Friday, March 30, 2012

UPDATE: Judge Takes Dim 'View' of Libel Suit Against Barbara Walters

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 28:  TV personalities ... (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts Judge George A. O'Toole Tuesday tossed the defamation suit brought against television personality Barbara Walters last summer(see "TUOL" post 7/27/11) based on two sentences contained in her 579-page tome, Audition: A Memoir (2008), the THR,Esq. Web site reports.

The case, Shay v. Walters (Docket No. 1:2011-cv-10932), concerned Nancy Shay, a woman who alleged she had a lesbian relationship with Walters' adopted daughter when the two were teens enrolled at the Wykeham Rise School in Washington, Connecticut. The plaintiff claimed Walters exerted pressure to have the then 16-year-old Shay expelled from the school.

Shay's complaint alleged she was defamed by a passage in the memoir in which Walters recounts an incident in the 1980s that described a friend of her daughter "whom the school kicked out midterm for bad behavior" in which the daughter and unnamed friend were "found in the nearby town, high on God-knows-what."

Judge O'Toole dismissed the complaint that included counts alleging defamation, tortious interference and emotional distress because he ruled Shay could not show damages, even if the allegations proved true. Defamation involves damage to the plaintiff's reputation before a substantial, respectable segment of the community, and Judge O'Toole wrote: "[T]he small number of people who would have been able to recognize the book's oblique references to the plaintiff would also likely have been aware of the circumstances of her expulsion that were the subject matter of the accused statements."

Judge O'Toole also said Shay's claim that Walters tortiously interfered with Shay's relationship with Wykeham Rise School was untimely.
Enhanced by Zemanta

General Truth: Maxim Future May Be Short, Not Pithy

Maxim Magazine -- Jiah Khan .. December 2008 .... (Photo credit: marsmet552)The editorial staff of  Maxim is getting more scant than the attire of the men's magazine models.

Nearly half of the magazine's 13 editorial staffers have been terminated, including Senior Editor Seth Porges, according to the TechCrunch Web site. Alpha Media Group, which also includes Stuff magazine among its holdings, put the ax back in Maxim because of the periodical's declining sales, according to TechCrunch.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, March 29, 2012

FCC-Approved Toledo TV Station Sale Means Staff Layoffs

Toledo, OhioToledo, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Fox affiliate WUPW-TV  Channel 36 in Toledo, Ohio, has been snatched up by the owner of rival CBS affiliate WTOL-TV Channel 11, The Toledo Blade reported this week.

The acquisition by American Spirit Media from Lin Media gained FCC approval and allows the two stations to share broadcasts and newsroom personnel, according to the Blade article. LIN Media alerted the Ohio Dept. of  Job and Family Services last month that layoffs would occur sometime in late April.

The consolidation could result in up to 63 staffers getting pink-slipped, the Blade reported.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Fed Judge to ISPs: ID 'Bareback Street Gang' Purloiners

Cropped screenshot of Gary Cooper from the tra... Meet John Doe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)In Raw Films Ltd. v. John Does 1-15 (Docket No. 2:11-cv-07248-MAM), United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Mary A. McLaughlin this week ordered Internet service providers to provide IP addresses and other information identifying subscribers who allegedly infringed on the copyright of an adult film through a file-sharing Website.

The Legal Intelligencer reports that in her 21-page opinion, Judge McLaughlin said: "A Doe defendant who has allegedly used the Internet to unlawfully download and disseminate copyrighted material does not have a significant expectation of privacy." The allegedly infringed work, a 2006 Czech-language film entitled Bareback Street Gang, is owned by the plaintiff, British adult film Website Raw Films Ltd.

Judge McLaughlin denied the unidentified defendants' motion to quash the plaintiff's subpoena, citing a five-pronged test to strike a balance between online users' First Amendment right to anonymity and intellectual property rights. The factors include: (1) a prima facie case of infringement; (2) the specificity of information sought from the ISP; (3) no alternative means to obtain the information; (4) a vital need for the information to support an infringement claim; and (5) the objecting party's expectation of privacy.

The plaintiff alleged the defendants employed the peer-to-peer BizTorrent protocols to upload, reproduce and distribute the adult film.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hungarian Prez Beats Plagiarism Rap-sody

Pál Schmitt, Hungarian politician in a meeting...Pál Schmitt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Hungary's President, Pal Schmitt, must have a few pals among the five-member Semmelweis University committee who concluded Schmitt's  215-page, 1992 doctoral dissertation on the Olympic Games did not involve plagiarism by the nation's leader.

HVG, a Hungarian weekly magazine, created shockwaves last January when it claimed Schmitt's thesis included portions that had been copied from other writers' works, particularly in the wake of resignations a year earlier by Hungarian politicians Silvana Koch-Mehrin and Karl Theodorzu Guttenberg amid charges of plagiarism.

According to accounts by the Sofia News Agency, and the Associated Press and San Francisco Chronicle, the Semmelweis University panel exonerated Schmitt, though acknowledged the absence of footnotes and citations and slipshod bibliography in his work. HVG alleged 180 pages of the 215-page Schmitt thesis merely translated Bulgarian researcher Nikolai Georgiev's Analyse du programme olympique (des Jeux d'Olympiade), also written in 1992.

The five-member committee ruled Schmitt's dissertation "met the formal requirements of the time," according to the AP story. Schmitt in his youth earned two gold medals in fencing from the Summer Olympics. Some might allege that Schmitt is still engaged in fencing, only using stolen writings, instead of an epee, so it's good to have the Semmelweis University confirm the Hungarian, paper... at issue, was Schmitt's own creation.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wealth of Information

Dollar Sign ($) created with the Nimbus Sans t... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Enriched reading, or just reading for the rich?

According to the online version of Women's Wear Daily, periodical publishers have launched four journals targeting readers who want ads touting Hermes and Harry Winston, not clip-out coupons. Bloomberg Terminal subscribers, who dole out $20,000 annually for the service, now receive Bloomberg Pursuits magazine (see "TUOL" post 1/27/12). WWD reports the demographics for BP magazine are 90 percent male whose average earnings are in the neighborhood of $452,000, which is a very nice neighborhood.

Get ready in September for Du Jour magazine in your mailbox, that is, if your mailbox is attached to a home that would sell for $1.5 million or so, and your income averages $5 million. Time, Style & Design is being marketed by Time magazine to a half-million readers eager to check out the latest Bulgari ad. And ForbesLife will now be available on newsstands, so pick up the latest copy, which includes an article by billionaire Warren Buffett and profiles the Bottega Veneta Suite at Florence's St. Regis.

Women's Wear Daily couldn't help but boast about the good fortune of its own W magazine, which has seen a 20 percent jump in ad pages.

The rich may be different than you and I, but the hard-working staff at "TUOL" is content with its current periodical perusing, though admits it's getting harder to find the spoon and the oar in the Highlights picture puzzle page.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

'Lighthouse' Columnist No Beacon of Integrity

Blueprint of Split Rock Lighthouse.Blueprint of Split Rock Lighthouse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Anchor Weekly editor Steve Jeffrey has resigned, the Calgary Herald reports, the day after a humor writer allegedly uncovered at least 42 instances in which Jeffrey purportedly committed plagiarism in his local political column, "Lighthouse".

Jeffrey, who initially denied plagiarizing others works while conceding he used other writers for "inspiration," stepped down one day after humorist George Waters claimed Jeffrey merely altered minor details of others' writings in his own column, according to the Herald story.

Not the first time rough Waters brought down a Lighthouse.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, March 26, 2012

Court Pamphleteer Trial Stirs First Amendment Pot

Seal of the United States District Court for t...
Seal of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In U.S. v. Julien Heicklen (Case No. 10-1154), presently before United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Kimba Wood, an 80-year-old retired chemistry professor from Teaneck, N.J, faces a potential six-month jail term for alleged jury tampering based on his distribution of leaflets in a federal court plaza on the subject of jury nullification.

According to wire stories by Associated Press and Reuters, Heicklen gave passers-by a pamphlet addressing jury nullification, the legal doctrine whereby fact-finders disregard a judge's instructions or the weight of the evidence in a case to arrive at a verdict based on their own consciences. His leaflet allegedly urged jurors troubled by the government's conduct in a case or who reject a law underlying charges against a defendant to return a not guilty verdict.

Counsel for the defendant contend Heicklen's leaflet in no way endangers the integrity of the justice system, but the prosecution argues such behavior is unlawful and disruptive of  how courts function. Judge Wood suggested during argument that jurors basing their decisions on ideological beliefs, rather than the evidence before them, poses a threat to the integrity of the trial system, the wire service articles reported.

Because the defendant's actions occurred on federal property where potential jurors might be influenced, prosecutors claimed, Heicklen's prosecution does not violate his First Amendment rights.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, March 23, 2012


Newspaper Association of America
Newspaper Association of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After 66 years, the Reston, Va.-based American Press Institute ("API") has terminated its staff and will merge with the Newspaper Association of America ("NAA"), The Washington Post reported.

Founded in 1946 by Providence Journal editor Sevllon Brown and initially headquartered at Columbia University, the nonprofit API ran programs that attracted journalists nationwide. With the print journalism industry in the doldrums, contributions from news organizations have declined and program attendees dwindled, necessitating API eliminating its eight full-time staffers, and one part-time employee.

According to the Post article, API and NAA will merge their endowments.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lee Not Free: Paywall-mania on the Horizon

Dibrary: Digital Newspapers
Dibrary: Digital Newspapers (Photo credit: Mosman Library)
Buoyed by successful returns on paywalls erected for its Montana and Wyoming online newspapers (see "TUOL" post 8/2/11), Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises, Inc. plans to charge subscribers for digital content at most of its holdings by the end of 2012, Thomson Reuters reports.

Lee Chair/CEO Mary Junck says the conglomerate plans to step up its metered payment model paywalls over the next three months. Lee owns 48 newspapers, co-owns four others, and counts another 300 specialty publications among its holdings. It boasts roughly 1.3 million subscribers among 23 states, according to the Thomson Reuters article.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dis-OWNed: Oprah Cans 30 Staffers

Signature of American television personality, ...
Signature of American television personality, Oprah Winfrey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Disappointing viewership numbers have prompted parent company Discovery Communications to prod Oprah Winfrey to slash a fifth of her start-up cable network OWN's workforce, MediaLife magazine reports.

Discovery, which staked Winfrey's network launch reportedly to the tune of $300 million, plans to assume a higher profile in operating OWN, announcing the appointment of Neal Kirsch as OWN's CFO/COO. Kirsch has served as Discovery's chief financial officer.

Following the cancellation of  ratings-starved Rosie O'Donnell's talk show, OWN has trimmed 30 jobs in a cost-savings move, according to the MediaLife article. Winfrey, who assumed the CEO slot at her nascent cable network last summer, has scored well in the ratings when she has appeared in programming such as "Oprah's Next Chapter."

Winfrey blamed the economics of a cable start-up for having to make the tough business decision to slash personnel. "TUOL" hopes the affected workers didn't have to endure the spectacle of Oprah yelling: "You get a pink slip! You get a pink slip! Everyone gets a pink slip!"
Enhanced by Zemanta

Media Wary as Canadian Court Recognizes Invasion of Privacy Tort

Distributing copies of the Canadian Charter of...
Distributing copies of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Robert Sharpe, the Ontario Court of Appeal in Jones v. Tsige (2012 ONCA 32) has recognized "intrusion upon seclusion," a rhyming adoption of common law invasion of privacy.

As reported by Canada's The Lawyers Weekly,  the appellate court ruled that to prevail on an intrusion upon seclusion claim, the plaintiff must prove the defendant:

  • engaged in reckless or intentional conduct;
  • invaded plaintiff's private affairs or concerns without lawful justification; and
  • a reasonable person would consider the invasion highly offensive and causing distress, humiliation or anguish.

The Jones case involved two unacquainted bank employees, one of whom was romantically involved with the plaintiff's former spouse. The defendant accessed the plaintiff's personal banking records roughly 174 times over a four-year stretch, counter to bank policy, according to the Lawyers Journal article.

The trial court initially tossed plaintiff's case, citing Ontario law not recognizing invasion of privacy as an actionable tort. In reversing that ruling and awarding the plaintiff $10,000 damages, the appellate court noted that four Canadian provinces had statutorily recognized the tort, and suggested a body of common law invasion of privacy claims should develop consistent with the Charter of  Rights and Freedoms.

Publication of private information and economic harm are not prerequisites of a successful invasion of privacy action, the Court noted, as the emphasis is on intrusion into delicate areas such as sexual proclivities, medical records, financial information and private correspondence.  The Canadian news media is expected to be a ripe target for future claims, though the Court hinted a defense of reporting on matters of public concern may defeat an intrusion upon seclusion count.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

'Huffington.' Digital Magazine on the Horizon

Fragment Arianne Huffington, Huffington Post C...
Fragment Arianne Huffington, Huffington Post Creative Commons licentie BBC / The Virtual Revolution (Photo credit: wilbertbaan)

"Huffington.," a digital magazine specifically designed as an app for iPad and its ilk, is the latest brainstorm produced by the AOL-owned Huffington Post Media Group, Forbes Magazine reports.

Former New York Times journalist turned Huffington Post Executive Editor Tim O'Brien will oversee the project, according to the Forbes article. The period is part of the "Huffington." periodical's title. Vanity Fair was already taken, though there's no lack of vanity involved in the digital moniker.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, March 19, 2012

Federal Appeals Court Backs FDA Against Tobacco Companies

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In an 84-page ruling in Discount Tobacco & Lottery, Inc. et al. v. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (Docket No. 10-5234/5235), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld controversial FDA regulations mandating that tobacco companies display graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packages and advertisements.

As reported by the law blog of The Wall St. Journal, the appellate court decision written by Judge Eric Clay found the warnings "serve as disclaimers to the public regarding the incontestable health consequences of using tobacco." A half-dozen tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., allege their First Amendment speech rights are being abridged by the FDA regs, which are drawn from the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act [H.R. 1256].

The Sixth Circuit ruling doesn't specifically address the grisly depictions in the warnings of blackened lungs and cadavers, but rather, upheld the validity of the law requiring the warnings appear on the top 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs. The appeals court struck down the use of color imagery in the warnings, handing the plaintiffs a victory of sorts.

United States District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al. v. U.S. Food & Drug Administration et al. (Case No. 1:11-cv-01482) issued a preliminary injunction preventing the FDA regs from taking effect that the government is appealing (see "TUOL" post 3/1/12). 
Enhanced by Zemanta

Federal Judge Orders School to Reinstate College Paper Faculty Advisor

Chicago State University
Chicago State University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer last week ordered Chicago State University ("CSU") to reinstate Gerian Steven Moore as faculty advisor to the Tempo, CSU's student paper.

In her 40-page decision in Gerian Steven Moore & George Providence II v. Wayne Watson, President of Chicago State University, et al. (Case No. 1:09-cv-00701), Judge Pallmeyer did not award Moore monetary damages, but required the college to restore Moore, CSU's former executive director for communications, to his post for at least one year and to delete any negative material in his personnel file concerning his dismissal in 2008.

According to a Chicago Tribune article, Moore, who joined the public university in 2007, was terminated a year later by then-interim president Frank Pogue, shortly after a Tempo article questioned how a student-run fashion show was paid for. Although the CSU administration and the Tempo had a bumpy relationship, the school claimed Moore was ousted because the press releases he drafted were of low caliber.

Moore and former Tempo editor-in-chief George Providence II sued the college in 2009 for allegedly infringing on the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights and allegedly violating Illinois's College Campus Press Act [110 ILCS 13 (2007)], which protects students attending public colleges and universities against administration censorship.

According to the Tribune report, CSU will comply with Judge Pallmeyer's decision, which it considers a victory because no monetary judgment was imposed.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tribune Not 'Chi' About Cutting Staffers

Tribune Building Chicago.
Image via Wikipedia
Reporters, editors and managers are among the 15 newsroom personnel pink-slipped by The Chicago Tribune today, Crain's Chicago Business reported.

Empty chairs are becoming commonplace as the Trib last month received fewer than 10 acceptances from editorial staffers of a voluntary buyout offer (see "TUOL" post 1/17/12), and last July laid off 20 employees. The Tribune Co., which also owns The Los Angeles Times and 23 television stations nationwide, is still in the throes of a protracted Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Newsroom Events Director Sarah Beardsley also has departed the Tribune, according to Crain's.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, March 15, 2012

After Latest Ad Results, Fish No Longer Want to be Wrapped in Newspapers

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 30:  A newsstand displays...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Newspaper readers with a masochistic streak will want to check out the always interesting Reflections of a Newsosaur blog ( for the latest news on the industry, which comes in two formats: bleak and bleaker.

The Newspaper Association of America ("NAA") Wednesday released results showing newspapers' advertising revenues in 2011 totaled $23.9 billion, a 7.3 percent decline over the previous year and the lowest figures since 1984 sales of $23.5 billion, according to Newsosaur. Combined digital sales and print last year were less than half the all-time high in 2005 of $49.4 billion, NAA revealed.

Putting it all in context, which Newsosaur does skillfully and depressingly, combined ad sales for all U.S. newspapers in 2011 were only two-thirds of Google's $37.9 billion in revenues last year. One bright spot--newspapers' digital revenues climbed 6.8 percent last year, totaling $3.2 billion.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Freedom Communications Courting Suitors

Freedom Communications LogoImage via WikipediaToday is the self-imposed deadline for Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom Communications, owner of eight tv stations and 100 newspapers, including flagship Orange County Register, to receive bids for the sale of all or part of its newspaper holdings, according to accounts in The Los Angeles Times and the Web site.

One needs a scorecard to sort through the possible buyers of Freedom, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009 (see "TUOL" post 11/19/10). Halifax Media Holdings purportedly is eying Freedom's Florida and California publications, which include The (Panama City) News Herald and The Huntington Beach Wave, while Philadelphia-based Versa Capital Management, LLC has expressed interest in Freedom's holdings in the Midwest, which include The Alton (Ill.) Telegraph, according to the post.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times claims potential purchasers include Times parent Tribune Co., MediaNewsGroup, Inc., and a couple of Los Angeles-based private equity firms, Platinum Equity and Gores Group.

Freedom is mum on negotiations for an ownership change. Investment groups Alden Global Capital, Luxor Capital Group and Angelo, Gordon & Co. have been at the helm since Freedom threw off the shackles of bankruptcy.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Censorship on the Menu at New Delhi Trial of Facebook and Google

The Rashtrapati Bhawan which is the residence ...Image via WikipediaFreedom of expression lovers have turned their attention to New Delhi's Patiala House where social media leviathans Facebook and Google went on trial Tuesday for failing to remove objectionable content from their sites.

As reported by The Wall St. Journal and Bloomberg News, an adverse ruling in the high stakes proceedings could impose heavy fines on Facebook and Google and subject executives of the social media companies to jail terms. Microsoft Corp. is also a defendant, but the focus thus far is on Google and Facebook as the repositories of the purportedly offensive content.

Indian journalist Vinay Rai initiated the criminal complaint, alleging the defendants display content that "seeks to create enmity, hatred and communal violence," according to the Journal article. Facebook and Google believe India's information technology law shields them from liability, but Delhi's High Court is not expected to address the defendants' efforts to dismiss the case against them before May. Unlike China, India has not blocked Web sites, but censorship suits are not a rarity, but are a hindrance to social media companies' business operations.

According to reports, fewer than 10 percent of India's 1.2 billion citizens are online. Facebook monthly users in India total roughly 46 million, while Google estimates reaching 300 million Web users in India by 2014. Bloomberg reports that Google has taken down most of the material about which Rai complained.

Facebook and Google previously pulled  purportedly religiously offensive content from their sites that upset Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasm (see "TUOL" post 2/7/12).
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alternative Weekly Chicago Reader on the Block

Chicago Reader coverImage via WikipediaThe Chicago Reader, the alternative weekly launched in 1971 by Carleton College grads and retrieved from the bankruptcy heap for $5 million in 2009 by the Atalaya Capital Management, L.P. New York hedge fund, is for sale.

Stories in Crain's Chicago Business and The Chicago Tribune report that Texas-based Bulkey Capital L.P. is advising Atalaya regarding the unloading of the Reader, which distributes about 90,000 copies weekly through bars, restaurants, retail outlets and newspaper boxes. Potential buyers include the Phoenix-based Village Voice Media Holdings LLC and The Chicago Sun Times, which itself emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 and was bought this year by Wrapports LLC (see "TUOL" post 12/21/11).

Atalaya also owns the Washington City Paper and Creative Loafing Atlanta weeklies, by virtue of the hedge fund acquirinq the bankrupt Florida company Creative Loafing Inc in 2009. Bulkey contends the Reader is operating in the black nowadays, though distribution of the 41-year-old weekly is down 40,000 copies from four years ago.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Mashable in CNN's Sites?

English: logo as of late 2008Image via WikipediaWolf Blitzer, who loves holograms and other high tech toys at his disposal as he anchors CNN's political primary coverage, must be giddy at the Reuters-reported rumor that the Time Warner-owned cable network may dole out more than $200 million to acquire social media news aggregator Mashable.

Founded in Scotland by Pete Cashmore in July 2005, Mashable covers digital culture, technology and social media and purports to attract 50 million page views monthly. CNN, which the Reuters article notes acquired the iPad news application Zite last August, is eager to boost its social media presence.

Neither company would confirm the possible acquisition.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Break!

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 26, 2003) - Aerial vie...Image via WikipediaThe tireless staff of the Unruly of Law is headed to Washington, DC to try to persuade some more incumbents not to seek re-election.

"TUOL" will resume posting on March 13. Until then, don't read any other blogs or accept candy from strangers.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Canadian Soccer Writer Can't Kick--Loses Column Because of Plagiarism

The Gazette (Montreal)Image via WikipediaFifteen-year veteran Montreal Gazette soccer writer Paul Carbray lost his column this week after the daily's review of his writings over two months uncovered three instances of plagiarism, the Web site reports.

The paper apologized to readers in a March 5 Editor's Note. Carbray's columnist page has been removed from the Gazette's Web site.
Enhanced by Zemanta

High Court: U.K. Tabloid Defamed Man Branded 'Sex Offender'

Death of Baby PImage via WikipediaBritish Sunday tabloid, the People, has been ordered to shell out 75,000 pounds ($117,941) to a man it erroneously alleged had raped a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s, The Guardian reported.

High Court Mr. Justice (David) Bean halved his originally intended damages award on Monday because the People publisher Mirror Group Newspapers promptly retracted the accusation and apologized for alleging the natural father of Baby P was a sex offender. Baby P's injury-riddled, bloody body was discovered in August 2007, in his mother's home, according to The Guardian article.

The plaintiff, whose name was withheld for legal reasons, was separated from the toddler's mother. The tabloid leveled its accusation against the plaintiff in a September 19, 2010, article entitled "Tortured to death as mum turned a blind eye."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, March 5, 2012

Internet Defendants Dodge Liability in 'Sex Toy' Defamation Case

Seal of the U.S. District Court of OregonImage via Wikipedia
In Kanal V. Gaston v. Facebook, Inc., Maria Raquel Rivas et al. (Case No. 3:12-cv-0063), the United States District Court for the District of Oregon last week tossed defamation claims against Facebook, Google and Lexis-Nexis arising from the plaintiff's dispute against the mother of his child and his former employer that involves a missing sex toy.

Now that we have your attention, the litigious, unemployed, asset-free Gaston  filed multiple lawsuits principally targeting Rivas, a former coworker at Stamford Financial Group with whom he had a child, and the Harris County (Texas) District Attorney's Office, for whom he worked from 2007-2011. He alleged he was sexually harassed by the DA's office during an office party and that his ex-employer burglarized his vehicle and threatened him, all over his refusal to return a sex toy that is not further identified in the complaint.  Gaston further claimed that Rivas threatened to release a newspaper article and personal information about him that would depict him as "crazy and a trouble maker."

What does all this have to do with social media giant Facebook, A-list Internet search engine Google, and computer-assisted legal research maven Lexis-Nexis, readers may wonder? Well, Gaston alleges Facebook gave Rivas access to spread purported lies about him on the Internet, while Google and Lexis-Nexis purportedly conspired with Rivas and the DA's office to retaliate against him by publishing allegedly defamatory statements, that's what ("TUOL" isn't fooled, and knows readers haven't gotten past the missing sex toy to contemplate the legal ramifications of the case).

In mercifully allowing the Internet defendants out of the case, the district court cited Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA") that shields Internet Service Providers from liability arising from content created by third parties. The court held that Google, Lexis-Nexis and Facebook are all Internet Service Providers, as defined  by CDA Sec.230(f)(2) as: "any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions." 

The decision marks the first time Lexis-Nexis has benefited from the immunity offered by CDA Sec. 230(c), noted the always informative Eric Goldman Technology & Marketing Law Blog. It appears Gaston won't be tapping any social media deep pockets for dough (dill or otherwise).

Enhanced by Zemanta