Author: Ranjini Acharya
John Alexis Mardas, a former associate of the Beatles, has won the right to bring defamation proceedings against the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune in an English court for publishing an article that described him as a “charlatan” who spread false rumors about the Beatles that may have resulted in the band’s breakup. Evidence in the case established that there were less than 200 hundred hard copies of the article published and approximately 30 hits of the story online. In allowing the case to proceed, Justice Eady of the English High Court held that the determination of “substantial publication,” in the context of online defamation cases, “cannot depend upon a numbers game, with the court fixing an arbitrary minimum according to the facts of the case.”
Author: Allison Pedrazzi Helfrich
In January 2008, Jan Kruska filed defamation, cyberstalking, and other claims against Perverted Justice Foundation, Inc. (and other defendants), for disseminating rumors on various websites that Kruska was a convicted child molester and a pedophile. In December 2008, a U.S. District Court in Arizona dismissed the complaint against Perverted Justice Foundation based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. Perverted Justice is a non-profit corporation based in California and Oregon and has no licenses or designated agent for service of process in Arizona, conducts no business with Arizona, and is not incorporated in Arizona. The court held there could be no general jurisdiction over Perverted Justice “in the absence of these types of contacts that approximate physical presence in Arizona.” The plaintiff argued, however, that Perverted Justice made her a target of its online activities and therefore became subject to jurisdiction in Arizona by expressly aiming its tortious actions at the forum state. Although the court recognized the “effects test” basis for jurisdiction, it held that the “essentially passive nature” of Perverted Justice’s activity in posting a website with a low degree of interactivity is not sufficient to establish specific jurisdiction.
Author: Morgan Galland
In E.S.S. Entertainment 2000, Inc. v. Rock Star Videos, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the makers of a popular video game did not violate section 43(a) of the Lanham Act by depicting a modified version of plaintiff’s Los Angeles strip club. On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, the Ninth Circuit upheld a summary judgment decision for defendants, holding that use of a modified trademark in a video game to create a parody of a real setting is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. In doing so, it expanded the traditional application of the test developed by the Second Circuit in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994, 999 (2nd Cir. 1989).
Author: Jenny Kim
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed Bennett v. Hosting.com for improper venue last November. The plaintiff’s company, HowFastTheyGrow.com, had signed an agreement to litigate all disputes in Jefferson County, Kentucky when contracting the defendant’s web-hosting services. The court upheld the forum selection clause despite Bennett’s contention that it was unenforceable for unconscionability and inapplicable to her tort claims.
Author: Alex Harris
The Fourth Circuit upheld the conviction of a man who downloaded, among other content, graphic illustrations of fictional minors engaged in sexual acts, and text emails describing fictional minors engaged in sexual acts. Federal law prohibits receiving obscene depictions of “a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.” 18 U.S.C. § 1466A(a). The court held the statute constitutional on its face, and as applied to downloading materials from the Internet. Receiving content via the Internet, the court said, constitutes trafficking in commerce. It is therefore unlike mere possession of obscenity in one’s home, as is protected by the First Amendment and Stanley v. Georgia. Further, the court held that text and drawings can be obscene and prohibited without violating the First Amendment.