Legal Drama

That Very Important Issue Toni Payne Raised: Linda Ikeji, TheDirty.com and Liability for User Generated Content

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Last week, media personality and business executive Toni Payne raised a very important issue regarding the liability of a celebrity blogger, Linda Ikeji, for the comments left by her users where the users spew hate about the personalities Ikeji discusses. In Toni’s writeup on the topic, the focus was on the hate spewed against Toke Makinwa.

I shared an excerpt of the writeup but also addressed that law (US law) concerning the issue and how many US courts have categorically ruled in favor of Ikeji’s position.

Well, there is an interesting case that social media law advisors and watch dogs like myself are paying attention to. In fact, everyone who owns a website should be aware of this case.

It is the case of Sarah Jones v. The Dirty.com. This case has the big tech giants like Google, Amazon and all kinds of media houses so anxious it is ridiculous. The case attempts to, for the first time, really, change well settled law by ruling in favor of Toni Payne’s view/ position on this issue.

This has caused consternation among all the big and little players and the Defendant TheDirty.com is appealing the case.

If you missed my writeup, you have to read it here to gain context, and then read up on this very interesting issue and case. Do note that unlike Linda Ikeji, TheDirty.com actually edits the comments/submissions made by its users and adds something to it.

Cheers,
Uduak
photocredit: Berrykisses Blogspot

Tech giants back TheDirty.com
Legal briefs argue for reversal of Jones rulin
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The nation’s largest technology companies say a federal judge’s decision in Covington allowing the gossip website TheDirty.com to be sued for defamation by a former Bengals cheerleader threatens to cripple free expression and commerce that has flourished on the Internet.

Google, eBay, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and others have recently filed briefs in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati asking that the decision be reversed.

Oral arguments are expected to be heard early next year with a decision likely by summer.

A reversal would essentially void a $338,000 jury verdict former cheerleader Sarah Jones got against TheDirty.com this past summer in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

She sued in 2009 after anonymous posts claimed she had sex with every Bengals player and probably had two sexually transmitted diseases.

TheDirty.com operator Nik Richie is appealing the verdict on the grounds that Jones’ defamation suit should have been dismissed before it ever reached trial.

In addition to the technology companies, the American Civil Liberties Union, Magazine Publishers of America and newspaper publisher The McClatchy Co. have also filed briefs in support of the gossip website’s legal position.

The diverse organizations that have filed motions in support of TheDirty.com claim that it should have been shielded from liability by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, known as the CDA. David S. Gingras, a lawyer for TheDirty.com, said courts across the nation have traditionally ruled websites are not liable for content people provide the sites, referred to as third-party content.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman ruled the CDA didn’t protect the gossip website because Richie edited, commented and solicited the content about Jones.

Bertelsman said the site is not immune because Richie encourages the “development of what is offensive about the content of TheDirty.com website.” Bertelsman noted that the name of the site “encourages the posting only of dirt,” material that is likely defamatory and an invasion of privacy.

Cincinnati news has the full story.

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AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law website and podcast show empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

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ABOUT THE FOUNDER

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at https://msuduak.com.

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