Defamation Damages: What are they?
How much money can judges award slander and libel victims? The answer depends on several factors, including (but not limited to):
- The amount of money you, the plaintiff, lost as a direct result of the defamatory statement;
- Your public “status”( under U.S. law, there are different rules for “public figures” and “private citizens”); and
- The slander and libel laws of the presiding jurisdiction.
Caveats aside, state statutes must adhere to federal standards. So, let’s take a look at how damages work in defamation lawsuits.
What Are Damages, Legally Speaking?
Legal damages are the monetary awards a plaintiff can win to compensate for pain and loss caused by the defendants’ actions. In a successful slander or libel lawsuit, claimants are typically granted one or more types of damages: compensatory, speculative, consequential, and punitive.
Compensatory Defamation Damages
Also called actual damages, compensatory damages are the monies parties lose as a direct result of defendants’ actions.
People who lose their jobs or suffer business slowdowns, because of a defamatory statement, can claim lost wages as a compensatory damage.
Speculative Defamation Damages
Speculative damages are likely losses plaintiffs have yet to incur. In slander and libel lawsuits, courts award speculative damages for:
- Lost business due to a defamatory online review;
- Lost job opportunity;
- Any cost a business must to pay, singular to its industry, as a result of defamation.
Consequential Defamation Damages
Consequential damages represent the amount of money a plaintiff would have made if an act of defamation hadn’t be committed. A plaintiff can also argue for consequential damages when the defendants’ actions result in more costs.
For example, in past online defamation cases, judges have awarded plaintiffs money to “clean up” online reputation messes left in the defendants’ wakes.
Punitive Defamation Damages
Punitive damages are meant to dissuade defendants from defaming someone in the future. Additionally, they signal that flagrant defamation is not OK in the eyes of the law.
In defamation cases, judges don’t award punitive damages as regularly as speculative, consequential, or compensatory damages. Some jurisdictions don’t even allow punitive damages in slander and libel cases.
Defamation can be devastating. These days, libel spreads quicker than fake news on Facebook; therefore, defamation victims should start proceedings quickly. Sometimes, a mere cease and desist defamation letter is enough to motivate adversaries to remove the offending material.
Contact us today if you’re ready to deal with a defamation situation. We’ve helped hundreds of people solve their libel challenges; our rates are reasonable, and we get the job done quickly and effectively.
After years of paying high royalty fees, it looks like Internet radio stations, like PANDORA, will get a big break in the way of the Internet Radio Fairness Act. If passed, online music streaming services will pay less fees.
Rates For Internet Radio Compared To Satellite
Passed into law 14 years ago, and updated in 2007, the current law requires Internet radio service providers to pay about 2 cents per listener per hour or 25% gross – whichever is higher.
To give you an idea, PANDORA, in the second quarter alone, paid $60.5 million in royalties — about 50% of their revenues.
What Does Everybody Else Currently Pay?
Royalty rates for distribution mediums are all over the map. At the time of this writing, radio royalty rates are as follows:
- Satellite radio outlets pay 8% of gross;
- Cable music services pay 15% of gross; and
- Terrestrial radio stations don’t pay any royalty performance fees.
Startling, right? PANDORA calls it “discrimination against Internet radio.” Yet, some people believe that catering to companies like Pandora is unnecessary and indulgent.
A Musicians’ Association Isn’t Buying What Pandora is Selling
There are two sides to the Internet radio royalty debate. Take, for example, the statement put out by Ted Kalo, executive director of the Music First Coalition:
“There’s nothing fair about pampering Pandora, with its $1.8-billion market cap, at the expense of music creators.”
Now, not all artists agree with the Music First stance, but it’s hard to deny their point. After all, paying the musicians, whose work your radio station relies, $250 million out of the $1.8 billion doesn’t seem outrageous. But again, it’s not a black and white issue. Market realities, including advanced communication and distribution models, need to be considered.
In case you were wondering, yes, the music labels fired up their lobbying armies to defeat this bill.
What Changes If The Internet Radio Fairness Act Passes?
Passing the Internet Radio Fairness Act means more royalty uniformity.
We’ll have to wait to see how this turns out, but if John Villasenor, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and UCLA professor, is right, passing the Internet Radio Fairness Act may “mean more music choices for consumers, a thriving Internet radio industry and more royalties for musicians.”
Here’s one from the international Internet law files.
They say the grass is always greener elsewhere, but after reading about a potential new Panamanian online copyright infringement law, I’m staying firmly on my red, white, and blue lawn. If you thought SOPA, PIPA or ACTA were terrible, wait till you get a hold of Proyecto 510-212 – the death-star of Internet Intellectual Property legislations.
All Fear The GCD – Panama’s Potentially New Internet Power
The general Copyright Directorate – a Panamanian government department – is about to get a whole lot more powerful. In an unbelievable move, officials may grant the agency the right to impose fines on anyone caught violating copyrights online (read: illegal downloaders). What makes the law unbelievable is that wronged parties don’t have to request the action. It’s so outrageous it deserves repeating: a government department was given the authority to start a witch hunt against all illegal downloaders – whether the copyright holder files a claim or not.
What will probably happen? The GCD will likely establish a torrent sniffing operation.
Is there a rebuttal process, you ask? Kinda. The accused have 15 days to mount a defense.
But Wait! There’s More To This International Internet Law
If a torrent Gestapo wasn’t bad enough, the money the GCD collects goes directly back to “improving its operational infrastructure and to boost the performance of its officers” (i.e., higher-powered sniffers and staff bonuses, is my guess). Just how much money could soon find its way into the GCD coffers? As the law stands now, the commission can charge between $1,000 and $100,000 PAB per violation. And if you’re unfortunate enough to get caught twice in one year, it’s double.
The Intellectual Property Onslaught Doesn’t Stop With the Fine
Believe it or not, fellow Internet intellectual property enthusiasts, the madness doesn’t stop there. Not only can the all-mighty GDC levy considerable fines, but violators may also face civil or criminal actions.
Sometimes it’s important to see the glass half full. This is one of those times. Because while we have our fair share of stateside online copyright issues – and an equal amount of ill-conceived legislation – at least our law books aren’t rocking anything quite as bad as Panama’s Proyecto 510-212.
Kelly / Warner Law works with online companies on international Internet law matters. An AV-rated firm with a 10 out of 10 rating on lawyer review website, AVVO, Kelly / Warner is the go-to firm for many of today’s tech companies, affiliate marketers, development firms, and startups.
If you liked that movie about the students who cheated on the SATs, then you’ll be all over this teacher defamation lawsuit out of Connecticut, because Joyner v. Carolina is a saga involving students, sports, and slander.
How This Teacher Defamation Debacle Started
Shirley Love Joyner and Kermit Carolina worked in the same school district – a district under media siege thanks to a grade scandal, of which Carolina and Joyner figure prominently.
Gleaning from media reports, officials levied eight charges of grade tampering against various administrators and educators in the school district. So far, seven out of the eight allegations remain unproven, but litigation continues in on case, which involves a teacher accused of changing a course description in an attempt to deceive the NCAA.
Joyner, so far as I can tell, had a hand in exposing the alleged grade tampering.
According to reports, though, Kermit Carolina’s lawyer, supposedly made a public statement intimating Joyner’s accusations to be untrue.
Now, this is where things get a little fuzzy. Apparently, in the midst of the scandal, Joyner left on medical leave and has remained relatively quiet since; until this week when she filed a defamation lawsuit against Carolina.
“At one point Mr. Jefferson said Joyner did it,” explained Joe Garrison, Joyner’s attorney. “Basically saying it wasn’t Mr. Carolina that committed any wrongdoing, it was Miss Joyner reporting the wrongdoing and that was totally false.”
Kermit Is Crying Political Foul
Kermit Carolina says this whole situation is retaliation for his strained relationship with the mayor. To make matters even more sticky, the principal claims, the mayor and Joyner have a personal friendship, which was why the grade tampering investigation went forward in the first place.
Despite the drama, Mr. Carolina appears to be keeping cool under the collar and insists he is a wrongly accused man. “We’re looking forward to that day in court,” he told reporters, “where my attorney puts Joyner on the stand and holds her accountable for this reckless action that has damaged not only my school, but myself as an administrator.”
Are you an educator who has been defamed online? Considering a teacher defamation lawsuit? Contact Kelly / Warner to find out how.
Oh the Caribbean. Land of beautiful beaches, laissez faire banks, and laid-back residents. Right? Well, you may want to slow your assumption roll, because word on the street is that entrepreneurs in Antigua and Barbuda are ready to show the world some true West Indian chutzpah, in the form of geopolitical sanctions over online gambling regulations.
Caribbean Officials Want Online Gambling
“Absent a reversal of the U.S. government’s illegal blockade of legitimate commerce from our nation, Antigua is prepared to explore the right to exact sanctions on industries in the U.S.,” a Caribbean official warned in a statement to The Associated Press, though, he didn’t provide any details.
At this year’s Online Gaming Conference at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, the Antiguan Minister of Finance, Harold Lovell, made it clear that he’s ready to play ball with U.S. officials when it comes to online gambling.
Lovell spoke passionately about the 2007 World Trade Organization suit between Antigua and the United States, the result of which was supposed to mark the end of online payment processing restrictions. “Antigua is prepared to explore the right to exact sanctions on industries in the U.S.”Yet, at the time of this writing, nothing has changed. The United Kingdom, Lovell reminded, complied with the ruling, thereby allowing Antiguan businesses to operate poker and other online gambling sites, with oversight.
At the gathering, Lovell spoke effusively about the WTO ruling, which accused the United States of improperly banning banks and credit card companies from processing gambling payments. He also railed on the ostensible hypocrisy of the Wire Act.
Delaware Online Gambling Update
In other online gambling news, Delaware is now poised to become America’s online gambling haven. Since the federal online gambling bill, is currently in a holding pattern, Delaware was able to go ahead with their new pro-Internet gambling legislation.
If you run an online gambling website and need the consult of an Internet lawyer, contact Kelly / Warner Law today. We’re both lawyers and online business owners; we’ve worked with innovative companies from around the world; and perhaps most importantly, we understand how to work with international statutes.
A UK politician is leading the charge to take on Internet trolls and cyberbullies using social media to publish their harassment. How? He wants to change the UK’s Malicious Communications Act.
According to reports, in recent days, MP Steven Rotheram led a rousing parliamentary debate concerning Internet trolls. He was trying to convince his countrymen to change the Malicious Communications Act, by adding specific language for social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.
Rotheram is a member of the British Labour Party and served as an MP (Member of Parliament) for both Liverpool and Walton. Elected in 2010, Rotheram currently holds a seat on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of Parliament.
Rotheram has always been passion about cybercrime; his desire to take on Internet trolls is not new. In fact, he has spent around 12 months researching the facts as well as conducting high-level meetings with leading prosecutors.
On Monday, Rotheram was not shy about expressing his opinion about Internet trolls to parliament.
“When our predecessors were putting down these bills they did not envisage that sickos would use these new inventions for these purposes. No-one wants to deny anyone the opportunity of freedom of speech, but with that freedom comes responsibility. You shouldn’t say things through the anonymity of a computer that you wouldn’t say face to face,” he told the Liverpool Echo.
The issue of Georgia Varley was raised. After she died by falling under a train, her Facebook account was hijacked, then used for abuse and mischief. A lot of the trolls on the hijacked Facebook site didn’t even know Georgia; some were even from other countries.
Facebook released a statement saying, “it is against Facebook’s rules to intimidate or harass others, and we provide everyone with the tools to report such content. When abuse is reported to us, we react swiftly, and we will disable accounts that are found to be in breach of our terms.”
The Liverpool Echo went as far as naming some of the pseudonyms in an attempt to publicly shame the guilty. Similar incidents after the Hillsborough disaster prompted Rotheram to speak with Facebook officials about the problem, saying they needed to combat the problem of Internet trolls and cyberbullying more forcefully.
Rotheram did say that existing laws – the Malicious Communications Act (MCA) mainly – could be used to prosecute in cyber abuse cases, but cautioned that the legislation needs new language to keep up with the rapidly changing online landscape.
The MCA states that sending messages that are “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” can be classed as an offense under the law.
To keep your eye on the latest in Internet law happenings, sign up for our Internet law newsletter. We cover everything from online intellectual property, to Internet defamation, to online privacy to illegal downloading. And the best part is that we don’t blast you every day with useless junk. We just send the interesting stuff. Sign up today.
Photographer Christopher Boffoli made “Twitter Copyright!” headlines after the social media company didn’t remove his images quickly enough. This is a summary of the case.
Miniature Food Photos Go Viral
Photographer Boffoli became Internet-famous for his foodie-inspired images, which he called the “Disparity Series.” They went viral.
Folks started using Boffoli’s photos without permission — and according to Ars Technica, unpublished early photo drafts were stolen off a server. Quickly, Boffoli found himself mired in DMCA takedown paperwork. He successfully dealt with Pinterest, Facebook, and the all-mighty Google — but according to Boffoli, Twitter wasn’t as accommodating (or, at least, not as quick to the draw).
Share My Work, Just Don’t Make It Yours
“I’m genuinely humbled and grateful that people are enthusiastic about my work and want to share it,” Boffoli told Ars Technica in a recent interview.
“If somebody puts a couple of my pictures on a Tumblr page, that’s totally fine.” What is happening, however, is that users are uploading Boffoli’s images to Twitter’s servers, which is a problem, because Twitter’s TOS says the company can use all uploads for any reason.
When Boffoli contacted some of the Twitter users directly and explained the situation, they were more than happy to remove the images. Nevertheless, not everyone was cooperative, and Boffoli’s intellectual property is still compromised.
Must Prove Willful Intent To Win A Twitter Copyright Case
Twitter doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but the legal peanut gallery seems to think Boffoli will have a hard time proving willful copyright infringement, which would be necessary to win.
Just because a website doesn’t respond to a DMCA request immediately, doesn’t mean it’s automatically in violation of copyright law. In Boffoli’s case, (thus far), Twitter sent automated responses with no further follow-ups.
There may be a few reasons Twitter didn’t reply:
- They haven’t reached his request in the queue yet;
- Boffoli’s DMCA complaint may not have been filled out correctly; or
- Twitter is planning to fight the case in court.
It should also be noted that previous complaints by Boffoli were acted upon by Twitter – but not in the time range outlined in the lawsuit. It’s unclear why Twitter didn’t act on the requests, but Boffoli’s attorney, Keith Scully, feels they have a strong claim.
Boffoli’s photos have spread far and wide on the Internet, but haven’t brought him much dough…yet.
“I’m just a working artist, trying to support my studio and myself,” Boffoli said to Ars Technica.
Manny Pacquaio sued Floyd Mayweather for defamation. Here’s a 1-minute summary of the sports defamation lawsuit.
Doping Allegations Lead To Lawsuit
During the lead-up to a 2010 match, Mayweather, his father, and his promotion company, Golden Boy Promotions, accused Pacquaio of using performance enhancing drugs.
In Pacquaio’s eyes, the accusations outstripped standard pre-bout trash talk. “Enough is enough,” he said. “These people…think it is a joke and a right to accuse someone wrongly of using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.”
Pacquaio, who vehemently denies ever using PEDs of any form, at any time — and has never tested positive for banned substances — filed a sports defamation lawsuit against Mayweather in December of 2009. He assured:
“I maintain and assure everyone that I have not used any form or kind of steroids. I don’t even know what steroids look like.”
Drinking and Partying Instead of Deposing
Eventually, Judge Larry Hicks ordered Mayweather to sit for deposition, but the boxer never did, citing an intense training schedule. Unfortunately for Mayweather, Team Pacquaio had photos of Mayweather:
“Busy living the ‘luxurious lifestyle non-stop,’ ‘pour[ing] champagne for [his] friends,’ and keeping the company of ‘attractive women,’ Mayweather refused to be deposed.”
In other words: Team Pacquiao accused Mayweather of lying about his whereabouts to avoid the deposition.
Judge Hicks wasn’t impressed and ordered Mayweather to pay $113,518.50 in court costs and Pacquaio’s attorney fees.
How Did The Pacquaio v. Mayweather Sports Defamation Case End?
Like most high-profile defamation lawsuits, this one came to a settlement close. The last word on the matter came from Mayweather’s attorneys:
“The matter has been resolved. Any alleged terms of the resolution would be strictly confidential. Floyd Mayweather Sr. is very happy that this lengthy case has finally come to a conclusion.”
A Dutch court weighed in on a case about hyperlinking to leaked photos. It ruled that website GeenStjil was guilty of copyright infringement when it posted a link to unreleased Playboy photo shoot pics of Britt Dekker, a Dutch reality TV star.
The decision mirrors an EU Court of Justice ruling deeming hyperlinks a copyright violation if the publisher profits by introducing private content to a public audience. In the GeenStjil case, the court found that the public wouldn’t have known of the unpublished photos it not for the link. Since the blog stood to profit from opening up access, the court decided the act amounted to online copyright infringement.
GeenStjil Ordered to Pay Up, But Plans To Appeal
The Court ordered GeenStjil to remove the hyperlink or pay $65,000 per day, up to a maximum of $1 million, if it chose to retain the link. Since GeenStjil was found guilty of copyright infringement, it was also ordered to pay Playboy’s legal fees.
For it’s part, GeenStjil argued that it couldn’t be guilty of infringement because it didn’t publish the photos, just their location. The site announced plans to appeal.
Pros and Cons of the This Hyperlink Online Copyright Infringement Ruling
Bits of Freedom (BoF), a Dutch digital rights organization, protested the verdict saying that it could have a negative consequence on search engines, like Google, operating on a profit and access model.
On the other side, Brein, an anti-piracy foundation, believes the ruling may deter websites that deliberately link to pirated content.
Law Professor, Dick Visser, commented that Playboy’s profits relied on the ability to publish the photos first. Interference with this process denied Playboy the right to revenue. Without such verdicts, he reasoned, it would be legal to link to stolen material anonymously on the Internet.
Contact An Online Copyright Attorney
Are you in need of an online copyright lawyer to assist with an issue? Contact Kelly / Warner Law today. We know our stuff and are here to help, and offer flat rates that are perfectly priced for small businesses.
“Celebrated actor…filmmaker, lecturer, and author” (TM his lawyer) James Franco once got into a defamation brawl with one of his professors, Jose Santana. This a summary of the case.
Franco enrolled in Santana’s NYU class, Directing the Actor, and according to the professor, Franco only showed twice, resulting in a D for the semester.
Apparently, the university fired Santana shortly after Franco got his near-failing grade, and the professor felt his walking papers were courtesy of Franco’s D. For its part, the university cited unsatisfactory teaching as the culprit. Livid about the dismissal, Santana started suing.
Why The Professor Sued For Defamation
“If Santana felt he was unfairly terminated, he should have sued the school — not Franco — right?” Yes. 100% correct. And Santana did sue the school, at first.
At the height of D-gate, however, Franco publicly snarked that Santana was “awful.” And the actor didn’t stop there, adding:
- “[He / Franco] didn’t feel like I needed to waste my time with a bad teacher”;
- “No teacher will ever be fired from NYU for giving a student a ‘D.’ He wasn’t fired, he was asked not to come back after three years because they didn’t think he was a good teacher”; and
- “[Santana was] not going to be hired at another institution.”
Yeah, so, things got messy. In response, Santana filed a defamation lawsuit against the actor and called Franco “a bully” who used his “celebrity pulpit” to “punish anyone who [didn’t] do his bidding.” “I was outraged that someone with his attendance record at NYU had the audacity to make those statements,” groused Santana.
James Franco Defamation Case: Who Won?
For awhile, it seemed like Santana may have had a decent shot at winning; there was even a cloak-and-dagger process serving sub-plot. But alas, a court room showdown never happened. Several weeks after news of James Franco’s defamation case hit headlines, Santana’s attorney released a statement, which, in part, read:
“The matter has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.”
So there you have it. Like the majority of slander and libel lawsuits involving celebrities, they settled — the true resolution locked away from the public gaze forever.
TL;DR: The James Franco Defamation Case: One of James Franco’s professors sued the actor for defamation over some public squabbling over a D grade. The men avoided a trial by settling out of court.
In a seminal decision, the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously ruled that tattoos are expressions of protected free speech. The decision got us thinking: “Are online avatars considered free speech in the eyes of the court, too?”
Court: Tattoos Are Free Speech
In 2009, the Mesa City Council denied tattoo artists Laetitia and Ryan Coleman permission to open their business because it was deemed “not appropriate for the location or in the best interest of the neighborhood,” even though the couple had already rented the space and agreed to a “good-neighbor” policy. So, the Colemans filed a lawsuit claiming violations to due process, free speech, and equal protection. It was dismissed by the Maricopa County Superior Court, but ultimately overturned by the Arizona Supreme Court, which stated:
“Recognizing that tattooing involves constitutionally protected speech, we hold that the superior court erred by dismissing the complaint as a matter of law.”
Does this mean the couple can open the tattoo parlor? Not necessarily. But the case will be turned back over to the Maricopa County Superior Court to answer the question: Do First Amendment rights outweigh Mesa, Arizona’s ability to regulate businesses that are involved protected speech?
In its ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court cited Anderson v. City of Hermosa Beach. In that case it was decided that a tattoo itself is pure speech, meaning it is protected under the Constitution unless they are defamatory, and that the act of tattooing is an expressive activity.
The ruling that tattoos are protected speech is momentous. “Tattoo artists are often subjected to enormous regulation, especially in terms of operating their businesses,” the Colemans attorney, Clint Bolick, told Reuters. “As a result we now know that in Arizona, tattoo artists will be able to ply their trade free from excessive regulation,” he said.
Are Online Avatars Considered Free Speech?
This significant Arizona Supreme Court ruling got us thinking about where online avatars fall on the free speech spectrum. And believe it or not, even though it seems like avatars have been around for a long time, at the time of this writing, there is very little case law regarding avatars and free speech.
Take for example the ruling in Bland v. Roberts. Though the case had more to do with employment law than Internet law, it did result in a significant Internet law ruling. In short, the initial decision in Bland established legal precedence that liking something on Facebook is not considered free speech, since no words are actually spoken.
One of the plaintiff’s in Bland, Carter, opted to file an appeal. Recognizing the chilling effects of not recognizing certain social media activities as free speech, Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union have come out in support of the appellant. Facebook’s brief is long and nuanced, but their basic argument is that “likes” are the equivalent to a political lawn sign, and as such should fall under protected speech. One would assume that the same would hold for avatars, too, in the eyes of the court.
Do you have an online free speech legal issue and want to talk to a lawyer? If yes, contact Kelly / Warner Law today. Our team of Internet lawyers is well versed in all matters related to Internet censorship, how First Amendment rights are applied to online situations and free speech on the Web. We’re ready to talk when you are.
Congress is headed into recess, and neither online poker bill will probably pass.
Representative Joe Barton’s effort are stalled in committee, and a proposal by Senators Harry Reid and Jon Kyl has yet to even make it into committee.
Two Online Poker Bills Walked Into The Legislative Branch
Both bills share the same name: Gambling Prohibition, Poker Protection and Strengthening of UIGEA Act of 2012. Currently, the Reid/Kyl proposal is the front-runner, but sentiments are decidedly mixed. Some feel it will usher in a new era of responsible Internet gaming in the U.S. Others are concerned it will hinder online gaming de-regulation efforts.
Opponents of the Reid/Kyl bill don’t like that it prohibits all forms of Internet gambling, except horse racing and online poker.
The Reid/Kyl bill would also penalize parties that engaged in online gaming activities post-The Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, or UIGEA — an inclusion designed to mitigate barriers to entry. It could, however, spell doom for larger online poker operations, like Poker Stars.
The Reid/Kyl bill would amend the 1961 Wire Act, 1970 UIGEA, and Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA) by broadening the language to include online gaming.
Government Would Have To Establish Online Poker Oversight Office
If the Reid/Kyl bill is passed, it would rescind the December 2011 decision that the Wire Act is only applicable to sports betting. It would also prompt the creation of an Office of Online Poker Oversight, whose duties would include administering a list of standards, issuing licenses, and monitoring state and Indian gaming. In the case of violations, licenses could be revoked and fines of up to $750,000 could be levied.
Although online poker players are on pins and needles regarding future legislation, the chances of any laws passing this year are rapidly diminishing.