Category Archives: First Amendment

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Defamation Law Series: Trumping Defamation Claims

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump recently have found themselves embroiled in two separate defamation cases in state courts – but while the President defended himself against claims resulting from his late-night tweeting, the First Lady brought her case as a plaintiff seeking damages against an online blogger and media company. Relying On … Continue Reading

Defamation Law Series: Wisconsin Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal of Firefighter Aaron Marjala’s Claim for Defamation

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals recently affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of firefighter Aaron Marjala’s claim for defamation against a news network, Robert Whitaker (chief of the fire department), television journalist Megyn Kelly, and a guest on her show, Lee Armstrong. Marjala was a firefighter and injured the ulnar nerve in his right arm while … Continue Reading

Former American Idol Contestant’s Defamation and False Light Claims Dismissed

The California Court of Appeal recently dismissed former American Idol contestant Corey Clark’s claims against Radar Online, LLC (“Radar”), concluding that Radar’s anti-SLAPP motion should have been granted. In 2003, Clark was a contestant on the national television singing competition American Idol.  Clark was eventually removed from the competition due to his purported failure to … Continue Reading

Gawker Remains in the Crosshairs: Seventh Circuit Finds that Online Media Publisher Can Be Liable for Defamatory Third-Party User Comments for Its Role in Disseminating the Statements

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently kept alive one of the multitude of legal entanglements ensnaring Gawker Media LLC, as the Court reversed and remanded a lower court’s decision to dismiss a plaintiff’s defamation claim involving defamatory third-party user comments.  In its ruling, the Court emphasized that a media company such as Gawker can … Continue Reading

VR/AR in a Real World

In case you have been living under a rock, virtual reality (VR) and its first cousin, augmented reality (AR), have arrived.  The highly publicized and long-awaited head-mounted displays (HMDs), the headsets through which the world of virtual reality can be accessed, have been or will be made available for sale to the public this year, … Continue Reading

Appellate Court Denies Special Effects Provider’s Request for Discovery Regarding Anonymous Speaker’s Identity in Defamation Case

Last month the California Court of Appeal addressed whether Avongard Products U.S.A. Ltd., doing business as Hydraulx, a preeminent film industry visual special effects provider, made a prima facie showing that certain anonymous e-mails are provably false and defamatory statements of fact that caused Hydraulx to suffer actual damage.  Hydraulx sued a number of anonymous … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Clarifies Standards for Anti-SLAPP Motions to Strike So-Called “Mixed Causes of Action”

This week the California Supreme Court clarified that California’s anti-SLAPP statute, California Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16, permits the movant to strike a portion of a so-called “mixed cause of action” that combines allegations of activity in furtherance of the movant’s right of petition or free speech with allegations of unprotected activity.  The case … Continue Reading

Appellate Court Affirms Order Denying Anti-SLAPP Motion to Strike Claim for Libel by Implication

Plaintiff Leah Manzari, an alleged pioneer in the online adult entertainment industry and purportedly famous under her professional name, Danni Ashe, filed suit for libel and false light in California district court, alleging that an article published by defendant Associated News Ltd. in its online newspaper, the Daily Mail Online, implied that Manzari was HIV … Continue Reading

In Online Defamation Case, Court Finds That Personal Jurisdiction Does Not Exist Over Blogger Who Directed Online Reviews To A Nationwide Audience

The Eastern District of Virginia recently dismissed an online defamation case on personal jurisdiction grounds.  The case related to a gun-aficionado blog, created in Arizona and aimed at a “nationwide marketplace of consumers of firearms,” which contained negative reviews about a product.  Because the operators of the blog did not specifically direct their online review … Continue Reading

Rejecting First Amendment And Communications Decency Act Arguments, California Appellate Court Affirms Order Requiring Non-Party Yelp To Take Down Defamatory Reviews

In a published decision filed on June 7, 2016 in Dawn Hassell v. Ava Bird, Case No. A143233, the Court of Appeals for the State of California, First Appellate District, determined that the trial court’s order requiring Yelp to take down content – which had been posted by the Defendant Ava Bird and which the … Continue Reading

Appellate Court Rejects Defamation Lawsuit Targeting Statements Made In American Hustle

Plaintiff Paul Brodeur, a well-known author, filed suit in California state court against the producers and distributors of the motion picture American Hustle, asserting claims for defamation, slander, and false light.  The case is Paul Brodeur v. Atlas Entertainment, Inc., et al., Case No. B263379. Mr. Brodeur’s claims were based on a single statement made … Continue Reading

New York Court Dismisses Defamation Suit Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

On May 2, 2016, the New York Supreme Court for the County of Westchester granted defendant Seeking Alpha, Inc.’s motion to dismiss plaintiff Mark Nordlicht’s (“Plaintiff”) defamation complaint in the case styled as Nordlicht v. Seeking Alpha, Inc., et al., Index No. 64319/15.  The court’s ruling was based on the immunity created by section 230 … Continue Reading

Significant Practical Reasons For Entering A Life Rights Agreement May Exist, But It May Not Be Necessary From A Legal Perspective

Real life stories are often produced with the acknowledgment and encouragement of their subjects, who are compensated in exchange for entering into what are known as life rights agreements. However, obtaining permission from every real person involved in the making of the work may not be feasible. In the article “Rights to Life,” published in … Continue Reading

Blake Shelton Says Magazine Wrong About Rehab & Survives Anti-SLAPP Motion

Last year, country music superstar Blake Shelton filed suit in federal court against the creators and publishers of In Touch Weekly, bringing claims of libel per se and false light invasion of privacy after the magazine published allegedly false statements in its cover story headlines and an accompanying article about Shelton’s purported drinking habit and … Continue Reading

Straight Outta the Central District: The First Amendment Shields Straight Outta Compton Filmmakers from Misappropriation of Likeness Claim

The filmmakers of 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, the biopic chronicling the career of hip-hop sensation N.W.A., scored a key victory in the Central District of California last Wednesday in the case of Heller v. NBCUniversal, Inc. et al.  The filmmakers were sued last year by Gerald Heller, N.W.A.’s former manager, who claimed (among other things) that … Continue Reading

Storytellers and Artists Rejoice: The Hurt Locker Is Fully Protected By The First Amendment

The Hurt Locker, which won Best Picture at the 2010 Academy Awards, follows Sergeant First Class William James (played by Jeremy Renner) in his role as a team leader of a U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit in Iraq, during the Iraq War. Sergeant Jeffrey Sarver, who served as an actual EOD technician in … Continue Reading

Actor James Woods Defeats Anonymous Tweeter’s Special Motion to Strike Defamation Suit

In July 2015, renowned film and television actor James Woods filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against anonymous Twitter user “Abe List,” alleging that Abe List falsely accused Woods of being a cocaine addict.  The statement, which Woods alleges was potentially disseminated to hundreds of thousands of Twitter and Internet users, read “cocaine addict James … Continue Reading

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles – Court Grants Motion for Summary Judgment in Favor of “Empire” TV Series

On February 1, 2016, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson ruled that Twentieth Century Fox Television’s (“Fox’s”) use of the term “Empire” in the network’s hit TV series was protected by the First Amendment.  Judge Anderson found that use of the name “Empire” deserved protection as artistic expression and that the name passed the two-part Rogers … Continue Reading

Second Circuit Tells Public Figures Suing For Defamation: We Need Plausible Factual Allegations Of Actual Malice

In Biro v. Condé Nast, et al., the Second Circuit recently determined that, in a defamation action, limited-purpose public figures must plead in a “plausible way” that the defendants acted with actual malice, citing Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and the Supreme Court’s decisions in Iqbal and Twombly. Plaintiff Paul Biro sued Condé Nast, … Continue Reading

That’s TheWrap: A Change In California Law To Protect Online Media Publications

A dispute involving an online media publisher has prompted California’s Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown to revise California’s libel law, in an effort to protect such publishers.  California’s Civil Code Section 48a previously limited a plaintiff suing for libel in a newspaper to special damages, unless he or she demanded that the publisher correct the … Continue Reading

ARETHA FRANKLIN IS LOOKING FOR A LITTLE RESPECT FROM TELLURIDE AND TORONTO FILM FESTIVALS

On September 4, 2015, a long running legal battle over the right to use footage from a 1972 concert by Aretha Franklin took a twist right out of a Hollywood movie when the Queen of Soul sought, and was granted, a temporary restraining order preventing a screening of the documentary film Amazing Grace at this … Continue Reading

Do Not Mess With Michael Jordan And His Right Of Publicity

After Michael Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in September of 2009, Sports Illustrated ran a special issue to commemorate Jordan’s achievement and celebrate his career.  The issue was to be sold in stores, rather than through subscriptions, and certain stores were offered space in the issue in exchange for offering copies … Continue Reading

Who is John Doe? Actor James Woods Brings “Twibel” Case Against Anonymous User “Abe List” for Calling Him A “Cocaine Addict”

Last week, renowned film and television actor James Woods brought a defamation claim against an anonymous Twitter user who tweets from the handle “Abe List,” alleging that Abe List falsely accused Woods of being a cocaine addict.  The allegedly false statement, which Woods alleges was tweeted to and/or seen by potentially hundreds of thousands of … Continue Reading
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