NEW YORK, June 14 (Reuters) - A New York real-estate firm
cannot be sued over comments posted on its blog accusing a
chief real-estate rival of being anti-Semitic and abusive, New
York's highest court ruled Tuesday.
In a 4-3 ruling, the Court of Appeals held that the
Communications Decency Act shields the Real Estate Group of New
York Inc., or TREGNY, from liability for defamation and unfair
competition against Ardor Realty Corp, because TREGNY was the
blog's administrator, not the author of the comments in
"Creating an open forum for third-parties to post content
-- including negative commentary -- is at the core of what
section 230 protects," Judge Carmen Ciparick wrote for the
majority. She was joined by Judges Victoria Graffeo, Susan Read
and Robert Smith.
Section 230 of the Act shields internet service providers
and users from liability for content created by a third party.
In dissent, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman argued that
because the defendants had drawn additional attention the
comments by republishing them in a separate blog post,
accompanied by an allegedly defamatory original illustration,
the company could indeed be held liable under the CDA.
"While I do not dispute the adoption of a broad approach to
immunity for online service providers under the CDA, an
interpretation that immunizes a business's complicity in
defaming a direct competitor takes us so far afield from the
purpose of the CDA as to make it unrecognizable," Lippman
wrote. His dissent was joined by Judges Eugene Pigott and
The case stems from a March 2008 lawsuit filed by
Christakis Shiamili, president and CEO of Ardor, against
TREGNY, its chief operating officer Daniel Baum, and Ryan
McCann, the moderator of a now-defunct blog operated by
According to the complaint, an anonymous user posted a
series of ugly comments to the blog accusing Shiamili of
mistreating his agents, making anti-Semitic and racist remarks
and abusing his wife, among other allegations.
McCann moved one of the comments to a separate post, adding
his own commentary: "and now it's time for your weekly dose of
hate ...". According to the lawsuit, McCann also posted a
picture of Jesus Christ with Shiamili's face and the caption,
"Chris Shiamili: King of the Token Jews," referencing an
allegedly anti-Semitic remark cited by the anonymous
The trial court denied TREGNY's motion to dismiss the suit,
concluding that more evidence was needed to determine what the
defendants' roles were in developing the site's content. On
appeal, the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed and
dismissed the complaint.
Jonathan Shapiro, an attorney with The Shapiro Firm
representing Shiamili, said he was disappointed with the
"We think that the dissent and the chief judge certainly
got it right, but we'll have to live with the decision,"
An attorney for TREGNY and its employees, Joseph D'Ambrosio
of Ford Marrin Esposito Witmeyer & Gleser, said his clients
were pleased with the ruling.
The case is Shiamili v. The Real Estate Group of New York
Inc. et al, in the New York Court of Appeals, no. 105.
For Shiamili: Jonathan Shapiro of The Shapiro Firm.
For TREGNY et al: Joseph D'Ambrosio of Ford Marrin Esposito
Witmeyer & Gleser.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye)