Bernard Berrian Will Sue Your Puppy

Nov 14, 11

Shane Valenzi of the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law recently wrote an article about a potential SLAPP involving NFL player Bernard Berrian.  The article, “Bernard Berrian Will Sue Your Puppy”, talks about a cease-and-desist letter that Berrian’s legal team sent to a popular sports humor blog after they ran a satirical piece about Berrian.

The article also goes on to talk about the need for federal anti-SLAPP legislation:

“This type of legal threat is a legal tactic commonly characterized as a SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, and is used by prominent public figures or organizations to chill protected speech by small, dissenting speakers.  The threat of a lawsuit by a public figure or organization being criticized with more financial and/or legal resources than the speaker frequently induces the speaker to remove or retract their speech because they cannot afford the time and expense of a lawsuit, even if they are likely to succeed on the merits.  Presently there are no federal anti-SLAPP laws, but some states have adopted stringent laws designed to prevent actors in that state from threatening frivolous legal action in order to chill free speech.  These statutes do not exist in many states, however, and often apply only to government actors or issues in the public interest in the states that have them, leaving critics of public entertainment figures open to these sorts of threats.  Despite the Supreme Court’s infamous declaration in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell that the First Amendment protects speech satirizing public figures as long as the speech could not be reasonably perceived as true, entertainment and sports figures can still achieve the same chilling effect on free speech through the threat of expensive litigation.  Most recently, Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, sued the Washington City Paper for libel over an article that detailed and criticized Snyder’s various failings as owner of the Redskins. After Snyder admitted the suit was only designed to elicit an apology from the paper and that he never even read the article in question, his legal team dropped the suit, but speakers and writers who lack the financial resources of a major newspaper or magazine often cannot afford to risk incurring the same litigation costs as the Washington City Paper or Hustler Magazine.

So what’s the solution?  Federal anti-SLAPP legislation should severely limit these sorts of suits.  In the meantime, an Oregon court recently ruled that the state’s anti-SLAPP legislation applies to Twitter posts, so if your puppy wants to tweet disparaging comments about underachieving professional athletes, he might want to consider doing it in Oregon.”

Read the full article here: http://www.jetlaw.org/?p=9365

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