Musician Threatens To Sue Journalists For Defamation For Pointing To His Past Troubles Fulfilling Crowdfunding Campaigns

from the that'll-work dept

Meet Cody Payne.

Payne is the ex-rhythm guitarist and former manager of now-disbanded rock group The Dangerous Summer. During his time with the band, Payne cultivated a less-than-stellar reputation by (among other things) allegedly playing shows drunk, and the group seemed to have a hard time completing tours. Yet it was Payne’s DIY projects that really sent his and the band’s reputation into a nose-dive: Payne’s Kickstarter raised over $14,000 for a DVD that was never fulfilled (in which Payne takes a shot at “needy” fans expecting what they paid for), and Payne was alleged to have forged his bandmates’ signatures on the tab books he was making and selling. By the time the band’s lead singer left in April of 2014, citing a “complete disconnect” with Payne and leading to the group’s demise, there didn’t seem to be much of a reputation left to even ruin.

Fast-forward to July of 2014, as Payne geared up to start raising money for his new musical project. Still holding the keys to all The Dangerous Summer’s social media accounts, Payne proceeded to hijack and spam their Facebook page with his IndieGogo drive, which quickly led to a fan rebellion and a scrambling apology. The hubbub eventually caught the attention of AbsolutePunk’s Jason Tate, who had been an early supporter of The Dangerous Summer’s work before the band committed PR seppuku. Tate posted a brief news item on the matter:

The guy who has repeatedly fucked over backers of his other crowd-funded projects is doing another one. My advice: Don’t give him your money.

At this point, Payne sensibly did what anyone who’s suffering a PR fiasco would do: he threatened to sue for defamation.

For those who can’t view the images, Payne writes that Tate’s “news post telling people not to support me” is “not factual,” and “last time I sued over defamation I won 77K.” He goes on to say that he “really cant wait to see what jason will settle for,” noting that “Ive been building a case with my lawyer for 3 years now,” “this was the one we were waiting for,” “the one that blatantly said not to support me over nothing factual” (disregarding the multiple links in Tate’s post to stories about Payne’s previous troubled projects).

As the story caught on, Payne saw fit to expand his threat to include Zack Zarrillo, another music journalist, sending him the following message:

For those who can’t see the image, the message reads in pertinent part: “thought I should let you know in advance that sometime this month, possibly next you and jason are going to be served with papers regarding damages and defamation.” This was followed by a retraction and reissuance of the original legal threat, which was slightly dampened when Zarrillo eventually called Payne’s purported attorney, who allegedly responded that he’d never even heard of Payne and knew nothing of a pending suit.

Of course, any defamation case Payne might file in California (where he resides) would almost certainly be vulnerable to an anti-SLAPP motion. Pointing to unhappy customers from Payne’s previous crowdfunding efforts and the backlash from his Facebook posts is simply factual reporting, and truth is a complete defense to defamation. Concluding that Payne has “fucked over” past supporters or that people should avoid doing business with him constitutes opinion based on disclosed facts, which (as Scott Redmond found out when he sued Gizmodo) also renders the statements likely nonactionable. Consequently, if Payne took this to court, there’s a good chance he’d be paying for everyone’s attorneys at the end of the day.

Whether or not Payne will ultimately file suit is yet to be seen. For now, he appears content to dream of a world where nobody critical reports on his shenanigans. Perhaps he can invite Barbra Streisand to join him when he finds it.

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Comments on “Musician Threatens To Sue Journalists For Defamation For Pointing To His Past Troubles Fulfilling Crowdfunding Campaigns”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Maybe....

All publicity is good publicity

In this case, I’d disagree. Sure, it might get you noticed, but if your goal is fraud, it isn’t gonna work. Even if your goal isn’t fraud, this publicity isn’t going to help you make any money except from someone who is donating money to you just because they feel bad for you. And being a dick isn’t going to win any supporters.

Scote (profile) says:

There's something he doesn't understand about lawyers working on comission...

Even if Payne had a lawyer and even if that lawyer worked on commission, Payne isn’t getting that if he *looses* and the defendant wins attorneys’ fees for opposing council, **Payne** will be on the hook for those fees.

Having a lawyer working on contingency doesn’t mean there is no cost or potential cost.

Anonymous Coward says:


Cody Payne can only win a defamation case if he can prove that the statement is false.

If someone accuses another of fraud, and the other sues for defamation, it opens the plaintiff up for perjury if the claim turns out to be true.

Cody Payne should therefore be very careful in what he claims to be false in legal depositions.

Discovery cuts both ways.

radarmonkey (profile) says:

Forthcomming apology letter?

“To: my IndieGogo supporters,

Thank you for supporting my plan to give you some really cool music and stuff, but I’ve used all your money to pay off all the stupid legal crap I did.

But you can get in on the ground floor of my new IndieStarter and KickGogo fund raising campaigns that will net you nothing as well!


Groaker (profile) says:

Given the crumbling structure of the legal system across the world, it is not unlikely that viable (and winnable) grounds for a suit will become “because I felt like it.” With the precedent of patents going to first to file, the winner of an “I felt like it suit” may very well got to the first to file. This will encourage preemptive suits to be filed against all persons across the globe, providing employment for untold numbers of attorneys.

The above is more that a bit of a farce. Overall lawsuits have declined since the days of the Puritans and their ilk, who seemed to view lawsuits for as a substitute for for more temporal and physical pleasures.

“When you study the Puritans you quickly learn that they were a litigious people, constantly bringing suits to court, and often very complex ones, but you might fail to register that there were no lawyers in Puritan Massachusetts. Many of the Puritans, including founder and governor John Winthrop himself, had been lawyers in England. But in their new world, they did not have lawyers. Everyone argued their own case in court. The Puritans had seen and bewailed the corruption of the English court system, and protested the use of legalese that average people could not understand. In Massachusetts, they rid themselves of both problems by getting rid of lawyers. Liberty 26[1] allows people to have someone else plead a case for them—with one significant detail: that person can’t be paid for his service (“Provided he give him no fee or reward for his pains”). There would be no professional lawyer class in Massachusetts if the original settlers had their way.”[2]

[1] 1641 Body of Massachusetts Liberties

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