,000 bloggers with a password and literally get hundreds of submissions that our editors have to process. People are dying to blog for us … ”

¶¶92, et seq.:
Complaints that HuffPo doesn’t give contributors information about how much exposure they are getting, such as how many page views they get.

¶94:
Finally, TheHuffingtonPost.com’s assertion that “writers write for free” serves to bring an ages-old falsity into the digital age, one this Court should reject. Indeed, writers, like all creators, deserve a share of the value they create and allowing such value to rest solely with Defendants is against equity and good conscience.

¶¶100, et seq.:
FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
DECEPTIVE BUSINESS PRACTICE
(N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law §349 et ff. as per the Terms and Conditions)
PLAINTIFF AND THE CLASSES v. DEFENDANTS

¶103:
It is deceptive to promise exposure (visibility, promotion and distribution) in lieu of monies to Plaintiff and the Classes, but then not provide a real and accurate measure of exposure and it is deceptive to solicit content on the promise of providing a free forum for ideas when, in fact, a product with tremendous value is being created by the solicited and uncompensated services provided.

Sorry to say it, but this doesn’t sound deceptive to me. Tasini and unpaid bloggers got exposure. Tasini wants more than that, but I don’t see how he was deceived into thinking he would get it.

¶¶106, et seq.:
SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
UNJUST ENRICHMENT
PLAINTIFF AND THE CLASSES v. DEFENDANTS

¶107:
Plaintiff and the Classes provided valuable services to Defendants, services that were encouraged and accepted by Defendants.

This, I think, is the essential problem with the unjust enrichment claim: The defendants were actively encouraging the labor. The prototypical unjust enrichment claim is when an unconscious person arrives at the emergency room and receives life-saving treatment. The patient never agreed to receive the care, so does the patient owe the hospital and doctors compensation? The courts say yes, under a theory of unjust enrichment. It would unjustly enrich the patient to allow him or her to retain the benefits of the medical treatment without paying for it. Part of what makes it unfair is that there was no chance for the parties to make a contract, since the patient was unconscious. Now, imagine a patient came into a clinic and asked – even actively encouraged – being treated for free. If the clinic provides treatment for free, you can’t say the patient was unjustly enriched. There’s nothing unfair – nothing unjust – about the patient retaining the benefits of the treatment in this case, because the patient went looking for free treatment and got it.

Ironically, Tasini’s case for unjust enrichment would be stronger if HuffPo had somehow ended up with the content despite not having sought it out. I don’t know how that would hypothetically happen, but if it somehow did, then unjust enrichment might seem to fit the bill. Unjust enrichment is a flexible doctrine, and it’s not limited to the ER hypothetical or highly similar cases. But under the circumstances in this case, I just don’t see it.

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.

Courtney Love Going to Trial for Tweet Libel

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Courtney Love’s facing a civil trial in February for tweeting that fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir was a drug-pushing prostitute. If you’re looking to be a defamation defendant, that’s a good way to do it. Almost as on target as these folks.

Apparently Simorangkir was in a spat with Love over unpaid bills on a few thousand bucks worth of clothes.

I know an attorney in LA who sued Love a few years ago over unpaid wages owed to his clients. It was pretty funny to hear him describe his troubles in trying to serve the papers on her. I think he finally got her cornered at the Grammys.

But back to Simorangkir v. Love. THR, Esq. reports that Love may be planning a sort of insanity defense:

Love’s attorneys have their own witnesses, including a medical expert who plans to testify that even if Love’s statements were untrue, her mental state was not “subjectively malicious” enough to justify the defamation lawsuit.
That claim — something akin to an insanity defense for social media — suggests that Twitter was so appealing and addictive for Love that she had no appreciation for how the comments she posted would be received by others.

That’s just funny. And it really makes it sound like Love’s going down in flames. The only thing that makes Love’s litigation prospects look dimmer is this quote from her lawyer:

“We don’t believe there’s any defamation, and even if there were defamatory statements, there was no damage,” says James Janowitz, an attorney for Love.

But, you know, assuming just like THEORETICALLY that it’s defamatory to accuse someone of being a drug-pushing prostitute, we feel there’s a good backup argument on damages. Yikes.

Read the whole thing from Matt Belloni in THR, Esq. It’s totally worth it.

Fired Lawyer and Sex Blogger Sues Allen & Overy

Monday, December 20th, 2010

From the homepage of self-described "naked poet," Deidre Dare (a/k/a Deidre Clark)

Deidre Clark was fired from the Moscow office of London-based law firm Allen & Overy after it came to light that she was behind the online identity of Deidre Dare (NSFW).

Clark, a lawyer from New York, blogged about her sex life and penned an online book, Expat, about sex and drugs in the Russian capital, which she said was based on her own experiences at A&O.

Word from A&O is that Expat used names of A&O employees and even the name of a client.

In addition to her book, Clark’s website contains poetry, philosophical musings, and a set of boudoir photos of herself. Let me warn you: Her whole site should be considered NSFWUYHTEOBALP (Not Safe For Work Unless You Have The Excuse Of Being A Law Professor).

She is now suing her former employer for wrongful termination, seeking more than $5 million in damages.

I don’t know much about British or Russian employment law, but my thought would be, good luck with that!

Is the Tyler Clementi Act a Threat to Free Speech?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

David French in the National Review Online argues that the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act (H.R. 6425) is a threat to free speech.

As I mentioned previously, the bill specifically targets cyberbullying and includes blogging activity within its coverage. My discussion of the bill is here.

French’s argument is that the bill has First Amendment problems because it lacks a requirement that the harassment be “objectively offensive.”

I see his point, but I think he’s off the mark. The text of the bill requires that the harassment be:

sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive so as to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from a program or activity at an institution of higher education, or to create a hostile or abusive educational environment at an institution of higher education

That seems to me to be limiting enough to protect legitimate expressive interests. At the same time it seems specifically tailored to protecting a person’s ability to benefit from a federally funded educational program.

In fact, the bill’s current limitations seem to be more protective of free speech interests than an “objectively offensive” requirement would be by itself.

An objectively offensive requirement would presumably make a jury issue out of how far the content of the speech deviates from community norms. That sounds to me like a device that could marginalize minority viewpoints and cause more First Amendment problems than it solves.

At any rate, I certainly disagree with French’s assertion that the law’s “primary effect will be a greater chill on free expression.” I think the primary effect would be communicating to gay students society’s revulsion at gay-bashing, as well as our commitment to allowing all students, regardless of sexual orientation, to benefit from America’s educational opportunities.

Federal Law Would Require Colleges to Prohibit Harassment by Blog

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

U.S. Capitol dome in daytimeIn response to the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) have introduced in Congress the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, H.R. 6425.

Clementi killed himself by jumping from the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River after fellow students secretly videotaped an intimate encounter Clementi had with another man and uploaded it to the internet.

The bill specifically targets cyberbullying and thereby brings within its ambit blogging.

If enacted as law, H.R. 6425 would require higher-ed institutions, as a condition of participating in federal financial aid programs, to prohibit “harassment” of students by faculty, staff, and other students, whether that harassment is done on or off campus, and it would include harassment through the use of university computer networks.

Under the bill, “harassment” is defined as:

conduct, including acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility (including conduct that is undertaken in whole or in part, through the use of electronic messaging services, commercial mobile services, electronic communications, or other technology) that –

(I) is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive so as to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from a program or activity at an institution of higher education, or to create a hostile or abusive educational environment at an institution of higher education; and

(II) is based on a student’s actual or perceived — race; color; national origin; sex; disability; sexual orientation; gender identity; or religion.

[
some signposting removed]

The bill would also establish a grant program for activities aimed at preventing harassment.

I’m not sure how much good this law would do. Will people sufficiently evil to do what was done to Tyler Clementi be deterred by a campus policy? It seems unlikely. But since you can’t legislate tolerance and compassion, I suppose you do what you can do. If nothing else, a new federal law would be an expression that our society’s self-ascribed moral character is incompatible with bullying young people on the basis of sexual orientation.

More: OpenCongress, NJ.com

Inimai Chettiar and James Scott Holladay on the Economic Benefits of Net Neutrality

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Inimai Chettiar of the NYU School of Law and James Scott Holladay of NYU School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity have posted to SSRN Free to Invest: The Economic Benefits of Preserving Net Neutrality.

Here is the abstract:

It is hard to imagine a future where the value of the Web takes a downward spiral: where less content is created, online access is less useful, and fewer people log on. Currently, thousands of new websites and applications are constantly created. The content attracts millions of new users who email, tweet, blog, and discuss the information on the Web freely. Net neutrality supports this open and entrepreneurial dynamic which helps to create billions of dollars in free value for the American public. In Free to Invest, the Institute for Policy Integrity warns of negative economic consequences if net neutrality is weakened. The report arrived at five main findings that describe the trade-offs of revoking net neutrality.

Suit Says Mom Blogger Promised Puff Piece for Dental Work

Thursday, October 28th, 2010


From Jose Martinez in the New York Daily News: Mommy blogger Lyss Stern agreed to write puff piece to pay off $45K dental bill then reneged: suit Almost as soon as Lowenberg & Lituchy DDS filed the lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court, they said they were filing paperwork to dismiss it. Odd.

Blog Post Accusing Town Officials of Sexism Helps Discrimination Claim Survive

Friday, July 16th, 2010

An opinion from a federal court in New York has cited blogged accusations of sexism as part of a set of allegations sufficent to uphold a constitutional equal-protection gender discrimination claim brought by a real estate developer against government officials. The complaint stems from rejected requests for zoning changes.

The case is Catcove Corp. v. Heaney, No. 08-CV-4156 (JS)(ETB), E.D.N.Y., Seybert, J., presiding. The opinion is at 685 F.Supp.2d 328. Here is the excerpt about the blog post:

Plaintiffs also allege an Equal Protection violation based upon sex discrimination. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that: (1) Mr. Heaney “possessed [ ] a clear bias against women,” and that “women were discriminated against” within Southampton; (2) in a local blog report, “several women” described “Heaney and his administration’s ‘Neanderthal’ Town Legal Staff-to be disrespectful, misogynistic and crude”; (3) Mr. Heaney “discriminate[d] against Ms. Gotthelf because she is female” and wanted “to force her to sell her properties” to his “male friends,”; (4) Mr. Murphee said that he liked Plaintiffs’ proposed project, but “wanted a real developer to develop it”; and (5) Messrs. Heaney and Murphree coerced Plaintiffs to sell a different property to one of “defendants’ ‘good old boys.’ ” (Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 32, 35, 41, 46, 51). Given these allegations, the Court will permit Plaintiffs’ sex discrimination claims against Mr. Heaney and Mr. Murphree to survive-for now. With respect to Mr. Heaney, Plaintiffs have pled enough factual allegations to suggest that Mr. Heaney possessed an animus towards women and favored male developers over Ms. Gotthelf. These allegations (and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom) suffice to set forth a “plausible” claim against Mr. Heaney, albeit barely.

Also interesting in the opinion: other parts of the lawsuit – ones not concerning blogs apparently – led the judge to impose Rule 11 sanctions on the plaintiff. Claims against certain defendants were, according to the court, “utterly lacking in support.”

It’s not every day you see Rule 11 used.

The court was merciful however, saying that “only mild sanctions” were warranted, leveling a $1,000 fine.

Podcast on Bloggers’ Use of Mainstream News

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

A podcast from the Legal Talk Network tackles the issue of bloggers’ legal and ethical obligations regarding use of material from mainstream news sites. In the piece, lawyers Robert J. Ambrogi and J. Craig Williams interview Alan Schwarz, sports reporter for the The New York Times. Schwarz is critical of bloggers who go too far in using copyrighted content. Schwarz says:

When you create your own work, you have rights to its dissemination. You know, this whole information, you know, “wants to be free” business is a bunch of hooey. It’s preposterous. And an entire generation of Americans has grown up with no respect for copyright law.

For the purpose of policing his own material, Schwarz has a Google alert set to notify him when a blog uses his name. I would assume many reporters do the same. (Hi, Mr. Schwarz!)

Note: This post was revised July 9, 2010, as explained here.

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)