Tag Archives: Free Speech

Anonymous Defamation: Website Users Reviewed in Appeals Court

defamation lawsuits and laws
A court case in Indiana has raises an intriguing First Amendment question as it relates to anonymous defamation. In this case, a potentially libelous comment was left by an anonymous user on the Star website. The comment suggested that Jeffrey Miller, the former head of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana, and several of his colleagues had misappropriated funds into their own bank accounts. This comment was posted by a user with the handle “DownWithTheColts.” Now Miller et al. want to sue, but they have no idea who “DownWithTheColts” is. Although the Star may be able to find identifying information about this individual via his or her IP address (Internet Protocol Address), the publication refused to provide it, citing anonymous speech ...

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The Privacy Tort of False Light Explained By An Internet Lawyer In Plain English

Internet Laws
Believe it or not, The United States Constitution doesn’t mention “privacy” once; but that doesn’t mean invasion of privacy isn’t protected. After all, the fourth amendment guards against unreasonable search and seizures, and the ninth ensures that rights not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution are also protected. As such, many states have False Light invasion of privacy laws on the books. As a private citizen, you have a right to protect yourself from unflattering and unwanted publicity. The legal concept is known as “False Light.” And as we collectively continue to travel down this Internet-obsessed road we’re on, expect to see more false light lawsuits hitting the courts. What Is False Light? False light is a privacy tort often confused ...

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Posted in Internet Defamation Law, Online Privacy Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Online Defamation Does A Number On Lawyer’s Reputation

defamation lawsuits and laws
Shakespeare said it best, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” And no man knows the truth of those words better than former Norwalk, Connecticut prosecutor Matthew C. Couloute Jr. When several of the young attorney’s former lovers flamed him on the website LiarsCheatersRUs.com, their blast of virtual vitriol became the top search result on Google and landed him several headlines in the New York Post. Couloute’s Background Prior to his online infamy Mattew C. Couloute Jr. enjoyed a legal career that would inspire envy in most. He was the youngest attorney to serve as a prosecutor for the state of Connecticut; he worked for the National Football League; AND he served as a consultant for MSNBC and Court ...

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Twitter Threats and The Law

Twitter and the Law
These days, Twitter threats are as commonplace as the Internet itself! And it’s an odd phenomenon too, since, unlike in most blog comment sections, many people use their real identities on the 140-character social networking platform. Perhaps Twitter’s frantic pace is to blame. After all, people do tend to tweet first and think later.  And that’s all fine and well, but as an Internet lawyer, let me remind you that threatening people on Twitter can land you in some legal trouble with the FBI – and who needs them banging down their door? Twitter Threats: Legal or Illegal? Here’s the deal: any credible threat made by one person to another is illegal. And all it takes to trigger an FBI ...

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Why Is Wikipedia Down Today? Blame SOPA

capitol
On January 18, 2012, thousands of folks settled into their desks for the day, only to find out that many popular websites weren’t working. Even Google had a special message on their homepage. And it all had to do with the Stop Online Piracy Act, a.k.a., SOPA. The Internet didn’t break that day. It was anti-SOPA day — and many high-profile websites “went dark” for 24 hours to protest against the far-reaching online intellectual property bill that was swiftly making its way through the government. Like most political issues, there were two sides to the SOPA story — those that fiercely defended the measures, and those who fiercely opposed them. But unlike many political issues, SOPA was not a fight ...

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Posted in Intellectual Property Law, Internet Law | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Illinois Appeals Court Protects Anonymous Poster In Internet Defamation Lawsuit

Internet defamation legal ruling
Back in 2009, an Internet defamation fracas began in Illinois. A truly 21st century legal standoff, the cyber libel lawsuit of Stone v. Hipcheck16 involved a local election, one politically-minded parent and the arguably bawdy smack-talk of at least one teen-aged blogger. The case was watched by many for its Internet privacy implications. And sure enough, the decision of the Illinois appeal’s court has further cemented the state’s legal standing when it comes to online anonymous speech. How The Internet Defamation Lawsuit Began: Internet Smack Talk It was 2009, and thanks to the Buffalo Grove Village local elections, things were heating up on the Daily Herald’s message board. Thus was the political climate when two posters, “Uncle W” and “Hipcheck16,” ...

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U.S. Resident Arrested For Online Defamation; Internet Censorship in Thailand to Blame

Blogger, Joe Gordon, arrested for online defamation
This one comes to you from the “WTH Files” and Internet censorship in Thailand is the topic at hand… If you’ve ever seen “Broke Down Palace” or are on team-Schapelle-Corby, then you know how easy it can be for unsuspecting westerners to find themselves in an unfamiliar (and often unforgiving) Thai prison.  Traditionally, drugs are to blame when the unlucky land behind Bangkok bars; but this time around, a U.S.-based blogger, Joe Gordon, awakened the ire of the Thai government and is now doing hard time in Thailand. Internet Censorship in Thailand: Joe Gordon, Defendant Fifty-four years ago, Joe Gordon (Thai name: Lerpong Wichaicomma) was born in northeastern Thailand. But for about the past 30 years, Joe has been a ...

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Posted in Internet Defamation Law, Internet Law | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Free Speech Implications of Blocking Blog Posts in India

Free speech laws
India is the world’s largest democracy, but the country’s claim to the title is being questioned after the Indian government implemented regulations restricting web content, specifically blog posts, in cases of “questionable content.” The new rules, which came from India’s Department of Information Technology, is sparking the ire of netizens and human rights advocates alike, with both slamming the move as a free speech violation. India’s Free Speech-Unfriendly Blog Laws In the new guidelines, anyone — private citizen or political party — can request that the government ban particular websites when they contain what is perceived as objectionable material. The criteria for objectionable content include, but are not limited to: threats to the sovereign integrity of India, the security of ...

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International Online Defamation Laws Are A Hot Topic

online defamation lawyer
International online defamation is one of the technology law issues d’jour. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, government ministers are having it out in the halls of Parliament over a new bill that will greatly alter their nation’s online defamation laws; Canada’s high court recently made the maple-leaf country’s first ruling on the liability of hyperlinks; and here in the United States, yet another Twitter libel lawsuit was withdrawn before it got to trial. International Online Defamation Laws: Changes In Canada After 15 years of widespread Internet use, the Supreme Court of Canada released a judgment on Crookes v. Newton, the country’s first decision on hyperlinking. At the crux of the case was Canada’s “publication rule” as it relates ...

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Posted in Internet Defamation Law | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Brief History of US Defamation Law: Part II

This is the second article in our mini-series on the history of defamation law in the United States. If you missed the first part, click here. In the 1970′s, defamation law continued to expand and mold in order to remain in-step with rapidly changing social norms. Today, due to the omnipotent presence of the Internet, libel and defamation legislation is, once again, taking center (litigation) stage. The Supreme Court Clears up the Difference between an Opinion and Defamation Elmer Gertz was a well-respected civil rights attorney; he represented Nathan Loeb (of Leopold and Loeb fame) and also played a part in the obscenity trial over Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (Escandalo!). In 1968, Elmer was publically accused of being a ...

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Posted in Defamation, Internet Defamation Law | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments