Jim Dolan's Lawsuit Against Cityfile Highlights The Need For Stronger Anti-SLAPP Laws

from the silencing-dissent dept

The Citizen Media Law Project has yet another story of bogus lawsuits being used to silence something someone doesn't want written about them. In this case, it involved Jim Dolan, known (but not particularly liked) to New Yorkers as the owner of Cablevision, the Knicks and Madison Square Garden. More recently, Cablevision bought the newspaper Newsday -- so you might think that Dolan would be a little more aware of why it's bad to sue a news publication claiming defamation over a clearly speculative piece. And, yet, sue he did. Dolan sued the blog Cityfile for posting a piece about rumors that Dolan was considering getting rid of the famous "Christmas Spectacular" involving the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in New York. As Arthur Bright points out, the original post doesn't seem all that different than speculative articles published all the time in pretty much every media outlet.

Unfortunately, facing a protracted legal fight, Cityfile agreed to settle and "retract" the story. Bright notes that this is silly, and any decent lawyer should have been able to get the lawsuit tossed on First Amendment grounds. The problem is the time and resources needed to fight such a thing.

Bright then points out how this highlights the need for stronger anti-SLAPP laws in New York. Anti-SLAPP laws let people fight back against such bogus lawsuits, whose purpose is only to silence speech (SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). The problem, however, is that right now anti-SLAPP laws are at the state level, and only a few states have really strong ones. New York is not one of them. While Bright says this is evidence of why NY should strengthen its anti-SLAPP laws, a better solution might be a strong federal anti-SLAPP law, that shows a strong support for freedom of speech, and helps prevent bogus lawsuits whose only purpose is to allow those with more money to silence speech they dislike.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Pete Austin, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 2:28am

    Streisand effect

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 2:58am

    Re: Streisand effect

    Well, as the coiner of the phrase "the Streisand Effect" I do have an affinity for it... but I disagree. The Streisand Effect does help draw attention to attempts to block information, but that doesn't stop lawsuits against individuals, which are a real problem.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 5:19am

    The lawsuit would be tossed only if the reporter had some sort of underlying information that supported the supposition put forward. Otherwise, it is entirely opinion with no basis in fact, and would need to be retracted.

    If I put up on a blog "Mike Masnick is considering sex with small furry animals", without anything to back it up, I would be in legal trouble. The statements by the reporter are no different.

    It's all in how you look at it. Big companies aren't always wrong.

     

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  4.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 6:00am

    Re:

    "If I put up on a blog "Mike Masnick is considering sex with small furry animals", without anything to back it up, I would be in legal trouble. The statements by the reporter are no different."

    But it would be. You see, what you said would qualify as defamation. What happened here was not defamation at all. The author wrote about a rumor of something not illegal nor immoral, just something he didn't want happening. You know, standard kind of crap put out by every single news outlet in the US.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    KevinJ, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 6:02am

    Re:

    The lawsuit would be tossed only if the reporter had some sort of underlying information that supported the supposition put forward. Otherwise, it is entirely opinion with no basis in fact, and would need to be retracted.

    Did you pay attention to the facts concerning this case? Cityfile posted a speculative piece about rumors. Unless I'm mistaken, rumors usually aren't backed up by facts. And once facts come out to back it up, it's no longer a rumor.

    Also, couldn't Jim Dolan have given a very quick interview to Cityfile to squelch the rumor? Unless they had a grudge against him, they likely would had a piece titled something like "Jim Dolan sets the record straight."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    drewmerc (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 6:10am

    ok change it to "techdirt to close due to Mike Masnick allegedly considering sex with small furry animals"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 6:18am

    Re: Re:

    >Did you pay attention to the facts concerning this case?
    >Cityfile posted a speculative piece about rumors. Unless
    >I'm mistaken, rumors usually aren't backed up by facts. And
    >once facts come out to back it up, it's no longer a rumor.

    Plus isn't the existence of the rumor a fact if it is presented as a rumor that is making the rounds. You can report on a rumor as long as it is identified as such.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    NullOp, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 6:45am

    Free Speech?

    Free speech is a pie-in-the-sky idea. We do not have free speech in America as long as this sort of thing is allowed to go on. Using the law, or lack of it, as a weapon to silence people is criminal in itself. The fact most states do not have strong anti-SLAPP laws is proof they are not wanted by those in power!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 7:29am

    I completely agree that we need stronger anti - slap laws on a federal level. Especially when it comes to newspapers and mainstream media that is almost scared to death to say broadcast news that might hurt a large corporation. Our mainstream media is very broken and anti - slap laws might help alleviate that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    Freedom of Speech? HA

    We claim to have Freedom of Speech. But now a days we really don't. If something we say isn't liked by someone with power, or money, they simply threaten to take it to court and if we don't apologize and retract it they'll sue. Before long making a Pun at a politician, or a VIP Corp Exec. will be grounds for execution.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Re:

    Agreed, that is a much better rumor. heck, I searched on google and it was in the search, so I guess it must be true or at least a citizen journalist knows about it or something!

    Tee-hee! Man bites dog!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 2:21pm

    What? Don't you know...

    Jim Dolan lives in a world of magic and fairies?

    Let him know how blue the sky is, how his farts don't stink...

    His knicks are king, and Madison Square Garden is an absolute pleasure finding a parking spot. Cablevision is the highest quality service and when I call their customer service, I get the smell of warm cinnamon buns through the phone.

    As servants to Jimmy, we create paintings and marble sculptures of him naked with grotesquely larger than life (or "average") genitalia.

    We looooove you JIM DOLAN!!!! And you're NOT gay because you had a failed RAINBOW (MEDIA) COMPANY in your past.

    Cheer up!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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