Tag Archives: libel

Media Law Case of the Week

If a radio host sends e-mails that say a politician is gay, is that libel?

You and I might say no, but Tom Fetzer, who is running to be head of the state of North Carolina’s Republican party, says it is.

He has informed his supporters that he intends to sue radio station WLTT and corporate owner Sea-Comm Media over e-mails sent by radio host Curtis Wright that said Fetzer is gay. Fetzer says he is not.

The News & Observer has the e-mail Fetzer, former mayor of Raleigh, sent to his supporters about the legal action here.

Mr. Fetzer, be prepared to be hit with outrage.

Media Law Case of the Week

Oy vey!

Woody Allen is getting $5 million from American Apparel because it used his image — or a parody of him dressed as a rabbi — in its ads without Allen’s Woody Adpermission.

The NY Post reported the settlement today — along with this image of the ad.

The Post, by the way, is dealing with its own legal troubles. A New York State Supreme Court justice is suing the newspaper for libel after a story alleged he paid to get his seat on the bench. The latest step in the case is a series of subpoenas to the judge’s family and at least eight other judges, according to the New York Times.

Media Law Case of the Week

Sometimes life hands you a hard decision.

Do I select the libel case of a professional golfer accused of  failing “the scoundrel sniff test” or what could be the first libel case from Twitter, centering on –of all people — rocker Courtney Love?

Sorry, John Daly, but Love beats you, but not by a Hole lot. (Sorry about the pun. I just can’t help myself.)

Fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir claims that Love is on “an obsessive and delusional crusade” on Twitter, My Space and other sites that is libeling Simorangkir. The language in the statements in question, detailed here,  will come as no surprise to those familiar with Love.

Simorangkir, who formerly designed for Love, claims that the false statements have hurt her reputation and her business.

Media Law Case of the Week

A Staples salesman is fired, and Staples sends out an email notifying its employees that said employee was fired for violating company rules regarding expense reimbursements.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston ruled recently that the salesman can sue for libel even though the information is true because of a 1902 Massachusetts state law that allows libel suits for “ill will.”

It is a decision that had Robert J. Ambrogi–executive director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Association, lawyer and Media Law blogger–issuing a prudent warning:

For the time being, however, be afraid — be very, very afraid — of this precedent. If ill will is all that is needed to turn a truthful statement into libel, then everyone is a potential defendant.

Sadly, last week, the same court refused to rehear the case. According to the Boston Globe, the court also “refused to accept a friend-of-the-court brief filed by 51 news organizations that said the earlier ruling could chill news reporting.”

For details of the case, see the Boston Globe story.

Media Law Case of the Week

I’ve decided to start a new feature on my blog:  Media Law Case of the Week.

The Media Law Case of the Week will appear on Mondays and feature a case I think is interesting, different and/or important. I decided that since I’m combing the Net for interesting cases for the media law class I teach, I may as well start sharing the best of what I find on my blog.

So, without further ado, the Media Law Case of the Week:

It’s not often a libel case involves a Disney star and an escort service, but the recently settled case of “Suite Life” star Brenda Song fits the bill. Ads for an escort service ran with Song’s picture and the slogan “Hawaiin [sic] beauty. Come get lei’d.” in LA Weekly in April 2008. The kicker is Song never authorized the use of her image. She sued for libel, emotional distress and commercial appropriation of her likeness. (Oh those pesky details … ) For details of the case and the settlement, check here.

Lawmaker’s blog protected from libel suit?!

A Tennessee lawmaker’s lawyer is claiming that his client is immune from a libel suit after he falsely wrote on his blog that a candidate had been arrested on drug charges because the blog is “absolutely privileged.”


I’m no lawyer, but I know that is not going to fly.  Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, better say mea aculpa or get a new lawyer. Roger Byrge, a Democrat who lost his bid for the state House to Republican Chad Faulkner, filed a $750,000 libel suit against Campfield for writing that Byrge had had multiple drug arrests.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press wrote:

In the Oct. 12 blog post, Campfield said more attention needed to be paid to the race for the open seat in House District 36.

“Word is a … mail piece has gone out exposing Byrge’s multiple separate drug arrests,” Campfield wrote on the blog. “Including arrests for possession and drug dealing. (I hear the mug shots are gold).”

The parts of the post mentioning Byrge are no longer on Campfield’s blog, but a printout of the original text is filed as an exhibit in the lawsuit.

Using Clemens case to teach libel

Thanks, Roger Clemens, for making it easier for my media law students to understand libel, and more importantly, libel defenses.

It can be hard for some students to get a grasp of the libel defense absolute privilege, which protects participants in certain government proceedings. But baseball star Clemens has made the concept more relevant to my students.

The New York Times reports that a large part of Clemens’s defamation case against former trainer Brian McNamee over Clemens’s alleged steroid use has been thrown out of federal court because McNamee’s statements were made during an official federal investigation. That means McNamee is protected by absolute privilege.

That’s libel defense in action with names students know. And that’s a great teaching tool. So thanks again, Mr. Clemens, for helping my students’ libel knowledge “rocket.”