Google execs may face judge in Italy over teen violence vid

6 11 2008

Back in 2006, Google Video Italia was used to post a cell phone video showing a bunch of teenagers harassing an individual with Down Syndrome. Rumors are now suggesting that Google execs may face charges in Italy for its appearance.

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Defamation Lawsuit Against Blogger Dismissed on Jurisdictional Grounds–Fahmy v. Hogge

22 10 2008

By Eric Goldman

Fahmy v. Hogge, 2008 WL 4614322 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 14, 2008). The Justia page.

This lawsuit involves the blog hogonice.com (Hog on Ice). The blog’s topical coverage includes “Guns, God, Food, Beer, Tools, Politics, and Whining,” and the masthead somewhat incongruously displays both the Christian fish and an Israeli flag. There wasn’t much that I found interesting at this blog. Some might view it as a paradigmatic example of blogger self-absorption. The blogger self-describes himself as a humorist, so maybe I just missed the punchlines.

The litigants are former classmates from the University of Miami School of Law (class of 1998). They are both licensed Florida lawyers (Fahmy appears to be inactive). The case suggests that the litigants also were romantically involved, although most people know better than to date lawyers, and everyone knows that two-lawyer couples are often BIG TROUBLE.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, it looks like their breakup didn’t go very well. The blogger allegedly said some not-nice-if-untrue things about the plaintiff on his blog, including “labeling her as a mentally ill alcoholic prostitute,” calling her a deadbeat and questioning her work ethic. Most people wouldn’t take kindly to these characterizations, but describing a lawyer this way is practically guaranteed to spark a lawsuit…

…which is exactly what happened here. The plaintiff sued the Florida blogger in her home court of California. The blogger moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court initially denied the motion, but in this ruling, reconsiders the motion and grants it. The blogger wasn’t subject to general jurisdiction in California, but the plaintiff tries to reach out using the purposeful availment/Calder v. Jones “effects test.” This test works when the defendant expressly aims tortious behavior towards the jurisdiction. Here, the defendant responded that he didn’t know his ex was living in California, and therefore he didn’t aim his remarks at California. The plaintiff introduced some evidence that the blogger knew she was in California, but the court disregards the evidence because it was not sufficiently authenticated. Case dismissed. The blogger’s apparent celebratory message suggests that maybe (through divine intervention or otherwise) the parties will find an extra-judicial reconciliation. If that doesn’t happen, based on the tenor of lawsuit, I’d be surprised if the case wasn’t refiled in Florida.

I’ve mentioned before that typically no one looks good in defamation lawsuits like this. This case is no exception, especially given that both lawyers are representing themselves pro se, thus inviting the observation that “a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” For example, the plaintiff’s case is tossed because she failed to provide insufficient admissible evidence (such as an affidavit) for her factual allegations. Meanwhile, the court spanks the defendant for making filings that exceeded the permitted length, saying that “[a]lthough Defendant is not a member of the California Bar and claims to be “rusty,” the Court finds that ignorance is no excuse in this case.” Worse, in response to the defendant’s factual rebuttals, the court said that it “is not convinced of Defendant’s credibility.” Ugh.



September 2008 Quick Links, Part 3

14 10 2008

By Eric Goldman

eBay

* Universal Grading Service v. eBay, Inc. More fallout from the National Numismatic v. eBay case–another lawsuit alleging antitrust and defamation because eBay designated some coin rating services as preferred and impliedly devalued others.

* Windsor Auctions v. eBay has been refiled in a new jurisdiction.

* Mehmet v. Paypal, Inc., 2008 WL 3495541 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2008). Upholding the consequential damages waiver in PayPal’s user agreement.

* A company’s failure in the marketplace can drive up the value of its collectibles on eBay.

Google

* Stelor Productions, Inc. v. Google, Inc., 2008 WL 4218107 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 15, 2008). In the lawsuit alleging that Google causes reverse confusion of Googles.com [warning: annoying music ahead], the plaintiff doesn’t get to depose Sergey or Larry yet. Rose Hagan, Google’s long-time chief trademark counsel, is the lucky substitute.

* Lots of rhetoric in the Google/Yahoo ad syndication deal. Google’s advocacy website. Google Chief Economist Hal Varian explains why the deal won’t raise ad prices in the auction. Randall Stross weighs in.

* Google has changed course and now allows religious groups to advertise on the keyword “abortion.”

* Kubit v. Google Groups, 2:2008cv00738 (M.D. Fla. complaint filed Sept. 29, 2008):

I then would like to sue Google Groups for not removing the posts when I repeatedly asked them to for 2 years. I believe I am entitled to at least a small amount of compensation for the emotional distress and lost business income that has resulted from them allowing these posts to remain on their Google Groups, even though I offered them VERY solid proof that I do not have HIV. If they had stopped the posts when they first occurred, they would not have proliferated to hundreds of websites. I became suicidal for a period of time after the posts started. I incurred a lot of emotional pain and fear because of the posts and had to seek psychiatric and psychological help to get my life back together. I still suffer from fears of dating, living a public business life and trusting others.

Yes, this is a pro se complaint. Yes, it is preempted by 47 USC 230.

Marketing/Advertising

* NebuAd is dead (1, 2). Even so, the lure of intermediaries aggregating deep data about consumers for commercial purposes will never die.

* Is Gator/Claria dead?

* The EU passed a non-binding resolution against sexual stereotypes in advertising.

* Celebrity branded merchandise run amok.

Miscellaneous

* Valleywag: “The 5 most laughable terms of service on the Net.” For more laughs, see Mark Lemley’s Terms of Use paper.

* Murakowski v. University of Delaware, 2008 WL 4104087 (D. Del. Sept. 4, 2008). This reminded me a lot of the Jake Baker case from the mid-1990s.

* The Virginia Supreme Court reversed itself on the Jaynes anti-spam prosecution, and Jaynes walks. Does Virginia routinely pass unconstitutional laws?

* Becker v. Toca, 2008 WL 4443050 (E.D. La. Sept. 26, 2008). Ex-wife’s alleged delivery of “Infostealer” program to grab passwords from ex-husband could violate the ECPA, SCA and CFAA.

* Interesting article on ESPN’s exclusive distribution and bundling agreements with Internet access providers.

* Funniest law firm names.

* Silly? Horrifying? A sign of the apocalypse?



Bloggers’ Defamation Liability Not Dismissed–Saadi v. Maroun

13 10 2008

By Eric Goldman

Saadi v. Maroun, 2008 WL 4194824 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 9, 2008). One of the complaints (doesn’t everyone know that just blacking out data in a PDF doesn’t prevent people from learning the info???). The opposition to the motion to dismiss. There is some evidence that this ruling is part of a broader litigation frenzy–I found 4 separate Justia pages involving these litigants in 4 different jurisdictions other than MDFla (1, 2, 3, 4).

This case reminds us that we as bloggers own our words, and we face the same type of publisher liability as other publishers.

The dispute involves members of the Lebanese-American community. For unspecified reasons (this article provides one possible explanation), the members had a falling out, and some of them allegedly posted negative comments about the plaintiff at biggestloosers.blogspot.com (now gone from the web and archive.org) and other sites. The bloggers tried to defend that the claims were opinion, not fact. The court rejects this argument, saying that “statements that Plaintiff is a mentally unstable stalker, a criminal, and that he has received gifts paid for with money stolen from the Lebanese government, as well as statements that suggest that Plaintiff falsely purports to have a law degree and has committed statutory rape” are all factual claims–especially when the blog screams “OUR STORIES ARE TRUE.”

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