I’ve not been shy in my admiration for the clever, snarky wit and attendant legal and writing skills of internet warrior/trailblazer Marc Randazza.
(Note to Surfside city attorney Lynn “Rage Against the Bloggers” Dannheiser — your hilarious funny confusing Marc with the Italian place Randazzo’s in the Gables remains a kneeslapper — keep ’em coming!)
As Popehat documents, it is also a fact that Marc happens to find himself in the middle of lots and lots of interesting cases.
Marc’s latest finds him before Judge Cooke in an important battle to preserve the rights of citizen journalists to blog anonymously — does that sound too high-faluting for the kind of crap that passes for content here on this humble, time waster of a blog?
Yes, it does.
(Tim Elfrink provides all the background here).
But Marc eloquently lays out the larger principles involved in his motion to dismiss:
Plaintiffs, a series of real estate holding and management companies, and their directors, accuse DOE of publishing defamatory statements concerning their business practices and other dealings through Google’s Blogger service. Blogger is a service that allows users to create their own web blogs, or “blogs,” on which they can express their opinions on numerous issues. Some blogs are general interest, while others may address specific, local issues, such as problems within a community, political matters, or topics of concern to consumers. Users of Blogger who create content – themselves known as “bloggers” – have the option of publishing their writings anonymously, as DOE has done in this case. Plaintiffs sued DOE for alleged defamatory material in a blog located at www.rkassociatesusa.blogspot.com and for false advertising under the Lanham Act 15 U.S.C. 1125(a).1 Plaintiffs have subpoenaed Google for its records relating to DOE in an effort to learn his true identity. Plaintiffs’ request is improper, and implicates fundamental Constitutional protections. Free speech is a central Constitutional value, and one of great historical significance. The Federalist Papers, for instance, were all written anonymously while being pointedly critical of the policies and leaders many people championed during America’s move toward adopting a written constitution. The United States Supreme Court has further sanctified anonymous speech in an honest and open society through decisions including McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995) and Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960). See also City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 56 (1994) (noting that “the identity of the speaker is an important component of many attempts to persuade”).
With these principles as a backdrop, courts have grappled with the First Amendment significance of subpoenas used to unmask anonymous speakers who speak via the internet on message boards, review services and other forums. Here, Plaintiffs’ Complaint demonstrates no basis upon which a defamation or false advertising action can proceed, and they have not made the required prima facie showings.
Marc’s adversary is longtime fave Alan Kluger, ably assisted by Todd Levine, who warned Tim over at New Times to be very very careful — did I mention careful? about what he writes concerning the case:
In the meantime, Levine has strong words for anyone who would consider writing about Katz’s lawsuit. “I’d ask you not to publish anything about this,” he says. “Even pointing people toward that blog could constitute further defamation.”
How precisely? Or will that just lead to another interesting Randazza defense?
Alan’s vigorous response to the motion to dismiss is here, in which he describes Marc’s argument as “specious” and his client’s blog postings as “vile and defamatory per se.”
To which I simply say — carry on gentlemen, the yacht case can’t continue forever!