Q3 2011 Quick Links, Part 4

By Eric Goldman

Content Regulation

* Lawmakers are putting the squeeze on advertisers to be content police. Meanwhile, VeriSign begged for the right to act as content police before changing its mind.

* Kowalski v. Koster, 2011 WL 4349365 (W.D. Mo. Sept. 15, 2011): “the CDA immunizes Internet service providers and does not create any cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”

* SC v Dirty World, 4:11-cv-00392-DW (ED Mo. Sept. 22, 2011). Defendant posting a complaint filed against him & saying “game on” doesn’t create an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.

* Obsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox, 2011 WL 2745849 (D. Or. July 7, 2011). Allegedly defamatory statements at obsidianfinancesucks.com are “expressions of opinion protected by the First Amendment”

* Calibra Pictures LLC v Variety, 2011 WL 3612209 (Cal. App. Ct. Aug. 17, 2011). A negative newspaper review is protected by anti-SLAPP laws, even when the newspaper had enticed the plaintiff to spend substantial amounts of money to advertise with it. The allegations in this lawsuit were quite troubling about Variety’s peddling its insider influence and selling movie producers on results it could deliver. Rebecca’s coverage.

* BCG Attorney Search v. Kinney, 2011 WL 2936773 (Cal. App. Ct. July 21, 2011). Lawsuit over a Ripoff Report post leads to a successful anti-SLAPP defense.

* US poker players turned into refugees by online gaming ban. Partially related: was Full Tilt Poker a Ponzi scheme?

* Carleton Hotel v Gladstone (complaint filed June 15, 2011). Hotel sues author of TripAdvisor review (for accusing the hotel of a bedbug infestation).

* Parisi v Sinclair appealed. Prior blog post. In addition, in Parisi v. Sinclair, 2011 WL 3705141(D.D.C. Aug 23, 2011) (NO. CIV. 10-897 RJL), one of the book authors was dismissed from the case for lack of personal jurisdiction.

* Useful primer on how to identify John Doe defendants.

* Hollywood, Esq.: Hot New Hollywood Trend: Crazy Defamation Lawsuits.

* Aaron Swartz is being prosecuted for a mass download from the JSTOR database.

* American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression v. Sullivan, No. 10-193 (D. Alaska June 30, 2011). Alaska’s baby-COPA law unconstitutional.

Social Networking Sites

* Bemis v. Bemis, 2011 WL 3335202 (Conn. Super. Ct. July 12, 2011). In a custody dispute involving 13 year old Alyssa, the court order imposed the following requirement: “Each parent shall view Alyssa’s Facebook page once per week. If Alyssa is unwilling to share 100% access, she shall be denied computer and smart phone access except for use of a computer for schoolwork which shall be supervised.”

* Held v. Ferrellgas, Inc., 2011 WL 3896513 (D. Kan. Aug. 31, 2011): “Plaintiff testified at his deposition that his coworker began subjecting him to a hostile environment prior to his termination in April 2009. At his deposition, Plaintiff could not recall whether he posted anything on Facebook that may be relevant to this case. Defendant claims that information from Plaintiff’s Facebook page during Plaintiff’s tenure at Ferrellgas is relevant. This court agrees. Further, it appears that Defendant is attempting to mitigate Plaintiff’s privacy concerns by allowing Plaintiff to download and produce the information himself, rather than providing login information. Indeed, Defendant itself notes that it is not seeking unfettered or unlimited access to Plaintiff’s Facebook, but rather limited access during the relevant time frame. As such, Defendant’s motion to compel regarding the Facebook information is granted.”

* U.S. v. Fumo, 2011 WL 3672774 (3rd Cir. Aug. 23, 2011):

Not unlike a juror who speaks with friends or family members about a trial before the verdict is returned, a juror who comments about a case on the internet or social media may engender responses that include extraneous information about the case, or attempts to exercise persuasion and influence. If anything, the risk of such prejudicial communication may be greater when a juror comments on a blog or social media website than when she has a discussion about the case in person, given that the universe of individuals who are able to see and respond to a comment on Facebook or a blog is significantly larger.

Yet while prohibiting and admonishing jurors from commenting—even obliquely—about a trial on social networking websites and other internet mediums is the preferred and highly recommended practice, it does not follow that every failure of a juror to abide by that prohibition will result in a new trial. Rather, as with other claims of juror partiality and exposure to extraneous information, courts must look to determine if the defendant was substantially prejudiced.

* Missouri State Teachers Association v. Missouri (Mo. Cir. Ct. Aug. 26, 2011). Enjoining part of Missouri’s Amy Hestir Student Protection Act. Prior blog post.

* D.J.M. v. Hannibal Public School District #60 (8th Cir. Aug. 1, 2011). A student’s IM messages threatening to harm other students supported school discipline of the student, even if the messages were exchanged off school property.

* Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools, 2011 WL 3132523 (4th Cir. July 27, 2011):

school administrators suspended [Kowalski] from school for five days for creating and posting to a MySpace.com webpage called “S.A.S.H.,” which Kowalski claims stood for “Students Against Sluts Herpes” and which was largely dedicated to ridiculing a fellow student….we conclude that in the circumstances of this case, the School District’s imposition of sanctions was permissible. Kowalski used the Internet to orchestrate a targeted attack on a classmate, and did so in a manner that was sufficiently connected to the school environment as to implicate the School District’s recognized authority to discipline speech which “materially and substantially interfere[es] with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school and collid[es] with the rights of others.”

* Oddee: 9 Most Bizarre Facebook Related Crimes

* NYPD puts cops on the Facebook beat.


* Wikimedia released its 2011-12 annual plan. One of its seven big goals: “The declining participation of seasoned Wikipedia editors must be reversed.” As the the detailed report explained: “Declining participation is by far the most serious problem facing the Wikimedia projects: the success of the projects is entirely dependent upon a thriving, healthy editing community.” To explain why that’s such a challenge, see my article, Wikipedia’s Labor Squeeze and its Consequences. The plan also notes: “Recently we have seen a general decline online in the growth of unique visitors and in page views in the United States.”

* In partially related news, Wikipedia is doing a broader rollout of its AbuseFilter tool.

* The Wikipedia Editor Survey from April 2011 provides more evidence of the challenges to replenishing the ranks of active editors.