What if people thought you said that “slavery wasn’t so bad?” Would it harm your reputation? Would it matter if the statement was contextualized with various caveats? According to the Fifth Circuit’s August 15, 2017 opinion in Block v. Tanenhaus, context is everything. The plaintiff, Walter Block, admits that he uttered the words: “slavery wasn’t so bad” while discussing the concept of “free association,” but argues that the New York Times took these words so badly out of context as to libel him.… More
Tag Archives: Defamation
Is it defamatory to falsely accuse someone of infringing intellectual property? Last month, the California Court of Appeal, in FilmOn.com v. DoubleVerify, Inc., affirmed the dismissal of a defamation action in which the defendant was accused of falsely labeling the plaintiff as a copyright infringer.
Does that mean you can just go ahead and call anyone you don’t like a copyright infringer,… More
Advertising can take many forms, including statements about a company’s products on websites and social media platforms. A wrong step can result in serious consequences, including legal challenges from competitors, consumers, the Federal Trade Commission, and other regulatory agencies.
Watch this webinar to learn how you can protect your company against legal challenges based on its advertising practices. You will also learn what options are available if your competitors are making false or misleading statements in their advertisements.… More
Last week, everyone in Washington, D.C. was talking about the invocation of “executive privilege,” the ability of a President to withhold information from, for example, an investigation into Russian influence on the U.S. election. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) considered, and then punted on, a different kind of executive privilege: the absolute privilege of an executive to defame others without liability.… More
As all aspects of business inexorably shift toward online, it is not surprising that intellectual property infringement, cybersquatting, and related internet abuses abound. Luckily, there are various procedures available by which aggrieved companies can seek relief short of litigation.
On March 14, 2017, the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) will officially invalidate a whole bunch of consumer contract clauses that pertain to online reviews.
During the last decade, we started hearing reports about professionals using form contracts to prevent their clients or patients from publishing negative online reviews. Here’s an example of how it worked: You showed up for a dentist appointment and,… More
It’s March, which means that wedding season is nearly upon us. Let’s say you run your own wedding-related business with one employee: you. A customer gives you a review on the internet that is not only negative, but contains false statements. Who is harmed by this false review: you, your business or both? And if you want to sue the former customer, what is your cause of action?… More
Hypothetical: You go out for a nice stroll one Halloween only to have a neighbor emerge from his house with a pitchfork and accuse you of being a witch in front of the whole village. For the sake of argument, let’s say you are not actually a witch. Can you sue for slander?
For centuries, a civil defamation lawsuit has been available as a remedy —… More
Trademark and Copyright Law Blog Co-Editor David Kluft to Speak on Intellectual Property and Social Media Law
David Kluft, co-editor of the Trademark and Copyright Law Blog and Intellectual Property partner at Foley Hoag LLP, will be speaking at the 19th Annual New England Intellectual Property Law Conference. The conference, sponsored by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, will take place beginning at 12:30pm on June 23, 2016 at the MCLE Conference Center, Ten Winter Place in Boston. … More
Are You Sure This Isn’t About Copyright? Chicken Sandwiches, Monkey Selfies and the Boundaries of Copyright Law
Last week, a wild crested macaque named Naruto (but really People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against photographer David John Slater in the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that Slater infringed Naruto’s copyright in the famous “monkey selfies” (taken by Naruto with Slater’s camera). The complaint requests that the Court order Slater to disgorge any profits he has realized from the distribution of the images and establish a trust,… More
On August 6, 2015, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in Commonwealth v. Lucas struck down Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 56, § 42 (Section 42), which criminalized the utterance or publication of “any false statement in relation to” a candidate for public office or a ballot question. Violations of the statute were punishable by a thousand dollar fine or up to six months imprisonment.… More
Advertiser Jumps the Gun With Brochure Touting Tests; Fifth Circuit Brushes Off First Amendment Challenge to Lanham Act Claims
Like claims for defamation or commercial disparagement, Lanham Act claims are viable only if they involve statements of fact, rather than opinion. But what happens if an advertising statement concerns an issue that is a matter of scientific debate? Does that make the statement an opinion, and therefore non-actionable? The answer, of course, is “it depends” — as illustrated by a recent Fifth Circuit case, and how it distinguished itself from a Second Circuit case with a different outcome.… More
Halloween is a good time to think about how you want to die. Do you want to leave the world peacefully? Or do you want to go down trash talking, making sure that your enemies know exactly what you think about them, and that everyone else knows what terrible people these enemies were?
In July 2014, Judge Barbara Jaffe of the New York Supreme Court dismissed the defamation claims in Kramer v. Skyhorse Publications. Kenny Kramer, the real life inspiration for the beloved eponymous Seinfeld character, had sued comedian Fred Stoller and his publisher because Stoller had written that a guide on the “Kramer Reality Tour” was shouting the catch phrase “not that there’s anything wrong with that” at passersby in Greenwich Village,… More
Catholic Priest Permitted To Conceal Non-Privileged Nature Of Defamatory Communication Until Statute Of Limitations Runs
In a recent unanimous decision in Harrington v. Costello, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) held that the statute of limitations had run out on a Catholic priest’s defamation claim against his colleague, even though the colleague had allegedly fraudulently concealed the source of the defamatory statement.
The plaintiff, John Harrington, was a priest at St.… More