Gawker Media published a sex tape it had obtained of a famous wrestler, then refused to take it down when a judge ordered it to do so. Now a Florida jury has hit it with a $115 million verdict. [Ars Technica] While at some point a civil litigant was bound to catch up with the notoriously scurrilous media outfit, the question now is whether other, better media outfits need to worry too. On appeal, the defendant will press its contention that the contents of the tape were newsworthy, a category that allows broader use of material that otherwise would invade privacy.
Comparisons are already off and running between this and the $55 million Erin Andrews invasion of privacy verdict against defendants including Marriott. In comparing the two, however, it should be borne in mind that the Gawker case was one of willful misconduct, while the Andrews case charged the hotel with negligent conduct that inadvertently allowed another party to commit a crime against her privacy.
P.S. A reminder of Gawker’s deep, abiding interest in free speech (“Arrest climate change deniers“) Plus, careers for the 21st century: sex tape broker (with careful attention to the legalities so as to dodge California law’s definition of extortion).