Post Semi-Nude Photos Of Celebs Doing Drugs... Get Hit With C&D That You Can't Show Anyone

from the that's-not-how-it-works... dept

Rose M. Welch points us to the news that the website TheDirty.com was sent a ridiculous cease and desist letter from lawyers representing Tess Taylor (apparently some reality TV personality whom I'd never heard of), after the site posted photos (warning: NSFW) of Taylor topless and partaking of various drugs (apparently both pot and black tar heroin).

Of course, these days you half assume that such stories are planted on purpose to build up the reputations of various desperate b- or c-list celebs. And, of course, claiming that the cease-and-desist is covered by copyright almost guarantees that it will get more attention. This is somewhat standard language on many cease-and-desist letters, but it's unlikely that there is any legal basis for it. There is little creative effort in the cease and desist, which is mostly boilerplate. It's difficult to see much copyright being allowed. Even if there was (and anyone want to bet on whether or not the letter was registered?) it would appear that fair use would allow the publication of the letter, despite the claims that:
This letter is a confidential legal communication and is not for publication. Any publication, dissemination or broadcast of any portion of this letter will construe a breach of confidence and a violation of the U.S. Copyright Act.
Good luck testing that one in court. First of all, even if the letter really was covered by copyright, fair use would almost certainly protect the publication of the whole thing (for the sake of reporting), if not "portions" of it. And the claim of "breach of confidence" is a huge stretch as well. That's usually applied to things like doctor-patient relationships. Arguing that the lawyers for Tess Taylor and the site TheDirty.com have any sort of "confidential" relationship established is beyond ridiculous.

As for the reasoning behind the C&D... that seems to come from similarly questionable legal theory. The lawyers rely on California's "rights of privacy and publicity," but the law in question there was written to protect celebrities from having their images used in advertisements for endorsement purposes. It's a stretch to suggest those same rights apply simply to "photos you don't like... because they're published on a for-profit site." Again, it seems just as likely that the whole ordeal was cooked up for publicity anyway, but it's still annoying to see various laws abused in this manner -- whether the letter represents a real legal threat or is just part of a publicity campaign.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    maclizard (profile), May 5th, 2010 @ 8:57am

    I'm not complaining but...

    I would have liked to have seem the NSFW disclaimer prior to the link that I habitually clicked on as I read the story. Oops!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2010 @ 9:11am

    It's amazing how all these anti drug laws don't seem to apply to celebrities and employees from big corporations when they have their huge parties on their yachts. The war on drugs only applies to the lower class. Heck, the fines/punishments for expensive drugs that tend to be used more by the upper class tend to be far less than the fines/punishments for cheaper drugs used by lower class people. I'm not saying drugs should be legal, I'm just saying that the law seems to have a double standard when it comes to enforcement and otherwise.

     

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    Rose M. Welch (profile), May 5th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    You can't tell what's being used in those photos, so the 'War On Drugs' doesn't really apply here... Bongs are sold all over America for tobacco use, too, you know. :)

    Even if we could see that it was marijuana, she's in California and she may be using it legally.

    Although I agree that there is a double standard, I don't think it's being shown here.

     

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    Kelly Reid, May 5th, 2010 @ 10:15am

    Nice try, but FAIL

    1. There is no privacy in a public place. This looks like a house and not a club so not sure about the legitimacy of this but you could argue the house as a party house with frequent, random attendees and make grounds for it being public.

    2. She has a better chance at defamation of character by means of libel (published, but even then that probably wouldn't hold since she is some form of a public figure (not a private individual) and there is no actual malice. I mean the pictures are real, they aren't photo-shopped.

    3. Copyright on a legal letter? The Copyright act was created to protect forms of expression, which includes literary works. They could duke it out and argue if a legal letter is a "literary work." Whew, sticky subject. Fairuse is definitely the backbone of that one, just claim news reporting or criticism of material and don't publish it in it's entirety.

    My question goes beyond the communication and media law I have learned and into the gritty: what is defined as a legal letter and what "rights" does the letter, author and recipient have based on the definition as defined by the law?

     

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      btr1701 (profile), May 6th, 2010 @ 11:10am

      Re: Nice try, but FAIL

      > She has a better chance at defamation of character
      > by means of libel (published, but even then that
      > probably wouldn't hold since she is some form of
      > a public figure (not a private individual) and
      > there is no actual malice. I mean the pictures
      > are real, they aren't photo-shopped.

      Since, as you say, the pictures are real, she has no chance at libel. Truth is the ultimate defense to an accusation of libel/defamation. If the photos are real, the case ends there. No libel as a matter of law. They won't even reach the public figure/actual malice analysis. That only comes into play if the speech in question is false.

       

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    Mr. Oizo, May 5th, 2010 @ 10:16am

    Heroin ?

    'Black tar heroin' Couldn't find that on the photo. Pot yes, heroin not seen. Or I didn't look close enough (but I think I did :-)

     

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    Looo, May 5th, 2010 @ 10:56am

    Formula

    If released on the Internet, assume it's retractable. If it involves female breasts, forget about it, it's already mirrored in 40 sites before human eyes get to it.

    Microsoft has it's most valuable IP out there, for the pickings, and they barely make an effort to stem the flow.

    These sorts of stories are actually getting dull.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2010 @ 11:00am

    "Of course, these days you half assume that such stories are planted"

    have?

     

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    Steve R. (profile), May 5th, 2010 @ 11:27am

    Once Again The Claim that One Party Can Restrict the Freedom of Another

    The RIAA and its ilk claim that the ISPs must filter internet traffic to protect their interests. Now we have a legal firm asserting that they can sue you but you can't talk about it!

     

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    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, May 5th, 2010 @ 11:50am

    Semi Nude Photos!

    My God!

    Those photos have hardly any clothes on!

    CBMHB

     

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    Jenna Tessof, May 5th, 2010 @ 5:55pm

    If this site gets a C&D for exposing photos of public celebrities, I wonder what's going to happen with DirtyPhoneBook putting up private photos of everybody. Now that lawsuit is going to be a hilarious can of worms....

     

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    malcolm kyle, May 6th, 2010 @ 1:56am

    prohibition sucks

    No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safer, only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

    If you support prohibition then you've helped trigger the worst crime wave in history.

    If you support prohibition you've a helped create a black market with massive incentives to hook both adults and children alike.

    If you support prohibition you've helped to make these dangerous substances available in schools and prisons.

    If you support prohibition you've helped raise gang warfare to a level not seen since the days of alcohol bootlegging.

     

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    techflaws.org (profile), May 6th, 2010 @ 2:28am

    **Warning: These images are graphic and might cause erection.**

    Lol, but not quite.

     

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    habika, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 8:51pm

    gh

    There is no privacy in a public place. This looks like a house and not a club so not sure about the legitimacy of this but you could argue the house as a party house with frequent, random attendees and make grounds for it being public.The initiative taken for the concern is very serious and need an attention of every one. This is the concern which exists in the society and needs to be eliminated from the society as soon as possible. The people are loosing their moral while becoming modern. The society needs to be attentive that moral value.
    =================================================
    Best Pharmacy Drugs

     

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    David Vidal, Jul 22nd, 2010 @ 3:18am

    you all dont have very good taste in drugs like me my favorite is potty but no you all take boggies.

     

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    carl frank lee, Aug 15th, 2010 @ 6:54pm

    Agencies who look for celebritie photos on the internet

    There are companies who look around the internet everyday just to hunt and seek out photos of celebrities that are illegal and do not belong on the internet.

     

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