The Latest in the SLAPP Wars

Recent decisions have created a wrinkle in the procedural issues related to anti-SLAPP laws. As we discussed in April, the DC Circuit created a split in the circuits when it departed from the general holding that anti-SLAPP statutes could be used in diversity cases applying state law. In Abbas v. Foreign Policy Group, LLC, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals held “a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction may not apply the D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act’s special motion to dismiss provision” and that federal courts must follow the Federal Rules.

Conversely, the plaintiff in Diamond Ranch Academy, Inc. v. Filer made the same procedural argument to no avail to a federal court in Utah which held the California Anti-SLAPP Statute was applicable to a diversity defamation action. Diamond Ranch Academy, Inc. (“DRA”), a youth rehab center in Utah, brought suit against Chelsea Filer, a California resident and outspoken critic of such treatment centers — having attend one as a minor. Filer started a website called www.drasurvivors.com and, according to the plaintiff’s complaint, “made defamatory statements about DRA on Facebook pages, blogs, and other media, both in writing and orally.” This ongoing discord in the Federal Judiciary evidences the need for Federal Anti-SLAPP law, such as the SPEAK FREE Act currently proposed in Congress. Since its introduction, the SPEAK FREE Act has garnered widespread support.

This push-and-pull is also happening in various state legislatures. The debate-taking place in Nevada exemplifies the different perspectives. In 2013, the Nevada legislature expanded its anti-SLAPP statute to protect any communications “made in direct connection with an issue of public interest in a place open to the public of in a public forum” creating a special motion to dismiss meritless claims against free speech awarding court costs, attorney’s fees, and a possible penalty if the motion is granted. While the new law attracted media and technology firms, it drew criticism from certain business owners who complained that the bar for bringing a well-founded defamation case was too high. In March of this year, a group led by Wynn Resorts introduced Bill 444 to roll back the measures in Nevada’s Anti-SLAPP statute. Bill 444 swiftly passed in the State Senate 21-0.

After significant pushback from supporters of the Anti-SLAPP law, including a vigorous debate before the Assembly Judiciary Committee, the bill was significantly amended. Most of the language gutting the anti-SLAPP law was removed in the amended version, leaving the bill with only two minor procedural changes. For now, the Nevada anti-SLAPP statute is safe and other legislatures in Colorado and Washington are preparing for a similar process.

If you or your organization have been threatened with a defamation lawsuit, or if you would like to learn how to create safeguards to minimize the risks of such a lawsuit, please contact Ward & Ward PLLC for a consultation with one of our attorneys. From pre-publication review through trial, the lawyers at Ward & Ward have considerable experience representing media, nonprofit, and commercial clients with various First Amendment issues.

Informative EFF Post on the SPEAK FREE Act

The Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s “Deeplinks Blog” has an excellent post on the SPEAK FREE Act (the proposed Federal Anti-SLAPP law) we posted about on Thursday. The EFF post provides a very good summary of the purpose of the Act, how the proposed law would work in practice, and the background of SLAPP litigation.  Take a look HERE.

If you or your organization have been threatened with a defamation lawsuit, or if you would like to learn how to create safeguards to minimize the risks of such a lawsuit, please do not hesitate to contact Ward & Ward PLLC for a consultation with one of our attorneys. From pre-publication review through trial, the lawyers at Ward & Ward have considerable experience representing media, nonprofit, and commercial clients with various First Amendment issues.

Federal Anti-SLAPP Statute proposed in Congress

The always informative DC Anti-SLAPP Law blog has a great post on the proposed SPEAK FREE Act of 2015.  Given the ever-evolving anti-SLAPP landscape, and the confusion/discord over the application of state Anti-SLAPP statutes to claims in Federal Courts, the time is ripe for a Federal statute.

If you or your organization have been threatened with a defamation lawsuit, or if you would like to learn how to create safeguards to minimize the risks of such a lawsuit, please do not hesitate to contact Ward & Ward PLLC for a consultation with one of our attorneys. From pre-publication review through trial, the lawyers at Ward & Ward have considerable experience representing media, nonprofit, and commercial clients with various First Amendment issues.

Copyright Enforcement and the California Anti-SLAPP Law

Anti-SLAPP laws are typically associated with defamation lawsuits. So how can an Anti-SLAPP law help copyright owners who enforce their rights? An ongoing class action dispute against Warner Brothers and other defendants shows one way.

One of the claims in the class action suit against Warner Brothers and others arose from the defendants seeking subpoenas under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). A provision in the DMCA permits copyright owners to seek federal court subpoenas of ISPs in order to identify alleged copyright infringers. The defendants’ use of this process ultimately led to a claim against them for abuse of process.

In response, the defendants sought to dismiss the claim using California’s Anti-SLAPP law. The defendants argued that petitioning courts for redress of copyright rights is protected activity under the California Anti-SLAPP law. The defendants further argued that the plaintiffs could not establish a probability of success on the merits, as required under the law. A U.S. District Court agreed and recently dismissed the abuse of process claim.

Ward & Ward’s attorneys have substantial experience with Anti-SLAPP litigation, pre-publication screening and review for media and non-profit clients, negotiating licensing agreements on behalf of rights holders, and protecting the intellectual property rights of our clients. If you would like to discuss any such matters, please contact us.

Ward & Ward wins big for a highly respected NGO

Ward & Ward PLLC recently obtained a comprehensive victory for a highly respected NGO. Ward & Ward successfully defended C4ADS from claims for defamation and punitive damages brought by Kaalbye Shipping International. The high-profile lawsuit, characterized as a “David versus Goliath battle,” attracted significant attention, including articles in Foreign PolicyVocativ, and elsewhere.

In this particular battle, David prevailed. Ward & Ward attorneys Daniel Ward and Taimur Rabbani initially filed a declaratory judgment action on behalf of C4ADS in response to Kaalbye’s repeated threats of litigation.  Kaalbye responded by filing multiple defamation counterclaims against C4ADS.  C4ADS filed a Special Motion to Dismiss Kaalbye’s defamation counterclaims. If granted, a Special Motion to Dismiss under the D.C. Anti-SLAPP act provides for dismissal with prejudice of the targeted defamation claims, and the award of attorney’s fees and costs. In a recent Opinion, Judge Thomas Motley granted C4ADS’ Special Motion to Dismiss, dismissing with prejudice all claims brought by Kaalbye Shipping against C4ADS.

Have you or your organization been threatened with a defamation lawsuit? Would you like to create safeguards to minimize the risks of such a lawsuit? From pre-publication review through trial, the lawyers at Ward & Ward have considerable experience representing media, non-profit, and commercial clients with various First Amendment issues. Call or email Ward & Ward PLLC for a consultation with one of our attorneys.