Monthly Archives: October 2013

Congress Clearing Way For Online Stock Selling

online stock selling for startups
The SEC is making moves that will allow startups to sell investment opportunities on the Internet.

In short order, startups will be able to sell stocks online to so-called “small-time” investors. Yep, crowdfunding for securities is finally (almost) here. So, let’s go over the SEC’s recent proposal and give an overview of what online stock selling will look like.

What Law Made It Possible For Startups To Sell Stocks Online?

In an effort to get the economy back on track after it careened off the rails in 2008, officials passed the JOBS Act in 2012. The bill is comprised of several sections relating to various commercial sectors. Title III addresses issues related to crowdfunding businesses. Specifically, it allows inchoate companies to directly solicit investments for their businesses online.  In the language of the law, the online securities provision “permits companies to offer and sell securities through crowdfunding.”

The JOBS Act gives the Securities and Exchange Commission authority over certain aspects of online stock selling, and earlier in the month the commission unanimously voted to release their online security selling rules proposal for public comment.

What Are The Commissioners Suggesting? Here’s the rundown:

  1. If you make less than $100,000 a year, than you can invest either $2,000 or 5% of your income – whichever is more.
  2. If you make more than $100,000 a year, you can invest either $100,000 or 10% of your income – whichever is less.
  3. Companies soliciting investors must provide a business plan, in addition to the names of officers, directors and people who own at least 20% of the company, to potential purchasers.
  4. Startups are allowed to raise $1 million without registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The above provisions will go a long way in helping smaller startups, which traditionally would have difficulty getting an audience with venture and angel capitalists, get off the ground. Moreover, the measures unburden the SEC of time consuming, process stalling paperwork.

What Are The Drawbacks Of The Proposed New Startup Crowdsourcing Rules?

The One Thing You Won’t Be Able To Do With Online Securities

If you’re thinking of starting an investment fund by way of the new rules, think again. Raising money with the JOBS Act provisions for online securities is not allowed. Sorry.

Bottom line: no law is perfect. So while Casandras may speak some truth when they warn of the fraud potential, it’s important to look at the positive potential. We, the People, have proved our affinity for crowdsourcing models. So why not allow innovators to tap in to the fundraising model?  As SEC Chairman Mary Jo White explained, “There is a great deal of excitement in the marketplace” over crowdfunding. We want this market to thrive, in a safe manner for investors.”

Get In Touch With A Lawyer Who Knows A Whole Lot About Tech and Online Startups

Are you launching a startup? Do you want to explore the possibilities of marketing and selling investment stocks through crowdsourcing? If so, get in touch. Kelly Warner is a full service, well-regarded law firm that focuses on the needs and realities of online and tech sector businesses. Email us, Twitter us, Facebook us, Skype us (aaronklaw) – we’re always around and ready to talk.

Can I Sue For Defamation Over Gaming Smack Talk?

hand with cards to represent poker game that devolved into defamation lawsuitSometimes competition is friendly, sometimes it’s downright nasty, and sometimes you end up in court.

Two poker players in Namibia let it get to the lawsuit level, and now one has to pay the other for full tilt trash talking.

Adriaan Christiaan Byleveldt and Lance Cotterell engaged in a poker game. Things got heated and according to reports, words were exchanged. Instead of leaving the beef at the table, the conflict lasted long after the game ended. According to reports, Byleveldt ended up calling Cotterell the Afrikaans word for the female anatomy in an email that was sent to a large group of people.

Now, defamation laws in Namibia aren’t quite as free speech friendly as they are in the United States. And believe it or not, Cotterell won the email defamation lawsuit! The judge awarded him 10,000 Namibian dollars ($1,025 US) in damages and made Byleveldt also pay Cotterell’s legal fees.

Byleveldt, however, is refusing to pay the punishment fines, as such a warrant of execution against property was issued upon the losing defendant.

If you’re wondering if this case would have turned out differently in the United States, the answer is yes. Simply calling somebody a name won’t get you far in an American defamation lawsuit, but it may elsewhere – including the United Kingdom.

To learn more about international defamation laws, check out our slander and libel database. If you need to speak with an attorney well-versed in international online defamation law, get in touch with Aaron Kelly, founding partner of the Kelly Warner Law firm.

Antigua and Barbuda: The Copyright Free Capitol of the World?

copyright-lawyerThe island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has been beefing with the United States government for about six years. Online gambling and Internet copyright protections figure at the center of the dispute. Basically, Antiguans were (and still are) upset the U.S. outlawed online gambling, as the ban had a negative effect on Antigua’s economy. Meanwhile, the U.S. is upset that Antigua is threatening to remove all American copyright protection measures in their country as retaliation for the gambling ban.

Now, it looks as if the Antiguan government is ready to unveil their Dr. Evil-esque plan, and lawmakers admit the plan is meant to “monetize” or otherwise “exploit” U.S. copyrights. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer expressed his support and gratitude for the committee who quickly drafted a workable proposal. Also — perhaps in an attempt to alert overseas investors with a yin for Caribbean tax shelters – Baldwin mentioned in his press statement that the new Antiguan plan would be open to “private sector participation in the platform.”

Do you think Antigua is over-reacting? Maybe, but they have a legal right to do so. In 2007, The World Trade Organization sided with the Caribbean nation, granting them the authority to “ignore certain WTO commitments to the U.S., including those related to intellectual property rights protections.”

A spokesperson for the office of the U.S. Trade Representative cautioned that any extreme measures taken by the Antiguan government will “damage Antigua’s climate for investment and innovation.” Quite frankly, I’m not sure said assertion is accurate. After all, U.S. investors aren’t the only game in town. And let’s face it: a lot of profit-minded people (and pirates alike) – both at home and overseas – are not going to pass up a copyright free zone on principle.

The trade representative spokesperson also pointed out that the U.S. made amends with every other WTO member nation. Again, by pointing this out, the feds may be helping Antigua and Barbuda’s marketing efforts, for in doing so, they’re simply highlighting that Antigua may be the only game in town with copyright dodging capabilities.

Why is Antigua and Barbuda obsessed with the online gambling issue? Before Internet gaming, online gambling was the island nation’s second largest employer. When the ban hit, the Antiguan economy tanked.

Are you a business person interested in international startup options? If so, contact Kelly Warner Law. We help online startups determine the best business formation and operation options for their company.

Online Trade Libel Case Study: The Battle Of The Mail-Order Bride Websites

academic defamation lawsuits
An online business thought their competitor was behind a so-called “suck site”, so it sued.

A pair of mail-order bride websites – Anastasia International and EM Models (dba, Elena’s Models) — went toe-to-toe in court. By way of a lawsuit, Anastasia accused EM of false advertising, trademark infringement and defamation, alleging the latter hired a Web developer to make a “suck site” called anastasiadatingfraud.com.  EM Models denied the claim, and in the end a judge sided with the defendant because the plaintiff couldn’t produce enough proof.

How This Online Trade Libel Lawsuit Started

Anastasia International is a fee-based online dating service featuring women from Russia and Ukraine. It’s based in Kentucky, with offices in New York. In May, the mail-order bride type site filed a lawsuit against one of their competitors, EM Models. Why? Well, executives at Anastasia were convinced that EM had paid Juha Natunen to create anastasiadatingfraud.com, a website which accused Anastasia’s women of stringing men along with the intention of “breaking their hearts” in the end.

Irate over the website, Anastasia sued for defamation, false advertising and trademark infringement.

Could A Hyperlink On The Suck Site Work In Favor Of The Plaintiff?

Apparently, when Anastasia International first filed the lawsuit, someone removed a link on anastasiadatingfraud.com that had led to EM Models. During the proceedings, the judge said the removal of the link was the “strongest factual claim bolstering [Anastasia’s] argument” that EM paid to have the site created. In the end, though, the judge decided that “such an allegation of temporal proximity is not enough to show any connection or communication whatsoever, let alone an agency relationship, between Juha Natunen and EM Online. In other words: a link is not proof enough that EM hired Natunen to build the site.

The court ordered Anastasia to pay Elena Model’s attorney fees because the former kept the latter as a defendant without proof for an extended period of time.

Competition Litigation No-No: Don’t Make It Obvious You Only Care About Hurting The Competition

If you’ve been following along, you may have thought, “Hey, why didn’t Anastasia sue the website operator, Juha Natunen, for defamation instead of just suing competitor EM Models?” If that thought did cross your mind, you’re not alone. The judge in the case factored this thought into the ruling, reasoning that Anastasia’s refusal to drop EM Models from the lawsuit smacked of “a competitive ploy.”

Be Smart, Don’t Purposefully Jump On The Trade Libel Wagon

You may have the urge to secretly fund an attack website of your competitor. Don’t do it. It’s more likely you’ll be found out than not. And if you are, the amount you’ll most likely have to pay if you lose a defamation lawsuit may far outweigh the potential profit gain from plating dirty.

Kelly Warner Law deals with all things business and defamation law-related. Whether you need an attorney to draft an operating agreement or help you go after a competitor who is playing out of bounds, we can help. We are a top-rated law firm that won’t cost you a small fortune. Get in touch today to begin the conversation.

Finance Firm Says SEC Is Slander Happy, So It’s Suing.

business law
A financial firm sued the SEC over a field exam. The finance firm says that SEC harassed investors and slandered the firm during an investigation.

Arjent LLC, a boutique finance firm with domestic and international outposts, is suing the Securities and Exchange Commission for harassment, slander, concealment of an investigation and deprivation of the right to counsel. Furthermore, the financial group claims that the SEC is unfairly targeting small firms as a PR strategy.

Why Is An Investment Banking Business Suing the Securities and Exchange Commission?

In 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched a routine field investigation into Arjent LLC. According to the lawsuit, the financial firm’s CEO, Robert P. Depalo, complied with all requests. Regardless, the SEC continued to hound Arjent for additional information.

Perhaps not wanting to re-live another Enron Chewco embarrassment, field investigators seemed particularly interested in three financial entities listed as “outside business activities” for several Arjent employees – Brookville Fund Managers, Brookville Special Purpose Fund LLC and Pangaea Trading Partners LLC. But, according to the claim, “despite Mr. DePalo’s good faith cooperation with the Voluntary request, SEC staff remained unsatisfied and intensified its examination.”

Then SEC staffers began to contact investors, and according to the plaintiff, in the course of doing so, “slanderously insinuated to investors that Mr. DePalo illegally withdrew investor funds from Pangaea Trading Partners LLC.” The claimant also avers that the SEC “purposefully concealed the existence of a Formal Order of Investigation (“FOI”) while interviewing Mr. DePalo.”

Weary of the investigation and what he felt was misconduct on the part of SEC examiners, DePalo opted to file a finance defamation lawsuit.

Are Smaller Finance Businesses Being Targeted?

Artfully, DePalo’s team used the lawsuit to raise speculation about the SEC’s motives when it comes to exam targets. Using straightforward language, Arjent’s attorneys suggest that the SEC is purposefully targeting finance firms with less than 1,000 employees. A lack of in-house legal staff, claims Arjent, is the SEC’s sneaky impetus for stalking the small.

Arjent’s attorneys suggest that the SEC is purposefully targeting finance firms with less than 1,000 employees. A lack of in-house legal staff, claims Arjent, is the SEC’s sneaky impetus for stalking the small.

Why would the SEC rather investigate finance firms without in-house legal? Because the department thinks they’ll have a better chance at winning, which will help burnish the allusion of “effective regulation” into the public consciousness.

What’s Next in This Business Defamation Lawsuit?

Undoubtedly, an army of federal lawyers – and perhaps private consultants – will attack this case. And as is the case with most everything government-related, red tape will play a prominent role. Expect it to last a long, long time.

Get In Touch With A Lawyer That You Can Keep On Speed-Dial In Case of Emergency

Kelly Warner handles all manners of business defamation lawsuits – small or big. Our philosophy is simple: keep it under the radar and get ‘er done. Because the more time you spend litigating, the less energy you have for profit generating. Beyond that, public dirty laundry is usually not a good look. The ideal law firm is one that gets the job done, and doesn’t use your case for their own marketing gain.

Contact us today to begin the confidential conversation.

Total Biscuit and Wild Game Studio are Beefing

game developer lawsuitsA dust up in the gaming world is making headlines. Looks like Wild Game Studio is going toe-to-toe with venerated game reviewer, John Bain, a.k.a., Total Biscuit. And it doesn’t look like the biscuit is backing down. Day One: Garry’s Incident, a first-personal survival game, is at the center of the controversy.

It all started when Wild Game gave Total Biscuit a copy of Day One to review. Unfortunately for Wild Game, Total Biscuit wasn’t impressed and let his criticism rip in a review, which presumably angered the studio. “I just feel that companies that don’t have enough practice should, under no circumstances, be attempting something as complex as an open-world first-person survival game,” opined Bain. “Because it will just be dreadful, and this game is astonishingly bad,” he concluded.

In an attempt to mitigate the negative onslaught, Wild Game issued a copyright infringement complaint against Bain over the review, citing the advertising on his site as proof that he was unjustly enriching off the alleged violation.

As is often the case, the peanut gallery is split. Some developers are enjoying a bit of schadenfruede, while pirate sympathizers aren’t impressed with Wild Game.

Oh, and hey, don’t forget that Kelly Warner Law represents both game developers and freelance reviewers. Basically, we’re all about all things digital. Get in touch if you need a gaming, technology or Internet law attorney.

 

Former RAF Expert Wins Defamation Suit Against The Mail

picture of an old time newsie cartoon to represent defamation lawsuit against the Mail on SundayA former Royal Air Force expert won a defamation lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday. Dr. Joel Howard, a defense and securities expert, sued the newspaper over  a 2011 article in which he was called the “Ayatollah of the RAF”.

A native New Zealander, Hayward converted to Islam several years ago during his tenure as head of the Royal Air Force pilot training college. According to the Mail’s article, after his conversion, Hayward allegedly instructed students to go “softly-softly” when writing about Islamic terrorists.

Offended by the statement, Hayward decided to sue the Mail on Sunday. He also left his position at the RAF and took a job at Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates, where, he says, the atmosphere is much more friendly to Muslim converts.

It took two years, but the court reached a decision this week. The ruling body sided with Hayward, ordering the Mail to pay damages. According to Hayward, the award amount wouldn’t land him on a “rich list” but he hopes it will make the Mail “think twice.”

Are you interested in international defamation? Check out the Kelly Warner International Defamation Law Database. Do you need an international defamation law attorney? Get in touch with founding partner, Aaron Kelly.

International Defamation: Political Defamation In Ecuador

flag of Ecuador to represent international defamation case in Ecuador
Did the president of Ecuador unfairly launch a defamation lawsuit against his opponents?

An international defamation lawsuit out of Ecuador has caught our attention.

In brief, the three-term (and counting) president of the country, Rafael Correa, recently filed a defamation suit. He won and the defendants are heading to jail for 18 months. Supporters of Correa say the case was justified and appropriate. Detractors argue that Correa is using his political power to silence critics via the justice system.

Why Did Correa File A Defamation Lawsuit Against A Political Opponent?

In 2010, a violent demonstration rocked Ecuador. If you believe the opposition, it was a justified, non-violent protest waged by government workers demanding fair pay. If you believe Correa enthusiasts, it was an “undemocratic coup d’etat”. In any event, the incident turned violent. Correa was held hostage at a police hospital, and ultimately five civilians died when soldiers rushed the facility to rescue the president.

In the aftermath, opposition leader Jose Clever Jimenez Cabrera (commonly known as Jimenez) publicly ridiculed the ruling party and Correa for “promoting political chaos” and “perpetuating crimes against humanity”.

As you might imagine, Correa did not take kindly to the accusations. So he filed a defamation lawsuit against Jimenez and two instrumental union leaders.

International Defamation Watchdog Group Chastises Correa

To make a long story short, Correa won his case, and since Ecuador still has criminal defamation laws on the books, the defendants were sentenced to 18 months. Additionally, Jimenez was ordered to pay the president $145,000 and make a public apology.

Upon hearing the ruling, international first amendment advocates, Human Rights Watch, issued an excoriation of the decision. Jose Miguel Vivanco, who is the Human Rights Watch America’s director, criticized, “President Correa has long made it clear that he willing to go after anyone who criticizes him, from civil leaders to media critics.”

A Defiant “Defamer”

Jimenez is refusing to comply with the public apology demand, and he insists he does have the money to pay the fine. We’ll see if his prison sentence is extended, as a result.

Online Defamation Lawyer With International Experience

Kelly Warner Law is an international defamation law firm. We handle all manners of online defamation cases with international implications. Founding partner Aaron Kelly is a well-respected American defamation attorney with a superb professional rating. Please get in touch any time.

Defamation Law: Can Lie Detector Tests Be Used By Defense?

rendering of a lie detector machine
Can lie detector tests be used as evidence in defamation lawsuits?

Last week we blogged about a doping-related defamation lawsuit waged by former MLB player Albert Pujols. Welp gang, it looks like Jack Clark, the defendant in the case, is fighting back. And he is hoping to use a lie detector test to further his cause.

Quick Catch-Up: Why Is Pujols Suing Clark?

So how did this defamation battle begin? As is the case with many baseball-related legal conflicts, the kernel of discontent is a doping accusation. Specifically, on his short-lived radio show, Clark insisted Pujols took performance enhancing drugs. Pujols denies the claims and decided to sue Clark for defamation.

Clark’s Response To Pujols Defamation Lawsuit

Instead of lying low, Clark hit back with a response letter. In it, he stood by his statements, squabbling over the use of the term “juiced” and whether or not it absolutely conveyed, “illicit drug use.” Semantics aside, the former St. Louis Cardinal also used the response letter to challenge Pujols to a lie detector test. (If only “The Moment of Truth” was still on television.)

If Clark Did Pass A Lie Detector Test, Is That Enough To Get Him Off The Defamation Hook?

Offering to take a lie detector test is proof positive that a person is telling the truth, right? Not so fast. While a lie detector is a good indicator, it is not foolproof. As we learned from “Ocean’s Eleven,” anybody can train themselves to pass a polygraph — even when they are lying. Moreover, several scientific studies have concluded that lie detectors are inaccurate. The controversy surrounding polygraph tests is such that jurisdictions have the right to decide whether or not they can be brought in as evidence. Yes, each state has their own set of lie detector laws, and federal judges can use their own discretion in deciding whether or not to accept a given test. Not to mention, circumstances allowing, the defense attorney can always successfully move to have the test results excluded as evidence.

But What If Clark Is Telling The Truth? Can He Win The Case?

Truth is a clear and accepted defense against defamation. As the old saying goes, “it’s not slander if it true.” However, if the plaintiff can provide superior evidence than the defendant, it is possible for a lie-telling plaintiff to win a defamation lawsuit. Oftentimes in libel and slander cases, the fate of the case lies squarely in the quality of attorneys’ arguments.

Are you in a defamation bind? Do you want or need to speak with a defamation attorney? Contact Kelly Warner Law’s fulltime defamation team today.

Reptilian Conspiracy Theorist Suing Google For Defamation

Reptilian conspiracy theorist is suing Google for online defamation.
Reptilian conspiracy theorist is suing Google for online defamation.

Artist-turned-conspiracy theorist Uri Dowbenko filed a defamation lawsuit against Google. His chances of winning the case: pretty much nil. The E.Q. (entertainment quotient) of the lawsuit: very high.

First, A Little About Uri

When Uri Dowbenko entered the world 61 years ago, it’s doubtful his parents thought their son would become one of the more colorful conspiracy theorists in the world. But alas, such was the destiny of little Uri.

Unafraid to take up for the outrageous, Mr. Dowbenko is both a believer in the “New Reptilian World Order” and progenitor of the “Pat Robertson is an undercover Satanist” theory.

But Dowbenko is also an artist. And he’s even had some success around the South Beach area in the past. Lately, however, the art world has seemed to turn its back on Uri. And according to him, it’s all because of a website called “Encyclopedia of American Loons”.

The Website Uri Says Is Causing Him Reputation Harm and By Extension Financial Hardship

A free blog set up on Google’s Blogger platform, the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” is a satirical site highlighting the, shall we say, more fringe-thinkers among us. The anonymous editors of the encyclopedia chose Dowbenko as entry # 111.

Clearly not impressed with Dowbenko’s scientific vigor, the Encyclopedia of American Loons deemed Uri to be a “batshit insane tinfoilhatter, who is lacking any capacity to rationally evaluate science.” But, they also added the artist is “probably harmless, though, and rather entertaining.”

Dowbenko is Ostensibly Letting Money Guide His Way in This Defamation Lawsuit

According to Uri, one day he had an “epiphany” and realized his falling art star had everything to do with the Blogger-based encyclopedia. His prolific writings on various [ah-hem] issues were not to blame. Of course not!

Despite American Loons’ low SERP rank, Dowbenko ignored the Streisand effect and took action. He wasn’t, however, interested in suing the authors of the blog. Oh no, Uri decided Google was to blame. In fact, he believes Google is purposefully and intentionally manipulating the #1 search engine in the world in an effort to ruin his reptilian-human- hybrid-believing reputation.

Is There Any Possible Way Dowbenko Can Win This Online Defamation Lawsuit?

Can Uri win? In a word: no. Now, of course some legal oddity or administrative mess up could result in a win for Uri. Never say never, right? But a judge isn’t going to hold Google responsible for a third-party blog on Blogger. That is what Section 230 of the Communication’s Decency Act is for, to protect website portals from liability over user content.

Website Liability For Consumer Reviews: USA v. UK

Are website operators responsible for user comments in the US? What about in the UK?
Are website operators responsible for user comments in the US? What about in the UK?

Website Liability in the U.S.: Sections 230 of the CDA Provides Safe Harbor To Website Operators

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is one of the most significant Internet laws of our time. It provides safe harbor for website operators in the event a user posts defamatory or infringing content on their websites. It’s been argued that Section 230 is the provision that allowed the Internet to “take flight”, as websites had more freedom to experiment with user interaction and social media.

But a flip side always exists, and though it is a robust law, Section 230 of the CDA does pave an easier path for arguably corrosive platforms, like child and revenge porn websites. So, in an effort to combat such sites, attorneys general from several states have quietly waged a war on Section 230.

The outcome? Washington, Tennessee and New Jersey succeed in passing laws that ultimately dismantled the safe harbor provisions in the CDA.

Attorneys General Wage Low-Key War on Section 230

Those laws, however, didn’t last long. Backpage.com – a free classifieds site – moved forward with several lawsuits that questioned the constitutionality of the statutes. Ultimately, Backpage emerged victorious. Why? Perhaps the Tennessee trial court judge said it best:

The Constitution tells us that when freedom of speech hangs in the balance — the state may not use a butcher knife on a problem that requires a scalpel to fix. Nor may a state enforce a law that flatly conflicts with federal law. Yet, this appears to be what the Tennessee legislature has done in passing the law at issue.

In early 2013, New Jersey tried to illegalize child pornography in the Garden State by rendering Section 230 moot. But like Tennessee and Washington before, the NJ law was struck down. In this instance, though, poor wording was to blame for its demise. You see, section 230 is meant to make things “safer” online, but since the NJ law said a website must have knowledge about the offending material, it simply gave websites an excuse, if not an impetus, “not to know”, thereby nullifying the intent of Section 230.

Website Liability in the U.K.: EU Court Says Websites Are Responsible For User Comments

Our friends on the other side of the Atlantic have stricter Internet laws on the books. In fact, earlier this month, the European Court on Human Rights issued a judgment that effectively placed the onus of defamation liability on website operators – the exact opposite of Section 230 of the CDA.

Delfi AS v. Estonia: EU Officials Say Websites Are Responsible For Anonymous Posters’ Comments

Delfi is one of Estonia’s largest online news websites – think the CNN of Estonia. In 2006, Delfi ran a story about a ferry company’s contentious decision to change routes. As angry customers are wont to do, commentators took to Delfi’s website and let the insults rip. According to reports, the public was not kind. Death threats and insults filled the page.

Citing decreased business, the ferry company sued Delfi over “highly offensive or threatening posts about the ferry operator and its owner.” In 2008, an Estonia court ruled in favor of the ferry company and ordered Delfi to pay 360 euros worth of damages. Despite the small amount, Delfi decided to keep fighting and took the issue to the EU governing body. The news portal argued they were a “passive and neutral” conduit, as outlined in the European ecommerce Directive.

But the court didn’t agree with Delfi and handed down an eye-raising ruling. Officials on the European judicial board decided that the Estonia ruling should stand because it did not violate Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Whoa Nelly. To Americans that understand the importance of anonymous political speech – the European Court’s ruling was alarming. Because what they’re basically saying is this: Anonymity is no longer an option. (What’s next, the Borg?)

What was the reasoning behind the European Court’s Decision?

How did the European Court come to this decision? It reasoned:

  1. It’s the responsibility of “domestic courts” to interpret what constitutes violation of domestic law. As such, the Estonian court was in compliance with the “prescribed by law” requirement of the EU convention.
  2. Under convention rules, member states can put limits on freedom of expression if it is to protect a person’s reputation, so long as interference is “proportional.”
  3. Delfi should have anticipated the offensive posts and “exercised an extra degree of caution.”
  4. Even though the website had a disclaimer saying posters were responsible for their own comments, plus a note banning “threatening and defamatory” comments, the site failed to remove certain posts, though they did remove others.
  5. Yes, the ferry company could have sued each commentator individually, but since users could register without providing identifying information, it was “reasonable” and “practical” for the ferry company to proceed with a claim against Delfi.
  6. Damages were small, plus the order didn’t include free speech-limiting language.
  7. The paltry amount of 350 euros was appropriate and “proportionate” to the violation.

Why Do Stateside Websites Need To Know About The European Ruling?

You may be thinking, “My website is in the U.S., I don’t have to worry about legal shenanigans on the other side of the Atlantic.” But Oh contraire, mon frere. Think again. Website operators in North American absolutely need to consider European Internet laws – because digital packets don’t recognize political boundaries. As Tim Worstall said, “commentary is to be judged by the jurisdiction where it is read, not where it is written or hosted.”

Now, if you don’t have assets in a given foreign jurisdiction, you have little to worry about. But if your goal is to grow your business, or target UK customers as a viable demographic, you’d better pay head to EU Internet laws. Because again, when it comes to content on the Internet, jurisdictional-lines don’t exist.

Do you need the help of an Internet law attorney? Kelly Warner focuses on all things related to the Internet and technology. Get in touch today to begin the conversation.

Michigan May Have A New Cyberbullying Law Soon

cyberbullying
Is Michigan well on its way to passing a cyberbullying law?

Michigan is the latest state to make moves towards a codified cyberbullying law. Last week, The State Senate Judiciary Committee approved a new amendment to its 2011 anti-bullying statute – a statute which requires schools to develop a plan to protect students from harassment, intimidation and physical violence.

What Will The New Michigan Cyberbullying Law Do?

If gaveled in by the Michigan Senate, the new amendment will officially recognize online bullying as a form of prosecutable harassment. As such, public schools in the state will have to develop procedures to protect students from cyberbullying. Moreover, if the new amendment passes, schools will have to submit an annual report to the government about the status of their cyberbullying prevention and punishment program.

When asked for comments about the new anti-cyberbullying law, bill sponsor Sen. Glenn Anderson expressed his pleasure with the pending regulation and explained that Internet bullying is far more pervasive and damaging than “face-to-face” bullying amongst today’s tweens and teens.

Family of Bullied Teen Spearhead’s Michigan Online Harassment Amendment

The new bill was spearheaded by Kevin Epling, father of Matt Epling who tragically took his own life at 14 after being cyberbullied by older students at his school. Ostensibly as a way to honor his son’s memory and help other cyberbullying victims, the Eplings started BullyPolice USA – a non-profit that addresses issues related to Internet harassment. When asked about the possible new Michigan law, the Eplings expressed their pleasure. Specifically, the family took the time to reminded readers that their family was not the only Michigan family to suffer the pains of cyberbullying related suicide, saying that 25 to 30 families in Michigan alone have had to deal with the nightmare.

Potential Problem With Michigan’s Anti-Cyberbullying Law

Legally speaking, what makes the new Michigan law interesting is that the state is essentially giving schools permission to regulate their student body off campus. After all, Internet harassment and cyberbullying can happen any time of day – at school, at home and anywhere in between. In theory, the reach of the legislation could spark a contentious constitutional legal battle. It will be interesting to see if a lawsuit spawns from this new law if it passes.

Do you need to speak with an attorney about the legalities of a cyberbullying legal issue? Contact Kelly Warner Law.