The new materials, dubbed “Something Can Be Done! Guide,” provides a step-by-step guide for victims. It provides concrete measures that they can take, including evidence preservation, copyright registration, restraining orders, and takedown requests to Internet companies—many of which don’t require the often-costly services of a lawyer. (Without My Consent’s efforts are reminiscent of Nolo, a decades-old do-it-yourself legal publisher.)
His wife Melania, in contrast, keeps a lower profile, both in the public eye and in court, so it caught my attention when Melania brought a defamation lawsuit. She sued a blogger, Webster Griffin Tarpley, for defamation. He blogged several rumors about Melania but later retracted the post (presumably under legal threats). He got sued anyway. Separately, Mail Media Inc. (MMI), which allegedly runs the MailOnline website, published an article reporting on similar rumors. They too retracted the post and got sued anyway.
[Note: Venkat represented Yelp in this case but was not involved in the preparation of this post.]
For all of the drama associated with Section 230 jurisprudence this year–including in the Ninth Circuit–it’s easy to forget that Section 230 still works well in simple cases when a plaintiff tries to hold a website liable for third party content. So it’s refreshing to get a straightforward Section 230 case that reaches the expected result. And it’s especially gratifying to see a court recognize–and reject–efforts to plead around Section 230.
Kimzey is a locksmith operating as Redmond Locksmith a/k/a Redmond Mobile Locksmith. “Sarah K” left a negative Yelp review of the business. Kimzey sued Yelp pro se. The district court easily tossed the lawsuit. The Ninth Circuit affirms.
Case citation: Kimzey v. Yelp!, Nos. 14-35487 & 14-35494 (9th Cir. Sept. 12, 2016)
Publicity right laws often prohibit the use of third parties’ names (or other aspects of their personalities) “for commercial purposes.” So what’s a “commercial purpose”? Fuck if I know. We might make the term coextensive with the Constitutional law definition of “commercial speech,” but that provides precisely zero help because there are multiple inconsistent definitions of that term too. Because no one really knows the commerciality borders for publicity rights (or any other) laws, defendants sometimes struggle to get quick courtroom wins in publicity rights cases, even when they publish obviously editorial content.
Against this backdrop, Avvo scored a nifty early victory in a case challenging its attorney profiles. Avvo creates the profiles without consent from the profiled attorneys, and then displays advertising on the profiles and uses them to upsell Avvo memberships.
The case concerns a June decision by a state appeals court that requires Yelp to remove a defamatory review about a law firm written by an unhappy client. A lower court issued a default judgement for over $500,000 against the reviewer, Ava Bird, for a review that the law firm claimed was defamatory. Bird was sued for defamation, but was a no-show in court.