By Dan Brillman
Admit it: We've all written (or at least swore we'd write) a
scathing online review after encountering a lousy meal or a rude
clerk. We then slept soundly, satisfied that cyberjustice would
But should we take more care in what we write? As The Washington Post notes, online comments and reviews increasingly
are the target of defamation lawsuits, citing the case of
Virginia resident Jane Perez. Dissatisfied with a job done by
contractor Christopher Dietz, Perez wrote posts on review sites
Yelp and Angie's List accusing Dietz of overbilling, damaging
her home and possible theft. Dietz replied with a $750,000
defamation suit that also asks for Perez to be banned from
writing similar reviews. He said his business has been hurt by
Lawsuits like this typically are kicked out of court because
online speech is protected by the First Amendment, the story
says, for most comments offer opinions that are virtually
impossible to codify. But when more factual accusations are
made, laws can take hold.
"As the Internet has matured," one lawyer tells the paper,
"more people are feeling the sting of negative posts against
them, and the public and jurors are getting more educated about
the impacts this speech can have."
Bend it like Bikram
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
A popular yoga chain that offers classes in heated rooms has
agreed to settle a copyright infringement claim by Bikram
Choudhury, considered the creator of so-called hot yoga, reports The New York Times. In November 2011, Choudhury filed a lawsuit
in California district court against his former protégé Greg
Gumucio and his "Yoga to the People" studios. Choudhury argued
that hot yoga, a series of 26 postures performed in a room
heated to 105 degrees, was his intellectual property and that
Gumucio had stolen the idea from him.
Things didn't look so good for Choudhury in June 2012, when
the U.S. Copyright Office ruled that yoga sequences cannot be
copyrighted (as reported in Summary Judgments). The Copyright
Office admitted to erring in having offered copyright protection
to such positions in the past.
Nevertheless, Gumucio, who charges $8 per class instead of
the $25 by Choudhury, has agreed to stop offering his hot yoga
classes by Feb. 15.
Out of office
By Casey Sullivan
Since Hurricane Sandy, some law firms in downtown Manhattan
like Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson have been able to
move back into their headquarters. But six weeks after the
storm, other firms have been less fortunate and still are
working out of temporary offices, according to the New York Law Journal.
Harris Beach, a 200-lawyer firm that can't return to 100
Wall Street because of ongoing repair work, might have to extend
its short-term lease in midtown. The firm Fragomen, Del Rey,
Bernson and Loewy is hoping to return to offices at 7 Hanover
Square in January but doesn't have a commitment from the
building management yet. "We're also frustrated about not having
information" about the building's condition, said executive
committee member Michael Patrick. Stroock & Stroock & Lavan is
also still out of its downtown offices, as are the firms Gordon
& Rees and Cahill Gordon & Reindel.
By Eileen Daspin
The New York City Law Department, which once routinely
included the amounts it paid to settle federal lawsuits, has
quietly stopped the practice, according to The New York Times.
About three years ago, the department began notifying
plaintiffs' lawyers that the figures would be omitted from court
filings as a condition of settling labor and employment
lawsuits, writes the Times' Colin Moynihan. As of November, the
policy was broadened to include lawsuits involving members of
the Police Department. The article cites a recent example where
Frankie Lee Smith was arrested for gambling. Smith sued,
claiming the arresting officers fabricated police paperwork to
make their case. Before Thanksgiving, the city agreed to pay
Smith $20,000 to drop the suit but said they would not include
the settlement amount in court documents. "I was very
surprised," Gabriel Harvis, a lawyer for Smith, told the Times.
"The more I thought about it, the more it troubled me." While
the article does not explain why the city withheld the
information, it quotes a spokeswoman saying "We freely provide
information about settlements upon request." "Freely," however,
involves filing a Freedom of Information request.
Online sex ad law dies
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
The state of Washington has agreed to drop a law that
targeted online child trafficking, saying the statute was
unconstitutional, reports Ars Technica. "The law, formally known
as SB 6251, aimed to strengthen protections of underage children
forced into sexual exploitation and prostitution," explains the
website. The law also held liable individuals and companies who
were directly engaged in illegal acts, as well as website
operators that hosted ads for child prostitution.
Advocates for online rights and the media objected to the
statute on grounds that it conflicted with the Communications
Decency Act, a federal law that grants website providers broad
immunity for content uploaded by third parties. Another problem:
The law pressured website operators to "censor protected online
speech in order to safely stay on the right side of the unclear
law," said the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a lobbying group
which filed a lawsuit in federal district court in June on
behalf of Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library.
In July, a federal judge imposed a preliminary injunction,
finding that the statute conflicted with federal law, which
Now Washington officials have dropped their defense of the
law. What's more, the state will pay $200,000 to compensate for
the plaintiffs' legal expenses, while attorney general Rob
McKenna works with the legislature to repeal the law.
Summary Judgments for December 7
Summary Judgments for December 6
Summary Judgments for December 5
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