Blogs

A New Leistungsschutzrecht? Say It's Nicht So!

It's tough being a publisher these days.  Of course, no one is having much fun in the current economic downturn, but publishers were up against it even before the slowdown.  Circulations have been down across the board for years now, which in turn has slashed the advertising revenues that print publications have always relied upon to survive.  It's just a bad time to be publishing newspapers and magazines, at least while using the classical publishing business model.

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Miami Herald v. Bill Cooke d.b.a. Random Pixels

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

08/20/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Random Pixels Blog, Bill Cooke (owner)

Type of Party: 

Media Company

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On August 20, 2009, counsel for the Miami Herald sent a cease and desist letter to Bill Cooke, the blogger behind Random Pixels, accusing him of copyright infringement.  The Herald alleged that Random Pixels was reproducing entire articles and large size pictures from the newspaper on the blog. The cease and desist letter requested that Cooke remove any full-length articles, and limit all photo reproductions to smaller thumbnail sizes.

The blogger responded to the Herald's claims by asserting that the articles he copied are about 20 years old and hence "historic artifacts." He also noted that the pictures he used have been reduced substantially from their original size, although not to a thumbnail size.  Cooke has so far refused to comply with the Herald's demands.

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1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Stylianou, Oct/09

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Think Twice Before You Dust Off Those Mix Tapes

Digital technologies have allowed people to share music in unprecedented ways, and earlier this week recording artists, music industry leaders, and policymakers gathered at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. for the Future of Music Policy Summit sponsored by the Future of Music Coalition to talk about their impact on the music community.

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New FTC Rules Aim to Kill the Buzz on Blogs

On October 5, the Federal Trade Commission issued new guidelines (large pdf) on advertising involving endorsements and testimonials.

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Senate Cuts Citizen Bloggers From Federal Shield Bill

For citizen journalists, the federal shield law front was looking good for a while.  Although the House of Representatives version of the bill, passed in April, only offered a shield to professional bloggers, the Senate version didn't differentiate between the pros and the amateurs.  So there was hope that amateur journalists might actually, eventually, get its protection.

No longer though.

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Weight Watchers from Hell – Iran’s New Method for Slimming Tortured Bloggers

A little while back, I wrote about the Iranian persecution of bloggers and opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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'Skanky' Blogging, Anonymity and What's Right

Here we go again -- a new attack on anonymous speech, misusing the facts ripped from the current headlines about a case of one person's slimy online attacks on another.

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Quest Diagnostics v. Mercola

Date: 

05/29/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Joseph Mercola

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court, District of New Jersey

Case Number: 

09-CV-2632

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Quest Diagnostics, a medical diagnostic testing company, sued Joseph Mercola, who runs the Natural Health Center along with a couple of related websites, over articles critical of Quest that were allegedly published by Mercola on one of his websites. 

Quest alleged that that the articles contained false and defamatory information, stating that its tests are "inaccurate and unreliable" and have "caused some dialysis patients to undergo unnecessary surgery," while advocating on behalf of LabCorp, one of Quest's competitors.  (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12, 14-15.)  Advertisements for Mercola's products and services also allegedly appeared in close proximity to the articles.  (Compl. ¶ 12.)  Based on user comments posted to Mercola's articles, Quest claimed that the articles have deceived consumers and caused Quest significant harm.  (Compl. ¶ 13.) 

According to the Complaint, Quest had previously asked Mercola to remove an article he published in January 2009 that Quest claimed was "false and misleading."  Mercola allegedly agreed to take down the offending article and "refrain from making false and misleading statements regarding Quest Diagnostics, Inc."  (Compl. ¶ 16.)  Quest alleged that the articles that were at issue in this lawsuit violated this agreement.  

Quest brought claims of unfair competition under both the federal Lanham Act and New Jersey state statutes, defamation, trade libel, and breach of contract.  Quest sought money damages, attorneys' fees and costs, as well as a permanent injunction requiring Mercola to remove "all false and misleading statements regarding Quest Diagnostics from any publication or on-line medium under [Mercola's] direction, custody or control," post a retraction, and refrain from making any false or misleading statements regarding Quest.

On July 31, 2009, Quest voluntarily dismissed its claims.  All posts regarding Quest Diagnostics appear to have been removed from the mercola.com website.

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Priority: 

1-High

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CMLP Notes: 

08/03/2009 - LB editing

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Office of Dispute Resolution v. Stengle

Date: 

06/30/2006

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Linda J. Stengle

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

4:06-cv-1913

Legal Counsel: 

Jana R. Barnett

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Description: 

Linda Stengle was a special education due process hearing officer from July 1998 through June 2006, working for the Pennsylvania Office of Dispute Resolution on consecutive one-year contracts.  In June 2006, her contract was not renewed because of her blogging activity.  On her blog, Stengle discussed issues surrounding children with disabilities and apparently sometimes touched upon the topics of her hearings. 

Stengle subsequently filed a lawsuit against several Pennsylvania agencies and officials claiming that they violated her First Amendment rights by choosing not to reappoint her as a hearing officer because of her blogging. The court ultimately dismissed Stengle's First Amendment claims, finding that the government's interest in ensuring an impartial dispute resolution system outweighed Stengle's First Amendment interest.

CMLP Notes: 

Decision at 2009 WL 1138119, no image just yet

07/28/2009 - LB editing

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Priority: 

1-High

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Glass v. Doe d/b/a pogowasright.org

Date: 

07/30/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jane Doe d/b/a pogowasright.org

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

U.S. District Court, Central District of California

Case Number: 

CV09-05648 CBM (FFMx)

Legal Counsel: 

Gregory Alan Rutchik; Colette Vogele

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Description: 

Jane Doe, an anonymous blogger and author of the website Pogo Was Right: Privacy News from Around the World, filed suit in the Central District of California against Lillian Glass, Ph.D. The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that (1) Doe is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from liability for postings made by anonymous third parties in the website's forums, and (2) that certain comments made by Doe on the blog do not defame Dr. Glass.

The case arises from a series of posts by Doe on the Pogo Was Right website relating to the mental health problems experienced by Britney Spears and the resulting media coverage. Dr. Glass, a "body language expert," had appeared on CNN's Showbiz Tonight and on CNN's Primetime Live with Erica Hill to discuss Ms. Spears' behavior and to offer a potential diagnosis of Ms. Spears as suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. In response, Doe authored a series of posts criticizing Dr. Glass' comments and raising concerns about Ms. Spears' privacy and patient confidentiality.

On June 18, 2009, an attorney for Dr. Glass wrote to Doe, asserting that certain comments by Doe and an anonymous forum poster "violated the privacy rights and other rights" of Dr. Glass; were "false and defamatory in nature, and [were] designed to embarrass and hold my client up to ridicule"; and "incited persons with such propensities and have called for Dr. Glass' death." (The latter in reference to the following from one of Doe's posts:  "'Dr. Phil' catches some flak and dishes some out A complaint filed about Dr. Phil -- but is it wellfounded? People who live in Glass psychology houses shouldn't throw stones. They should be stoned. Dr.
Lillian Glass backpedals, but is it too little, too late?") The letter demanded that Doe remove all references to Dr. Glass from her posts.

Dr. Glass' attorney subsequently sent an email once again threatening to sue if Doe did not remove the references to Dr. Glass from the webiste. The email also stated: "I should also mention to you that if a suit is filed against you, then there will be a public record of your identity and of your capacity as the blogger of this 'pogowasright.org' and other websites. Since you have gone to such great lengths to hide your identity improperly, I think this should also be a concern of yours." Doe filed the complaint for a declaratory judgment ten days after receipt of this email.

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1-High

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Threat Source: 

Westlaw Alert

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The Show Must Go On: Iran’s Mass Trial and its Losing War on Bloggers

Iran’s campaign to protect the results of the June 12 double-plus de

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Sethi v. TechCrunch

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

06/28/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

TechCrunch; Michael Arrington

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

International

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On February 19, 2009, lawyers representing Sam Sethi, a former employee of TechCrunch and former CEO of now-defunct BlogNation, sent a letter to TechCrunch co-founder Michael Arrington threatening suit "within the jurisdiction of the High Court of England and Wales, at the Royal Courts of Justice (in London, UK)" for libel. 

The basis for the suit is a series of allegedly defamatory posts on CrunchNotes (the TechCrunch blog) which stated, according to the letter, that:

  • "[S]ome of [Sethi's] former writers have accused him of fraud and other crimes."
  • Sethi "had threatened to kill" one of his former business associates.
  • Sethi was "involved in '. . . usury, fraud even'" (quoting from a blog post by Oliver Starr).
  • Sethi is "predisposed to making threats of violence and making others feel threatened by him and being thoroughly deceitful."

Sethi is also suing based upon the "posting [of] a confidential (and stolen) termsheet from [BlogNations'] VC funders," which, according to Sethi's lawyers, "seriously jeopardize[d]" the BlogNation's funding.  Sethi is asking TechCrunch to remove all posts that include allegedly false accusations about him, publish an apology, undertake "not to repeat the same or similar libels again," pay his legal costs, and donate damages to a charity or "towards fees of those unpaid editors at Blognation who had remained faithful to the end."

Michael Arrington replied to Sethi's letter through his lawyers, asserting that TechCrunch is "not susceptible to the jurisdiction of English courts" and that an English judgment would not be recognized or enforced by US courts.  He also provided evidence, mostly in the form of blog posts and comments by others, that he believes supports the veracity of the statements made in the CrunchNotes posts at issue.  TechCrunch has also offered Sethi the opportunity to submit a reply "concerning the challenged statements" that would be posted "with equal prominence to [TechCrunch's] previous posts about him."

According to TechCrunch, a lawsuit was filed on June 28, 2009. Based on third party reports, the lawsuit appears to have been filed in the United Kingdom.

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CMLP Notes: 

07/07/2009 - LB editing; cannot find court information or documents

Priority: 

1-High

Complaints at Teatime! The Shaw-Skinner Lawsuit and the Futility of Legal Duels

Pistols at Dawn!” has become “Subpoenas at Noon!” or “Complaints at Teatime!” Today’s legal duelists, armed with dubious lawsuits charging defamation, are B.F. Shaw Printing, the parent company of the Northwest Herald, and Cal Skinner, a blogger.

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New Jersey Court Says Blogger Shellee Hale Not Protected By Shield Law

In a June 30 decision, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Louis Locascio ruled that Shellee Hale, a blogger, private investigator, and "life coach," could not invoke New Jersey's journalist shield law to protect the identity of her sources in connection with postings she

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Palin Threatens to Sue Blogger for Publishing Rumors of Investigation, Ensures Rumors Will Get Wide Attention

Exercising one of the freedoms Americans celebrate on Independence Day -- the freedom to threaten an ill-conceived lawsuit -- Alaska Governor Sarah Palin directed her lawyer to publish an open letter to Shannyn Moore, an Alaska blogger, radio personality, Huffington Post contributor, and frequent guest on MSNBC, threatening to file a defam

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Palin v. Moore

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

07/04/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Shannyn Moore; Huffington Post, MSNBC; New York Times; and The Washington Post

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Media Company

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Broadcast
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On July 4, 2009, an attorney for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin sent an open letter to Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and other news organizations threatening to file defamation lawsuits if they claimed "as 'fact' that Governor Palin resigned because she is 'under federal investigation' for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing." 

Attorney Thomas Van Flein states in the letter:

To the extent several websites, most notably liberal Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, are now claiming as "fact" that Governor Palin resigned because she is "under federal investigation" for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing, we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation. This is to provide notice to Ms. Moore, and those who re-publish the defamation, such as Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post, that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law. 

According to Politico, neither the New York Times nor The Washington Post "made any mention of the embezzlement rumors in their Saturday editions, but sources close to Palin consider the letter a warning shot to stay away from the topic."

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Priority: 

1-High

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Blog Buzzer Sounds; FTC Calls Foul

UPDATE: After making some changes from the proposal discussed below, the FTC published the new regulations in the Federal Register on Oct. 5, 2009, with the new rules scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 1.  More details here.

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HIMSS v. PedSource

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

02/25/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Chilmark Research; Physician's Computer Company

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Organization

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Lawyers from the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS), a health care industry trade group, sent letters to two bloggers demanding that they remove allegedly offensive and defamatory user comments, provide any information that may help in the identification of the comment posters, and preserve all records relating to the posters.  Specifically, the letters concern a comment by “Rocky Ostrand” on Chip Hart's blog, “Confessions of a Pediatric Practice Consultant,” which is hosted at pedsource.com, a service provided by Physician's Computer Company (PCC); and comments by “Calvin Jablonski” on the blog of Chilmark Research.

Both bloggers have posted responses to the letters, refusing to remove the allegely defamatory comments or provide information to aid in identifying the potentially pseudonymous commenters.  Both have, however, offered to post any response to the comments which HIMSS may wish to make.  At this point, it does not appear that HIMSS has taken either blogger up on this offer.

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Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Legal Blog Watch

LB - 06/12/2009

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