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Practicing attorney in Los Angeles specializing in copyright issues, and trying to strike a balance between defender of the law and sympathizer to (and often advocate of!) the Techdirt causes. I promise not to shill if you promise not to assume the worst about me!



Posted on Techdirt - 23 July 2014 @ 3:31pm

Musician Threatens To Sue Journalists For Defamation For Pointing To His Past Troubles Fulfilling Crowdfunding Campaigns

from the that'll-work dept

Meet Cody Payne.

Payne is the ex-rhythm guitarist and former manager of now-disbanded rock group The Dangerous Summer. During his time with the band, Payne cultivated a less-than-stellar reputation by (among other things) allegedly playing shows drunk, and the group seemed to have a hard time completing tours. Yet it was Payne's DIY projects that really sent his and the band's reputation into a nose-dive: Payne's Kickstarter raised over $14,000 for a DVD that was never fulfilled (in which Payne takes a shot at "needy" fans expecting what they paid for), and Payne was alleged to have forged his bandmates' signatures on the tab books he was making and selling. By the time the band's lead singer left in April of 2014, citing a "complete disconnect" with Payne and leading to the group's demise, there didn't seem to be much of a reputation left to even ruin.

Fast-forward to July of 2014, as Payne geared up to start raising money for his new musical project. Still holding the keys to all The Dangerous Summer's social media accounts, Payne proceeded to hijack and spam their Facebook page with his IndieGogo drive, which quickly led to a fan rebellion and a scrambling apology. The hubbub eventually caught the attention of AbsolutePunk's Jason Tate, who had been an early supporter of The Dangerous Summer's work before the band committed PR seppuku. Tate posted a brief news item on the matter:

The guy who has repeatedly fucked over backers of his other crowd-funded projects is doing another one. My advice: Don't give him your money.
At this point, Payne sensibly did what anyone who's suffering a PR fiasco would do: he threatened to sue for defamation.

For those who can't view the images, Payne writes that Tate's "news post telling people not to support me" is "not factual," and "last time I sued over defamation I won 77K." He goes on to say that he "really cant wait to see what jason will settle for," noting that "Ive been building a case with my lawyer for 3 years now," "this was the one we were waiting for," "the one that blatantly said not to support me over nothing factual" (disregarding the multiple links in Tate's post to stories about Payne's previous troubled projects).

As the story caught on, Payne saw fit to expand his threat to include Zack Zarrillo, another music journalist, sending him the following message:
For those who can't see the image, the message reads in pertinent part: "thought I should let you know in advance that sometime this month, possibly next you and jason are going to be served with papers regarding damages and defamation." This was followed by a retraction and reissuance of the original legal threat, which was slightly dampened when Zarrillo eventually called Payne's purported attorney, who allegedly responded that he'd never even heard of Payne and knew nothing of a pending suit.

Of course, any defamation case Payne might file in California (where he resides) would almost certainly be vulnerable to an anti-SLAPP motion. Pointing to unhappy customers from Payne's previous crowdfunding efforts and the backlash from his Facebook posts is simply factual reporting, and truth is a complete defense to defamation. Concluding that Payne has "fucked over" past supporters or that people should avoid doing business with him constitutes opinion based on disclosed facts, which (as Scott Redmond found out when he sued Gizmodo) also renders the statements likely nonactionable. Consequently, if Payne took this to court, there's a good chance he'd be paying for everyone's attorneys at the end of the day.

Whether or not Payne will ultimately file suit is yet to be seen. For now, he appears content to dream of a world where nobody critical reports on his shenanigans. Perhaps he can invite Barbra Streisand to join him when he finds it.

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