Articles Posted in Communications Law

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Bartholomew publishes Christian ministry music and is a volunteer national spokesperson and the opening act for "Mission: PreBorn" concerts. Bartholomew wrote a pro-life song, “What Was Your Name,” produced a video for the song, and created an account with YouTube, agreeing to be bound by its terms of service. Bartholomew uploaded the video to YouTube, which assigned a URL so that it could be viewed on the internet. Bartholomew publicly shared the URL. By the time YouTube removed it, she claims, the video had been viewed over 30,000 times. The URL for Bartholomew’s video opened an internet page with the image of a distressed face and a statement: This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service.’ The screen did not refer to Bartholomew. It contained a hyperlink to a list of examples and tips, YouTube’s “Community Guideline Tips.” Bartholomew sued, claiming that the statement and the Guidelines harmed her reputation (libel per quod). The court of appeal affirmed dismissal, reasoning that, given the breadth of YouTube’s terms of service, and even taking into consideration Bartholomew’s profession, the statement cannot be deemed to subject her to “hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or [cause her] to be shunned or avoided” or tend to “injure [her] in [her] occupation.” View "Bartholomew v. YouTube, LLC" on Justia Law

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The underlying suit involved a loan foreclosure. The borrowers filed a cross-complaint against MCC, alleging fraud, despite being advised MCC had no involvement in the transaction involved in the lawsuit. The borrowers mistakenly identified MCC as an agent of the lender and a loan servicer and continued the lawsuit despite being warned that it should be dismissed. After the borrowers settled the main lawsuit against them, they filed a voluntary dismissal in favor of MCC. MCC then sued the borrowers for malicious prosecution. The borrowers filed an anti-SLAPP motion (Code of Civil Procedure 425.16(b)(1)) to dismiss. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the motion, concluding that MCC met its burden under step two of the anti-SLAPP analysis, demonstrating a probability of success on its claim for malicious prosecution. There was no evidence of any research done before filing the cross-complaint seeking $300 million in damages; the borrowers were notified no fewer than four different times that MCC was the wrong entity to sue. View "Medley Capital Corp. v. Security National Guaranty, Inc." on Justia Law

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Believing nonpublic content of the victim's Facebook account might provide exculpatory evidence helpful in preparing for trial, real-party-in-interest Lance Touchstone served petitioner Facebook with a subpoena for the subscriber records and contents of the victim's Facebook account, including timeline posts, messages, phone calls, photos, videos, location information and user-input information from account inception to the present date. Touchtone was awaiting trial for attempted murder. On the public portion of his Facebook page, the victim posted updates of court hearings in this case, asking his friends to attend the preliminary hearing. In public posts the victim also discussed his personal use of guns and drugs, and described his desire to rob and kill people. Facebook filed a motion to quash the subpoena on the ground the Stored Communications Act (SCA) prohibited disclosure of the victim's account contents. In an accompanying declaration, counsel for Facebook stated that Touchstone could obtain the requested contents directly from the victim or by working with the prosecutor to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause. The trial court denied the motion to quash and ordered Facebook to produce the contents of the victim's account for in camera inspection by a certain date. Facebook seeks a writ directing the trial court to vacate its order denying the motion to quash the subpoena and to enter a new order granting the motion to quash. Facebook contends the trial court abused its discretion by denying the motion to quash and ordering production of documents for in camera inspection because the SCA prohibits Facebook from disclosing the content of its users' accounts in response to a subpoena. Facebook further contends that compelling it to disclose the contents of the victim's account is not necessary to preserve Touchstone's constitutional right to a fair trial because Touchstone can obtain the contents directly from the victim or through the prosecutor via a search warrant. The Court of Appeal granted Facebook’s application and granted a writ of mandate, vacating the trial court’s order and effectively quashing the subpoena duces tecum. View "Facebook v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are Cross, also known as Mikel Knight, a country rap artist, and his businesses. Two vans, carrying independent contractors promoting Knight’s music, were involved in accidents that resulted in two deaths. “Families Against Mikel Knight,” apparently created by relatives of the accident victims, posted a Facebook page, which, plaintiffs claimed, incited violence and generated death threats against Knight. Plaintiffs sought to have the page removed. Facebook refused. Facebook filed a special motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ subsequent suit, which alleged breach of written contract; negligent misrepresentation; negligent interference with prospective economic relations; breach of Civil Code section 3344; violation of common law right of publicity; and unlawful and unfair business practices. The trial court held that the complaint was based on protected activity, that plaintiffs could not prevail on the first three causes of action, and granted the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16) motion as to them but denied the motion as to the three other causes of action. The court of appeal ruled in favor of Facebook and ordered that the complaint be stricken, noting that Facebook derived no benefit from any use of Knight’s name or likeness. View "Cross v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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ZL provides email archiving, eDiscovery, and compliance support to businesses nationwide. Glassdoor operates a website on which people may anonymously express opinions regarding employers. Individuals representing themselves as current or former ZL employees posted anonymous reviews on Glassdoor‘s website criticizing ZL‘s management and work environment. ZL filed a complaint against those individuals, naming them as Doe defendants and alleging libel per se (Civil Code 45) and online impersonation (Penal Code 528.5) to the extent any of them was not a ZL employee. ZL served a subpoena on Glassdoor, requesting identification and contact information for defendants. Glassdoor objected, arguing: violation of the First Amendment and California Constitution privacy rights; the posted statements were “protected opinion, patently hyperbolic, not harmful to reputation,” or uncontested statements of fact; Glassdoor‘s reputation would be harmed by disclosure; and, ZL was obligated to make a prima facie showing the statements were libelous before it could compel disclosure. The court denied ZL’s motion to compel. More than a year later, the court dismissed the action because of ZL‘s failure to serve the defendants. The court of appeal reversed. While an author‘s decision to remain anonymous is protected by the Constitution, a reasonable fact finder could conclude all of the reviews contained statements that declared or implied provably false assertions of fact, providing a legally sufficient basis for a defamation cause of action. View "ZL Technologies v. Doe" on Justia Law

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Argentieri was an attorney for Ceglia in Ceglia’s suit against Zuckerberg and Facebook. That suit was dismissed as a fraud on the court and for spoliation of evidence. Zuckerberg and Facebook then sued Argentieri for malicious prosecution and sent a message to the press, stating that Argentieri knew the suit was based on forged documents. Argentieri sued for defamation. The trial court struck the complaint under the anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute (Code Civ. Proc., 425.16). The court of appeals affirmed, rejecting Argentieri’s argument that the court erred in concluding that he had not demonstrated a probability of prevailing on his defamation claim. Although the statement underlying Argentieri’s defamation claim was not subject to the litigation privilege of Civil Code 47(b), it was subject to the fair and true reporting privilege of section 47(d). He had no probability of prevailing on his claim. View "Argentieri v. Zuckerberg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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This case arose out of the re-publication and electronic distribution of an outdated newspaper article concerning Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center, Inc. dba Sovereign Health of California (Sovereign) and one of the treatment centers it operates. Following the re-publication, which occurred in an electronic newsletter edited and published by Leonard Buschel, Sovereign sued Buschel and a nonprofit he founded, Writers in Treatment, Inc. (Writers), seeking injunctive relief and damages for alleged harm caused by supposed false statements made in the newsletter. Buschel and Writers filed a special motion to strike the complaint under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute). The trial court denied the motion; Buschel and Writers appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order denying the motion because Sovereign’s claims did not arise from activity protected by the anti-SLAPP statute. View "Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center v. Buschel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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Plaintiff, a 51-year-old African- and Latino-American, began working for CNN in 1996 and became a producer in 2000. In 2004, Janos became plaintiff‘s supervisor. Plaintiff received no further promotions. The final opening for which plaintiff applied was offered to a younger, Caucasian candidate with less experience. Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly complained about CNN‘s failure to promote African-American men. In 2005 plaintiff made a written complaint to Janos. Allegedly in retaliation, Janos issued Plaintiff a “Written Warning Regarding Performance.” In 2010 plaintiff‘s wife began fertility treatments paid for by CNN-provided health insurance; plaintiff claims that the infertility constituted a disability under Government Code 12926(k). Plaintiff‘s wife had twins in 2013. Plaintiff took five weeks of paternity leave. Plaintiff alleges that upon plaintiff‘s return to work, Janos gave high-profile assignments to a younger Caucasian man with less experience than plaintiff. In 2014, plaintiff submitted a story to an editor, who expressed concern about similarity to another report. The editor informed Janos, who, without talking to plaintiff, decided not to publish the story. Janos initiated an audit of plaintiff‘s work and ultimately fired plaintiff. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and defamation. Defendants filed a special motion to strike all causes of action (Code of Civil Procedure, 425.16, anti-SLAPP motion), submitting evidence of plagiarism in plaintiff’s story. The court of appeal reversed the trial court’s grant of the anti-SLAPP motion. This is a private employment discrimination and retaliation case, not an action to prevent defendants from exercising their First Amendment rights. Defendants may have a legitimate defense but the merits of that defense should be resolved through the normal litigation process, not at the initial phase of this action. View "Wilson v. Cable News Network Inc." on Justia Law

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Mazzaferro, a “vexatious litigant,” was replaced as trustee of a living trust. Mazzaferro’s son-in-law, Parisi, the conservator for the trust beneficiary, a dependent adult, alleged financial abuse and fraud by Mazzaferro. Parisi sought protection for himself and his wife and three adult children from a campaign of harassment by Mazzaferro, citing 21 litigation matters, all of which were resolved in Parisi‘s favor. Parisi noted Mazzaferro‘s harassment of Parisi‘s daughter at her workplace and by contacting her employer. Mazzaferro also wrote letters accusing Parisi of criminal activity and attempting to have Parisi, a probation officer, fired. Mazzaferro admitted writing the letters at issue, but insisted their contents were true, and denied that the incidents involving his granddaughter occurred. The judge made credibility findings, telling Mazzaferro, “I do not believe you,” and issued the requested restraining order. In the meantime, in separate proceedings, Mazzaferro unsuccessfully sought an elder abuse restraining order against Parisi; Mazzaferro was ordered to pay Parisi‘s attorney fees. Mazzaferro‘s application for permission, as a vexatious litigant, to appeal the restraining order was granted on July 24, 2015.9. Rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and allegations of prior restraint, the court of appeal remanded to the trial court for a more precise definition of the prohibited conduct. View "Parisi v. Mazzaferro" on Justia Law

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The California Integrated Waste Management Act obligated local agencies to enact comprehensive waste management plans that would eventually divert half of their trash from landfills, Pub. Res. Code, 41780(a)(1), (2), and authorized local governments to issue franchises and licenses to private entities to provide services relating to the collection, transport, handling and disposal of solid waste. Plaintiff hauls waste under franchise agreements with cities in Sonoma County. Defendant, a waste management consultant, prepared a report for one of plaintiff’s competitors that questioned the accuracy of statements in plaintiff’s public reports about the percentages of the waste materials it collected that were recycled and thereby diverted from landfills. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged defendants’ report was false and defamatory and injured plaintiff’s business. Defendant filed an “anti-SLAPP” motion to dismiss. The trial court held defendants met their burden of showing plaintiff’s claims involve speech concerning a matter of public interest and are covered by the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16 -425.18.4, but denied defendants’ motion finding that plaintiff demonstrated a probability of success on the merits. The court of appeal reversed, plaintiff failed to make out a prima facie case of falsity regarding defendants’ estimated diversion rates. View "Industrial Waste & Debris Box Service v. Murphy" on Justia Law