September 16, 2004

Damn I Wish I Was a Lawyer Already! (and Joy's B-day pics)

Aaron sent me a link to this absolutely awesome article from SomethingAwaful.com about how some B-movie makers sent them a threatening wanna-be cease and desist letter because of a movie review posted on the site. As I was reading through it, I realized that the charge against the author/web site is something that we've been talking about in my Mass Media Law seminar, namely, defamation. If I were a lawyer already, I'd call up SomethingAwful and offer my services because this is the exact kind of thing I could happily spend the rest of my life defending. However, I don't think SomethingAwful would really need my (ideally incredibly, yet appropriately, expensive) services, since they don't seem to be in any real trouble and definitely did a great job of mocking and shoving the charges right back in the inept threateners' faces. The guy who wrote the letter isn't even an attorney, but the film company's President/CEO, who apparently isn't letting the fact that he knows very little about defamation law stop him from threatening totally cool web sites in bad legalese. SomethingAwful says, "This scary legal letter which wasn't sent from a lawyer or anybody even remotely knowledgeable with the law certainly has scared both the piss AND vinegar out of me!" There's nothing I love more than sarcasm, in all its glory, being used in the face of ignorance. Here's some of the CEO's brilliant writing that appears in the article:

While the First Amendment protects free speech and general film criticism, its protection does not extend to false and defamatory statements such as those made above. Slander per se and trade libel are actionable offenses. These offenses require no showing whatsoever of special damages. As of this letter you are on notice that it is foreseeable that in court you will be held liable for nominal damages, court fees, and attorney's costs in excess of $10,000 of the above statements if you cannot prove their truth.

To avoid legal action (which would start with filing for a temporary injunction to take down www.somethingawful.com offline until the truths or falsehoods of the above statements are determined and the unauthorized images are removed), our counsel requests that you remove the above (and any other tortious statements) within 14 days from the date of this letter.

Although I'm in no way an attorney as of yet, I'd like to point out that "slander" applies only to purely oral or gesticulative communication; written communication (such as that found on a website) is libel. Even if this was "slander" it would not be "per se". According to Professor Diamond, there are four kinds of slander that are definitely not per se (the injury to the person's reputation isn't especially egregious), one of which is statements about business or professional competency. I'd say the comments about the crappiness of the movie and thus the crappiness of the film makers, fall under this category. This means that, in addition to proving special (monetary) damages, (which plaintiffs DO have to do in slander cases before they can recover other kinds of damages), the film makers would have to prove that the web site either knew the statements were false or just didn't care whether they knew they were false or not. One of the "false portrayals of [the director's] professional abilities" the film makers point to is " They can't even manage to sit still long enough for Dave Eddy to get one shot that he can use over and over again, as is his way." They say this is false because the comment is about a scene the director did not direct himself. I don't see how SomethingAwful could really know that some other dude directed a particularly bad scene or have any kind of awareness that entire scenes were solely under the direction of another dude to make them liable. Anyway, I could go on and on about this, but that's boring. Let's just say I really enjoyed the article and stuff like this makes me remember why I'm torturing myself with law school on a daily basis.

I also wish I was an attorney already because then I could regularly go out drinking on weeknights. I broke one of my semester rules last night and attended my sister's 26th birthday party with Joe as my date. Here are the totally excellent pictures I got.

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Comments

Excellent.

Posted by: Renee at September 28, 2004 01:12 PM
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