Facebook Not Liable for Private User Groups Per 230–Finkel v. Facebook

22 10 2009

By Eric Goldman

Finkel v. Facebook, Inc., 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 32248 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Sept. 15, 2009)

This is a really interesting legal dispute with an entirely predictable outcome for Facebook as a defendant. See my initial blog post on the matter. A half-dozen high school students participated in a private Facebook group that ridiculed one of their peers. This wasn’t a nice thing to do, and the conversation exhibits the kind of mean-spirited puerile comments forged by the insecurities and social pressures of high school. Whether the underlying conversation is actually tortious remains unresolved, but I have my doubts.

Nevertheless, we knew all along that Facebook wasn’t liable for its users’ private group or their conversations per 47 USC 230. This wasn’t even close to a colorable question.

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Law Blog Legal Concept of the Day: Defamation

22 10 2009

The two former Yale law students who sued over comments posted about them on the message board AutoAdmit have quietly settled with a handful of the defendants. Click here for the story, from the Hartford Courant; here for Above the Law’s coverage. (For the AutoAdmit backstory, click here, here and here.) . . .

For our money, however, the meatier defamation story (or should we say potential defamation story) involves this rather tawdry situation involving ESPN Baseball Tonight commentator (and former New York Mets general manager) Steve Phillips.

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Troll Tracker defamation case settles before going to jury

21 10 2009

After four days of testimony, the “Troll Tracker” defamation lawsuit ended in a confidential settlement the day before the East Texas jury hearing it was set to begin deliberations.

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Johnny Ward and Eric Albritton on Troll Tracker blog: “Let’s get this shut down.”

21 10 2009

Plaintiffs T. John “Johnny” Ward Jr. and Eric Albritton took the stand in the closing days of this week’s closely watched Troll Tracker defamation trial, with Albritton tearfully telling the jury that two posts published by blogger—and ex-Cisco Systems lawyer—Rick Frenkel in October 2007 had “hurt” and “humiliated” him, while Ward described his strong and straightforward response to the offending posts as: “Let’s get this shut down.”

More on the trial:

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Craigslist Isn’t Liable for Erotic Services Ads–Dart v. Craigslist

21 10 2009

By Eric Goldman

Dart v. Craigslist, Inc., 09 C 1385 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 20, 2009)

Yesterday, Judge John F. Grady of the Northern District of Illinois federal court dismissed Cook County Sheriff Dart’s lawsuit against Craigslist for user-posted advertisements in Craigslist’s erotic services/adult services category on 47 USC 230 grounds. This is hardly surprising, as I wrote in March that “this lawsuit is almost certainly preempted by 47 USC 230.” However, it was nice to see such a clean and decisive opinion–and a little ironic, as our law enforcement officials, who are supposed to enforce the laws rather than bypass them, got schooled in the limits of their legal authority.

With respect to the 230 analysis, the court characterizes Sheriff Dart’s claims as alleging that Craigslist negligently published the user-supplied ads.

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A Legal Primer for Bloggers – Defamation

25 09 2009

A Legal Primer for Bloggers, Part 3 – Defamation

This post continues a series dealing specifically with the legal issues that bloggers should be thinking about.  Part 3, Defamation, will explore your options when somebody has posted something false and damaging about you, including some common defenses.

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A Legal Primer for Bloggers

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Intellectual Property

Part 3: DEFAMATION

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Rick Frenkel takes the stand in Troll Tracker defamation lawsuit

17 09 2009

Former patent blogger Rick Frenkel took the stand in the federal courthouse in Tyler, Texas, on Wednesday, and apologized for referring to the Eastern District of Texas as a “Banana Republic” in a post he published as the “Patent Troll Tracker.” But Frenkel insisted his blogging about a patent infringement suit against his then-employer, Cisco Systems, was not defamatory.

“You know, I think I was outraged over a situation … and I used words that were strong,” said Frenkel. “But I sure didn’t mean to hurt anyone by it.” Frenkel apologized for using the phrase, and noted that he took it off the blog after 24 hours. In October of 2007, about 500 people per day were accessing the Troll Tracker blog, he added.

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Featured Case: Peermusic v Motive Force- music publishers sue lyrics wiki

4 09 2009

Claims of direct, contributory, vicarious and inducement of copyright infringement filed against a lyrics wiki which allegedly scrapes hundreds of thousands of lyrics and redistributes via facebook and other sites.  Stanford Fair Use and Justia feature the case docket including the Aug 24th complaint.


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Online Retailer Isn’t Liable for User Comments–Cornelius v. DeLuca

24 08 2009

By Eric Goldman

Cornelius v. DeLuca, 2009 WL 2568044 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 18, 2009)

DeLuca runs bodybuilding.com, a fitness website and online retailer. The plaintiffs sell dietary supplements (“syntrax,” whatever that is). The plaintiffs allege that their competitors posted shill reviews to bodybuilding.com designed to harm the plaintiffs’ business. The plaintiffs sued both bodybuilding.com and the putative shillers. This ruling deals only with bodybuilding.com’s liability.

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No Special Rules for Internet Defamation, Says New York Judge

19 08 2009

If you refer to a professional model a “skank” and a “ho,” that’s defamation, not mere opinion or hyperbole, and it is no less defamatory for having been said on a blog, a Supreme Court judge in New York ruled in In re Application of Cohen (N.Y. Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cty Aug. 17, 2009).

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