When Suing A Website For Libel, It Helps To Actually Sue The Right One

from the thedirt-vs.-thedirty dept

Last week, a story caught my eye, about a website being ordered to pay $11 million for failing to respond to a lawsuit claiming libel. The story caught my attention for a few reasons: first, I'm always interested in libel lawsuits involving blogs and second... the name of the site that was sued was TheDirt.com, which... er... seemed close enough to Techdirt.com that I had to pause for a second and make sure it wasn't us. Anyway, after all that, it didn't seem like the ruling was interesting enough for a post... until some other details came out.

The lawsuit itself came from a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader/high school English teacher named Sarah Jones, who was upset that the site in question apparently posted a picture of her and reported that she had an affair with a player and had contracted two venereal diseases. Assuming there's no truth to the rumors, it sounded like a straightforward libel case -- though from all the reporting, it's not clear if the site owners themselves wrote the content, or if it was written by a user -- in which case the site might have Section 230 protections (potentially depending on how involved they were in encouraging such content).

So why is the case suddenly interesting? Well, perhaps because it now appears that Ms. Jones' lawyers sued the wrong company. Oops. The lawsuit was filed against Los Angeles-based Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, which runs the website TheDirt.com. Problem is that the site that contained the content in question was TheDirty.com, and that's run by a Scottsdale-based company called Dirty World LLC who had no indication that there was a lawsuit going on at all. Oops indeed. At least no one sued us.

Amusingly, the folks at TheDirt.com are amusingly asking if they should sue for libel right back, considering all the press coverage claiming (falsely) that they had libeled Ms. Jones. Oh, and as for TheDirty.com, it's also asking the AP for an apology for falsely reporting that it had lost the lawsuit when it hadn't even been served. Quite a dirty mess. Separately, I have to imagine that Jones' lawyer, Eric Deters, now regrets his statement to the AP:
"If they would have just taken it down, this all would have been over," Deters said. "They just kind of mocked the whole court system."
Might have helped if you sued the right company.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2010 @ 10:06am

    Wow, um, an image search for Sarah Jones does not bode well for her future reputation, at least with safesearch turned off. Not that I'm implying Sarah jones prefers full nudity with her students and posting the pictures online.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2010 @ 10:15am

    The AP got something completely wrong? Shocking.

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

  • identicon
    John Doe, 1 Sep 2010 @ 10:40am

    Re: Cheap Cars

    I don't like your cheap cars.

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

  • identicon
    John Doe, 1 Sep 2010 @ 10:41am

    Money back guarantee?

    I hope she got a money back guarantee from the lawyer. I would sure hate to pay for a lawsuit against the wrong person/company and then have to pay for another lawsuit against the right person/company.

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

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 1 Sep 2010 @ 10:53am

    well

    In Soviet Russia, court system mocks YOU!

    Sorry, sorry, I couldn't help myself.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Trails, 1 Sep 2010 @ 10:56am

    Re: Cheap Cars

    I like your total overpriced ripoff and enjoy messing up your google index too.

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

  • identicon
    GrinningFool, 1 Sep 2010 @ 10:57am

    Ahhh, its always good when these types of lawsuits get messed up. Too bad it will not make a lick of difference.

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

  • icon
    Ron (profile), 1 Sep 2010 @ 11:22am

    Why

    ... didn't the sued company just send in a note to the court saying they were the wrong group? I mean, the sued company actually got served, didn't it? Would have solved everything early on.

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

    • identicon
      SuperSparky, 1 Sep 2010 @ 2:03pm

      Re: Why

      The post seemed to indicate that they weren't even served. The article does not indicate who was served but only who wasn't served the required summons.

      The problem here is one company was Los Angeles, California based and the other was Scottsdale, Arizona based. It's a matter of jurisdiction as well.

      Not only is her attorney an idiot, but he placed himself vulnerable to a malpractice suit by her. This attorney broke the first rule of being a jurist, always double-check your paperwork, as there is no such thing as a typo under the law. One typo can ruin a case.

      As to the Associated Press' incompetence. This isn't the first time the AP has not checked its facts (or lack thereof) before reporting a story. A simple followup would have prevented their story from ever being published as it was, but it would not have made for good tabloid press; you know instead of that yucky "journalistic integrity" thing.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2010 @ 11:32am

    I wonder which came first, the Dirty World that runs thedirt.com or the Dirty World that runs thedirty.com. This sounds like pretty good evidence of a likelihood of confusion. I smell a trademark suit.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2010 @ 3:17pm

    Insults

    From the Politico piece linked above:
    The next day, Bertelsman ruled against Dirty World Entertainment Recordings. Kentucky attorney Eric Deters, who is representing Jones, said it was irrelevant that the incorrect corporation, website and physical address were listed on the complaint and judgment.

    "We’re still going to serve that S.O.B. personally," Deters said of Richie. "I’m going to make that dirty, rotten, mean, vermin bastard pay. He’s a piece of dirt."

    So, a dirty, rotten, mean, vermin bastard piece of dirt SOB? I guess when you screw the pooch as badly as this lawyer did, hurling insults at the other guy is a good way to draw attention away from your royal fuckup.

    Also:
    “He ought to be ashamed of himself,” Deters said “He’s another lying little weasel politician. That’s not slander; that is my opinion.”
    0
    Boy. It takes a lawyer to know how to [kind of] slander somebody without actually being guilty of slander.

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

  • identicon
    Grr, 2 Sep 2010 @ 7:10am

    Eric Deters

    Eric Deters is a !@#$@#$ and goes by the name "The Bull Dog" on a radio spot show in Cincy. Not really surprised by this.

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

  • identicon
    Skanky, 2 Sep 2010 @ 7:16am

    Wow

    She is using the wrong lawyer and SHE is now LIBEL for damages. What a CUN*. LOL No doubt she is the person who is at fault. I hope she has no children.

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

  • identicon
    Cowardly Annon, 2 Sep 2010 @ 7:52am

    Why was any money awarded at all? I mean, don't judges know about Section 230? A nasty comment on a post and the site is being sued for libel? I thought that should be thrown out right off?

    Also, $11 mil b/c someone said something mean about you online? That's outrageous.

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

  • identicon
    Phil, 2 Sep 2010 @ 9:01am

    Some of those later URLs are websensed... For SEX!

    You should mention that the comment you link to is on a sex site, and NSFW... I stupidly clicked it to see the guy's statement, and Websense blocked it as a sex site. I almost had a heart attack! It's a good thing my network admin has a sense of humor!

    Boy, howdy.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2010 @ 4:12pm

    "They just kind of mocked the whole court system."

    why yes, yes they did

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

  • identicon
    Hahaha, 2 Sep 2010 @ 6:49pm

    Hahaha

    Hahaha!!!

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

  • identicon
    God, 3 Sep 2010 @ 6:04am

    Typical Court Favoritism in Femerica

    Another golddigging American woman. Men should be able to sue for slander and libel too knowing the crap women spew about them. Typical Femerica brainwashees. No surprise considering the courts are the fanbase which supports your typical Femerica goldigging feminazis. The sad part is that all those statements are true about her

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

  • identicon
    Abel Tasman, 4 Sep 2010 @ 5:52pm

    Spare a thought for the judge. What a d?ckhead.
    Imagine how this is going to unwound without the law admitting to itself that it was an ASS.

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

  • identicon
    Nathan.C.Hale, 19 Sep 2010 @ 3:45am

    Hooman Karamian may have ownership in THEDIRT.COM, so ATTY Deters may not have been far off the mark.

    THEDIRT.COM has been registered since 2002, protected by GoDaddy’s “Domain by Proxy” service that hides true owner information. This is the same service Hooman Karamian utilizes in his solutions. An IT records check (with registrar GoDaddy or hosting provider MOJO) would ultimately provide evidence or possibly link ownership of the domains.

    Reference:
    Address lookup
    canonical name thedirt.com.
    addresses 99.192.184.230

    Domain Whois record
    Domain Name: THEDIRT.COM
    Registrar: GODADDY.COM, INC.
    Whois Server: whois.godaddy.com
    Referral URL: http://registrar.godaddy.com
    Updated Date: 29-may-2010
    Creation Date: 09-apr-2002
    Expiration Date: 09-apr-2011

    Registrant:
    Domains by Proxy, Inc.
    DomainsByProxy.com
    15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
    Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
    United States

    CustName: Mojohost
    Address: 31800 Northwestern Hwy
    Address: Suite304
    City: Farmington Hills
    StateProv: MI
    PostalCode: 48334
    Country: US

    V/r

    Nate

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

  • identicon
    webmaster, 21 Nov 2010 @ 12:05am

    I own thedirt.com and we are in nevada.. I went private because I didnt want the phone calls from the ap etc.. it was odd

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

  • identicon
    Northbay Web Marketing, 1 Jan 2011 @ 8:01pm

    leveling the playing field

    Sounds like the Attorney is going to pay on this one.

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

  • identicon
    nitin mahendru, 8 Jan 2011 @ 3:13am

    How to sue a website

    Hello,

    I don't know how to ask but the issue is I have visiting a website where I found some guy selling the T-shirts with the pics of our goddess. The pictures were vulgar and kind of porn views. I don't knoe how to SUE this GUY PLEASE HELP.

    I REALLY HAVE NO IDEA BUT I'LL DEFINITELY STOP THIS VIOLATION.

    IF SOMEONE UNDERSTANDS PLEASE HELPPPPPPPP....

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

  • identicon
    cheap bags garden, 7 Apr 2011 @ 11:33pm

    comment

    good text! thanks for sharing

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

  • identicon
    Marc Ricther, 20 Oct 2011 @ 9:56am

    Web Privacy Buys You Nothing

    One of the biggest scams from web hosting companies is their privacy protection services. If you pay for the service you really aren't gaining any real protection. At the first sign of trouble they are willing to give up your personal information.

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


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