Union Isn’t Liable for Members’ Postings to Union Message Board–Raggi v. Las Vegas Police

20 03 2009

By Eric Goldman

Raggi v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept., 2009 WL 653000 (D. Nev. March 10, 2009)

Unexpectedly, we’re celebrating union week at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog. Earlier this week, I blogged that union organizers aren’t liable for trademark infringement from their online activism. Today, I’m blogging that 47 USC 230 protects unions from liability for online postings by their members.

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Report: ‘Net filtering won’t stop online extremism

10 03 2009


Like just about everyone else, political extremists with the potential for violence have gone online. Everything from diatribes by known terrorists to recruitment videos make their first appearances on websites, leading many, both in government and out, wondering how best to tackle the dangers that this material (and the people behind it) poses. A new study by the The International Centre For The Study Of Radicalisation And Political Violence (ICSR) has performed an analysis of the issues and released a report that suggests the best way to deal with the material may be to tackle the offline activities of those who produce it.

The ICSR is a joint project formed by an international coalition of academic institutions. The current report, however, is focused on the British experience, suggesting it was primarily the product of people based at King’s College, London. Although some of the material in the report is specific to the UK, a fair bit of it probably applies fairly generally to the experience in other nations.

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Docs Threaten Review Sites With Copyright Suits

5 03 2009

Really interesting use of copyright law (instead of defamation or privacy law) here. [Ed]

by Wendy Davis, 4 hours ago

Media Post: The Daily Online Examiner

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In the five years since he co-founded RateMDs.com, a site where patients rate their doctors, John Swapceinski has been threatened with lawsuits at least once a week. Not one disgruntled physician has actually carried out his threats, Swapceinski tells MediaPost. Indeed, it would be very difficult to sue the site for defamation, given that the federal Communications Decency Act immunizes Web sites from libel cases based on user comments. But, starting six months ago, the nature of the threats changed. That’s when Swapceinski began hearing from doctors who said that reviews on the site violated contracts with their patients. Apparently, some physicians are now asking patients to sign agreements in which they promise they won’t review their doctors online. In some versions of the contracts, called “Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy,” doctors promise to prevent patients from “unwanted marketing information” — anonymous targeting by marketers — in exchange for patients’ promise to avoid posting negative reviews to Web sites. And, critically, the contracts also assign the copyright in anything the patients write about their doctors to those doctors.

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Doctors try to silence negative reviews from patients

4 03 2009


Like donut shop owners, city councilmen, and smalltown gossip victims, doctors aren’t terribly fond of patients leaving negative comments of them all over the Internet. They, however, aren’t taking the lawsuit route—at least not yet. Instead, doctors are asking patients to sign agreements that bar them from posting comments on everything from review sites to blogs, and then attempting to have the reviews removed if they break the gag order.

In fact, these doctors are going so far as enlisting the help of monitoring companies that watch for negative posts attempting to  in check. One such company is (appropriately) called Medical Justice, founded by North Carolina neurosurgeon Dr. Jeffrey Segal, whose entire business is built upon pushing patient waivers to doctors and then hunting out their commenting indiscretions online.

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Xcentric Ventures (a/k/a/ “the Ripoff Report”) Seeks Ninth Circuit Ruling on Standard for Unmasking Anonymous Posters

4 03 2009

The “Ripoff Report” consumer complaint Web site is well known to those who follow rulings involving the application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, including some who self-identity as “Section 230 junkies.” Xcentric Ventures, the operator of the Ripoff Report, and its founder Ed Magedson have been serial defendants in defamation cases brought by various parties who sought to establish that the site was liable for defamatory statements made by posters to the site. Xcentric and Magedson have prevailed in almost all of those cases, even in situations where the plaintiffs sought to establish that the Magedson and Xcentric employees either wrote or substantially edited some of the alleged defamatory postings and thus were not entitled to CDA Section 230 immunity. And the Ripoff Report boasts about those successes on the Web site.

Now a defamation plaintiff, instead of bringing an action against Magedson or Xcentric with respect to a Ripoff Report post, has filed a John Doe lawsuit and is seeking discovery of the identity of the authors of the anonymous posts via a third-party subpoena to Xcentric.

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Facebook Sued Over Private Facebook Group–Finkel v. Facebook

3 03 2009

By Eric Goldman

Finkel v. Facebook, Inc., 102578-09 (N.Y. Supreme Ct. complaint filed Feb. 24, 2009).

A New York teenager has sued Facebook and four Facebook users (plus their parents) for allegedly defamatory content posted in a private Facebook group called “90 Cents Short of a Dollar.”

This case fits neatly with other legal battles over “cyber-bullying” (whatever that means), such as the AutoAdmit lawsuits, the Sandler case and the Lori Drew case. (For another recent and troubling example of cyber-bullying that I read just this morning, see Wolfe v. Fayetteville, Arkansas School Dist., 2009 WL 485400 (W.D. Ark. Feb. 26, 2009)).

In this case, the plaintiff’s school peers said some not-nice things about her in a private Facebook page.

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Appeals court refuses to unmask anonymous donut shop critics

2 03 2009


Websites should not be forced to cough up identifying information about users who leave anonymous comments, according to the Maryland Court of Appeals. The court overturned a previous ruling late last week, saying that anonymous posters should have the same First Amendment rights as others on the Internet, and that they should be given the opportunity to respond to the threat of subpoena before having their identities handed over without their consent.

The case was originally brought by Dunkin’ Donuts store owner Zebulon J. Brodie against Independent Newspapers, which runs an online forum called NewsZap.com. Brodie said that three of NewsZap’s anonymous posters had made what he considered to be defamatory remarks about the cleanliness of his store, and asked the company to identify the individuals behind the negative comments. Independent Newspapers resisted, filing a motion to quash and saying that information about those users was protected by the First Amendment. However, a trial judge denied the motion and ordered the company to release information regarding the three posters, a decision that Independent Newspapers unsurprisingly appealed.

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Texas judge orders site to identify anonymous trolls, flamers

11 02 2009

A Texas judge has ordered an online news site to unveil identifying details about 178 anonymous commenters on the site. The order came after a couple, Mark and Rhonda Lesher, sued the numerous anonymous commenters posting to Topix.com for making what they considered to be “perverted, sick, vile, inhumane accusations” about them.

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Google privacy trial opens in Milan

4 02 2009

Computerworld

Case called a ‘test’ of Internet privacy laws

February 3, 2009 (IDG News Service) ROME — The trial of four Google Inc. executives charged with privacy violations opened in Milan today in a groundbreaking test of European Internet law.

The Google executives are accused of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data following the posting of a cell-phone video showing a teenage boy with Down Syndrome being harassed by four classmates.

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Yearbook Photo Release Issues

22 01 2009

Dear Rich, I have a question. A very good friend of mine had senior pictures taken of her daughter (we’ll call her “D”) with a professional photographer. He took some pictures of D that are not tasteful and do not portray D in a light that she wants on public display. My friend has expressed this to the photographer multiple times. The photographer bought a yearbook advertisement and it had one of the unflattering pictures in the ad. My friend and her family are upset and concerned that the photographer will use these pictures in other forms of advertising such as newspapers or in a mall display. Do they have any legal recourse if the photographer refuses to honor their wishes? I’m so glad you asked. The short answer to your question is “Possibly, but it depends on the paperwork.”

Under copyright law, the photographer controls the right to reproduce the image unless a contract was made that assigned those rights to D (or her parents). However,

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