Faith Healer Adam Miller Sues Over Critical YouTube Video, Guaranteeing It Tons Of Attention

from the can-you-heal-not-understanding-the-law? dept

Oh boy. Today in Streisanding, we’ve got a lawsuit filed by Adam Miller, a faith healer, against Stephanie Guttormson, supposedly over claims of copyright infringement and defamation, though neither claim holds up under much scrutiny. Instead, this looks like a typical SLAPP suit, in which Miller is upset about a video that mocks him and his faith healing and decides to sue over it. Enter Stresiand Effect. The video is currently up, and the view count is rapidly escalating. At the time the lawsuit was filed (according to the lawsuit) it had about 1,500 views. Now it’s much more:

There’s nothing too surprising in the video, but it basically uses one of Miller’s own promotional videos and intersperses some commentary and criticism. The lawsuit… is… well… a joke. First, he claims copyright infringement, though this is pretty obviously fair use. It’s being used for criticism and commentary, and in order to make that work, it needs to show clips of the video. Miller’s lawyer tries, weakly, to present a few arguments to try to get around fair use, including arguing that it’s commercial use. Of course, as we keep repeating, commercial use does not mean that you can’t have fair use. Tons of fair use involves commercial use. And, even given that, it’s ridiculous to argue that this is “commercial use.” The best the lawsuit can do is claim that the inclusion at the end of the video of a couple of “advertisements” makes it commercial. That, alone, probably isn’t even enough to claim this is “commercial use,” (which is generally more about selling the actual work or directly profiting). Plus, it’s not even accurate. The “advertisements” aren’t really advertisements at all, but rather a friendly acknowledgement of who sent her the video, with a link to that guy’s own website and audio bookstore, with a mention that Guttormson appears on that guy’s podcast every so often.

The lawsuit also claims too much of the original video was used, but there’s little evidence to support that. Guttormson comments on basically every clip in the video, so it’s hard to see how she’s using “more of the original work than was necessary” as the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also alleges, as part of the copyright claim, that “Guttormson is liable for the actual harm caused to Mr. Miller as a result of Guttormson?s infringement and statutory damages.” That’s an interesting claim, but completely bullshit in the copyright context. The “actual harm” has to be over the copyright. Unless there was “actual harm” in Miller no longer being able to license/sell that video to a third party because they felt they could see it all for free through Guttormson’s video (a crazy claim), then there’s no actual harm. If the commentary in Guttormson’s video, which mocks Miller’s wacky faith healing nonsense, created “actual harm,” well, that’s not a copyright issue and is unrelated to any copyright claim.

The lawsuit also makes some claims about how the video itself was never actually released, but rather was password protected in Miller’s wife’s account. So the lawsuit alleges that Guttormson must have “hacked” into Eve Miller’s account. In the video itself, however, as mentioned above, Guttormson notes that it was actually David Smalley who sent her the video. And while it’s not entirely clear, from the comment threads under the video, it certainly sounds like Miller’s video was most likely publicly available somewhere online. The evidence of “hacking” here seems really weak. And if there was hacking, the evidence that it was Guttormson is non-existent.

As for the defamation claims… there are only two specific things called out in the lawsuit. The first is this:

As just one example, Guttormson explains what happens at an appointment with Mr. Miller, ?You will be fed faith-based bullshit.? This statement is false and defamatory; Mr. Miller?s work does not require a client to hold any faith, and he has worked with non-believers and atheists.

Um. Okay, it appears that Miller’s lawyer is misrepresenting what “faith-based” means in this context. Guttormson isn’t saying that those seeing Miller are expected to “have faith in a certain religion.” She’s saying that the treatment by Miller is not evidence based but is based on someone’s blind “faith” in Miller being able to actually do something. And, besides, Miller’s own words show that he’s pitching a bunch of faith-based quackery. In the video clip, he himself explains the process, noting talking first about how he talks to people who come to them about things that happened in their childhood, like “traumas” that might explain their illnesses (really) and then says:

And then after we get through this, we put them on the table, and great holy spirit comes and breaks up dark cellular structure that creates any illness. Because I believe that illnesses are of a dark path.

That’s like the definition of “faith-based” right there.

The other “defamation” claim is about the title of the video, which refers to Miller as a “con man.” For the most part, courts don’t consider phrases like that defamatory though (there are some exceptions, but it very much depends on context and if they’re alleging a very specific thing, rather than a general insult). The link there is from Perle & Williams on Publishing Law and notes:

As Dean Prosser observed, “[A] certain amount of vulgar name-calling is tolerated on the theory that it will necessarily be understood to amount to nothing more.” Thus, “communism” is too amorphous a characterization to be actionable, as is the term “grifter.” The term “crook” has been held by one court to be a word of general disparagement rather than an allegation of specific criminal conduct, and thus was not slander; a restaurant critic’s remark that a restaurateur was a “pig” and a television news editorial that referred to a chiropractor as a “quack” and a “cancer con artist” were held to be expressions of opinion; the words “those bastards” were held “mere epithets… as terms of abuse and opprobrium” and as such were not actionable for defamation; referring to a judge as “incompetent,” “arrogant,” “biased,” and “one of the 10 worst judges in New York” was not held to be defamatory; calling a stockholder a “silly, stupid, senile bum” was not held to be slanderous; referring to Carl Sagan as a “butt-head astronomer” was held not libelous; and referring to a masonry contractor as a “shithead” was held not actionable….

In short, the likelihood that calling Miller a “con artist” is “defamation,” let alone “defamation per se” as the lawsuit alleges, is… quite unlikely.

Even more to the point, this was a video that almost no one had seen. And now, because of this lawsuit, not only are tons more people checking it out, even more people will start investigating Adam Miller and the claims he makes about his “healing” services. Miller’s website has gone down, but a quick look through the internet archive shows that it’s chock-full of quackery (note to Miller’s lawyer: that’s not defamatory, so buzz off):

What this healing work is…

The Great and Holy Beings, such as Mother Mary, Jesus, Buddha, Quan Yin, Saint Germain, Archangel Michael and many others come into a person’s body and transmute with light every single cell and raise the vibratory rate. In other words, diseases or injuries in the body have a very low, darkened vibration and when a Holy Being works with any person it changes the cellular structure permanently and the issue that is being worked on will never come back. This work is permanent. It is important to understand that Adam Miller is not a conduit, or psychic or related to any other work on the planet. This work is a result of Adam’s death experience. Adam Miller would never claim to do this work himself. It is done by Holy Beings only.

So, uh, yeah. And he’s the one claiming that “faith-based bullshit” is defamatory? Yikes.

Meanwhile, before filing the lawsuit, it appears that Miller posted another video announcing his response to the video above. In it he notes that a lawsuit is being prepared. But he also has a bunch of his “happy clients” give testimonials or complain about Guttormson, claiming that what she said was, like, really mean and “unprofessional.” If Miller had merely posted his response including such testimonials, that would be perfectly fine. You deal with speech you dislike with more speech. But suing someone with bogus claims of defamation and copyright infringement? When you’re spewing quackery? Not only is that going to flop in court, it’s just going to lead a lot of people to examine what you’re selling yourself…

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Comments on “Faith Healer Adam Miller Sues Over Critical YouTube Video, Guaranteeing It Tons Of Attention”

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Adam Steinbaugh (profile) says:

Someone managed to save Miller’s responsive video, which was uploaded before the lawsuit was filed and (I believe) has since been deleted.

The most interesting part, to me, is that he’s accusing the woman of having engaged in “criminal activities” and asserts that he’s going to “prosecute” her. Clearly hyperbolic (except to the extent that it might imply that she ‘hacked’ his account), but that’s exactly what protects her speech.

Anonymous Coward says:


“It is important to understand that Adam Miller is not a conduit, or psychic or related to any other work on the planet. This work is a result of Adam’s death experience. Adam Miller would never claim to do this work himself. It is done by Holy Beings only.”

So it’s a “result of Adam’s death experience,” but “it is done by Holy Beings only”? If it’s done by “Holy Beings” only, why does “Adam’s death experience” matter? That would only make sense if here were some sort of conduit, which he just said he isn’t. :confused:

Anonymous Coward says:

I thought this site was all about Free Speech

I understand you’re also about Fair Use too, me too. I have some real problems with this one though. The level of criticism on this video is pretty low – if your first argument off the blocks is “the websters defines …” then your thesis is f**ked.
I see the bigger victim here being the freedom of the healer. Why does he have to answer to some random atheist/sceptic, especially one with such a poor argument as to why he’s in the wrong ( if he even is). One who is now up to her third video of “YOU MUST PROVE IT TO ME/YOU HAVEN”T PROVEN IT” it’s absolute bullsh*t.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: It is, just not the crippled, useless version

You seem to be a wee bit mistaken as to the ‘freedoms’ regarding freedom of speech. The ‘healer'(and I use that word very loosely) is free to make whatever claims he wants regarding his ‘treatment’, but at the same time other people are equally free to call him out and present their opinion that his claims are rubbish, and demand some backing evidence to support his claims if he wants to be taken seriously.

‘Free speech’ does not, as some people seem to believe, mean that people can say whatever they want, and other people are not allowed to criticize their claims. Just as one person is free to make their claims, other people are free to speak their mind regarding said claims, whether those return comments take the form of support, or derision, mockery, and/or demanding supporting evidence.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: I thought this site was all about Free Speech

The level of criticism on this video is pretty low – if your first argument off the blocks is “the websters defines …” then your thesis is f**ked.

The freedom to speak (and even the protections of fair use) does not depend on the quality of one’s arguments.

Why does he have to answer to some random atheist/sceptic

He doesn’t. He chose to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

“‘Free speech’ does not, as some people seem to believe, mean that people can say whatever they want, and other people are not allowed to criticize their claims”
Which is why this guy went legal isn’t it?
I mean she was the one that went looking for a fight, he’s just doing his religious stuff for religious folk – no one else is getting hurt. If we all pulled out the sass and spaghetti straps every time someone on the internet upset our sensibilities the networks would collapse under the collective weight of a billion definitions of asshurt.

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

Re: Re:

Which is why Adam Miller is such a jerk. If someone says something I disagree with, I have the right to voice my disagreeing opinion. I’m not sure why this would destroy the Internet or something, you’re not forced to listen to a naysayer’s speech. I’m also not sure why someone going “looking for a fight” forfeits their First Amendment rights, can you elaborate on that?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Posting a video talking about how ridiculous a ‘faith’ healer’s claims are is not in any way ‘looking for a fight’. It’s spotting something ridiculous, and making your opinion known about it.

However, you know what absolutely is ‘looking for a fight’? Filing a ridiculous lawsuit in an attempt to silence and/or punish someone who’s calling you a quack, and your claims ridiculous.

A mature, reasonable person, who believed that their claims would have no problem standing up under scrutiny would have responded to her words with words of their own, providing evidence to back up their claims. That they instead chose to go legal in attempt to silence and/or punish her would seem to strongly suggest that that’s all they can do, because they have no real evidence to present in their defense.

Anonymous Coward says:


Just A Couple Of Questions About Lynch Mobs
If you’re somebody who supports privacy and freedom of conscience, do you think it’s healthy for a republic to have a political media that digs up wrongthink statements by random nobodies, then amplifies the statements to expose the random nobodies to ridicule or financial ruin by thousands of angry strangers?

And if you’ve participated in such ridicule, do you feel better, months later, knowing that you helped cost that random nobody a job, all over a poorly expressed statement on the internet?

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