Jan.-Feb. 2012 Quick Links, Part 3 (Defamation/Content Regulation Edition)

By Eric Goldman


* McKee v. Laurion, No. A11-1154 (Minn. App. Ct. Jan. 23, 2012) The appeals court revived a doctor’s defamation lawsuit over online criticism. Prior blog post on doctors’ lawsuits over online criticism.

* Schimmel v. YouTube, Inc., 2012 WL 280703 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Jan. 30, 2012). In a lawsuit over allegedly defamatory YouTube videos, the plaintiffs (wisely) voluntarily drop YouTube as a defendant.

* Support Group of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church v. Automattic, 1:12-cv-00249-BAH (D.C. D.C. complaint filed Feb. 15, 2012). Church group sues WordPress for allegedly defamatory user blog. Hello 47 USC 230! The blog at issue.

* Penachio v. Benedict, 2012 WL 10971 (2d Cir. Jan. 4, 2012): “New York courts do not interpret “transacting business” to include “defamatory utterances” sent into New York state, unless the conduct also included “something more.”…Here, Penachio and Carr argue that the “something more” was established because Benedict and Van Pelt had been physically present in New York for a guardianship proceeding, had contacted New York residents by email and telephone, and had called upon New Yorkers to respond to their YouTube videos. However, this argument is foreclosed.”

Content Regulation

* thedirty appealed its Section 230 loss in Jones v. Dirty World, setting up what may be the most important (and dangerous) Section 230 showdown in a federal appellate court in several years. Prior blog post.

* Meanwhile, the lawsuits against thedirty keep coming, including Hare v. thedirty and Doe v. thedirty.

* Deer Consumer Products, Inc. v. Little, 2012 WL 280698 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Jan. 27, 2012). Stock trader/griper not automatically subject to NY jurisdiction even though his LinkedIn page references a NY domicile, but court orders jurisdictional discovery. The trader also loses his bid to litigate pseudonymously, but the court specifies a protective order. Prior blog post on this case.

* Lyrissa Lidsky on regulatory overreactions to cyberbullying.

* Barnes v. Zaccari, 2012 WL 373316, (11th Cir. Feb. 7, 2012): “Zaccari says that Barnes engaged in threatening behavior. But Barnes’s Facebook collage, emails, and letter—when viewed in the light most favorable to him—reveal a student who is passionate about environmental issues, but do not require an inference that Barnes intended to harm someone. Zaccari claims that his name connected to the word “memorial” in Barnes’s Facebook collage suggests that Zaccari would soon be dead. But reasonable minds could differ. Several university officials contemporaneously viewed the collage and concluded it was not threatening. And the Director of the VSU Counseling Center, Dr. Victor Morgan, told Zaccari that the collage was not a threat.”

* Brain Research Labs, LLC v. Clarke, 2012 WL 239578 (Cal. App. Ct. Jan. 26, 2012). Lawyer’s YouTube video to prospective clients about a dietary supplements lawsuit covered by anti-SLAPP, but the plaintiff established its prima facie case enough to avoid dismissal.

* Lengthy story about the litigation practices of Melaleuca’s founder, Frank VanderSloot. EFF coverage. Blog coverage of Melaleuca. Another good reason to support federal anti-SLAPP legislation.

* Facebook’s content abuse standards.

* Blogger doesn’t qualify for Illinois shield law.

* Rubino v. City of New York, 2012 WL 373101 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Feb. 1, 2012). A teacher fired for implying on Facebook that she hoped her students would die was reinstated: “with Facebook, as with social media in general, one may express oneself as freely and rapidly as when conversing on the telephone with a friend. Thus, even though petitioner should have known that her postings could become public more easily than if she had uttered them during a telephone call or over dinner, given the illusion that Facebook postings reach only Facebook friends and the fleeting nature of social media, her expectation that only her friends, all of whom are adults, would see the postings is not only apparent, but reasonable.”

* California’s defense of the violent video games law cost taxpayers nearly $2M. Yay for us!

* Mandatory graphic images on cigarette packages violates the First Amendment.