Legal Threats Blog

Some Thoughts on the Phoenix New Times Arrests

There's been extensive coverage (here, here, here, and here, to start) of the arrest and subsequent dismissal of charges against Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, the founders of the Phoenix New Times, a print newspaper that also publishes on its website. I'll add my voice to the chorus in order to elaborate on some of the legal issues at stake.

The facts are as follows: Starting in July 2004, the Phoenix New Times published a number of articles critical of Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. In one article published on its website in 2004, the newspaper disclosed Arpaio's home address as part of a story raising questions about his real estate holdings. The address was available in public records on the County Recorder and State Corporation Commission websites.

Authorities in Maricopa County began a criminal investigation of the newspaper for violation of section 13-2401 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, which makes it a felony to

knowingly make available on the world wide web the personal information of a peace officer, justice, judge, commissioner, public defender or prosecutor if the dissemination of the personal information poses an imminent and serious threat to the peace officer's, justice's, judge's, commissioner's, public defender's or prosecutor's safety or the safety of that person's immediate family and the threat is reasonably apparent to the person making the information available on the world wide web to be serious and imminent.
Notice that the statute only applies to publication on the Internet, not to print publications. The New Times filed a lawsuit in federal court in Arizona seeking a declaration that section 13-2401 violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and an injunction barring Maricopa County law enforcement officials from investigating or prosecuting the newspaper for violation of the statute.

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Chilly Weekend: Black Friday Prequel and Public Domain Music Scores

If it's fall, these must be cease-and-desists for Black Friday ads. This year, they seem to be coming earlier than ever, as Wal-Mart sends pre-notifications against future posting. I put my analysis into a Chilling Effects Weather Report

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Co-Blogging and Cease-and-Desist Letters

Mike Madison published a thoughtful and thought-provoking post the other day on his madisonian.net blog about the effect that a cease-and-desist letter can have on a collaborative blogging (or "co-blogging") relationship. Madison publishes on a number of blogs, one of which is Blog-Lebo, which covers matters of local interest in Mt.

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Copyright Misuse and Cease-and-Desist Letters

William Patry has an excellent post today called "Misuse via Cease & Desist Letters." It discusses the recent trend of lawyers asserting copyright in cease-and-desist letters in an effort to prevent posting of those letters on the Internet.

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School Forced to Defend Removal of Student Posters Referencing Website Containing Links to Violent Videos

Last week a Massachusetts district court rejected a school district's effort to dismiss a novel student speech case, Bowler v. Town of Hudson, in which school administrators removed the Hudson High School Conservative Club's posters advertising its first meeting because the posters contained the website address for the club's national organization, which in turn contained a link to graphic videos on another site that depicted beheadings in Iraq.

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Libel Threat Brings Down Blogs in UK

Robin Hamman noted yesterday that a number of UK bloggers had their blogs taken down by their ISP following threats of legal action by Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov. According to Hamman:

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Texas Judge Orders Discovery of Anonymous Blogger's Identity

A recent case from Texas highlights the difficulty of identifying the correct legal standard for determining when a court should order disclosure of the identity of an anonymous person engaging in speech on the Internet. In June 2007, a subsidiary of Essent Healthcare, Inc. filed suit in Texas state court against an anonymous blogger and an undefined number of anonymous posters to his blog.

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Volkswagen Subpoenas YouTube for Identity of User Who Posted Nazi-Themed Video

In late August, Volkswagen obtained a subpoena from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (Case No.3:07-MC-80213) requiring YouTube to disclose the identity of an anonymous YouTube user who posted a Nazi-themed parody of a Volkswagen commercial. The video has apparently been removed from YouTube and is no longer available.

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Creationist-Atheist Brouhaha Over DMCA Takedown Notices

Ars Technica reports that Creation Science Evangelism (CSE), a creationist group founded by Kent Hovind (who is currently in prison for violations of federal tax law), recently sent a raft of questionable DMCA takedown notices to YouTube complaining that various user-posted videos infringed its copyrights in videos of its seminars.

Among those users whose videos were taken down was the Rational Response Squad (RRS), a group of atheists dedicated to "fighting to free humanity from the mind disorder known as theism." Apparently, the videos flagged for removal were all critical of CSE, and some consisted of expression entirely original to the YouTube poster. Other videos used portions of CSE's own videos to make critical commentary about the organization. When its videos were removed, RRS unleashed a firestorm of criticism, threatening to sue CSE for abusing the DMCA's notice-and-takedown provisions and even contacting the prosecuting attorney in Hovind's tax case to inform her of CSE's conduct. Others have joined in the mix (here, here, and here). It appears that YouTube canceled RRS's entire account for a time (the rationale for doing so is not clear), but later reinstated it.

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