Defamation

WRNN-TV v. Does

Date: 

12/01/2000

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Does 1-10; Yahoo!, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk at Stamford, Connecticut

Case Number: 

CV-00-0181990S

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy, Allison Zieve, Alan B. Morrison

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

An anonymous Internet user ("webmaster") created the website "RNN Sucks" and a related Yahoo! message board in order to critize New York television station WRNN-TV. A number of anonymous posters used the message board to criticize WRNN.

WRNN filed suit against Yahoo! and 10 anonymous posters, claiming libel and revelation of confidential business information. At the outset of litigation, the station filed a motion to compel Yahoo! to disclose the identities of the anonymous posters (including "webmaster"). The court initially denied the motion to compel discovery, but reversed itself when WRNN noted that Yahoo! had not opposed the motion. Yahoo! withheld the identifying information to allow the anonymous parties an opportunity to file a motion to quash.

At this point in the litigation, the parties settled out of court. Defendant "webmaster" agreed as part of the settlement to take down the site and forum and to refrain from putting them back online in the future. "Webmaster" also agreed to refrain from commenting about the settlement. In exchange, WRNN agreed to dismiss the lawsuit as to all defendants.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: get more precise date

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Essent v. Doe: Anonymous Blogger Wins on Appeal

The anonymous blogger who runs "The-Paris-site" will remain anonymous, at least for now. Yesterday, a Texas appellate court ordered the trial court to vacate its previous order compelling the blogger's ISP to reveal his name and address to Essent Healthcare, Inc. (For background on the case, see our database entry, Essent v.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

'DontDateHim' Lawyer Todd Hollis Back in Court With Second Lawsuit Against Dating Advice Site

Pittsburgh lawyer Todd Hollis is back in court with a second lawsuit against the dating advice site Don'tDateHimGirl.com, whose users accused him of infidelity and infecting women with herpes. Hollis had previously filed a defamation lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court against the owner of the site back in June 2006.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Hollis v. Cunningham

Date: 

11/29/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Tasha C. Cunningham, Individually formerly known as Tasha C. Joseph; The Cavelle Company as owner and operator doing business as Dontdatehimgirl.com; Empress Motion Pictures; TJC Media Group

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Case Number: 

1:07-cv-23112-CMA

Legal Counsel: 

James C. Cunningham, Jr.

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Todd Hollis objected to the information users posted about him on DontDateHimGirl.com, a website that allows women to post about men and warn other women about them. In May 2006, Mr. Hollis sued Tasha Joseph/Cunningham, the operator of the website, alleging defamation in Pennsylvania state court, after she refused to remove the posts.

The Pennsylvania court dismissed the action for lack of personal jurisdiction over Joseph/Cunningham, a resident of Florida.

On November 29, 2007, Hollis filed a second lawsuit in federal court in Florida, alleging defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false light invasion of privacy. According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Tasha Joseph/Cunningham issued the following statement in response to the new lawsuit:

DontDateHimGirl.com's mission is to empower women with the informationand connections that help them make better life decisions. DDHG.com is fully protected [from defamation lawsuits] by the Communication Decency Act. ... Any attack or lawsuit put forth regarding DDHG.com will be dealt with strongly, swiftly and in a manner which will seek to end this type of erroneous, wasteful litigation.
Update:

03/31/2008: Cunningham answered Hollis' complaint and filed a counterclaim against Hollis for defamation. The defamation claim arose from an telecopier document allegedly sent by an organization related to Hollis that stated as fact that Cunningham had been convicted of grand theft by the State of Florida.

04/14/2008: Defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment. The motion argued that defendants were entitled to summary judgment on several of plaintiff's claims because certain examples of the disputed content were true and certain examples were entitled to protection under CDA 230.

03/2008 through 05/2008: Plaintiff and defendants filed a series of motions disputing discovery issues. These primarily concern defendants' requests for information from plaintiff and plaintiffs requests to depose individuals regarding defendants' reputation.

05/15/2008: Court dismissed Cunningham's counterclaim at Cunningham's request and granted Cunningham's request for protective orders that would prevent plaintiff from deposing certain individuals on the issue of defendants' reputation.

06/20/2008: The case has been dismissed with prejudice by stipulation of both parties. Details of the settlement are not yet available.

 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Probably worth trying to find out the terms of the settlement. {MCS}

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Best Van Lines v. Walker

Date: 

08/29/2003

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Best Van Lines, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Tim Walker

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Case Number: 

1:03CV06585 (district court); 04-3924-CV (appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

Slade Metcalf (Amicus curiae)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Best Van Lines sued Tim Walker, an Iowa resident, for defamation in federal District Court in New York. According to an appellate decision in the case, Walker posted comments about Best Van Lines on his website, MovingScam.com, asserting that the company operated without the required insurance and was performing household moves without legal authorization.

Walker moved to dismiss the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds. The district court granted the motion, reasoning that New York's "long-arm" statute did not give the court jurisdiction over Walker. Best Van Lines appealed, and the Second Circuit affirmed, ruling that Walker's web postings were insufficient to establish that he "transacted business" in New York or "purposely availed" himself of the privilege of conducting activities in New York.

This is considered a landmark case concerning internet-based jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Dendrite International v. Does

Date: 

05/24/2000

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Dendrite International, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Does 1-14

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division; Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

Case Number: 

MRS C-129-00 (Superior Court); A-2774-00T3 (Appellate)

Legal Counsel: 

Eugene G. Reynolds, Wacks, Mullen & Kartzman LLC (Defendant/Respondent John Doe No. 3); Paul Alan Levy, Public Citizen (Amici Curiae); J. S. Salyer, ACLU (Amici Curiae)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Dendrite International, a company that developed and serviced software for the pharmaceutical industry, brought a John Doe lawsuit in New Jersey state court against fourteen unnamed defendants for critical messages they posted on Yahoo! message boards. Dendrite claimed the messages were defamatory and revealed trade secrets, and they sought permission from the court to take discovery from Yahoo regarding the identity of certain of the anonymous posters.

The trial court allowed Dendrite to conduct limited discovery to find out the identities of John Does 1 and 2, who were current or former employees of the company, but rejected its request for an order compelling Yahoo to identify John Doe 3.

Dendrite appealed, and the New Jersey appellate court affirmed the lower court's ruling. In its opinion, the court set out guidelines for lower courts to follow when faced with a request for an order compelling an ISP to reveal the identity of an anonymous Internet poster. The court developed a five-part test: (1) the plaintiff must make efforts to notify the anonymous poster and allow a reasonable time for him/her to respond; (2) the plaintiff must identify the exact statements made by the poster; (3) the complaint must set forth a prima facie cause of action; (4) the plaintiff must bring forth sufficient evidence for each element of its claim; and (5) the court must balance the defendant's First Amendment right of anonymous free speech against the strength of the prima facie case presented and the necessity for the disclosure of the anonymous defendant's identity.

Applying the standard to the facts of the case, the appellate court held that Dendrite had failed to produce sufficient evidence for each element of its defamation claim, because it had not produced evidence of harm resulting from John Doe 3's statements.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

alison editing

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Islamic Society of Arlington, Texas v. Kaufman

Date: 

10/12/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Joe Kaufman

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

348th District Court of Tarrant County, Texas

Case Number: 

348-226855-07

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Injunction Issued

Description: 

On October 12, 2007, the Islamic Society of Arlington, Texas, and several other Islamic organizations sued Joe Kaufman for libel and intentional infiction of emotional distress in Texas state court. In addition to seeking libel damages, the plaintiffs asked the court to prevent Kaufman from threatening, harming, or inciting violence against them.

Kaufman is the chairman of Americans Against Hate, an organization that describes itself as a "civil rights organization and terrorism watchdog group." Kaufman published an article on the FrontPage Magazine website calling for a protest of "Muslim Family Day" at Six Flags Over Texas, an amusement park in Arlington, Texas. In the course of the article, Kaufman claimed that two organizations co-sponsoring the event had ties to radical Islamic groups abroad, including Al-Qaeda. Neither of the two organizations mentioned in the article sued Kaufman.

The day the lawsuit was filed, the court issued a temporary restraining order against Kaufman, enjoining him from threatening or harming anyone associated with the Muslim Family Day event. The protest at Muslim Family Day, led by Kaufman, took place without incident. Weeks later, the court granted a temporary injunction forbidding Kaufman from threatening or causing bodily injury to the plaintiffs.

Update:

6/25/2009 - The Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas reversed the trial court's denial of Kaufman's  motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment in his favor. The court found that the article was not "of and concerning" the plaintiff organizations as a matter of law. 

In deciding the appeal, the appellate court also held that Kaufman was entitled to take advantage of Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 51.014(a)(6), which allows "a member of the electronic or print media" to make an interlocutory appeal from an order denying a motion for summary judgment. The court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that Kaufman could not rely on the statute because he only published on the Internet.

7/01/09 - The Islamic Society filed a motion seeking a en banc rehearing.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Status checked on 6/5/2008, no new information (AAB)

7/6/09 - AVM added information about request for en banc rehearing, and links to discussion of legal jihad

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Patches the Beaver v. AsteroidBooty.com

Date: 

11/23/2007

Threat Type: 

Other

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

AsteroidBooty.com

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

A blog post on AsteroidBooty.com, an anonymous blog focused on "chronicles from outerspace, products that rock my world, and more," criticized the high price of children's books and contrasted the prices with the (asserted) easiness of writing the books. The post also included a link to the children's book "Patches the Beaver," making a joke about the possible sexual interpretation of the book's title. Along with this link, the post included an image of the book's cover, and a photograph of the book's author Shane Gauthier. Subsequent user comments also poked fun at the title of the book, adding comments about the author's appearance, possible sexual preferences, and his alleged lack of awareness of diversity and multiculturalism issues.

Gauthier's lawyer posted a comment on the blog threatening legal action against AsteroidBooty if the site operator did not remove the post and comments and issue a public apology. The defamation claims primarily involved content posted by the guest commentors; however, the threat stated that "[l]iability for publication of a defamatory statement extends to all those who participate in its dissemination." The comment also noted that damage awards for defamation claims can exceed $250,000.

The operator of AsteroidBooty said in another blog post that she did not receive the comment at first as it seemed to have gotten mixed in with "400+ spam comments." She instead found out about the threat when her webhost called her and sent an e-mail asking her to either remove the content or send a counter-notice that she did not believe it was defamatory.

After locating and reading the threatening comment, the operator of AsteroidBooty removed the disputed content and issued an apology on her blog, noting that "it was all in jest; so I have no problem taking it down. And most of the stuff I wrote was directed towards children’s books in general (not Shane)."

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

Caved! And the legal claims were so weak. Arg. {MCS}

User submitted via threat form

Subject Area: 

Neuwirth v. Silverstein: Court Grants Anti-SLAPP Motion in Politically Charged Online Dispute

Last week, a California state court dismissed Rachel Neuwirth's libel claim against Washington-state blogger Richard Silverstein and university professor Joel Beinin pursuant to California's anti-SLAPP statute (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16).

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

iBrattleboro Founders Move to Dismiss Libel Lawsuit Under Section 230 of Communications Decency Act

Last week, I blogged about a lawsuit filed by Effie Mayhew against Chris Grotke and Lise LePage, co-founders and owners of iBrattleboro.com, in which Mayhew claims that Grotke and LePage bear liability for a comment a user posted on the iBrattleboro site.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Neuwirth v. Silverstein

Date: 

06/29/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Richard Silverstein; Joel Beinin

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

California Superior Court, Los Angeles County; Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District

Case Number: 

SC 094441 (trial level); B205521 (appellate level)

Legal Counsel: 

Janis White; Lane Powell; Suman Chakraborty (for Silverstein); Steven J. Freeburg (for Beinin)

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

In June 2007, Rachel Neuwirth, a journalist and political commentator who espouses strongly pro-Israel views, sued Washington-state blogger Richard Silverstein and university professor Joel Beinin for libel in a California state court. On November 27, 2007, the court granted Silverstein and Beinin's motion to strike the complaint pursuant to California's anti-SLAPP statute (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16).

Neuwirth, a journalist and political commentator who espouses staunchly pro-Israel views, sued over two allegedly defamatory statements, one made by Silverstein on his blog, Tikun Olam, and the other made by Beinin on a listserv and subsequently re-published by Silverstein. In the first statement, Silverstein called Neuwirth a "Kahanist swine." The term "Kahanist" refers to a form of right-wing, religious Zionism, one of the central tenets of which is that all Arab Muslims are enemies of Israel. The Israeli Kahane Chai (Kach) party is barred from participating in Israeli elections and listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, Canada, and the European Union. Neuwirth argued that, by calling her a "Kahanist swine," Silverstein implied that she was a terrorist. The second statement was Beinin's, made on the "Alef" listserv, claiming that Neuwirth had made a death threat to him. Silverstein subsequently re-posted Beinin's statement on his blog.

In granting the motion to strike, the court determined that the anti-SLAPP statute applied because Silverstein and Beinin made their respective statements in a "public forum" and those statements related to an issue of public interest. The burden then shifted to Neuwirth to demonstrate a probability that she would prevail on her claim. The court found that Neuwirth had not met this burden, holding that she was a limited purpose public figure and noting that she had brought forth no evidence of "actual malice" for either of the two statements. With regard to Silverstein's "Kahanist swine" statement, the court further held that this was a non-actionable statement of opinion. 

Finally, the court held that Neuwirth's claim against Silverstein for re-publishing Beinin's statement was barred by CDA 230, which protects providers of interactive computer services from tort liability for publishing the statements or content of third parties.

The court awarded Beinin $1,840 in attorney's fees and indicated that Silverstein should make his claim for attorney's fees in a separate motion.  At the conclusion of the hearing in which the court delivered its decision, Neuwirth's attorney told the court that his client intended to appeal the ruling.

 

Update:

1/25/08 - Neuwirth filed a notice of appeal.

3/4/08 - The court ordered Neuwirth to pay Silverstein $7000 in attorneys fees pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute.

2/9/2009 - The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, reversed the trial court's ruling on the motion to strike, reinstating the claims against Silverstein and Beinin, except for the claim against Silverstein for re-publishing Beinin's statement.

7/19/2010 - Superior Court order denying Silverstein's motion for summary judgment, holding, inter alia, that "the law of the case doctrine requires this Court to find that Plaintiff has established the existence of libel per se."  

(NOTE: Joel Beinin is the Director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo, where one of the authors of this database entry attended graduate school.)

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Manhattan 10021 LLC v. Maloney

Date: 

09/28/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Evan Maloney

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Civil Court of the City of New York, New York County; New York Supreme Court, New York County

Case Number: 

041625 CVN 2007 (Civil Court); 113074/2007 (New York Supreme)

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Injunction Denied

Description: 

Todd Layne Cleaners of Manhattan sued Evan Maloney after he posted flyers near the store and created a gripe site at toddlaynecleanerssucks.com. On the flyers and website, Maloney allegedly stated that the dry cleaner "sucks" and "is overpriced." The complaint, filed in Civil Court of the City of New York, contained defamation and tortious interference claims.  

Maloney moved to dismiss the complaint, and, on October 12, 2007, the trial court dismissed the defamation claim because the alleged statements were "pure opinion." The court did not dismiss the tortious interference claim, however, because of allegations that Maloney had menaced customers near the store. 

Plaintiffs then moved by order to sshow cause for an order (1) transferringf the case to New York Supreme Court, New York County; (2) granting leave to amend the complaint; and (3) for a preliminary injunction prohibiting Maloney from posting or distributing flyers, maintaining or developing a website "making reference to or mentioning plaintiff," and entering or preventing persons from entering the dry cleaner's place of business.

In an order on November 7, 2008, Judge Gische of New York Supreme Court transferred the case to her court.  She rejected the dry cleaner's request for a preliminary injunction with regard to Maloney's distributing flyers and maintaining the website.  Judge Gische held that such an injunction would be an impermissible prior restraint on speech and noted that the Civil Court  had already dismissed the plaintiff's defamation claim.  However, the court granted the dry cleaner's request for a preliminary injunction barring Maloney from entering its place of business or peventing others from doing so.  

In April 2008, the court granted Todd Layne Cleaners request to amend the caption to reflect its true and complete legal name -- Manhattan 10021 LLC.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Subject Area: 

Citizen Media Law Podcast #5: Libel Suit Against iBrattleboro.com; Important Decision on Anonymity

This week, David Ardia talks about a recent lawsuit against iBrattleboro.com and Colin Rhinesmith speaks with Sam Bayard about an important decision on anonymity.

Download the MP3 (time: 8:20)

Subject Area: 

BESCR v. Goodman

Date: 

11/14/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Goodman Reporting Service; Trisha Goodman; Barry Simon; Michael Henry; Joan Burke

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court for the 16th Judicial Circuit, Kane County, Illinois

Case Number: 

07 LK 619

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

On November 14, 2007, BESCR, a court reporting service company otherwise known as Eastwood-Stein Deposition Management, and two of its principals, sued Trisha Goodman, an Oklahoma-based court reporter, and others for statements appearing on Goodman's blog, "Let's Stop Eastwood-Stein."

According to BESCR's complaint, Goodman started the blog in late September 2007 after she allegedly was not paid $2,300 by BESCR for her work. On the blog, Goodman allegedly made statements indicating that BESCR was engaging in fraudulent business practices and was about to be sued by the Illinois Attorney General's Office. She also allegedly encouraged readers to refuse to accept jobs from BESCR and to forward the statements appearing on it to other court reporters, videographers, interpreters, and technical support people.

BESCR sued Goodman for libel, interference with contracts and business opportunities, and other torts. In addition to Goodman, the plaintiffs named three other individuals as co-defendants and co-conspirators: Michael Henry, a videographer and former BESCR employee; Barry Simon, another former BESCR employee; and Joan Burke, who has "no recent relationship" with BESCR, according to the complaint. These individuals were named as defendants because of their comments on the blog and distribution of its contents (through links and forwarding) to other court reporters and potential BESCR customers.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Status checked on 6/02/08 (AAB)

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Egypt v. Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman

Date: 

11/06/2006

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Public Prosecutor, Egypt

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman, a.k.a. Kareem Amer

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

International

Court Name: 

Maharram Beik Misdemeanor Court (Alexandria, Egypt); Court of Appeal (Alexandria)

Case Number: 

Case No. 6677 of 2006

Legal Counsel: 

Gamal Abdul Aziz Eid, Rawda Ahmed Said, Ahmed Seif al-Islam

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

Egyptian law student Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman ("Kareem"), using the psuedonym Kareem Amer, posted a series of articles critizing the Islamic faith, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Al-Azhar University to his blog and websites, Modern Discussion and Copts United. He was first arrested for his posts in October 2005, at which time he was detained for 12 days and forced to surrender his books and some personal articles and writings. In March 2006, Kareem was expelled from Al-Azahar University because of his posts. (For more information on the expulsion, see the CMLP database entry, Al-Azhar University v. Abdul Kareem Nabeel.)

Al-Azhar informed the Public Prosecutor's Office in Alexandria of Kareem's writings. On November 06, 2006, Kareem was arrested. When he refused to recant, he was held in solitary confinement until he could face trial. He was charged with three basic crimes: contempt for religion (both generally and Islam in particular), defaming President Mubarak, and disrupting public order.

On Feb. 22, 2007 in Maharram Beik Court, after what reports have described as only five minutes of consideration, Kareem was was sentenced to four years in prison for his speech -- three years for contempt of religion and one year for defaming Mubarak. The charges relating to alleged disruptions of public order were dropped.

On March 12, 2007, the Court of Appeals in Alexandria upheld Kareem's conviction and four-year sentence. The court also approved a civil claim brought by a group of Egyptian lawyers seeking to fine Kareem for "insulting Islam."

Status:

Several sources, including freekareem.org, have reported that Kareem's lawyers intend to appeal the case to the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest appeals court.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Details are sketchy due to lack of available court documents. Continue to monitor on (theoretical) appeal. {MCS 09/14/07}

Status checked on 6/3/2008, no new information (AAB)

Status checked on 2/19/2009 -VAF  (no new information re: a possible appeal)

 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Al-Azhar University v. Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman

Date: 

03/14/2006

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman, a.k.a. Kareem Amer

Type of Party: 

School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

Egyptian law student Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman ("Kareem"), using the psuedonym Kareem Amer, posted a series of articles critizing the Islamic faith, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Al-Azhar University to his blog and websites, Modern Discussion and Copts United. Some of his posts critized the operations of Al-Azhar, where he was then a student, for its allegedly strict religious policies and gender discrimination. In October 2005 he was arrested and detained by Egyptian police for his postings, but he ultimately was released without criminal charge.

On March 14, 2006, Kareem was called before a discipinary panel at Al-Azhar University, Damanhour Campus. According to Kareem's blog (partially translated into English), he was accused of defaming the university and libeling the Grand Imam (the head of the Supreme Council that runs Al-Azhar). Kareem did not deny that he had written the posts and did not apologize, instead asserting a right to critize the university. Days later, Kareem was expelled from Al-Azhar.

The university submitted copies of Kareem's blog posts to the Egyptian government, which ultimately led to criminal charges being brought against him. In Feb. 2007, Kareem was sentenced to four years in prison. (For more information and continuing developments, see the CMLP database entry, Egypt v. Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suliman).

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Bonlender v. Ensey

Date: 

11/14/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Diane Ensey and Richard Ensey, a marital community

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of Washington, in and for the County of Yakima

Case Number: 

07-2-03942-1

Legal Counsel: 

Stephen Templeton Osborne

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Former Yakima City Councilman Ronald Bonlender filed a lawsuit claiming that his opponent's wife, Diane Ensey, anonymously defamed him and cast him in a false light on a blog.

The lawsuit alleges that Diane Ensey published entries on a blog under the pen name "Publius." According to court filings, in one of the blog entries, the plaintiff is referred to as "a drunk with several DUI arrests," which Bonlender claims is a false statement. The complaint further alleges that the website was taken down the day after the election, and that Richard Ensey admitted that his wife was the anonymous poster in a TV interview.  The complaint seeks general damages for emotional distress.

In January, the Enseys filed a motion for a change of venue due to extensive publicity in Yakima County.  After the judge denied the motion, the Enseys filed a motion for summary judgment.  The judge also denied that motion.  The court set a trial date for March 16, 2009.

On February 03, 2009, the parties settled the case out of court.  In exchange for dismissal of the suit, the Enseys agreed to pay money damages to Bonlender and to issue a public apology.  Bonlender has described the damages as "substantial."

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

http://dw.courts.wa.gov/index.cfm?fa=home.namesearchTerms - use this link to find any court updates on this case.

Updated 02/05/09 - MCS

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Parker v. Google

Date: 

08/18/2004

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Gordon Parker

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Google, Inc.; John Does (1-50,000)

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

2:04CV03918

Legal Counsel: 

Bart Volkmer, David Kramer, John Riley, Leo Cunningham, William Murray

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Gordon Parker sued Google in federal court in Pennsylvania in August 2004. According to court documents, Parker claimed that he published a website, "29 Reasons Not to be a Nice Guy." He alleged that an unknown Internet user copied Reason #6 and posted it on USENET, which Google then made accessible via its Google Groups service. Parker also alleged that Google defamed him by enabling users to access links to websites disparaging him using its search engine function and invaded his privacy by creating an unauthorized biography of him whenever someone "googled" his name.

The district court dismissed all of Parker's claims. It held that Parker's claim of direct copyright infringement failed because he did not allege volitional conduct on the part of Google in making the USENET posts available. The claim of contributory copyright infringement failed, according to the court, because Parker failed to show that Google had knowledge of the offending posts, and the vicarious infringement claim failed because Google did not have a direct financial interest in its user's posting of allegedly copyrighted material.

The court held that Parker's defamation, invasion of privacy, and negligence claims were defeated by CDA 230, which protects providers of interactive computer services from tort liability for publishing the statements or content of third parties, because he did not allege that Google was the "information content provider" of the offending material. His other claims were also dismissed as "futile" because the plaintiff failed to set out the basic elements of each of these claims.

The Third Circuit affirmed the decision.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Mayhew v. Dunn

Date: 

11/16/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

David Dunn; Lise LePage and Christopher Grotke d/b/a/ Musearts Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court, Windham County, Vermont

Case Number: 

580-11-07 Wmcv

Legal Counsel: 

Jim Maxwell (for LePage and Grotke), Jesse Corum IV (for Dunn)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Chris Grotke and Lise LePage, co-founders and owners of iBrattleboro.com, a citizen journalism site based in Brattleboro, Vermont, were sued on November 16 for libel based on a comment submitted by one of the site's users. The lawsuit, brought by Effie Mayhew, alleges that David Dunn, the former executive director of Rescue Inc., an emergency medical services organization where Mayhew works as a volunteer, libeled her in a comment on the site.

According to the complaint, on September 30, 2007, Dunn authored an article in which he

states without specificity general sexual liaisons are being conducted on the premises. Then he names Ms. Mayhew, further stating that she is conducting an "affair" with a "married member of the Rescue, Inc. board of trustees" indicating that this behavior was happening during "on call" hours at the agency.

The complaint doesn't appear to make any allegations that Grotke or LePage authored the allegedly defamatory statements, only that they failed to edit or remove the comment. As a result, Grotke and LePage are almost certainly shielded from liability under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA 230").

Under CDA 230, "[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." This immunity preempts state law causes of action, like defamation claims, that are based on "publisher" liability. Moreover, immunity exists even if a defendant edits comments (so long as the edits do not materially change the meaning of the statement) or otherwise exercises discretion in selecting which comments to post or remove.

Update:

12/3/07 - Defendants Grotke and LePage filed motion for judgment on the pleadings

3/18/08 - Court dismissed action under CDA 230 as to defendants LePage, Gotke, and MuseArts Inc.

9/2/08 - We were informed that the Court dismissed the remaining claim against David Dunn 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

To-Do: Get order dismissing David Dunn

User submitted (by email)

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

User Feedback

Subject Area: 

Libel Lawsuit Filed Against iBrattleboro Founders Grotke & LePage

Chris Grotke and Lise LePage, co-founders and owners of iBrattleboro.com, a widely acclaimed citizen journalism site based in Brattleboro, Vermont, were sued on November 16 for libel based on a comment submitted by one of the site's users.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

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