An Australian defamation ruling will probably affect how Australians word tweets from here on out.
In this post, we’ll review the case, and then examine the likelihood of a U.S. court delivering the same verdict. If you’ve landed on this page in search of an international online defamation lawyer, click here.
The Tweets That Launched an Australian Defamation Lawsuit
In May of last year, Fairfax Media (an Aussie media outlet) ran a story about Australian Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s alleged complicity with, what sounds like, a modern-day political simony scheme. According to a Fairfax Media investigation, a Sydney business group supposedly bestowed inappropriate “access” on Hockey, presumably in exchange for political favors.
As part of efforts to promote the story, Fairfax released two tweets. One simply said, “Treasurer Hockey for sale” followed by a link; the second read, “Treasurer for Sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access” and was accompanied by a micro-summary of the story.
In response to the tweets, Hockey filed an online defamation lawsuit. After both sides presented their arguments, Justice Richard White decided:
Only The Tweets Are Defamatory, Not The Actual Article
After the ruling, a Fairfax Media spokesperson explained to the press:
In other words, the court said Fairfax Media’s investigative article about Hockey wasn’t defamatory. Only the tweets were libelous because they lacked clarifying context.
Would Hockey Have Won This Twitter Defamation Case In A U.S. Court?
Two win a defamation lawsuit in the United States, at the very least, plaintiffs must meet the following requirements.
Falsity: To win, plaintiffs must prove that defendants made unprivileged, false statements of fact.
Harm: For claimants to win slander or libel lawsuits, it’s not enough to demonstrate that a statement was false, they typically must prove that it caused material or reputational harm. (The exception to this rule is defamation per se, which you can read more about here in the sidebar.)
Negligence or Actual Malice: Intention is a big part of defamation law. To win a case, plaintiffs must prove that their respective defendants were either negligent or, in some cases, intentional in releasing the statements under review.
So, taking the parameters of U.S. defamation law into consideration, would Hockey have won this lawsuit on American soil? Probably not. Especially since the court found that the actual article, which the tweets referenced, was not defamatory.
Differences Between U.S. and Australian Defamation Law
Slander and libel laws in the United States and Australia are a lot more different than some people may think. Like other British Commonwealth nations, Australian defamation laws are more plaintiff-friendly than those in the United States, which is why some stateside clients choose to file overseas when circumstances permit. That said, so-called libel tourism is frowned upon, universally. As such, though it has been done, it’s difficult to get a commonwealth court to accept a foreign case, especially since the libel reforms of 2013.
Speak With An International Online Defamation Attorney
Do you need to speak with an attorney who understands the legal nature of online reputation attacks? If yes, contact Kelly Warner Law. Our firm has successfully handled hundreds of Internet defamation and trade libel cases. A top Av-rated firm, Kelly Warner lawyers are known for their attention to detail and creative solutions.
Below is a summary of an app developer v. app developer lawsuit. Anyone interested in tech lawsuits will find it informative. If you’ve landed here in search of an app developer lawyer, head here.
APUS Group is an app development startup. Cheetah Mobile Inc. is an established app development firm. The two companies are going head-to-head in a legal battle. Why? Because they’re pushing similar products, and aggressive marketing may have morphed into illegal, unfair competition.
Why is one App Company Suing Another App Company?
Cheetah Mobile Inc. (“Cheetah”) and APUS Group (“APUS”) have competing apps, Clean Master and Launcher respectively. Both are “optimizer” apps that improve device functionality.
Cheetah launched this app developer lawsuit against APUS because the latter believes the former committed intellectual property infringement and an egregious act of defamation by telling users that Clean Master is “stealing your data.”
Press Release Informs Defendants of App Developer Lawsuit
International App Developer Using U.S. Courts For Unfair Competition Grievances; Is It A Smart Move?
Somewhat curiously, Cheetah filed this app developer lawsuit in a California court. Why California? Speculation is that:
- Higher U.S. litigation costs may encourage APUS to settle out of court;
- If Cheetah wins in a U.S. court, the possible award damages, for the cited claims, are higher in the U.S. than China;
Justifying a Jurisdiction
How did Cheetah justify filing in a U.S. court? Since the Google Play store distributes APUS’ Launcher in California, California residents are affected by the alleged violations.
Sure, it’s a valid argument, technically, but tenuous. It wouldn’t be surprising if the plaintiff first moves for a change in venue.
App Developer Claims Unfair Competition Kitchen Sink
Cheetah’s list of claims was longer than a theme park line. The tech firm sued its competitor for:
- Trade libel,
- Copyright infringement,
- Federal and State trademark dilution,
- False advertising,
- Unfair competition,
- Intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and
- Intentional interference with contracts.
Time will tell if this app developer v. app developer lawsuit proves to be a brilliant stroke of strategy or an misstep.
Kelly / Warner is a tech law firm that works with developers. Contact us with any questions related to app development law.
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Is An Online Review Poster Going To Jail?
A paid online review rabble-rouser is in deep poo over a Google Maps review. His name is Jason Page; he lives in the United Kingdom, and he made the giant mistake of leaving a fake review on the page of a Colorado-based lawyer, Timothy Bussey.
Well, it appears that Page was caught and is now out $50,000. He may have to spend some time in the clink, too.
Paid Online Review Sparks International Lawsuit
Page labeled Bussey “a scumbag” and accused the attorney of “paying for positive reviews.” Page also alleged that Bussey “loses 80% of his cases.”
Perhaps Page thought he was in the clear since he lived in the UK and Bussey in the United States. After all, who was going to waste time and money going after a kid, who still lived with his parents, over a lousy online review, right?
Page’s defamatory missive caused Bussey serious financial setbacks. People would read the online review and click away to another attorney. So, Bussey subpoenaed Google and procured information that led to the unearthing of Page’s real identity.
Police & Judge Don’t Believe Troll
When law enforcement officials approached Page, he denied culpability. The lawyer basher blamed his status as a sub-Reddit moderator for the mishap, alleging that hackers were exacting revenge for a decision he made in that role.
But the judge wasn’t moved by Page’s pleas. In fact, he called it “extremely improbable.”
Bussey has suspicions that Page may have been paid to leave the bad review, and he is continuing to pursue the case. So, if you’re guilty, watch out – sounds like Bussey is still on the hunt!
Online Trolling Is Illegal; You Could End Up In Jail or Bankrupt
Many people think that online trolling and writing a paid online review is perfectly legal. Still others believe that a VPN will protect them from being uncovered. Neither of these things is true. It is possible to unearth the names of anonymous trolls – even when they use cloaking techniques.
Now, not all trolls will land behind bars. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have civil legal actions brought against them. Even if individuals don’t engage in criminal activity or online stalking, they can still be sued for:
- Trade Libel or Product Disparagement,
- False Light Invasion of Privacy,
- Unfair Competition, or
- Tortious Interference.
Got Questions? Speak With An Online Harassment Attorney
Kelly / Warner Law has considerable experience with international Internet law cases. As a full-service practice, we handle claims in-house. In addition, we act as the U.S. arm for overseas firms that need assistance from U.S-based lawyers for various court order and motion needs.
Kelly / Warner has an excellent track record, and our attorneys are exceptionally knowledgeable about fake and paid online review legalities. Contact us.
*Kelly / Warner was one of the U.S. firms that helped win the International Internet defamation case discussed in this post. A pioneer in Internet governance law, Kelly / Warner partners with overseas legal practices to resolve cross-border libel, harassment and unfair competition cases. If you’d like to speak with Kelly / Warner about a domestic or transnational Internet law issue, please contact us.*
A web developer may spend some time in jail over a $300 invoice.
“But how could that be!?,” you protest.
When someone opts to criminally harass a former client, instead of legally handling an invoice disagreement, they sometimes find themselves behind bars.
Web Developer Created Harassing Websites About Former Client
Web developers and clients often clash over expectations and invoice amounts. When serious conflicts arise, professionals typically seek the assistance of an attorney with Internet governance and arbitration experience.
But some web developers choose a more dastardly path: they create disparaging –often harassing – websites about former clients.
Paul Britton, of Origin Design, falls into the latter group. Because of a £200 (~$300) invoice dispute, Britton created several websites with the express purpose of humiliating his former client, and falsely labeled his foe a pedophile.
U.K.-based Britton thought using false credentials and U.S. companies to register and pay for the domains would sufficiently mask his identity.
But Britton didn’t do his Internet law homework.
If he had, Britton would’ve known that it’s possible to force Internet service providers and websites to fork over identifying information in criminal cases. Just because you use a fake name to register and set up a website doesn’t mean the “real you” can’t be unmasked – especially in service of a lawsuit.
How Kelly / Warner Law Helped Win This International Online Defamation Lawsuit
What The UK Team Needed to Prove
Due to the severity and nature of the accusations, the plaintiff’s legal team accused Britton of online harassment — a criminal charge in the United Kingdom. As such, the lawyers had to present evidence that satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt” standards. A simple IP address would not suffice, because, technically, IP addresses only represent computers, not people.
The U.K. legal team faced another challenge: Britton had done all his digital dirty work via U.S. companies. As an overseas practice, the prosecuting firm needed to partner with state-side practices that could obtain court orders compelling the U.S. ISP’s to hand over information in service of the lawsuit.
What Kelly Warner Did To Help Win This International Internet Law Caper
Our firm, Kelly / Warner, was one of the practices that partnered with the prosecuting U.K. legal team. Since Britton used U.S.-based ISPs to carry out his online revenge scheme, the plaintiff’s lawyers had a digital discovery challenge on their hands. In order to crack the case, they needed court orders, from U.S. judges, compelling parties – like PayPal.com and GoDaddy – to hand over user information.
We helped get those court orders.
Once in hand, the plaintiff’s U.K. lawyers were able to craft an unimpeachable case that included telephone recordings and password evidence.
Defense Argument That Didn’t Work In This International Internet Law Case
In this case, Britton’s defense attorneys used a decidedly 21st century legal argument [Paraphrasing]:
Since Britton’s disparaging sites didn’t appear in the first few pages of SERPs (search engine result pages), no harm was done, because nobody pays attention to SERP results past page three.
Some might call this the “twinkie defense” of Internet defamation law, but the argument isn’t completely baseless. At least under U.S. law, which requires nearly all* defamation plaintiffs to prove material harm. If a defendant can successfully argue that few people saw the material in question, case law precedence demands that even though a false statement of fact was made, the lack of material damage fails to meet the required preponderance of evidence for a successful libel claim.
(*Note: This statement doesn’t account for defamation per se. Defamation per se is a classification of slander or libel in which the accusation is recognized as inherently damaging. In such cases, the plaintiff doesn’t need to prove material harm, as it is inferred. Calling someone a pedophile would undoubtedly be considered defamatory per se in most jurisdictions that recognize the standard.)
Kelly / Warner: International Internet Governance Law
Due to the mounds of evidence, Britton had no choice but to plead guilty to criminal online harassment charges. No trial needed.
Kelly / Warner has considerable experience with international online defamation litigation. Frequently, we partner with overseas firms to close cross-border cases. Our attorneys and support staff know how to maneuver for a successful court order in online defamation and harassment cases.
*New June 2015 Update Below*
- Summary of a major difference between United States and Canadian online defamation law;
- Summary of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which confers immunity for third-party defamation to website operators; and
- Contact information for lawyer who’s successfully dealt with cross-border Internet defamation issues.
Canadian and U.S. Defamation Law: Polar Opposites?
People credit the U.S. for having the most defendant-friendly slander and libel laws in the English-speaking world, whereas Canada’s defamation laws are sometimes described as the most plaintiff-friendly.
But other differences distinguish the neighboring nations’ takes on slander and libel – especially when it comes to Internet defamation.
Online Defamation Lawsuit Case Study: Suck Site Target v. Hosting Company
Canadian Andy Lehrer filed a small claims motion in Ontario against hosting company EasyDNS. Why? An adversary of Andy’s had created a disparaging website about Andy. EasyDNS happened to host the website. Even though EasyDNS had nothing to do with the creation of the “suck site,” he asked the company to take it down.
EasyDNS didn’t comply.
Instead, EasyDNS explained to Lehrer that, in this instance, without a court order, they wouldn’t take it down. After all, it’s not a hosting company’s responsibility to determine what is and isn’t libel.
So, what did Lehrer do in response to EasyDNS’ refusal? He added more “counts” to his defamation lawsuit. Lehrer’s reasoning? Since EasyDNS posted a blog entry about the lawsuit, Lehrer is arguing that doing so is not only illegal, but punitively egregious. (For this tactic to work, there would have to be publicly withheld facts that make a huge difference in the case.)
Section 230 of the CDA: The Big Difference Between United States and Canadian Defamation Law
In the U.S., this online defamation lawsuit against the ISP (which we’re differentiating out from Lehrer’s claim against his original detractor, Rourke) wouldn’t make it past round one. Why? Section 230 of the CDA.
Legalese and limited exceptions aside, Section 230 of the CDA states that website operators cannot be held responsible for libelous third-party content. To wit, Section 230 is why Facebook and GoDaddy aren’t successfully sued for every act of online defamation committed by users on their respective platforms.
Difference Between United States and Canadian Law Means EasyDNS Will Go To Court;Wouldn’t Happen In The U.S.
Since a Canadian court is handling this case, EasyDNS must expend time and resources explaining to a judge: EasyDNS is not the content author or editor and shouldn’t be held responsible for defamation.
To be clear: It’ll be shocking if a Canadian court sides with Andy and saddles EasyDNS with damages for not taking down the anti-Lehrer website. Canada and U.S. law books may not be doppelgangers, but it’s not North Korea above the 41st parallel. Canadians care about free speech as much as Americans.
What is different, though, is that EasyDNS has to expend significant resources to quash the case. In the United States, this online defamation lawsuit wouldn’t have passed the proverbial bouncer.
June 2015 Update
Andy Lehrer won his defamation claim against his original adversary, Tim Rourke. And according to the EasyDNS blog, the hosting company plans to move forward with a takedown against the offending website, now that there is a legitimate court ruling on the matter (which is all the company wanted in hand before complying with the takedown request). From EasyDNS’ Website:
To clarify, this blog post was not about Lehrer’s dealings with his original detractor. Instead, it dealt with Lehrer’s defamation claims against EasyDNS, the hosting company. Moreover, we used the case as a vehicle to illustrate a significant difference between Canadian online defamation law and U.S. online defamation law.
Consult An Internet Defamation Lawyer
Kelly / Warner Law handles international and online defamation issues. We have assisted many a Canadian—and hosting company — with their cross-border slander and libel challenges. If you’ve got a defamation question or issue, get in touch today.
The best defamation news and happenings for September 2014.
Jurisdiction Matters: The Case Of The British Doctor In Texas
In 1998, editors at The Lancet (a medical journal) published a controversial research paper penned by doctor-most-likely-to-be-quoted-by-Jenny-McCarthy, Dr. Andrew J. Wakefield. His conclusion: certain childhood vaccines may cause autism.
In 2011, the British Medical Journal published a paper debunking Wakefield’s research, in which the author characterized Wakefield’s work as “fraudulent” and a “fix.”
In response, Dr. Wakefield filed a libel lawsuit in Texas – his current place of residence.
But the trial judge dismissed the doctor’s libel claim over lack of jurisdiction. The bench reasoned that both parties were Brits and that the article wasn’t popular enough in Texas to affect Wakefield’s reputation.
Since then, Wakefield has been appealing up a storm. And this month, a third Texas court heard his case. Wakefield was denied, once again.
“Wild Thing” Goes For Defamation Score
Remember everybody: It’s not defamation if it’s true!
But it looks like Mitch “wild thing” Williams didn’t get the memo. The former MLB Network employee is suing Deadspin for defamation over an article about his less-than-sportsman-like conduct at a little league game.
Williams was eventually fired from his day job over the incident. So, he decided to file a wrongful termination suit against the MLB Network and an online libel suit against Deadspin.
The kink in his case is that he already apologized for his behavior at the game, which is the same as admitting he behaved as reported. And remember: it’s not defamation if it is true…..(well, most of the time).
State Farm Insurance Loses Again In 14.5M Defamation Suit
For several years, State Farm Insurance has been on the losing end of a high-profile, high-dollar defamation lawsuit. A contractor sued the insurance company over accusations of fraud after a 2006 hail storm, which resulted in an onslaught of claims.
The case went to trial, and the contractor won $14.5 million – one of the largest defamation verdicts in U.S. history.
State Farm cut the check but is still trying to get its money back. In the latest attempt, the company tried to evoke a little-known civil law that allows judges to re-order a trial in an already decided case.
But it didn’t work. The appeals panel reasoned that State Farm had the “panoply of pretrial discovery devices” at their disposal from the beginning. Just because State Farm didn’t take advantage of the discovery process then, does not mean it should be able to fix its “mistake” now.
Obviously, the contractor is thrilled with the decision, but State Farm has vowed to continue fighting the verdict.
Company Held Liable For Libel Over Employee Email
Businesses aren’t responsible for defamation over something said in an employee e-mail, right? Wrong.
This month, a judge ruled that a medical business was legally liable for an unflattering email that an employee sent out about another employee.
Now, does this ruling mean that every business is responsible for every employee email? No. But since this email had to do with work, the company must take the fall.
Defamation, On Ice
In September, Bedazzled Ice Prince Johnny Weir’s estranged husband, Victor Weir-Voronov, dragged the former Olympian into court.
During the Sochi games, infamously out-going Weir took a break from his color commentating to trash-talk his man, on-air. Accusations of disease and “sexual misconduct” fell out of Johnny’s mouth during an Olympic broadcast.
Georgetown Law grad Weir-Voronov describes Johnny’s tirade as a “crusade of defamation.”
If this case makes it inside the courtroom, it’s sure to be an HLN/CrimeTime favorite. Why? Because Johnny is notoriously flamboyant and hyperbolic, which, theoretically, may just work in his favor here, since a statement must be believable for it to be defamatory.
What Are You Hiding, Feds?
Hmmmm, what’s going on here. The U.S. Department of Justice is intervening – going so far as to exercise state secret privileges — in a private, overseas libel lawsuit between Greek mogul Victor Restis and the association United Against Nuclear Iran.
Speculation, of course, is rampant – but we’ll probably never learn the true answer. At least not anytime in the near – or medium-near – future.
Lifetime Movie Network’s Artistic License Is on Trial
There’s acceptable artistic license, and then there’s egregious artistic license — and Ms. Daun Slagle insists that the Lifetime Network producers crossed the line in one of its made-for-TV movie masterpieces.
In the 1990s, Daun was a victim of serial killer Keith Jesperson. Luckily for Ms. Slagle, she escaped death at his hands.
Lifetime Network immortalized the travesty in the late-afternoon, basic-cable hit, Happy Face Killer, in which producer’s indulged in a little artistic license when it came to Slagle’s story. In the movie, Slagle is characterized as a “prostitute whore (TM real housewife)” who performs fellatio on Jesperson in front of her baby, and then falsely reports him in a rape-extortion scheme.
Slagle swears the portrayal is rubbish. So, she is suing for defamation.
My guess? Either a) Lifetime has proof that Slagle isn’t as angelic as she swears or b) a settlement will be reached soon, and Slagle will be living large from here on out.
Cole Porter, Local Politics & Online Defamation: What DOES It All Mean?
A politician who thinks AIDS is the result of man-monkey copulation is being sued for online defamation. Stacey Campfield is his name, and blogging about other officials is his game.
Back in 2008, in the heat of national elections, Tennessee state representative Campfield published a blog post accusing state house candidate Roger Byrge of having “multiple separate drug arrests.”
But Campfield got his facts wrong. Candidate Byrge was not the same person as drug user Byrge.
Unluckily for the incumbent, Campfield’s source swears he warned of the information’s murkiness.
At first, a judge dismissed the case, saying that he could “see how you could mess that up. It is what it is.” But the TN Court of Appeals did not agree, ruling that Byrge has every right to move forward with a defamation lawsuit – especially since Campfield was warned about the accusation’s truthiness.
Real Housewife Headed To Defamation Court, Courtesy of Ex-Beau
Last October, former Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, Camille Grammar, got into a physical fight with her then-boyfriend Dimitri Charalambopoulos. According to Camille, the altercation went down in a Texas hotel room soon after she had undergone cancer surgery.
When the news first hit, Camille’s rendition of events cast Dimitri as the bad guy. But he soon filed a defamation suit, insisting that Camille was spewing lies. His side of the story? Camille went housewife-crazy after seeing a text message from another woman on his phone.
Now Camille is trying to get his defamation case dismissed. Her main argument (condensed): She never actually said Dimitri’s name, so her comments weren’t defamatory. Will she win this dismissal? Probably not — but stranger things have happened.
Did The Delivery Woman Do It In The Driveway?
“Condensate from a vehicle is clear. This was definitely tinted yellow.”
That’s what one Mr. Michael Wilson said when a reporter asked him about an online defamation lawsuit filed against him by Shamrock Delivery, a FedEx contractor.
According to Wilson, several months back, a Shamrock delivery woman urinated on his driveway after delivering a package. He caught the incident on video and posted it to YouTube. It went viral – even made the news in some areas.
But the Shamrock driver insists that Wilson didn’t see pee; he saw leaked air-conditioning fluid that pooled while she was idling, trying to avoid a Rottweiler.
Drunk Driving Death Leads To Defamation Lawsuit
Augustine Bangura, a Pennsylvania resident, is suing several media outlets – including the AP, ABC, CBS and NBC — over reports of his 2013 car accident that resulted in a tragic death.
According to police, Bangura failed a field sobriety test, and the media reported so. But Bangura insists that the breathalyser must have malfunctioned because he was not under the influence at the time of his arrest. Bangura also insists that nobody read him Miranda rights.
Contrarily, law enforcement officials swear that Miranda rights were read and that Bangura’s memories are most definitely alcohol impaired.
If the police have proof that Bangura was over the legal limit, this case will be dismissed faster than a fiber connection.
Defamation Bout: Allred v. Mayweather?
OMG, y’all: a Gloria Allred v. Floyd Mayweather showdown is afoot!
The notoriously outspoken attorney is representing Mayweather’s former fiancé, Shantel Jackson, in a lawsuit against Mayweather. The accusations include assault, battery, invasion of privacy and defamation.
In terms of the libel charge, Jackson is upset that Mayweather accused her, on Facebook, of having an abortion.
September 2014 “Libel Littles”
- The North Carolina judge who won a $6 million defamation lawsuit reached a settlement with her accusers – http://www.counton2.com/story/26464919/settlement-reached-in-judges-6m-defamation-award
- Another local political online defamation suit. This one involves Facebook, accusations of mental illness and a sheriff’s race – http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-lake-county-undersheriff-files-suit-facebook-comments-20140910-story.html
- A state senate race in Boston turned ugly – and it may result in a politician v. politician defamation lawsuit – http://www.boston.com/news/local/new-hampshire/2014/09/20/sen-shaheen-campaign-rips-defamatory-attempt-link-her-year-old-felony/ACdphCpXMe3Zwqy4UupYZK/story.html
- A substitute teacher is suing a school district for defamation over its insistence that she made a bomb threat (she says it’s a “patently false” accusation). If she is telling the truth, she is going to win big – http://www.theoaklandpress.com/general-news/20140926/rochester-teacher-sues-birmingham-public-schools-for-defamation-after-being-fired
Russian Government Is Pro LOLCats (But Just Put Another Dagger Into Free Speech’s Side)
Move over Dear Leader, Putin’s showing you up!
That’s right folks, yet another draconian Internet law has hit Russian rule books. This one – dubbed “the blogger law” – requires website operators with a daily readership of 3,000 people or more, to register their website with the Kremlin. Oh, and the new “blogger law” also outlaws online cursing.
Oleg Kozyrev, a Russian Internet personality, thinks “every blogger might face a threat of criminal prosecution” once the statute goes into effect. And Russians don’t really do grace periods when it comes to enacting Internet laws. For example, the Blogger law was announced on Monday and takes effect today, Friday.
When asked by Lenta.ru about the new, free-speech-killing law, a Russian official expressed his support of LOLCats then argued that if you’re not doing anything “wrong” you have nothing to worry about, comrade:
“If you publish pictures of cats on your blog and if you do not use obscene language or disclose state secrets, this responsibility might not arise at all even if you have a million unique visits a day.”
Will this new “online defamation law” have any effect? Will it allow Putin to take over the Internet, Dr. Evil style? When asked, Internet celebrity Anton Nossik pointed out that the Russian government already has “a rich choice of laws to come after you with,” so the “blogger law” probably won’t amount to much.
The blogger law was slapped together quickly, and, as such, is “confusing, poorly written and hard to enforce consistently.”
The youngest member of Russia’s lower house is a 29-year-old named Robert Shlegel. A member of the ruling party and Putin fanboy, Shlegel is enthusiastic about passing constrictive Internet laws; but even he admitted that the “blogger law” doesn’t make much sense and that he’s “trying to understand it” himself.
Local Politician Wins Defamation Ruling On Appeal
A Texas appeals court breathed new life into a defamation lawsuit involving a local politician.
School Board member Salem Abraham had previously sued AgendaWise.com – a political blog – over a mis-characterization of his demeanor and actions at a local town hall event.
The trial court first ruled that even though the blog post was “false, and without foundation,” it wasn’t defamatory because Abraham did not prove that AgendaWise bloggers acted with malice.
Abraham appealed, and a higher court agreed with him, ruling that since the case did not involve Abraham’s work as a school board member, the trial court inappropriately evoked the malice standard. The appeals court remanded the case back to trial – and Abraham will most likely have his day in court.
Excerpts from the Seventh Texas Court of Appeals Opinion
“AgendaWise’s article here said nothing about the defamed individual’s status as an elected official or his performance of any duty arising from such status.”
“[T]he defamation was not restricted to (Abraham’s) community and no evidence suggests that Abraham was known as a school board member worldwide.
“A public official retains a private life.”
The Tea Party’s Biggest Spenders Are Being Sued For Defamation
The Koch Brother’s political action organization, Americans for Prosperity, is being sued for defamation by a member of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542.
The melee began in February 2013 when Americans for Prosperity held an “informational gathering” about an upcoming law that would prohibit unions from automatically taking dues payments from public employees’ paychecks.
Union member Frank Bankard, attended. And according to him, the Americans for Prosperity people screened a video that portrayed him and other Local 542 members “puncturing tires, burning a Quaker meeting house, and threatening, bullying and beating non-union businesses, a union leader claims in court.”
Bankard wants $50,000 in restitution.
It’ll be interesting to see if Americans for Prosperity settles quickly to make the case go away, or if the group will spend millions trying to out lawyer – and beat – the union in a court of law. After all, the Americans for Prosperity coffers are pretty much bottomless. Which tact will the Koch Bros choose?
Pando’s Secret Opinion
“Secret” is the new “Whisper-like” app sweeping Silicon Valley. Sarah Lacy over at Pando Daily has opinions about the funding success of the defamation-waiting-to-happen app – and it’s worth a read.
Lese Majeste Means 15 Years In The Clink For A Thai Musician
This one is coming to you straight from the “aren’t you glad you’re not a royal subject” files (apologies, Commonwealth readers).
A 28-year-old musician in Thailand will spend the next 15 years behind bars for voicing his negative opinion, on Facebook, about octogenarian Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Yes, 15 years in the clink!
The Thai defamer was prosecuted under the country’s notoriously strict “lese majeste” laws, which forbid citizens from publishing negative opinions or accusations about the ruling monarch and his family.
Sure, we have our issues in the U.S. – but at least we don’t need to worry about spending decades in jail for social media smack talk.
Bed and Breakfast’s Attempt At Thwarting Online Defamation Backfires – Big Time!
The Internet made one New York bed and breakfast famous –nay, infamous – this week. And online defamation is to thank (or blame – depending on how you look at it).
One day, while surfing the Web, a sharp-eyed Netizen came across the website for “Union Street Guest House” located in Hudson, New York. Most curiously, the intrepid user noticed a peculiar policy posted on the inn’s website:
“A $500 fine … will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review placed on any Internet site by anyone in your party.”
“Awwwww, Hell NO!” thought our fearless Web surfer – and to the Internets s/he went, to alert the world of this B&B’s faux pas.
The people came; they saw and then proceed to conquer Union Street on the battlefields of Yelp!, TripAdvisor and other review websites.
Union Street innkeepers waved a white flag on their Facebook page in a futile attempt to broker a cease-fire. They pleaded with Team World to forgive them and explained that their anti-bad-review website policy was simply:
“…a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.”
It didn’t help. The bullets kept coming in the way of snarky online reviews and blog posts. The last time anyone checked, Union Street could not be reached for comment by phone – or email.
Hey, Hospitality Service Operators: Don’t do things like this! It never works! If someone defames you, contact a lawyer at that point. Don’t try to scare people’s free speech rights out of them by way of an unenforceable business policy. Not cool. Not smart.
A Defamation Lawsuit Fit For Reality TV / Lifetime Movie
If you’re the type of person who dabbles in Reality TV fare – Bravo style – or you’re a fan of “classic” TV programming like Dallas, you’ll probably enjoy this defamation lawsuit out of the Lone Star State. It involves a pair of millionaires, a 32-year-old step-son who doesn’t want to leave home, a recently burglarized 3-story closet and a defamation lawsuit. What DOES it all mean!?!?!
Hong Kong Businessman To Google: I’m Coming After You For Defamation
Hong Kong-based billionaire Albert Yeung Sau-shing, of the Emperor Group, is going after Google for an unflattering auto-complete.
When you Google Sau-shing, suggestions for “Triad” – the notorious gang – pop up.
Google moved to have the case dismissed, arguing that the Hong Kong court did not have jurisdiction over the U.S.-based search company. The court disagreed and waved through the auto-complete defamation lawsuit.
This is not the first time a foreign luminary has sued Google over its autocomplete feature. And it’s a tough spot for Google. On one hand, if the company makes the requested changes, doing so proves that Google can (and possibly does) manually manipulate search results – which is a can of trade secret worms that search executives don’t want to open in a public arena. You can almost hear the trade secret trepidation in Gerard McCoy’s (Google’s lawyer) filing. He averred:
“The entire basis of the internet will be compromised if search engines are required to audit what can be assessed by users using their search tools.”
Get In Touch With A Trade Libel / Defamation Attorney
Kelly / Warner maintains a dedicated trade libel and online defamation legal practice. If you have questions that need answering, or you’re looking to consult with a libel lawyer, get in touch today.
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Can a Canadian sue an American, in a Canadian court, for defamation? Yes. If the Canadian wins, will the American be forced to pay damages? Because of the SPEECH Act, probably not.
Securing the Protection of Our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act (SPEECH Act)
It’s a law with a long name and a big job. The Securing the Protection of Our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act is the regulation workhorse that materially safeguards U.S. citizens’ free speech rights in foreign jurisdictions.
How does the SPEECH Act work?
The paperwork particulars are nuanced and better left for a lawyer.
But, in basic terms, the SPEECH Act works thusly:
When a ruling is handed down in an overseas court, the foreign party seeking restitution must ask a “state-side” court to force the U.S.-based “losing party” to pay up. The SPEECH Act, however, says judges can refuse to issue a court order to the U.S. party, on the grounds that the case would’ve probably turned out differently in an American court.
U.S. Defamation Laws v. Canadian Defamation Laws
Since the U.S. has the most defendant-friendly libel laws in the English-speaking world, and Canada has the most plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the same demographic, U.S. courts don’t often recognize a libel judgment, in favor of the plaintiff, handed down in a Canadian Court. (Quebec courts are sometimes exceptions to the rule.)
The Notable Exception: If the facts of the case are such that the Canadian plaintiff would have won in both a U.S. and Canadian court, then the American party will be forced to turn over the duckets.
SPEECH ACT Case Study: Blogger v. Canadian B&B Owners
Dissing Innkeepers and Politicians On Slabb.org
Some time ago, Mr. Doug Handshoe of Mississippi posted a missive on Slabb.org. The focus of his prose was the former president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana – a fallen area politician who plead guilty to theft and bribery. Handshoe compared the disgraced official with the owners of a guest house in Nova Scotia, Canada, quipping that both the politician and the innkeepers “had champagne taste on a beer budget” and “worked as a unit to grift their way through life.”
Canadian Innkeepers Sue for Online Libel
Probably perplexed about how they got dragged into the machinations of a Mississippi political melee, the owners of the Nova Scotia inn filed an online libel lawsuit against Handshoe – in a Nova Scotia court – and they won a judgment of about $430,000.
But can the Canadians collect the money?
The Canadian innkeepers petitioned a federal Mississippi court, asking it to force Handshoe to pay up. But Handshoe argued the SPEECH Act. Chief Judge Guirola agreed and ruled that Handshoe didn’t owe squat because he probably would have won the defamation lawsuit had it been tried in the United States.
The innkeepers appealed, but were once again denied, the Fifth Circuit explaining in their opinion:
A party may enforce a foreign defamation judgment in a domestic court if either (A) the law of the foreign forum . . . provides free-speech protection that is coextensive with relevant domestic law, or (B) the facts . . . are sufficient to establish a defamation claim under domestic law.
The higher court found that the Nova Scotia libel standards used to decide this case did not mesh with point (A), nor did the judges feel that the Canadian innkeepers would have won in a U.S. court, rendering point (B) unfulfilled as well.
Another blow to the Trout Point executives, they had to pay Handshoe’s legal fees.
Canadian-U.S. Defamation Litigation and Lawyers
Kelly / Warner Law has successfully handled many cross-border, Canadian-U.S. libel cases. If you are facing a foreign defamation judgment and want to exercise your SPEECH ACT rights, we can help. If you want to sue a non-U.S. citizen for defamation, we can also help. If you are being sued for defamation and need defense counsel, we do that too.
Kelly / Warner is a top-rated, full-service law firm – with an excellent track record in cases involving the SPEECH Act.
Get in touch today to begin the conversation.
The top European Union court announced a landmark ruling that will further the discussion about “right to be forgotten” Internet laws. We’ll explain the meat of the ruling and explore how it could affect online defamation victims.
What Is The Best Way To Get Defamatory Material Removed From The Internet?
The best way to mitigate an online defamation wound is to get the offending material removed from the website on which it sits. But, if you can’t expunge it completely, the (very close) second best option is to get the libelous info erased from search engine databases. That way, if someone pumps your name or business into Google or Yahoo! or Bing, the reputation damaging webpage won’t show up in results.
How Easy Is It To Get Libelous Content Removed From Search Engine Indexes in the United States?
How easy is it to get defamatory content removed from search engine results in the U.S.? It depends on the facts of your situation. It’s possible to get a court order compelling a search engine to remove material, but in order to do so, one must first prove defamation.
If your lawsuit is in the beginning stages, you can sometimes get a temporary restraining order compelling website operators to remove material during the course of litigation.
How Easy Is It To get Libelous Content Removed From Search Engine Indexes in the European Union?
United States citizens may enjoy more free speech rights than our European counterparts, but their online privacy laws are a whole lot stricter than ours.
In May 2014, the European Court of Justice announced a landmark ruling regarding unflattering search engine content. In 1998, a man living in Spain suffered a reversal of fortune. He has since turned things around for the better. But when you pump his name into Google, his nearly 20-year-old house foreclosure is still front and center.
The man’s woes, though, will soon be over, because the EU Court said Google has to remove the information about his decades-old financial troubles from their index.
The Right to Be Forgotten v. The Right To Erasure
People on the “legal beat” are calling the new European online privacy stance “the right to be forgotten.” Officials in Europe, however, are taking it one step further and calling for a “right to erasure” law, which would allow individuals control over personal online information that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed.”
Will The EU Right To Be Forgotten Ruling Affect The U.S. Tech Industry?
The EU’s right to be forgotten ruling will cost search engines money – lots of it. Why? They’ll have to implement new procedures to comply with the legal standard, as well as hire a slew of attorneys to focus on related issues.
And there is another concern – censorship. According to the Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose membership ranks include Facebook Inc., Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft, said about the EU right to be forgotten ruling:
“[It] opens the door to large scale private censorship in Europe,” adding that “our concern is it could also be misused by politicians or others with something to hide who could demand to have information taken down.”
Can U.S. Businesses ‘Take Advantage’ of the new EU Right To Be Forgotten?
Are you reading and wondering, “I wonder if I, a U.S. citizen, can somehow make the new EU ruling work for me? There is some unsightly information about me on the Web, and I’d really like it gone.”
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple and depends on whether or not you have any ties to Europe.
If you’re curious if you qualify to take action under the new European “right to be forgotten” standard, contact Kelly / Warner. We’ve successfully handled countless online defamation removal cases. We can help you, too.
Get in touch today to learn more about your legal options regarding the right to be forgotten laws.
Every so often, we take a dip in overseas legal blog waters to learn what defamation debacles are making headlines abroad. Last week, two tales of communist defamation happenings caught our eye. Pussy Riot won a small slander victory in a Siberian court, while a supposedly fame-seeking teenager in China drew the short defamation straw.
Pussy Riot Member Escapes Defamation Lawsuit
In 2012, notorious Moscow-based punk band, Pussy Riot, pulled an anti-Putin stunt called “punk prayer” that landed the members in jail. One member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, ended up in Mordovian Prison, Siberia. After a few months in residence, Tolokonnikova penned an open letter about the jail’s conditions. She lamented the treatment of prisoners and accused the deputy warden of having a penchant for death threats. Then, she took a page from Ghandi’s playbook and went on a hunger strike — (and hey, good for her; you gotta do what you gotta do in certain situations) – at which point officials transferred her out of Siberia and into another detention center.
The Mordovian deputy warden, however, was not willing to let the accusations slide – so he filed a libel lawsuit against his ex-inmate, asking for 500,000 rubles ($14,000) and a full retraction. But the judge, surprisingly, said no-go to the suit. Surprisingly because Russia isn’t known for its defendant-friendly stance when it comes to slander and libel – especially when the plaintiff is an official of any stripe.
So, go Russian government? (Nah, probably not. But three cheers for this libel ruling.)
Chinese Teenager Heading To Jail For Twitter Defamation
Tolokonnikova may have emerged victorious in her defamation showdown, but it looks like her comrade in China, Qin Zhihui (a.k.a., Qin Huohuo), will have to spend three years behind bars for posting some not so celeb- and political-friendly quips. After being very publicly arrested, Zhihui decided to plead guilty to online rumor-mongering over comments he made on the Twitter of China, Sina Weibo. Publically, Qin Huohuo said he “fabricated stories” to “attract public attention.”
The reason Zhihui is receiving a harsh punishment for a seemingly simple act of Twitter bloviating is because China recently passed a draconian online defamation law. The controversial statute absolves law enforcement officials of needing a victim to investigate acts of online defamation. In other words, nobody has to complain about being defamed online; the only thing that has to happen is that a disparaging post or social media quip is either forwarded 500 times or viewed 5,000 times. (Hey Joe, can you get everyone in your office to click on this link so we can go after this author? Thanks.)
Government officials haven’t been shy about making an example of Zhihui, warning “The public should learn from this case.” A party spokesperson continued, “The Internet is a public space that needs order and is protected by rules. People who disrupt order on the Internet and attack others should be punished.”
Just goes to show that the “Internet” – unlike parents – is not the same no matter time, nor place.
Contact A Defamation Lawyer Today
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