- Getting together to do a national We’re-Not-The-Enemy-Of-The-People Day might not play to the strengths of an independent press [Jack Shafer; New York Post on why it did join, and L.A. Times on why it didn’t] Kevin Williamson wishes that many in the institutional press were more than just fair-weather friends of free speech values [NRO]
- ““Racial Ridicule” Is a Crime in Connecticut — and People Are Being Prosecuted” [Eugene Volokh]
- “Can Fake News Be Regulated?” Federalist Society policy brief video with Thomas Arnold;
- Once you get past the headline, Adam Liptak’s NYT account of First Amendment differences at the Supreme Court is well done [Roger Pilon]
- Is Internet freedom failing? [Knight Institute symposium with Jack Goldsmith et al.] How does moderation actually work at leading social media firms? [Kate Klonick, Harvard Law Review]
- The ABA’s Model Rule 8.4(g), in the name of combating harassment and discrimination, encourages states to regulate many expressions of speech and association by lawyers that have incidental professional implications. The Supreme Court in its recent NIFLA v. Becerra decision cast a shadow on that [Josh Blackman, Scott Greenfield]
I like advocacy journalism as well as the next fellow — at least I consume a lot of it as a reader. That doesn’t mean the federal government should be funding it, thereby giving a boost to one side of environmental debates in the mid-Atlantic region. My new piece for the DC Examiner examines the Environmental Protection Agency’s longstanding subsidies for the influential Chesapeake Bay Journal.
Press accounts suggest that the Trump White House has given thought to using its leverage over the pending AT&T merger to pursue the President’s grievances against CNN, which is owned by merger participant Time Warner. Dangerous, though hardly unprecedented, stuff, I argue in my new post at Cato.
What Ken says at Popehat:
…for most of us the scary part of the story is that our legal system is generally receptive to people abusing it to suppress speech. Money helps do that, but it’s not necessary to do it. A hand-to-mouth lunatic with a dishonest contingency lawyer can ruin you and suppress your speech nearly as easily as a billionaire. Will you prevail against a malicious and frivolous defamation suit? Perhaps sooner if you’re lucky enough to be in a state with a good anti-SLAPP statute. Or perhaps years later. Will you be one of the lucky handful who get pro bono help? Or will you be like almost everyone else, who has to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect your right to speak, or else abandon your right to speak because you can’t afford to defend it?
The system isn’t just broken for affluent publications targeted by billionaires. It’s broken for everyone, and almost everyone else’s speech is at much greater risk.
Our coverage of the publication, including its run-in with champerty and maintenance and Peter Thiel’s version of “public interest” litigation, is here.
Faced with a $140 million verdict from a Florida jury over its publication of a sex tape including wrestler Hulk Hogan, Gawker Media has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy [CNN Money] Forbes profiles a boutique law firm that with Thiel’s help has made suing Gawker its “bread and butter.” Nick Lemann notes that the “uniquely legally privileged position of the American press” dates back to the period of New York Times v. Sullivan and some other pro-press decisions, and may be up for rethinking in public opinion “at a moment when the press is far more vulnerable, economically and culturally, than it used to be.” [New Yorker] My recent posts on Gawker, Peter Thiel, and paying others to sue are here, here, and here.
- Our defense of free expression should go beyond the utilitarian and consequentialist: Flemming Rose’s acceptance speech last week on receiving the Cato Institute’s 2016 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty [Cato Daily Podcast, WSJ “Notable and Quotable” excerpt, earlier; Michael Tanner on Rose’s role in the Mohammed cartoons episode and more recent Cato book, The Tyranny of Silence; my related post in context of Copenhagen terrorist attack]
- Virgin Islands attorney general withdraws D.C. subpoena demanding 10 years of records from Competitive Enterprise Institute in “climate denial” probe, in what looks to be a tactical fallback rather than a durable concession of CEI’s rights [CEI; John Sexton]
- FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) launches every-other-week podcast series, kicked off by interview with Jonathan Rauch, author of Kindly Inquisitors [“So To Speak“]
- “Tax Prep Company Tries To Sue Unhappy Customer Into Silence; Hit With Damages In Anti-SLAPP Order” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
- Media law has intersected with champerty and maintenance in the copyright complaint campaigns of recent years [earlier, OpenSource, and CopyHype on RightHaven episode]
- One of my community’s favorite businesses, Flying Dog Brewery, is using the damages received from a legal battle with the state of Michigan over its Raging Bitch IPA label to found a nonprofit “First Amendment Society” dedicated to “awareness-raising and advocacy around free-speech issues and organizing events that promote “the arts, journalism and civil liberties”; on Wednesday I attended its kickoff press conference in Washington, D.C. with civil rights lawyer (and friend of this site) Alan Gura and Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso [Ronald Collins, Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason, Flying Dog, earlier]
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).
- Coverage of Cato Constitution Day panel on First Amendment with Nadine Strossen, P.J. O’Rourke, Eric Rassbach, Ilya Shapiro [Concurring Opinions] And First-Amendment-oriented articles in the latest Cato Supreme Court Review: Judge David Sentelle on freedom of speech as liberty for all and not just for the organized press, Allen Dickerson on McCutcheon v. FEC, Ilya Shapiro on SBA List v. Driehaus, and Trevor Burrus on protest buffer zones;
- Eric Holder “the worst Attorney General on press freedom issues in a generation, possibly since Richard Nixon’s John Mitchell” [Trevor Timm]
- “7 Things Cracked Got Wrong About Free Speech” [Greg Lukianoff of FIRE, who has a new short book out entitled “Freedom From Speech“]
- As ACLU recognizes, Arizona law purportedly banning revenge porn would do more than that [Masnick, Popehat, Greenfield, Sullum/Reason]
- Critical overview of “media reform” movement led by wildly misnamed pressure group Free Press [Barbara Joanna Lucas, Capital Research Center]
- In lawsuits against Yelp arising from bad reviews, courts have not been impressed by theory that the service extorts reviewed businesses [Paul Alan Levy; a restaurateur upset at Yelp strikes back in a different way]
- Proposal to make scientific misconduct a crime “would seem to raise serious First Amendment problems” [Howard Wasserman]
Shady lawyer character Saul Goodman, played by actor Bob Odenkirk, was so popular with viewers that he’s getting his own prequel [Deadline.com, Guardian, L.A. Times, BuzzFeed] AMC’s joke website is worth a click, but be warned that it auto-plays an audio (which touts, among other things, a two-for-one misdemeanor shoplifting defense).
Yes, media coverage does affect the outcome of court cases, and here are some of the ways [Andrew Trask]