A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Facebook

Sometimes, It’s What You Don’t Say

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By Pamela Schwartz and Nicole Rowlands

With social media giving everyone a soapbox to Facebook, tweet, Reddit, and Pinterest, on, more often than not people are saying publically whatever happens to cross their mind. This has led to an increasing number of defamation suits. There are even law firms that specialize in online defamation.

So there’s big business in suing someone for defamation who may havesaid something she shouldn’t have. No news there.

What we didn’t know though, is that you could sue someone for defamation for not saying something about you.

The 2010 Best Picture Oscar-nominated film “The Social Network” was based on the true story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who was sued by the Winklevoss twins for allegedly stealing their original idea for the social networking site.

Enter Aaron Greenspan.

Our guess is you have no idea who Mr. Greenspan is and what he has to do with Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and “The Social Network.”

And that’s why he’s suing.

According to a May 14 Hollywood Reporter piece, not only does Mr. Greenspan think he has a legal claim to his role in the origins of Facebook, he also claims he was “defamed by omission” (and robbed of his glory) when author Ben Mezrich changed his name in the book “The Accidental Billionaires,” and Columbia Pictures omitted any reference to him in “The Social Network.” Mr. Greenspan alleged a tort called “defamation by omission” – claiming that leaving his name out of the film suggested that he was irrelevant to Facebook’s Genesis story — thus injuring his professional reputation.

The lawsuit was dismissed by U.S. Judge Robert Collins. If you think the idea that not saying something can be defamatory sounds a little farfetched, we agree. Still, this had us wondering, has anyone sued for defamation by omission (with a straight face) and won?

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Will Wella Wipe Out Willa?

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By LASIS Staff

A New York Times article discusses a Connecticut girl, Willa Prunier, whose family expects to be on the hook for $750,000 in legal fees because Procter & Gamble, makers of Wella products, objects to Willa’s line of beauty of care products.  In court.

The story mentions a similar suit, still pending, involving Facebook suing Teachbook.  LASIS ran a story on that lawsuit last year with the headline, “Face it Facebook – Your Legal Argument is Lame”.

Can you tell whose side we’re on in the Wella v. Willa battle?

UPDATE:   October 14, 2011 –  Wella won’t wipe out Willa; they settled.

 

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Facebook Settles Trademark Lawsuit With Lamebook

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By LASIS Staff

Last November, LASIS reported that the parody website Lamebook had turned the tables on Facebook and filed a lawsuit against the social media giant seeking declaratory relief stating that the Lamebook name and logo did not infringe Facebook’s trademark. Facebook’s lawsuits against other websites with “face” and “book” in their names or logos had forced those sites to shutdown or change their URLs.

We predicted that Lamebook would “likely be granted declaratory judgment that its trademark does not infringe on or dilute Facebook’s trademark.” It appears that Facebook’s attorneys may have agreed with our analysis since they are no longer asking Lamebook to change its name or logo.

According to The Recorder, the two sides have struck a settlement that will allow Lamebook to continue to operate under its current name. In return, Lamebook has agreed to display a disclaimer on its homepage, which reads: “This is an unofficial parody and is not affiliated or associated with, or endorsed or approved by, Facebook.”

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Potential Employer Wants Access to Facebook Account

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By Paul Irlando

A Maryland Department of Corrections policy requiring potential employees to hand over their Facebook username and password information has gone too far, says the American Civil Liberties Union. They’re probably correct.

In April 2010, after three years of employment, Robert Collins took personal leave from his job as a Corrections Supply Officer with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Planning to go back to work in November, Mr. Collins applied to be recertified and was called for an interview with a DOC investigator. During the interview, Mr. Collins was directed to provide his Facebook username and password. He did, and watched while the interviewer inspected his profile for several minutes. The interviewer also indicated that the DOC would continue to login as Mr. Collins for up to two months, while it completed its background check.

This did not sit well with Mr. Collins, who contacted the ACLU of Maryland. And then things really got interesting, with the ACLU issuing a press release and subsequent YouTube video about the DOC practice, and then, in January, sending a letter to the Maryland DOC questioning the legality of the practice and asking the DOC to rescind it. On February 22, the DOC suspended the requirement for forty-five days pending a review of the policy.

Is the requirement illegal as the ACLU suggests? The Maryland DOC said it inspects social media profiles to weed out potential employees with gang affiliations, a legitimate concern considering the nature of the work. Does an individual’s privacy right outweigh the DOC’s interest? The Washington Post reported the story, but didn’t address the legal issues. We’ve done some research. Here’s what we think: (more…)

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Help! I’ve Been Facebook Poked by a Prisoner!

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By Russell Smith

Ever been Facebook poked by a prisoner?

Well, you could be. Some inmates have been maintaining accounts on social networking websites like Facebook by using smart phones that have been smuggled into prisons. Now prison officials are worried that inmates may use these accounts to harass victims, threaten people, or conspire to commit crimes.

According to the Associated Press, prisoners’ social networking accounts have caught the attention of lawmakers in South Carolina, who earlier this year introduced a bill which would make it a crime for a South Carolina inmate “to be a member of any Internet-based social networking website.” The new law would add up to 30 days to a prisoner’s sentence or impose up to a $500 fine if the prisoner was caught with a social networking account. Additionally, the law would impose the same punishments on any person who sets up an account for a South Carolina inmate.

Not surprisingly, the ACLU objects to the bill, and believes that a law prohibiting inmates from having social networking accounts stifles free speech in violation of the First Amendment.

While the Associated Press reported this story in great detail, it did not explain whether the South Carolina bill could survive constitutional scrutiny. LASIS looked into the matter and “like” it or not, banning inmates from Facebook violates their First Amendment rights. (more…)

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