Chris Evans' Lawyer Threatens Forum; Apparently Unfamiliar With Free Speech, Safe Harbors & Streisand Effect
from the a-little-lesson dept
Either way, a user on the forum Lipstick Alley posted the story to that forum, with a link to the original, some quotes from the story and the comments, and a random picture of Evans. Meyer quickly sent a threat letter that really tries to include everything but the kitchen sink. It argues that even though Lipstick Alley is a forum, it is responsible for what its users post (which is clearly wrong under Section 230 of the CDA). It argues that the site "fraudulently" and "intentionally" published the post, again despite it being a forum where a user posted the information. Meyer also seems to claim that reporting on Evans -- regardless of whether or not the information is factual -- is a misuse of his publicity rights (which is clearly wrong under the First Amendment). He also claims that merely linking to content that may be defamatory is, itself, against the law. He demands that the site "permanently remove any mention of Mr. Evans" even beyond this particular story -- which, again, has no legal basis.
Oh, and lest we forget, he pretends that he can unilaterally declare that the letter itself is secret and that the site cannot even "report on its substance" let alone publish it:
This letter is confidential legal communication and you are specifically prohibited from publishing any portion of it or reporting publicly on its substance in any way.Some of the sites (including the original) that had the story appear to have taken them down, suggesting that perhaps they received similar letters. However, the folks who run Lipstick Alley, thankfully, work with lawyer Paul Levy, and have an understanding of the basics of the law and their own liability. Levy has responded to the letter (embedded below) and posted Meyer's letter and his own response publicly. I highly recommend reading both letters. Levy calls Meyer's attention to the legal failings of his threat letter -- and suggests that Meyer's strategy is bound to backfire, due to the Streisand Effect:
Lipstick Alley is not gong to comply with any of your demands. And, indeed, I cannot think of a strategy better suited to drawing both yourself and Evans into disrepute than by sending a letter such as yours. Given that you are billed as an "entertainment lawyer," it is amazing that you may have never taken the "Streisand effect" into account in deciding whether to send your letter.I actually think there are a few places where Levy even underplays the ridiculousness of the original letter. Beyond the fact it's a user forum, Meyer's arguments, taken to their logical conclusion, would mean that no site could report on or show an image of Chris Evans without his permission. That makes little sense and the First Amendment clearly makes a mockery of such a claim.
And we won't even bother to discuss the ridiculousness of telling Lipstick Alley that it can't even report on the substance of the letter, let alone its specific contents.
Of course, there are a few clues that perhaps the reason that Meyer is unfamiliar with things like the Streisand Effect has to do with the fact that he's not particularly tech savvy. The letter notes that it was "dictated" (old school!), for one thing. But, I also noticed that Meyer's law firm, Stone, Meyer, Genow, Smelkinson & Binder, LLP, doesn't even appear to have a website. The domain which is listed as a part of Meyer's email address in the letter... takes you to a GoDaddy holding page. Yes, GoDaddy.
Hint to Hollywood stars: if you're going to hire an entertainment lawyer to try (badly) to police rumors about you online with questionable legal threats, perhaps first check to see if they have a website themselves.