Friday, May 08, 2015

Copyright suits still used to censor, following a bizarre case where a businessman claims he isn't a public figure; do you need to be "big" to blog?

Is the world a safe place for small bloggers?

Consider the case of litigation brought by Ranaan Katz, part owner of the Miami Heat, for against a blogger (not named in news stories) for posts somehow critical of him.  The blog by “RKAssocates”, now removed (try the link ) brought suits for defamation, in which the attorney even threatened other media outlets for writing about the suit for somehow spreading to or pointing to defamation, as reported by PopeHat in June 2012, here.  Defamation suits for links to “defamatory” material are possible but rare in practice.
Techdirt has further details from 2012, in which the plaintiff apparently claims he is not a “public figure”, here. The Miami New Times has a 2011 story by Tim Elfrink, here, in which both attorneys are quoted (Marc Randazza for the “anonymous” blogger and Todd Levine for the plaintiff) and where there is a hint (from the plaintiff) that the blogger was set up as a virtual chess game pawn by business enemies of the sports owner.  Well, how can you really own a sports team (at least partially) and other big businesses like real estate (just Google his name) and not be “famous”? You can’t have it both ways.  I haven’t heard of any suits like this from MLB owners. 
Finally, the plaintiff sued for copyright infringement over a rather unflattering photo, after acquiring the rights to the photo but apparently before getting it registered with the Copyright office.  He even sued Google for not honoring a takedown request (and then backed down).  The federal district court dismissed the case, and the plaintiff appealed, and Electronic Frontier Foundation discusses its amicus brief in a piece by Jamie Williams here.  By the way, suing over the use of a dicey photo is an example of the “Streisand Effect”.
As we saw with the Righthaven cases a few years back, a lot of establishment interests don’t believe individual people have any business sticking their necks out with speech until they prove themselves competitively.  They see bullying as part of power and maintaining an orderly and stable world, rather the way Vladimir Putin does.

The ideas that bloggers (like self-published book authors) should “aim high” and have established themselves doing something interpersonally competitive is showing up in another area, in a number of tweets to articles on the effort that ought to be made to draw large audiences if you “bother” to blog at all.  Richard Adams has a detailed article on optimizing a Word Press blog here where he talks about various plugins, and suggests that if the blog means anything (beyond “pictures of your cat”, surely copyright-safe), you really ought to have a dedicated server (not use shared hosting). And Aussie Ramsay Taplan (“Blogtyrant”) has a similar post about SEO on how to get “119.717 visitors” (unique) every month, here   It takes a lot of work.  I noted his column here on March 2.  Again, it seems that this advice is more suited to narrow (which to me usually means “partisan” – a bad word with me) niche blogs (like mommy blogs, most of all “to dooce”). Musicians or independent artists, however, would do particularly well to follow some of this advice.  It would be helpful if these blogging gurus would take up the question of how to encrypt blogs in a straightforward matter, as this may eventually become "required". 

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