Third-Party Content

Batzel v. Smith

Date: 

09/07/2000

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Robert Smith; Netherlands Museums Association; Ton Cremers; Mosler, Inc.; Does 1-50

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

U.S. District Court for Central District of California; U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina

Case Number: 

2:00-cv-09590 (California trial); 01-56556 (California appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

Robert Smith, Pro se; David D. Johnson, Eric D. Brown, Pamela S. Palmer, Steven T. Chinowsky - Latham & Watkins LLP, Stephen J. Newman - Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP (for Cremers); Robert P. Long - Kinkle Rodiger & Spriggs (for Mosler, Inc.)

Publication Medium: 

Email

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

In September 2000, Ellen Batzel, a California attorney, sued Robert Smith, Ton Cremers, the Netherlands Museums Association ("NMA"), and Mosler, Inc. for defamation after Cremers published on an international email list an email, written by Smith, in which Smith accused Batzel of owning art stolen by the Nazis and being a descendant of Heinrich Himmler. Batzel filed identical lawsuits in both California federal court and North Carolina federal court.

In the summer of 1999, Smith contacted Cremers, who operated the Museum Security Network ("MSN") website, to notify him about his suspicions regarding Batzel, for whom Smith worked as a handyman at the time.  Smith apparently intended the email to be a private communication, and was unaware of the MSN mailing list that Cremers edited and published.  Cremers posted Smith's email to the MSN list, which is distributed via email and also posted on the MSN site, without notifying Smith that he was doing so.

Batzel became aware of the MSN list posting about her and contacted Cremers within a few months. Cremers in turn contacted Smith for clarification about his statements.  Smith affirmed his statements, but told Cremers that he would never have sent Cremers the email had he known it would appear on the MSN list. Batzel denied Smith's accusations, and in turn accused Smith of trying to defame her because she refused to help him find contacts regarding a screenplay he wrote.

Batzel filed lawsuits in both California and North Carolina in September 2000.  Smith and Mosler, Inc., a sponsor of the MSN list, both filed an answer in California, and Batzel dropped them from the North Carolina lawsuit.  The NMA did not file an answer in either suit, and the California court granted default judgment against it. 

Unaware of the North Carolina lawsuit, Cremers filed an answer in California and moved to dismiss Batzel's case under California's anti-SLAPP statute (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16).  In July 2001, the district court denied Cremer's motion, ruling that Batzel had shown sufficient probability of prevailing on her claims to survive an anti-SLAPP motion. The court dismissed Batzel's claims against Mosler, Inc., finding that sponsorship of the MSN list was not sufficient to impose liability.

Batzel and Cremers both appealed.  In June 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Mosler dismissal and vacated the district court's ruling on Cremers' anti-SLAPP motion.  While the court of appeals agreed that Batzel had shown a likelihood of prevailing in her defamation claim, it ruled that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA 230") controlled the case.  The court held that, if Cremers had reasonably believed that Smith provided the email to be published on the MSN list, then CDA 230 protected him from defamation liability for publishing the content of Smith's email. Because the facts were not clear from the record, the court remanded the case to district court to determine whether Cremers had a reasonable belief that Smith had provided his email for publication.

Batzel petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but the Court denied her petition. Meanwhile, Cremers became aware of Batzel's lawsuit in North Carolina, for which he had never been served. The North Carolina court dismissed Batzel's lawsuit with prejudice in April 2001 for failure to prosecute. Cremers moved for summary judgment in California in November 2004, arguing that the doctrine of res judicata barred Batzel from suing Cremers in the California action. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case against Cremers in March 2005.

It is unclear what happened regarding Batzel's claims against Smith.  According to the California district court's docket, all motions and orders mailed to Smith from 2004 on were returned for failure of delivery.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Malik v. ScamFraudAlert.com

Date: 

06/20/2008

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

ScamFraudAlert.com

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On June 20, 2008, counsel for Bernard Malik sent a cease-and-desist letter via email to the administrator of ScamFraudAlert.com, a forum site that focuses on alleged Internet scams, security threats, and fraudulent practices. The letter asserted that a forum user going by "justiceismine" posted false and defamatory statements about Mr. Malik and his organization, International Open University, on ScamFraudAlert.com (see the letter for details). It demanded that ScamFraudAlert.com remove the allegedly defamatory posts and provide "identifying details, including but not limited to the e-mail address and login IP addresses for 'justiceismine' so that Mr. Malik can take further legal actions."

The letter also claimed that ScamFraudAlert.com is not entitled to the protection of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act because it "solicit[s] and encourage[s]" defamatory posts from users and subscribers, citing as support the Ninth Circuit's decision in Fair Housing Council v. Roommate.com, LLC. This is an unconventional reading of the Roommate.com case. Counsel also claimed that the letter itself is copyrighted and advised ScamFraudAlert.com not to publish it.  The letter elaborated:

Contrary to the opinion of some Internet bloggers, the Federal Courts that have ruled on the issue, as recently as November of 2007, have held that an attorney's cease and desist letter is protected by copyright laws. Any unauthorized publication of this letter will potentially expose you to substantial damages for copyright infringement. 

The November 2007 case referenced in the letter,  In re Subpoena Issued Pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to: 43SB.COM, LLC, 2007 WL 4335441 (D. Idaho Dec. 7, 2007), sparked a flurry of online debate on the topic of the copyrightability of cease-and-desist letters. While the Dozier Law Firm and others (including apparently counsel for Mr. Malik) view the case as establishing copyright protection for cease-and-desist letters, the case only touched on the narrow question of whether the C&D in that case was sufficiently original to be protected by copyright, and the court expressly stated that it would "not go into an in-depth analysis of the merits of a copyright infringement claim in determining whether to quash this subpoena." Most importantly, the court did not address the strong argument that publishing a cease-and-desist letter for purposes of documenting it and commenting on it is fair use.

The administrator and Mr. Malik's lawyer exchanged additional emails without coming to agreement about the disputed content. As of July 7, 2008, no further action has transpired.

Update:

7/15/08 - Counsel for Malik sent a DMCA takedown notice to ScamFraudAlert's web host, NationalNet, Inc., claiming that posting email communications between counsel and ScamFraudAlert infringed Mr. Malik's copyrights.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Hammitt v. Watson

Date: 

12/02/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Teresa Watson; RomeNewsByWatson.com, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Floyd County Superior Court, Georgia

Case Number: 

07-04954

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

On December 2, 2007, Ed and Brenda Hammitt filed a lawsuit against Teresa Watson, the operator of RomeNewsByWatson.com, a news website that purports to "document . . . items of public corruption," claiming defamation and libel for publishing comments made by an anonymous user of the website.

The complaint alleges that an anonymous user of RomeNewsByWatson.com, using the pseudonym "dirtyboy," accused the plaintiffs of being involved in criminal activity in a comment to an article named "Dixie Mafia Chapter 5: How to Marginalize an Opponent in Three Easy Steps" that mentioned Bobby Lee Cook, one of the three attorneys representing the Hammitts. The original comment has been removed from the website, but can be found in Exhibit A of the complaint.

On December 18th, 2007, a staff reporter for RomeNewsByWatson.com reported that the case was withdrawn by the plaintiffs. The report also stated that the plaintiffs had filed the lawsuit

without serving the Georgia Code Required 7-Day Demand Letter, asking for a retraction. They also neglected to file a Special Affidavit required by federal and state law on issues of Free Speech and Public Participation.

Anti-SLAPP, (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation), laws require that affidavits be signed by both the Plaintiffs as well as their lawyers, swearing that the litigation they are filing does not impede or attempt to stifle or suppress Free Speech or other first Amendment Rights. The affidavits have to be filed either contemporaneously with the filing of the suit, or an amendment must be filed to the original suit within the first 10 days after filing of the suit.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Currently trying to unpack some issues with this case. It seems there have been at least three related suits filed against Watson, at least one of which has been dropped.

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Citing CDA 230, Court Dismisses Defamation Suit Against Wikimedia Foundation

News reports (here, here) indicate that New Jersey Superior Court Judge Jamie S. Perri dismissed Barbara Bauer's defamation lawsuit against the Wikimedia Foundation yesterday.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Ottinger v. The Journal News

Date: 

02/25/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

The Journal News

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Intermediary
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Westchester

Case Number: 

3892/2008

Legal Counsel: 

Mark Fowler, Glenn C. Edwards - Saterlee Stephens Burke & Burke LLP

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

Former House Representative Richard Ottinger and his wife, June Ottinger, filed a John Doe lawsuit in New York state court and served a subpoena on The Journal News, a daily newspaper distributed in New York and Southern Connecticut that operates LoHud.com, a website providing an online version of the newspaper as well as community forums. The subpoena sought identifying information for three posters to the site's Mamaroneck community forum going by the psuedonyms "SAVE10543," "hadenough," and "aoxomoxoa." According to court documents, the three posters falsely accused the Ottingers of bribing a local official and presenting a fraudulent deed in connection with a neighborhood dispute over their construction of a house in the Village of Mamaroneck, New York. 

In March 2008, the Journal News moved to quash the subpoena. In a May 28, 2008 hearing on the motion, the court converted the John Doe lawsuit into a "special proceeding" for pre-action discovery against the Journal News. In the same hearing, the court adopted the standard for protecting the First Amendment right to anonymous speech set forth in Dendrite v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001), and required the Ottingers to post notice on two LoHud forums notifying the pseudonymous posters of the pending discovery request and asking them to appear through counsel or otherwise on June 25, 2008.

At the June 25 hearing, none of the pseudonymous posters appeared through counsel or otherwise. In a subsequent opinion and order, the court held that the Ottingers had satisfied the requirements of the Dendrite standard and ordered the Journal News to turn over the requested information within five days. More specifically, the court found that the Ottingers had identified and set forth the alleged defamatory statements with sufficient precision, provided adequate notice via the LoHud forums, and made a sufficient preliminary factual showing on the merits of their defamation case. Relying on Doe v. Cahill, 884 A.2d 451 (Del. 2005), the court held that the Ottingers were not required to make a factual showing on the element of "actual malice" because that information could not reasonably be expected to be in their possession at such an early stage in the proceedings, given the anonymity of the defendants. 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Judge Says Former Congressman Can Get Names of Anonymous Posters from LoHud.com

LoHud.com, an online news site operated by The Journal News that focuses on New York's Lower Hudson Valley, reported on Friday that a Westchester County judge has ruled that it must turn over the names of three pseudonymous posters to former House Representative Richard Ottinger and his wife, June Ottinger.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

MyNutritionStore.com v. Forte

Date: 

06/18/2008

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Julia Forte; 800notes.com

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy (Public Citizen Litigation Group)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On June 18, 2008, a lawyer for Mynutritionstore.com, a provider of "science based Nutraceuticals" and "turnkey Internet business opportunit[ies]," sent an email to Julia Forte in which he threatened to sue her over user comments on the website she runs, 800notes.com, that hosts a forum for the discussion of telemarketers.

According to an email and follow up demand letter from its counsel, Mynutritionstore.com asserted that comments on the site defamed the company and its owners and stated "all we want are the references to mynutritionstore.com, Jim Stepanian, Nicole Stepanian and their number (888) 712-3888 filtered from your site."

After Forte responded that she was immune from liability under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230), which protects interactive website operators from liability for the comments of their users, Mynutritionstore.com responded that unless Forte removed the user comments, it would seek injunctive relief and sue her "as a necessary party to the complaint. Unfortunately, you will likely need an attorney and will likely have to pay to defend yourself – if it comes to that."

In a response letter to Mynutritionstore.com's lawyer Thomas Georgianna, Paul Alan Levy, who represents Forte, warned that bringing her into the suit for the purpose of running up her costs, even though she cannot be held liable, would constitute an abuse of process and likely result in an award of fees under the California anti-SLAPP statute.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Presidential Candidates Fight Online Defamation

Last week some reporters, politicos, and bloggers may have mourned the end of the endless presidential primary season. But it's not like political mudslinging is now going to end. Indeed, in ancticipation of the focus on the general election battle, in the muddy backwaters of the Internet – in forums, blog comments, email chain letters and listservs – defamatory statements are being bandied about in hopes that some of the reputation damaging misinformation will enter the zeitgeist of the electorate to sway public opinion about the candidates one way or another.

Subject Area: 

Difrawi v. Garga-Richardson (Lawsuit)

Date: 

06/06/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Archie Garga-Richardson

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida

Case Number: 

6:08-CV-904

Legal Counsel: 

Archie Garga-Richardson (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Internet Solutions Corporation, a company that runs a number of employment recruiting and Internet advertising businesses, and Ayman Difrawi (a.k.a. Alec Difrawi), the President and Director of Internet Solutions, sued Archie Garga-Richardson, the founder and operator of ScamFraudAlert.com, for defamation and other claims in federal district court in Florida. ScamFraudAlert.com is a forum site that focuses on alleged Internet scams, security threats, and fraudulent practices. The complaint alleges that Garga-Richardson published false and defamatory statements regarding Difrawi and Internet Solutions.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Garga-Richardson published statements falsely claiming that they engage in "phishing, identity theft and perpetration of fraudulent employment scams." Cmplt. ¶¶ 13, 14. It also alleges that he published statements falsely claiming that they are "thugs" and "crooks, criminals, [and] scumbags targeting the unemploy [sic], elderly, students, stay-at-home moms, retirees and the innocent." Cmplt. ¶ 15. Difrawi and Internet Solutions seek unspecified damages and injunctive relief. It is not entirely clear from a perusal of ScamFraudAlert.com, but some of the complained of statements may have been posted by third-party users of the site. 

Update:

6/18/2008 - Garga-Richardson filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter and personal jurisdiction.

7/8/2008 - Difrawi and Internet Solutions filed a notice of voluntary dismissal with the federal court in Florida.

7/9/2008 - The Florida court dismissed the case without prejudice.

7/10/2008 - Internet Solutions filed a complaint against Garga-Richardson in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging defamation, interference with business relationships, trade libel, and unfair competition under California law.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

User submitted, both through threat form and email (received June 4, 2008)

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

LA Times v. Free Republic

Date: 

09/28/1998

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Los Angeles Times; The Washington Post Company; Washington Post Newsweek Interactive Company

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Free Republic; Electronic Orchard; James Robinson; John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Media Company

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Central District of California; United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Case Number: 

98-CV-7840 (trial), 00-57211 (appeal)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$10,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

David Flyer, Brian Buckley (Brian L Buckley Law Offices)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued
Settled (total)
Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

On September 28, 1998, the Los Angeles Times sued the Free Republic website for copyright infringement in federal court in California. Users of Free Republic, a conservative internet forum founded and operated by James Robinson, frequently posted copies of articles of interest for discussion on the site. According to the complaint, articles from the Times and the Washington Post were copied verbatim and in their entirety.

Free Republic asserted that the copies constituted fair use under copyright law and were a mode of free speech under the First Amendment, and moved for summary judgment on those grounds on October 19, 1999. The Times filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment on the question of infringement. The court denied Free Republic's motion and granted the Times' motion, ruling that the fair use doctrine's factors weighed in favor of the Times and that enforcing the plaintiffs' copyright claims did not impermissably restrict the speech of Free Republic users.

On November 16, 2000, the court entered final judgment in favor of the Times, and ordered Free Republic to remove all of the plaintiffs' copyrighted material from its website and enjoined Free Republic from posting any new copyrighted material in the future. (The court did note that Free Republic could post copyrighted material if it met the requirements of the fair use doctrine.) The court also awarded the Times $1 million in statutory damages from Robinson and Free Republic. Electronic Orchard, an Internet programming and design company owned by Robinson, was not found liable for damages.

Free Republic appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While on appeal, the parties agreed on a modified version of the district court's judgment and settled the case. The modified judgment still retained the injunction but reduced the damage award from $1 million to $5,000 to the Times and $5,000 to the Post. The Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the trial court for the purposes of entering the modified judgment.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Internet Solutions v. ScamFraudAlert.com (Email)

Date: 

05/29/2008

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Archie Garga-Richardson; Domain Privacy Group, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Lawsuit Filed

Description: 

On May 29, 2008, counsel for Internet Solutions Corporation and Alec Difrawi sent a cease-and-desist letter and email to Archie Garga-Richardson, the founder of ScamFraudAlert.com, a forum site that focuses on alleged Internet scams, security threats, and fraudulent practices. (The letter also went to Domain Privacy Group, Inc., a company that apparently helped Garga-Richardson register the site's domain name anonymously.) The letter asserted that "representatives, agents, administrators, moderators and members" of ScamFraudAlert.com had posted "defamatory, libelous, disparaging, false, misleading and highly injurious and detrimental statements" on the site. Specifically, it claimed that posters on the website falsely stated that Internet Solutions, its affiliates, and Difrawi engaged in various business improprieties (see the letter for details).

The letter demanded that Garga-Richardson remove all defamatory statements about Internet Solutions and Defrawi from the website and refrain from posting "any statements on any website, including but not limited to www.scamfraudalert.com, regarding my clients in the future." It gave Garga-Richardson until June 4 to provide written confirmation that he would comply with these demands. Garga-Richardson has indicated to the CMLP that he will not remove the disputed content and intends to "fight this out in the courts." He is currently looking for legal assistance.

Difrawi and Internet Solutions filed a lawsuit against Garga-Richardson in the federal district court in Florida on June 6, 2008. See our database entry, Difrawi v. Garga-Richardson (Lawsuit), for details.  

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

User submitted, both through threat form and email (received June 4, 2008)

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Cruse v. Teacher Smackdown

Date: 

05/15/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

451 Press, LLC; Steve R. Shickles; Jada R. Leo; Chrispian H. Burks; Anne-Marie Nichols; www.teachersmackdown.com

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of Baxter County, Arkansas

Case Number: 

No. CV 08-1462

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Loretta DiAnne Cruse, a former special-ed teacher at Norfolk Elementary School in Arkansas, sued the Teacher Smackdown website, 451 Press, LLC, which operates the website, and various individuals associated with it, including professional blogger Anne-Marie Nichols, for defamation and other claims in Arkansas state court. Teacher Smackdown is a watchdog site, which describes its function as "identif[ying] the molesters, thieves, and lecherous adults masquerading as teachers in our society" and "giv[ing] parents resources and information on protecting our kids and identifying these monsters." According to the complaint, an April 18, 2007 article written by Nichols falsely claimed that Cruse "plead guilty to endangering the welfare of a minor and physically abus[ing] the handicapped minor, when, in fact, she was acquitted of the crime at trial." Cmplt. ¶ 1.

The complaint also alleges that Teacher Smackdown published defamatory user comments, including the statement "Man. What a heartless bitch." Cmplt. ¶ 14. It further alleges that the website published user comments to, among other things, "generate income through increased traffic [to the] website" and to "generate greater name recognition within Arkansas." Cmplt. ¶ 14. It also alleges that the defendants knowingly and intentionally offered commenters anonymity in order to generate controversy and generate traffic, see Cmplt. ¶ 16, and that the defendants should be held liable for the defamation of anonymous users because "users do not post comments by their actual names." Cmplt. ¶ 15. In addition to defamation, Cruse claims that publishing user comments about her constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress. In all likelihood, these claims are completely barred by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Cruse seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

Update:

03/19/09 - The Arkansas court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendants.  Nichols lives in Colorado and 451 Press is based in Alabama.

04/29/09 - Cruse has said that she might appeal the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 1/29/09- VAF

Status checked 6/17/09; no new information - CMF

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Revell v. Lidov

Date: 

06/12/2000

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Hart G.W. Lidov; The Board of Trustees of Columbia University; Columbia University School of Journalism

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
School

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the North District of Texas; United States Court of Appeals for the Fith Circuit

Case Number: 

3:00-CV-1268-R (district court); 01-10521 (appellate court)

Legal Counsel: 

John T. Gerhart; Paul C. Watler; Robert Brooks Gilbreath (Lidov); Kimberly Chastain Van Amburg; David T. Moran; Charles L. Babcock (Columbia defendants)

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Print

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Oliver "Buck" Revell, former associate deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, filed a defamation lawsuit against medical professor Hart G.W. Lidov and Columbia University after Lidov wrote and posted an article critizing Revell on the Columbia Journalism Review's online bulletin board. According to court documents, the article accused Revell of participating in a conspiracy that allegedly resulted in the tragic bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Revell's suit in Texas federal district court included claims against Lidov, Columbia's Board of Trustees, and the Columbia School of Journalism for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy to commit defamation and infliction of emotion distress. His complaint also contained negligence and gross negligence claims against Columbia for publishing the article without making an adequate determination of its truth or falsity.

Both Lidov, a Harvard Medical School professor and resident of Masschusetts, and Columbia, a New York entity, filed motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Revell argued in his complaint that the Texas court had specific jurisdiction over Revell and Columbia because they had engaged in purposeful conduct that caused damage in Texas. Specifically, he argued that the defendants' posting of the article was sufficient to confer jurisdiction because the online bulletin board could be accessed in Texas. Revell argued further that Columbia had sufficient commercial contacts with Texas to warrant general jurisdiction.

The district court granted the motions to dismiss. The court analyzed the online contacts under the "sliding scale" test developed in Zippo Manufacturing Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc., 952 F.Supp. 1119 (W.D. Pa. 1997). Applying the test, the court determined that the bulletin board was a "passive" website and thus did not constitute sufficient contact with Texas to confer jurisdiction. The court also determined that the defendants' other contacts with Texas were minimal and thus also insufficient to warrant jurisdiction.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The Fifth Circuit closely followed the reasoning of the district court, though it also devoted significant attention to rebutting Revell's specific jurisdiction claims under the "effects" test established by Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984). The court determined that Lidov's article was not "expressly aimed" at Texas and thus could not satisfy the "effects" test.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

DA Editing

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Blumenthal v. Drudge

Date: 

08/27/1997

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Matt Drudge; America Online, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Case Number: 

1:97-cv-1968 (PLF)

Legal Counsel: 

Jonathan W. Emord, Manuel S. Klausner, Patrick J. Manshardt (for Drudge); John Payton, Patrick Joseph Carome (for AOL)

Publication Medium: 

Email
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Settled (total)

Description: 

Sidney Blumenthal, a former White House Assistant, and his wife Jacqueline sued Matt Drudge, publisher of The Drudge Report, and America Online Inc. over statements Drudge published in August 1997. According to the complaint, Drudge falsely accused Blumenthal of engaging in spousal abuse.

On August 10, 1997, Drudge transmitted the report from Los Angeles, California by email to his direct subscribers and posted the information about Blumenthal on AOL, which was hosting the Drudge Report at the time. After receiving a letter from plaintiffs' counsel on August 11, 1997, Drudge retracted the story through a special edition of the Drudge Report posted on AOL and emailed to his subscribers. Drudge later publicly apologized to the Blumenthals, but they still filed a defamation lawsuit on August 27, 1997.

In October 1997, Drudge and AOL filed motions for summary judgment. On April 22, 1998, the court refused to dismiss the case against Drudge, finding that the court had personal jurisdiction over him, but granted AOL's motion on the basis that AOL was immune from liability under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44 (D.D.C. 1998).

During a discovery dispute in April 1999, the federal district court applied the constitutional reporter's privilege to Drudge and denied Blumenthal access to information about Drudge's sources. See Blumenthal v. Drudge, 186 F.R.D. 246, 244-45 (D.D.C. 1999). 

Blumenthal dropped his lawsuit and eventually reached a settlement with Drudge in early 2001. According to Wikipedia, "the settlement involv[ed] a small payment to Drudge over having missed a deposition. In his book, The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal claimed he was forced to settle because he could no longer financially afford the suit."

On May 9, 2001, the parties filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Webster v. Albero

Date: 

05/23/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Allan Webster

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Joseph Albero

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

District Court for Worcester County, State of Maryland

Case Number: 

0204 0001876 2007

Legal Counsel: 

Bruce Bright - Ayres, Jenkins, Gordy & Almand, P.A.

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Salisbury, Maryland Police Chief Allan Webster filed a lawsuit against local blogger Joe Albero, who operates the Salisbury News blog, wich covers matters of local interest in Salisbury and Wicomico County. Albero, who often takes local politicians to task, criticized and posted information about Webster on the blog. Although the details are not entirely clear, the dispute seems to have revolved, at least in part, around Albero's posting of a third-party, anonymous letter addressed to Salisbury City Council Members. Webster's complaint included claims for defamation and false light invasion of privacy.

In his pre-trial memorandum, Albero argued that he should not be compelled to disclose his source for the letter. He argued that the source of the letter was not relevant to the case, that Maryland's shield law protected him from having to identify his source, and that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) immunized him from liability for posting the letter.

In an April 9, 2008 ruling, District Court Judge Gerald Purnell ruled that Albero could not take advantage of the Maryland shield law, which applies to individuals who are "employed" by the "news media" (which is defined as including any "electronic means of disseminating news and information to the public"). Although we have not been able to obtain a copy or transcript of the ruling, one report indicates that the court denied Albero the protection of the shield law because he does not earn revenue from the Salisbury News. In any event, the court decided that Albero would not be required to reveal the identity of his source, relying on either the relevance or the CDA 230 argument (exactly which is not clear).

On July 30, hours before the trial was set to begin, the parties announced they had settled the dispute on "non-monetary terms." The parties offered no further comment regarding the settlement.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 08/01/2008. {MCS}

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

MySpace Wins Important CDA 230 Case in Fifth Circuit

Last Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of negligence claims brought against MySpace by the family of a teenage girl who used the popular social networking site to communicate with and arrange to meet a nineteen-year-0ld boy who sexually assaulted her.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

USMLEWORLD v. Digg

Date: 

01/08/2008

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Digg

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Organization

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Description: 

USMLEWORLD, LLC, a company providing online courses to prepare for the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam, sent a cease-and-decease letter to Digg complaining that users were using, posting, and distributing its copyrighted material through Digg links. USMLEWORLD demanded that Digg remove the allegedly infringing material and terminate the account of users who distributed it.

The relevant URL now contains a notice -- "This item has been removed pursuant to a demand received by Digg" -- suggesting that the matter has been resolved.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

2clix v. Wright

Date: 

08/17/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Simon Wright

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of Queensland (Australia)

Case Number: 

7/79/09

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

In August 2007, 2Clix Australia sued Simon Wright, the founder of Australian broadband discussion forum Whirlpool, for alleged "injurious falsehood." According to 2Clix, Wright permitted anonymous users of the forum to post unmediated comments, and two threads contained "false and malicious" comments about 2Clix and its softward products. According to 2Clix's statement of claim, the threads included statements that 2Clix "has problems" and that it was losing its employees and relying on independent contractors. In addition, forum participants allegedly warned readers to avoid 2Clix's software.

2Clix filed suit after Wright refused to acquiesce to its repeated email requests to remove the content. 2Clix sought an injunction requiring Wright to remove the threads and damages in the amount of Aus$150,000. Wright defended the claim through the support of donations from users of his site. 2Clix withdrew its claim less than a month later.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Bauer v. Wikimedia

Date: 

01/31/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Wikimedia Foundation; Jenna Glatzer; MacAllister Stone; James D. MacDonald; Kent Brewster; Ann C. Crispin; Patrick Nielsen-Hayden; Teresa Nielsen-Hayden; Brian Hill; Dee Power aka Harrilane D. Power aka D. Carr Harrilane; David L. Kuzminski; Thomas S

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County

Case Number: 

No. L-1169-07

Legal Counsel: 

Charles LeGrand, Kevin Goering, James M. Chadwick - Shepphard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP; Matt Zimmerman - EFF

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Website
Wiki

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

In January 2008, literary agent Barbara Bauer and her company Barbara Bauer Literary Agency, Inc. filed a lawsuit in New Jersey State court against twenty-two defendants, including the Wikimedia Foundation. The complaint includes claims for defamation, tortious interference with prospective business advantage, and conspiracy. According to court documents, the dispute revolves around statements made on a large number of websites and blogs describing Bauer as being among the "20 Worst Literary Agents" and claiming that she has "no . . . significant track record of sales to commercial (advance paying) publishers." The complaint also alleges that various defendants posted altered photographs of Bauer on the Internet and created YouTube videos, including "Crouching Snark, Hidden Draggon" and "Miss Snark's Happy Hooker Crapstravaganza," that allegedly defamed and belittle her.

With regard to Wikimedia, the complaint alleges that Wikipedia published false statements indicating that Bauer was "The Dumbest of the Twenty Worst" literary agents and that she has "no documented sales at all." It further alleges that Bauer informed Wikimedia about the allegedly false statements, and that the foundation "has refused to remove the statements from Wikipedia." Finally, it alleges that Wikimedia conspired with the other defendants to defame and interfere with her prospective economic advantage, without providing any details.

On May 1, 2008, Wikimedia moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230), the federal law that shields providers and users of "interactive computer service[s]" from liability for defamation and other torts for publishing the statements of third parties, bars Bauer's claims as a matter of law. Wikimedia's memorandum in support of its motion also argued that, even if CDA 230 did not bar Bauer's claim, the underlying statements are protected opinion under the New Jersey Constitution and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On May 20, 2008, WritersNewsWeekly.com wrote that the court will hear Wikimedia's motion to be dismissed from the lawsuit on June 6, 2008.

Update:

7/1/08 - Court dismissed the case against Wikimedia Foundation, ruling that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act barred liability for publishing the statements of others. The court left open the possibility that Bauer could amend her complaint to state a claim against Wikimedia.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Status checked on 6/02/08 (AAB)

Updated 1/29/09 - VAF

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Higher Balance Institute v. Signs of the Times

Date: 

02/25/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Quantum Future Group, Inc; Quantum Future School; Signs of the Times; Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Oregon

Case Number: 

3:08-cv-00233

Legal Counsel: 

Walter Hansell; Stephen Kaus

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On March 13, 2008, Higher Balance Institute (HBI), which markets metaphysical products and education programs, filed a defamation lawsuit against the alternative news website Signs of the Times and its operators, the Quantum Future Group and Laura Knight-Jadczyk. Only Quantum Future Group has been served. HBI claims that employees of the Quantum Future Group posted defamatory statements about it on one of the website's forums. According to the complaint, these statements include allegedly false claims that HBI is a "front for pedophilia," that HBI is "conning the public," that meditation, as sold by HBI is an act of "falling into confluence with a psychopathic reality," and that HBI is a "cointelpro" organization. Cmplt. ¶23. (The Signs of the Times website uses the term "cointelpro" to refer to organizations that it claims perpetuate the ethos of a 1970s FBI counter intelligence program designed to quell domestic dissent.)

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Oregon, contains claims for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional interference with business relationships and prospective economic advantage. HBI seeks over $4 million in damages and an injunction. On April 25, 2008, Quantum Future Group moved to strike the complaint pursuant to Oregon's anti-SLAPP statute, Or. Rev. Stat. § 31.150.

Update:

4/25/2008 - Quantum Future Group filed motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted and for lack of personal jurisdiction.

5/19/2008 - Quantum Future School, Signs of the Times, and Knight-Jadezyk filed special motions to strike the complaint under Oregon's anti-SLAPP statute and joined Quantum Future Group's motion to strike. 

12/18/2008 - The district court granted the defendants' motions to strike the complaint under Oregon's anti-SLAPP statute. The court's decision relied in part on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

06/18/2009- The court granted in part the defendants' motion for attorney's fees. The court found the request of over $135,000 to be excessive, and so awarded $51,500.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: User submission (both Contact form and in a blog comment); Google Blog Search

Status updated on 1/5/2009 (SB)

Updated 6/24/09 AVM - I added information about award of costs. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

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