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
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.