Judges Interpreting Emoticons? :-(
from the ^_^ dept
While we'd already written about the judge's ruling in the Lenz vs. Universal lawsuit concerning a bogus DMCA takedown and whether or not damages could be awarded, there was one bit of the ruling which Eugene Volokh recently highlighted, which seems worth mentioning, if only for the amusement factor. Apparently, part of determining whether or not there was actual harm done to Lenz was looking at some email communications, including one where a friend used an emoticon:
Universal ... argues [as a defense to Lenz's lawsuit] that there are triable issues of fact as to whether Lenz has "prosecuted in good faith the assertion that she has been damaged" by Universal's alleged violation of [the DMCA]. This argument is based on four separate contentions.... [The fourth is] that an email exchange between Lenz and one of her friends shows that Lenz does not believe that she was injured substantially and irreparably by the takedown notice. In the exchange, Lenz responds to her friend's comment that the friend "love[s] how [Lenz has] been injured 'substantially and irreparably' ;-)" by writing "I have ;-)." The (";-)") symbol, according to Lenz, is a "winky" emoticon which signifies something along the lines of "just kidding."While it's fascinating to see Universal using a friend's use of an emoticon to try to prove its point, it does seem like things could get a bit dicey when we have judges trying to interpret things like emoticons.
At her deposition, Lenz testified that she believed her friend's use of the emoticon "was kind of a reference back to [the] lawyerese" of the "substantially and irreparbly harmed" language and that her use of the emoticon was "a reply to the wink that [her friend] used." Lenz maintains that the fact that she "believes that lawyers sometimes use stilted language is not evidence of bad faith." ...