Apparently You're Not An A-List Celebrity Unless You're Involved In Some Sort Of Bogus Defamation Lawsuit

from the defamation-law-gone-mad dept

Over the years, we've been threatened with defamation lawsuits more times than I'd like to recall, though nothing has ever come of any of them (even the latest threat, which seemed more likely to end up in court than others). Apparently, we're not alone. Filing highly questionable defamation lawsuits is apparently the hot new Hollywood trend.

Everyone who's someone is getting in on the action. Of course, almost all of these lawsuits are unlikely to get very far. Defamation of a public figure has to involve "actual malice" rather than just false statements, and it's pretty rare that any of the statements rise to that level. And, really, so many of the claims seem pretty ridiculous anyone, in that no one is actually taking them at face value. Take, for example, Lindsay Lohan's latest ridiculous defamation lawsuit against the rapper Pitbull for including the line: "I got locked up like Lindsay Lohan." Lohan's lawyers are claiming that such a "disparaging or defamatory" lyric is "destined to do irreparable harm." Seriously? Does no one put these things through a reality filter?

Of course, Lohan is also the celeb who once sued E*Trade for $100 million, because one of its commercials referenced a baby named "Lindsay," who was described as a "milkaholic." Nothing in the ad implied that this baby "Lindsay" had anything to do with Lohan. But she still sued.

Like certain other laws, the root cause of defamation laws seem to make a lot of sense. If someone is publishing or saying completely false things about you, shouldn't there be some form of recourse? But, as we see more and more of these ridiculous claims, I'm beginning to wonder if defamation law really makes much sense any more. It made a lot of sense when you had gatekeepers for getting information out to the world. If a newspaper lied about you and there was no way to get your response published, defamation lawsuits could help solve that. But, today, anyone can publish and anyone can speak up. In fact, there are stories all the time about "big bad things" that people or companies do to others.

In an age where most of the gatekeepers are disappearing, it seems like the answer to defamatory speech should really be "more speech," in all but the most extreme cases. Instead, even though the "actual malice" standard should forestall most of these suits, we get dozens of such lawsuits that seem to be because someone's feelings are hurt. That's not what defamation law is about, and it seems more like such lawsuits should qualify for anti-SLAPP sanctions, as they too often appear to be attempts to get someone saying something that's "not nice" to shut up.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    blaktron (profile), Aug 25th, 2011 @ 8:15am

    She should sell her coke dealer for defamation of character, cuz he REALLY messed hers up!

     

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  2.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 25th, 2011 @ 8:30am

    Yikes...

    This is why I'm glad I'm not an A list celebrity. It seems that most of your time is spent desperately scouring the internet and print for references to yourself. I imagine the narcicism it takes for such an endeavor eventually causes you to spontaneously combust.

    At least, that's what I'm hoping....

     

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  3.  
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    Loki, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 8:33am

    Yeah, out of all of them, I thought Lohan's lawsuit was the most ridiculous. As if anyone could possibly defame her character more than she herself has.

     

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  4.  
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    Flattened and Threaded, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Early in the Morning

    What happened, did you write this one on the toilet and forget to proofread it once you got into the office?

    First up, we note the high bar for set by our defamation laws and how many claims fall so short that they get thrown out of court quickly.

    Of course, almost all of these lawsuits are unlikely to get very far. Defamation of a public figure has to involve "actual malice" rather than just false statements, and it's pretty rare that any of the statements rise to that level. And, really, so many of the claims seem pretty ridiculous anyone, in that no one is actually taking them at face value.

    Then you conclude that the laws don't make sense because of these highly dubious (and apparently legally unfounded) claims.

    Like certain other laws, the root cause of defamation laws seem to make a lot of sense... But, as we see more and more of these ridiculous claims, I'm beginning to wonder if defamation law really makes much sense any more.

    Then, just to muddy the waters, you basically contradict yourself and argue that we need more anti-SLAPP sanctions.

    ...we get dozens of such lawsuits that seem to be because someone's feelings are hurt. That's not what defamation law is about, and it seems more like such lawsuits should qualify for anti-SLAPP sanctions...

     

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  5.  
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    Adrianos Facchetti, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 8:36am

    Defamation Law

    While I enjoy the fact that people are writing about defamation lawsuits these days, there is no trend. Celebrities and other people have been filing questionable defamation lawsuits for ages. It's typical for the media to string together "trends" when they need a story.

    And defamation law needs to stay. People cannot be permitted to destroy other people's reputations with impunity. There must be consequences.

     

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  6.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Aug 25th, 2011 @ 8:39am

    Lohan's lawyers are claiming that such a "disparaging or defamatory" lyric is "destined to do irreparable harm."

    LOL falling off chair. Really? The tons of coke snorted and being a drunk bitch has done no harm. Sad really.
    http://newsodrome.com/celebrity_news/rocks-lindsay-lohan-doing-coke-10364451.jpg

    http:// goldenrobotme.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Lindsay-Lohan.jpg



    Sue yourself dumbass.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 8:43am

    Re: Early in the Morning

    I dont get it...

     

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  8.  
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    bjupton, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    And also, she's been locked up! Several times!

    This is a true statement, aren't those protected?

     

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  9.  
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    ohhhhhhhhh, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 9:28am

    I R HOOLYWOOD actr

    on drugs booze an i dooze what i want ahaaaraeeee

     

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  10.  
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    Zangetsu (profile), Aug 25th, 2011 @ 9:47am

    Lyric Correction

    You state that she is suing over "I got locked up like Lindsay Lohan". The actual lyrics are ""I got IT locked up like Lindsay Lohan" which is even less disparaging. Indeed, what is it.

    I wonder if Lindsay Lohan is even aware of the lawsuit or whether this was instigated by some overzealous lawyers.

     

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  11.  
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    Zot-Sindi, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 9:53am

    Re: Early in the Morning

    i think you need your coffee

     

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  12.  
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    Jesse, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 10:09am

    RE: Lohan

    Isn't there some sort of defense that if the plaintiff's reputation is beyond redemption already then defamation did not occur (or at least that there can be no further damage)?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 10:48am

    Doesn't anyone remember the old adage anymore?: "There is no bad publicity."

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 25th, 2011 @ 11:06am

    Re: Defamation Law

    And defamation law needs to stay. People cannot be permitted to destroy other people's reputations with impunity. There must be consequences

    But that's the point. There *are* consequences and it can't be done with impunity, because the person defamed can respond, make their case, and whoever made the original claims loses their reputation for it.

     

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  15.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Aug 25th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    Really?

    > Take, for example, Lindsay Lohan's latest ridiculous
    > defamation lawsuit against the rapper Pitbull for including
    > the line: "I got locked up like Lindsay Lohan." Lohan's lawyers
    > are claiming that such a "disparaging or defamatory" lyric
    > is "destined to do irreparable harm."

    Are these people seriously suggesting that anytime a celebrity is involved in something which reflects on them negatively, that no one else is allowed to talk about it, because it might make the celebrity look bad if they do?

    If there was ever an instance where the court should hoist high the attorneys involved with Rule 11 sanctions, this should be it.

     

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  16.  
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    DandonTRJ (profile), Aug 25th, 2011 @ 5:02pm

    Re: Early in the Morning

    He's suggesting that the majority of defamation claims brought are intended to harass rather than achieve a judicial victory, and given that the main point of defamation suits is to clear one's name, the universal platform that is the Internet allows people to do so much more expeditiously than a court of law. Rather than contradict himself, Mike is suggesting that if we MUST have a defamation tort, it should at least be susceptible to anti-SLAPP sanctions in order to curb abuse.

    And that's how we learn to read, children!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2011 @ 6:08pm

    Vexatious Litigant

    With all these spurious defamation lawsuits, which have no hope of succeeding, does not that make Lohan a "vexatious litigant"? What are the sanctions in US law for being a vexatious litigant? How about barratry and champerty?

     

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


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