Israel

France v. Weiler

Date: 

09/28/2008

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Joseph Weiler

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

International

Court Name: 

Paris Criminal Tribunal

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In September 2008, New York University law professor Joseph Weiler was summoned to appear before a French Examining Judge in connection with a complaint of alleged criminal libel made by Dr. Karin Calvo-Goller, a senior lecturer at the Academic Centre of Law and Business in Israel.  Professor Weiler will appear for trial before the Paris Criminal Tribunal in June 2010.

Professor Weiler is the editor in chief of the European Journal of International Law and the affiliated book review sites, Global Law Books and European Law Books. In 2007, Global Law Books published a book review written by Professor Thomas Weigend, Director of the Cologne Institute of Foreign and International Criminal Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cologne.  Professor Weigend reviewed Dr. Calvo-Goller's book, The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court. ICTY and ICTR Precedents, and criticized it as an "exercise in rehashing the existing legal set-up" and "unproductive," among other things. 

In June 2007, Dr. Calvo-Goller wrote to Professor Weiler in his capacity as editor of Global Law Books, requesting that he remove Professor Weigend's review from the site. Her letter detailed several perceived factual inaccuracies in the review, claiming that it went "beyond the expression of an opinion, fair comment and criticism" and contained "false factual statements which the author of the review, a professor of criminal law, could not reasonably believe to be true." It also claimed that "[t]he review is an indirect insult to former ICTY and actual ICC officials, defense counsel of the ICTY and ICTR, who took the time to read and comment on previous drafts of the book."

In a response to Dr. Calvo-Goller, Professor Weiler declined to remove the review, expressing his sympathy for Dr. Calvo-Goller's hurt feelings, but also pointing out the unorthodox character of the request:

 I have seen all manner of reviews and from time to time received letters from unhappy authors. In these long years of experience I have never received a letter such as yours both in content and tone. It departs from what in my view are considered common conventions of academic discourse and academic publication.

. . . 

It is a very extreme request to ask for a critical review to be removed. I could imagine acceding to such a request only in most egregious circumstances of, say, bad faith, conflict of interest etc. In reviewing a complaint such as yours the task of the editor is not to engage in a de novo review, but to assess whether the review falls into one of those extreme categories of egregious unreasonableness.

After noting Professor Weigend's distinguished professional credentials and addressing each specific factual/substantive contention in turn, Professor Weiler concluded that removing the review was not justified:

My conclusion from this preliminary enquiry is that the heavy burden needed in my eyes to suppress a book review has not been met. In fact not even a prima facie case has been made. I found nothing to impugn the integrity or professionalism of the reviewer and, independently of whether or not I share his opinions or conclusions on your book, I must decline your request to suppress the book review by removing it from the site. 

Professor Weiler also explained that he would forward Dr. Calvo-Goller's comments to Professor Weigend and would consider a request by Professor Weigend, if any, to change the review. Professor Weiler also pointed out the comment feature on the website and suggested that it would be "perfectly in order for you to write a comment which, after editorial approval, could be posted on the website and seen by anyone who reads the review."

Professor Weigend declined to make any changes, Dr. Calvo-Goller posted no comment, and Professor Weiler stood by Professor Weigend's decision.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Universal Communication Systems v. Lycos

Date: 

07/02/2004

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Universal Communication Systems, Inc.; Michael Zwebner

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Lycos, Inc.; Terra Networks, S.A.; Roberto Villasenor; John Does (1-8)

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida; United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts; United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Case Number: 

1:04-cv-21618 (first Fla. action), 1:05-cv-20149 (second Fla. action), 1:05-cv-10435 (first Mass. action), 1:05-cv-11172 (second Mass. action); 06-1826 (appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

Daniel Cloherty, David Bunis, Rachel Zoob-Hill (Dwyer & Collora) (for Lycos); Thomas Rohback, James Reardon (LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae) (Terra Networks)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Injunction Denied

Description: 

Universal Communication Systems ("UCS") and its CEO, Michael Zwebner, sued Lycos, its Spanish parent company Terra Networks, and several anonymous users of Lycos's Raging Bull forum after the anonymous users created a forum about UCS and criticized the company there. UCS sought an injunction requiring Lycos to delete the UCS forum and to prevent it from ever being recreated.

In its original complaint, filed in federal court in Florida, UCS invoked claims of consumer fraud under Massachusetts law, dilution of trade name under Florida law, and a federal "cyberstalking" statute. Lycos moved to dismiss UCS's claims or, alternatively, to transfer the case to Massachusetts federal court.  UCS moved for a preliminary injunction, which the court denied.  UCS amended and resubmitted its motion for a preliminary injunction.

Before ruling on the motions before it, the court stayed discovery in the case.  UCS, however, initiated a new, second action in Florida federal court, which made largely identical claims. Lycos moved to consolidate the two cases.  The court instead granted Lycos' earlier motion to transfer the venue of the first action to Massachusetts.  The court hearing the second action soon transferred it to Massachusetts as well, and the Massachusetts court consolidated the two cases. 

At this point, UCS's complaint alleged four causes of action: (1) violation of Florida securities laws; (2) violation of a federal criminal statute prohibiting harassing communications (47 U.S.C. § 223); (3) trademark dilution under Florida law; and (4) violation of a Florida "cyberstalking" statute. In Massachusetts, Lycos moved to dismiss the claims against it, arguing that it was protected from liability for third party content under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA 230"). Terra also moved to dismiss, claiming that the Massachusetts federal court had no jurisdiction over it, but even if it did, UCS had not shown Terra liable for the acts of its subsidiary.

The Massachusetts district court granted both motions, ruling that CDA 230 barred the Florida securities and cyberstalking claims, that the Florida dilution claim was a defamation claim in disguise and thus also barred by CDA 230, and that 47 U.S.C. § 223 did not create a private cause of action.

UCS moved to file an amended complaint against Lycos and Terra, but the court denied the motion, ruling that the defendants would still be immune from the claims in the proposed amended complaint.  The court, however, did allow UCS to add the anonymous forum users to the lawsuit.  UCS filed its amended complaint with claims of fraud against the users, and moved for entry of separate and final judgment, so that it might withdraw its claims against Lycos and Terra while retaining its new claims against the anonymous posters.  One of the anonymous posters, Roberto Villasenor, answered UCS's complaint and filed counterclaims against UCS, as well as crossclaims against the other posters. The Massachusetts court denied UCS's motion for entry of separate and final judgment, finding that it lacked jurisdiction over Villasenor and the other anonymous posters.

UCS appealed these decisions to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  The First Circuit affirmed the lower courts rulings and dismissed the case.  It decided that CDA 230 granted immunity to Lycos and Terra on the Florida securities and cyberstalking claims.  It also affirmed that 47 U.S.C. § 223 did not create and private cause of action and that use of UCS's name in the Raging Bull forum did not create trademark liability. Finally, it agreed that, without the claims against Lycos and Terra, the court lacked jurisdiction to hear UCS's claims against the anonymous users.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Warner Bros. Records v. Music2Nite

Date: 

10/20/2007

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Music2Nite; Google Inc. (Blogger)

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

Warner Bros. Records sent a cease and desist letter (via Blogger) to Music2Nite, a music blog that had posted materials related to recording artist Madonna. The demand letter not only specified that the blog owner remove a specific post -- Music2Nite primarily posts YouTube videos and links to MP3s of current artists' work or live performances -- it also required Music2Nite to remove all "links, references, and/or artwork associated with Madonna."

The offending post seems to have been removed from the Music2Nite site, but other posts and links to materials related to Madonna remain on the site (see here and here).

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Chilling Effects via RSS

 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

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