US Freedom of Expression and Media Law Round up 8 June 2010

8 06 2010

In this post we round up recent decisions and blog posts on freedom of expression and media law issues which may be of interest to our readers around the world

The case of Snyder v Phelps has been much discussed this week after forty-eight states and the District of Columbia filed an amicus brief supporting the appeal.  The case is a claim by the family of a soldier who died in Iraq who brought a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy verdict against the Phelpsians (that’s the “God Hates Fags” group) who protested at a private funeral.  The jury awarded damages of US$5 million but this was overturned by by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  All the relevant documents can be found on ScotUS Wiki.

All the states except Virginia and Maine are supporting the appeal.  Eugene Volokh has a series of posts on the case on his Volokh Conspiracy blog – based on his paper “Freedom of Speech and the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Tort

In a decision with important implications for bloggers, a New Jersey appeals court has held that New Jersey’s shield statute did not protect a woman who operated a web site dedicated to revealing “criminal activity” within the pornography industry.   The appellate court’s decision in Too Much Media, LLC v. Shellee Hale affirmed a trial court decision requiring he defendant to reveal her sources for a series of web postings that the plaintiffs asserted were, among other things, defamatory.  The case is discussed on the Newsroom Law Blog.

In the case of Maxon v Ottawa Publishing Company the Illinois Third District Appellate Court ordered The Times of Ottawa Illinois to produce information disclosing the identity of an anonymous commenter on its website so that a couple could pursue a defamation claim against the pseudonymous blogger. The case is discussed on the Unruly of Law blog

In Re Perry a federal bankruptcy court ruled that sending an e-mail message with a hyperlink to a defamatory blog post can be considered a publication for the purposes of a libel claim.  The case is discussed on the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press blog.

In Gibson v Swingle the plaintiff contended that defendant had defamed him and invaded his privacy through Internet posts and e-mail communications. Defendant responded with a special motion to strike, contending the action was a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” (SLAPP).  The plaintiff claimed that the defendant had left hundreds of disparaging anonymous messages about him on website Craigslist.org,  The California Court of Appeals held that the posts were neither political speech nor in the public interest and did not qualify for protection under the state’s anti-SLAPP law. The case is discussed on the First Amendment Coalition blog.

Daniel Parisi has sued Larry Sinclair, a radio talk show host, Sinclair Publishing, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and Books-a-Million for defamation.  The plaintiff claims that Mr Sinclair published a book in 2009 that accused him of colluding with Obama’s adviser David Axelrod to rig a polygraph exam that would debunk Mr Sinclair’s story that he had sex and took cocaine with then Senator Obama.  Courthouse News has the story here.


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