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Be careful with what you write
June 2, 2003 6:17 AM   Subscribe

Here's an interesting story for people who like to write and post stuff on the internet Judge Diana Lewis of Circuit Court in West Palm Beach issued an order that forbids Mr. Max to write about Ms. Johnson. That prohibition is not limited to his website. She ruled on May 6, before Mr. Max was notified of the suit and without holding a hearing. She told Mr. Max that he could not use "Katy" on his site. Nor could he use Ms. Johnson's last name, full name or the words "Miss Vermont." The judge also prohibited Mr. Max from "disclosing any stories, facts or information, notwithstanding its truth, about any intimate or sexual acts engaged in by" Ms. Johnson. Finally, Judge Lewis ordered Mr. Max to sever the virtual remains of his relationship with Ms. Johnson. He is no longer allowed to link to her Web site. ... All this as a result of a lawsuit in which Ms. Johnson maintained that Mr. Max had invaded her privacy by publishing accurate information about her.
posted by magullo (39 comments total)

 
Max didn't have the decency to use a pseudonym? If the goal of his writing was the tell the story, a pseudonym would have kept him out of court. If his goal was to provide the public with embarrasing details about Johnson, then it is a privacy issue.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:29 AM on June 2, 2003


It's not a privacy issue in the least. It's a free speech issue. Mr. Max has the inviolate right to write about his own life. If Ms. Johnson didn't want to be written about, Ms. Johnson should have stayed the hell out of his life.

It should be noted that she didn't accuse him of libel so we can reasonably assume that the claims of the Mr. Max are true.
posted by Cerebus at 6:46 AM on June 2, 2003


I don't suppose anybody has a copy/cache of the content in question? Because a lot of us have blogs/websites, aren't Tucker Max and don't live in Florida (or indeed, the US). Just sayin'...
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:53 AM on June 2, 2003


Here, apparently, is the page that he had to delete. I wonder if he intentionally kept the "missvermont.htm" url as a jab at the judge. Unfortunately, google doesn't appear to have a cache of that page, so I can't tell exactly what Max and Katy were up to.

It should be noted that she didn't accuse him of libel so we can reasonably assume that the claims of the Mr. Max are true.

Cerebus, I agree with everything you said. And specifically on the point above, the NYT article states: "In her lawsuit, Ms. Johnson maintained that Mr. Max had invaded her privacy by publishing accurate information about her..." Of course, later in the article, her lawyer says: "Ms. Johnson emphatically denies the story contained on Tucker Max's Web site."
posted by pardonyou? at 6:53 AM on June 2, 2003


Google Cache.
posted by Eamon at 6:56 AM on June 2, 2003


IANAL, but Max seems to have a pretty clear case here, if I remember my long-ago readings of "prior restraint" law properly. Providing embarrassing details about someone may be obnoxious, but I'd think that'd be considered free speech as long as it doesn't drift into libel territory. I get very wary of anyone's attempts to restrict the scope of the First Amendment, and I certainly hope this ruling is appealed and overturned.
posted by Vidiot at 7:01 AM on June 2, 2003


Read a few paragraphs from the cache pardonyou? linked to. The guy sounds like a bit of a twit, but he is a twit with a first amendment right to report news of even a micro-variety. I can't imagine that ruling will survive appeal, and the guy is a lawyer, so I can't imagine there won't be one.

By the way, the flag with the flashing free speech text on the woman's site is almost too ironic for words.
posted by willnot at 7:07 AM on June 2, 2003


I am a lawyer, but I'm not _your_ lawyer, so don't take anything I say as advice. And I don't even do this kind of law. However, yes, it would seem to be prior restraint. And a more famous lawyer than I am, Instapundit has more to say than I do.
posted by swerdloff at 7:10 AM on June 2, 2003


Get embarassed by some information someone posts about you on the Internet...
Free.

Sue that someone so they have to take it down...
Thousands of dollars.

See the story picked up by MetaFilter, along with a cached version of the information you sued so that nobody could see...
Priceless.
posted by VulcanMike at 7:21 AM on June 2, 2003


I think this story's got legs. That cache is hilarious. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes for someone to catch on and order google to take it down. Of course, by then it will be too late -- hundreds of people will have saved the file and mirrored it.

VulcanMike -- absolutely. That's the irony of trying to suppress something in the information age. You only increase the exposure.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:25 AM on June 2, 2003


It's simple, and I fail to comprehend how any judge or lawyer could not see it. If it's published, defamatory, and false, it's libel. If it's published, defamatory, and true, it's tough shit for you. The whole 'invasion of privacy' bit is just bunk.

Of course, this feeds back into the other thread about suing over bad reviews.
posted by Cerebus at 7:52 AM on June 2, 2003


"a bit of a twit"?

Read the entire story, and even just a bit of his web sit -- the guy's a raging asshole. Still, isn't that the point? That even raging assholes have the right to freedom of speech?
posted by Fofer at 7:53 AM on June 2, 2003


He may have a case, but after reading through his site it seems he's also stuck in his Frat days.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:55 AM on June 2, 2003


The cache is a bit NSFW as sections of it read a bit like poorly written erotica or an especially cheesy letter to penthouse. Just sayin'.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:59 AM on June 2, 2003


Wow, is that bad public policy or what? Linking to someone is sort of like looking at them, isn't it? It's the old paparazzi dilemma: You're free game to be photographed in public places, so if you're Jacko, don't go out without your surgical mask and gloves.

It's quite chilling, this. I've had someone call me a "stalker" for writing pieces on my own blog disagreeing violently with what another blogger was saying. Okay, maybe the word "idiot" was a little strong, but I stand by "utter nonsense."

Will alpha-bloggers who perceive themselves as celebrities now start issuing cease-and-desist letters?
posted by hairyeyeball at 8:18 AM on June 2, 2003


If it's published, defamatory, and true, it's tough shit for you.

If it's true but published with malicious intent, it may still be libel in certain jurisdictions.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:29 AM on June 2, 2003


Okay... having just read the whole thing, he's a prat, she's thick as pig shit, but I'm not surprised she got arsey.

In future, just ignore people on the net... ;)
posted by twine42 at 8:46 AM on June 2, 2003


If it's true but published with malicious intent, it may still be libel in certain jurisdictions.

No, truth is always an absolute defense to any defamation claim -- libel or slander. The jurisdiction is irrelevant.

The legal basis for this suit has nothing to do with defamation or libel. It's one of the four torts that are grouped together as "invasion of privacy" -- in this case it's the "public disclosure of private facts" tort. Proving a claim requires disclosure of information of a kind that (1) would be "highly offensive to the reasonable person," and (2) is private and of no legitimate concern to the public.

There might actually be a case here -- for money damages. The real issue is the offensiveness of a "prior restraint" injunction. Anyone who has studied First Amendment law knows that this judge exceeded her authority by issuing the order.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:54 AM on June 2, 2003


IANAL, but...

"If it's true but published with malicious intent, it may still be libel in certain jurisdictions."

Not in the U.S. -- I'm pretty sure that truth is an absolute defense against libel suits. Even falsehood is not always sufficient; a plaintiff often needs to prove a higher standard known as "absolute malice." (Basically, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant either *knew* that the statement in question was false or had reckless disregard for the veracity of the statement.)

But this isn't about libel; it's about privacy. Miss Vermont could actually make a case for invasion of privacy, but the fact that she's a public figure really damages her claim. And prior restraint is utterly ridiculous.
posted by ptermit at 9:01 AM on June 2, 2003


Pardonyou: Jinx! You owe me a coke.
posted by ptermit at 9:02 AM on June 2, 2003


pardonyou!: It's my understading that truth is not an absolute defense in the UK, which is one of the main reasons why folks -- Barrick Gold, McD, etc -- sue there as opposed to elsewhere.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:04 AM on June 2, 2003


Actually, ptermit, I believe it is you who owes me a coke. I'm waiting.

(on preview: thanks lupus, that probably explains the confusion)
posted by pardonyou? at 9:06 AM on June 2, 2003


Oh how sad. Miss Vermont's lucrative career as a arbiter of moral standards has been derailed. Tucker has another interesting friend who generated some controversy in this thread. I will admit to being very entertained by Tucker, but I would not want to hang around with him.
posted by monkeyman at 9:15 AM on June 2, 2003


lupus: I know even less about UK law than I do about US law, but I thought that truth *is* an absolute defense in the UK as well. I was under the impression that the reason the UK is attractive to libel plaintiffs is that the burden of proof is on the defendant in the UK to prove that the statement is true, whereas in the US, the plaintiff has to prove that the statement is false.

pardonyou: Actually, he who calls jinx receives the coke, except when the jinxee can prove that the jinxer acted with reckless disregard for personal hygeine. (Finders v. Keepers, 1852.)
posted by ptermit at 9:19 AM on June 2, 2003


the reason the UK is attractive to libel plaintiffs is that the burden of proof is on the defendant in the UK to prove that the statement is true, whereas in the US, the plaintiff has to prove that the statement is false.

That plus the large payouts that are possible and that the huge costs associated with UK libel trials means its a useful tool for rich people to make poor people shut up (this second reason is what McD's was trying to do in their infamous case - all the other defendants apologised and promised not to do it again, McDs effectively had their bluff called by Morris and Steel).
posted by biffa at 9:39 AM on June 2, 2003


I thoguht I remembered this guy. He was at University of Chicago at the same time that I was, and would always write terribly illogical articles for the campus conservative rag. He also published some sort of "how to get laid" book recently, which should make anyone who has ever been to U of Chicago laugh their ass off (first tip: transfer!).

This guy's 1st ammendment rights deserve protection, but he is a complete schmuck.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:53 AM on June 2, 2003


He may have a case, but after reading through his site it seems he's also stuck in his Frat days.

Sad, so sad, but true. I was pleased as punch to go to a school where the "greeks" were about as significant as the AV club was in high school. To see those guys in their white hats and plaid shirts in a social environments that was dominated by proud dorks was a thing of beauty (not that there is anything wrong wiht this manner of dress, I just like empowered nerds). I could understand him feeling left out, though, like how a nerd feels in high school.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:58 AM on June 2, 2003


Obviously, I investigated Katy's website. Clicking on "home and school" from http://www.katyjohnson.com/katy.html reveals that she is a member of MENSA.

I shouldn't pass that on, though, having been convinced by katy and the Starlettes to make it my philosophy/ not to be gossipy.
posted by Pericles at 10:03 AM on June 2, 2003


Previous post related to the debonair Tucker Max featuring a website from another chick he did the nasty with.
posted by monkeyman at 10:44 AM on June 2, 2003


I read the Google Cache site... yuck. I really don't care what happens to either of these people or which of their rights get violated.
posted by orange swan at 10:59 AM on June 2, 2003


she is a member of MENSA

...is that ever a double edged sword.

[/bitch]
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:59 AM on June 2, 2003


No matter what you do, pseudonyms are the way to go, especially in the age of Google.
posted by konolia at 11:02 AM on June 2, 2003


moral: don't do the nasty with Tucker Max kiss and tell.
posted by dabitch at 11:09 AM on June 2, 2003


Aren't repeated references to the lady as a "whore" somewhat slanderous?
posted by Joeforking at 11:19 AM on June 2, 2003


Just looking at the rest of this guy's site, he is a seriously sad wannabe. Dude's probably creaming his jeans at all this publicity.
posted by Joeforking at 11:31 AM on June 2, 2003


A Chicago Sun-Times story about the lawsuit reported that Tucker Max had just taken a job as a bartender in Austin.

Remember: Alcohol is your friend.

It's a time-honored Arc of Fame. Heck, even John Wayne Bobbit eventually got a job as a bartender.
posted by sacre_bleu at 11:48 AM on June 2, 2003


It seems to me that the judge really went overboard on this one. I mean I see why MissVapidVermont wouldn't want the story published...*especially* if it's true. Throws a bit of a spin on her Abstinence crusade, doncha know. (As a snide aside...wouldn't you think that a mensa member would A.) be able to read a manual on good webdesign, B.) hire someone to create a website that doesn't make the viewer's eyes bleed, or C.) expect the common masses to be shocked and awed by the word "mensa".)

I would hope that this case gets appealed.
posted by dejah420 at 1:49 PM on June 2, 2003


Mr. Max is currently making the rounds on MTV's Sex2K show about finding online love. He is Tooly McTool. Perhaps the increased traffic to his site due to the show set Miss Skank over the edge.
posted by alou73 at 9:21 AM on June 3, 2003


Max sucks
posted by acrobat at 5:32 AM on June 4, 2003


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