The ABA Journal reports that the number of libel suits has been steadily dropping in the United States:
All posts in Defamation
In a very interesting case, Saffold v. Plain Dealer Publishing Co., a state court judge (Shirley Strickland Saffold) is suing the Cleveland Plan Dealer for stating that comments posted on the newspaper’s website under the screen name “lawmiss” originated from a computer used by the judge and/or her daughter. Some of these comments related to cases before Judge Saffold.
I’m coming a little late to the party, but the case of Omega World Travel, Inc. v. Mummagraphics, Inc., (4th Cir. Nov. 17, 2006) raises some interesting issues about the Controlling the Assault of Non Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (“CAN SPAM Act”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 7701 et seq.
Omega World Travel sent 11 emails to an email address owned by Mummagraphics, a web host company. The emails each advertised a travel “E deal.” Mark Mumma, head of Mummagraphics, called John Lawless, the general counsel of Omega and instructed him to stop sending email. Lawless said the emails would stop. They didn’t. Mumma then sent a letter threatening Omega with a suit under CAN SPAM and state anti-spam laws. The emails finally stopped.
I’ve blogged a lot about Internet shaming, and haven’t been too keen on the practice. Here’s the latest instantiation of the practice from the AP:
Recently, in Barrett v. Rosenthal, the California Supreme Court held, similar to most courts addressing the issue, that bloggers are immune from being sued for “distributor” liability under defamation law. Under defamation law, the original speaker of a defamatory statement (a false statement that harms a person’s reputation) is liable. A “distributor,” one who further disseminates a falsehood spoken by another and who “knows or should have known” about the defamatory nature of a statement, is also liable. A federal law, 47 U.S.C. § 230, however, provides: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Most courts have interpreted § 230 to immunize the operators of websites or blogs against distributor liability for comments posted by others.
There have been some interesting discussions recently about people taking matters into their own hands and shaming others whom they witness committing crimes. A while back, I wrote about the shaming of the dog poop girl, whose picture and personal information were placed on a website after she failed to clean up her dog’s poop on the subway. Kaimi Wenger also had some interesting thoughts about the case here and here, as well as did Marcy Peek in a post about Internet vigilantism. Just the other day, Brooks Holland writes about a case involving the shaming of a NYC subway flasher, where a woman caught a picture of him on her cell phone camera and posted it online.