Blogger v. Mogul: A Public Figure Online Defamation Lawsuit Case Study

public figures and blogger defamation lawsuits
Can public figures sue bloggers for opinion pieces?

A partial owner of the Miami Heat, Raanan Katz, successfully obtained an injunction against blogger Irina Chevaldina. The sanction comes after Katz filed an online defamation lawsuit against Chevaldina and Google over a picture of him, which Chevaldina posted on the Internet. The case is noteworthy because the injunction awarded is questionable.

The Picture That Launched An Online Defamation Lawsuit

The Katz online libel fracas has to do with a photo Chevaldina posted on her blog. Though I have yet to see the actual graphic, judging from reports, it sounds like the pic of Katz in question was  publicly available and had been manipulated by Chevaldina in an unflattering manner. The consummate business man, instead of going for a potentially difficult defamation ruling, Katz decided to purchase the rights to the photo. He then proceed to sue both the blogger and Google for failing to take down the image, which, he argued, violated his intellectual property rights.

Let The Defamation Litigation Begin!

At first, Katz included both Google and Chevaldina on the lawsuit; smartly (he would have never won against Google), Katz dropped the search giant from the lawsuit, but pushed forward with his claim against Chevalinda. As part of his litigation strategy, Katz’s attorneys moved to get an injunction against Katz that would prevent her from “trespassing” on any of his properties and publishing any content that may “otherwise cause harm” to Katz.

The injunctions put Chevalinda in a particularly prickly situation. Since Katz owns many of the shopping malls in her neighborhood, she says is essentially banned from living in her community. Undaunted by the injunction, Chevalinda once again took to the Internet and blogged about the potential illegality of the injunction. Katz saw the posts and his lawyers filed contempt charges against Chevalinda.

The Question Of Fame

The most noteworthy aspect of this defamation imbroglio is Katz’s lawyers’ attempt to frame their client as a private citizen as opposed to a public figure. By claiming the mogul is a private citizen means he would not have to prove actual malice in order to win the defamation case. Under U.S. defamation law, actual malice means the defendant purposefully published known lies in order to discredit their target. If, however, the defendant can prove they properly researched their topic and only published what they reasonably believed to be true or experienced, the chances of a plaintiff emerging victorious diminish greatly.

Will Katz be able to convince a judge that he’s not a public figure? Probably not. After all, the man has a street and official day named after him in the community of Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. Not to mention he’s a known owner of an NBA team.

What to learn more about the difference between celebrity defamation lawsuits and private citizen defamation lawsuits? Click Here.

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How to deal with online defamation

With the increased popularity of the internet, it is safe to say that the number of online defamation cases will continue to rise. In short, this occurs when somebody posts a false statement about another person on the internet. Although online defamation is quite common, not every instance leads to a lawsuit. That being said, this is becoming more and more common. For this reason, online defamation lawyers are staying busy with a variety of cases.

The main goal of an online defamation attorney is to have these statements removed from the website where the information was posted as well as major search engines. As you can imagine, this is easier said than done. While there are some people who attempt to deal with online defamation on their own, this is not always the best way to move forward. Instead, hiring an experienced attorney is often times the only answer.

No matter if you are being defamed or your business is taking a hit, there are online defamation lawyers who are willing to help you out. Interpreting the Communications Decency Act on your own is not something that is easy to do. Fortunately, when you hire an attorney with experience in this area you will have somebody on your side that can answer all your questions and move forward with your case in the appropriate manner.

Protecting your reputation online is not as easy as it sounds. After all, anybody can publish content via the internet – you do not have to be rich or in a special position to share information with the rest of the world. This alone is one of the main reasons why online defamation cases are rising through the roof.

Why Do You Need an Attorney?

As noted above, some people think that they can handle an instance of internet defamation on their own. While there is nothing wrong with trying, the fact of the matter remains the same: you do not know the ins and outs of the law. Even if you have some knowledge, you may not have the experience necessary to get the information removed in an accurate and timely manner.

When you hire an online defamation lawyer you can be rest assured that you are getting professional help from start to finish. The goal of your lawyer is to have this negative information removed without delay. If they are successful you will feel much better about your situation and what the future holds.

Once you have an attorney working your case, it is easy to get all your questions answered – and this is something that should be very important to you. This is your chance to pick the brain of somebody who knows exactly what they are doing. Online defamation is more common than ever, so you need to learn as much as possible. Even if you take care of your current issue, you never know when something similar is going to come about in the future.

People listen to attorneys. In other words, you have a better chance of having the information removed if an attorney contacts the other party on your behalf. There is something about getting a notice from a lawyer that really scares some people. Once somebody believes that they are going to be hit with a lawsuit, their entire tune will change. This is why you need to have an online defamation lawyer working your case from start to finish. A letter from a lawyer holds much more weight than a letter from you.

Potential Cases

There is a fine line between online defamation and somebody stating their opinion. Again, this is why you need to hire an experienced attorney. He or she can give you advice on whether or not you have a case. Along with this, you can learn a lot about the Communications Decency Act along the way.

One of the most common types of online defamation is false reviews. For example, a doctor review that is false and motivated by some underlying meaning. As you can imagine, one negative review can greatly harm the reputation of a doctor.

Unfortunately, there are many people in the world who get joy out of hacking into other’s accounts. From there, these people often times post information and photos that are not meant to reach the public. This is one of the many types of online defamation that is growing by leaps and bounds.

The use of internet forums and blogs is growing at an astonishing pace. Not only does this give people an outlet for sharing information, but anybody can get involved. In addition to posting comments on forums and blogs, it is possible for anybody to start their own website with the intention of defaming others.

There is nothing worse than finding false information about yourself online. This can harm your personal and business reputation. Some people think that there is nothing they can do. Others, though, realize that they do not have to deal with this. Instead, they hire an online defamation attorney who is willing to take on their case and help them get the justice they deserve.

Don’t avoid hiring an attorney because of the cost. Remember, the fee is a small price to pay for having your online reputation restored. If you don’t spend the money to do this, there is a good chance that you will lose out on just as much in the future – especially if your business reputation has been damaged.

More so today than ever before, online defamation lawyers are keeping busy with new clients and cases. As the number of internet users continues to increase, as well as the popularity of forums and review sites, more and more of these cases will come to the forefront.

Online Defamation Differences Between UK and US Laws

London LibelAuthorities in the United Kingdom are eager to eradicate libel tourism and allow for a greater degree of Internet free speech, while at the same time providing ample opportunity for defamed individuals to have libelous content removed from the Web.

Current Online Defamation Laws In The United Kingdom

While free speech is just as important to Queen Elizabeth’s subjects as it is to U.S. Citizens, the U.K.’s Defamation Act of 1996 does little to uphold the ideal. Section I of the statute does provide a modicum of litigation protection for passive website operators, but the law says that operators can be held libel for any defamatory statements if notice was given and removal was refused. Since most website owners don’t have the legal IQ to determine the validity of a defamation claim, they just remove items at the first whiff of trouble.

Defamation Regulations In The United States

When it comes to defamation, section 230 of the United State’s Federal Communications Decency Act largely absolves website operators and hosting providers from fault. In the U.S., the law does not distinguish between selective and impartial online publishers; in other words, unless a website operator “develops” defamatory content, they don’t need to fear losing a defamation lawsuit on American soil.

Case Study: Shiamili v. The Real Estate Group Of New York

This year, an important online defamation case was heard by the New York Court of Appeals – Shiamili V. The Real Estate Group of New York. Shiamilli, the plaintiff and realty company owner, brought an Internet defamation lawsuit against Real Estate Group of New York principals who administered a publicly accessible blog.

The trouble began when a commenter with the handle “Ardor Realty Sucks” left a comment in a post thread that accused Shiamili of anti-Semitism, bigotry and employee mistreatment. Upon seeing the post, a site administrator (editor), moved the comment to its own thread and added a photo mash-up of Shiamili and Jesus with the caption, “King of the Token Jews.” The promoted post also allegedly bore the assertion “we are so not afraid.”

Shiamili drafted and posted a response on the thread and contacted the website operators asking them to remove what he considered to be defamatory material. The administrators refused Shiamili’s request, and he, in turn, filed an online defamation lawsuit. The defendants then moved to have the lawsuit dismissed, citing Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act.

Shiamili V. The Real Estate Group of New York was significant in that it was the first time that the New York Court of Appeals ruled on an Internet defamation claim. Choosing to adhere to the “national consensus,” the presiding judges ruled — in a 4-3 decision — to dismiss the case on the grounds that the administrators of the site did not “develop” the actual content in question, but instead, simply engaged in a bit editing.

There was, however, strong push-back amongst the panel of judges. “A reasonable reader,” the dissenting opinion argued, “viewing the heading and illustration might very well have concluded that the site editor was endorsing the truth of the appended facts.” In other words, several of the judges felt the editor’s promotion of the comment, and subsequent image and caption embellishments, constituted “development of content.”

But in a U.S. court of law, the majority wins; so the case was dismissed. In the United Kingdom, however, Shiamili would have most likely emerged as the victorious party.

The Future Of Libel Tourism

Due to the liberal nature of the United Kingdom’s libel statutes, in the past, many U.S. citizens have turned to UK courts when trying to win an online defamation lawsuit. A burden on the their legal system, however, officials in the European country are pushing to establish laws that dissuade foreigners from clogging up their courts with defamation cases that have little to do with UK subjects.

Need a attorney for an online defamation case? Aaron Kelly is an Internet lawyer well-versed in cyber-libel. He has a tremendous amount of experience dealing with online libel cases in both the United States and abroad.