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View Full Version : Legal types: I've been slandered!


Myself
06-05-2007, 03:41 PM
A pal of mine found a story in which my name was used, as well as the names of three other real people. Full names...on a porn site.

In this pathetic piece of...prose...all three of us, and fictional others, engage in group sex and drug use.

Never happened.

Until last Sept I ran a small international nonprofit for patients with a rare skin condition. The other male mentioned in the story, with whom I am still in touch, runs a business dealing with the public in a relatively small town. We don't need this kind of publicity. The woman was 'as pure as sunlight' back in the day when this story is set. I assume she still is.

We are 99.9999% sure we know who wrote this. This example is all the confirmation I need that this scumbag has not changed since he took advantage of our generosity, lied and stole from us in college.

Above the story is a copyright mark dated 2005. An email address is shown. The name in the email address is not the name of our 'suspect' but there was no one with that name in the class mentioned in the story--or anywhere else in our lives.

In the privacy section the "HOST" says:

14. Third Party Content. HOST is a distributor (and not a publisher) of content supplied by third parties and account holders. Accordingly, HOST has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information or content expressed or made available by third parties, including information providers, account holders or any other user of HOST, are those of the respective author(s) or distributor(s) and not of HOST. Neither HOST nor any third-party provider of information guarantees the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any content, nor its merchantability or fitness for any particular purpose. (Refer to Section 12 above for the complete provisions governing limitation of liabilities and disclaimers of warranty.)

There is nothing anywhere that says the authors of articles on this site must avoid slander. (They do say that child porn is okay in certain circumstances.)

Napster didn't get away with the "It's not my fault what they do on our site" theory of Law, and I'm guessing these guys have responsibilities, too.

I don't have much money to spend on this, but I want this guy's head, on a platter, on a pike or in a plastic bag. Double points if I can remove it from his shoulders myself.

But if that's impossible, I'd like to know what legal remedies are available to me.

PS Any comments are welcome but please don't give me legal advice if you aren't in the legal game. This is a deadly serious matter to me.

Thank you.

Cryptoderk
06-05-2007, 03:46 PM
link?

I know for certain that this would be libel in England. But we do have stronger libel laws.

Incidentally, I am pretty sure that the relevant piece of legislation you need to look up in america is section 230 of the communications decency act. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_230_of_the_Communications_Decency_Act

So basically the host would probably get away with it if they take it down when you notify them. But I am certainly not a lawyer.

FatBaldGuy
06-05-2007, 03:50 PM
IANAL, but the first thing I would do is to contact the "host" and ask them to remove the story, and explain why. If they have a shred of decency (perhaps not a valid assumption in this case) they will take it off of their site.

Then go after the lowlife scum that wrote it.

Scarlett67
06-05-2007, 03:52 PM
First off, the term you're looking for is libel.

Second, no legal type on this board is going to give you legal advice, and even if someone claiming to be a lawyer did so, you'd be foolish to take it. Everyone all together now: "Get yourself a lawyer who is licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction." Especially if this is a "deadly serious matter" to you. You don't want to be taking advice from some anonymous message board goobers.

The consultation should cost you little or nothing.

Iggins
06-05-2007, 03:53 PM
Is the story presented as non-fiction, or as fiction? Would there be any difference for slander/libel?

I'm genuinely curious, not knocking your situation...

Billdo
06-05-2007, 03:59 PM
First of all, if you've been defamed at all, you've been libeled, not slandered (which is limited to spoken defamation, not that which is written or otherwise put in a fixed medium).

As I mentioned in this thread on a related subject (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=421252), though I don't practice in your jurisdiction or specialize in defamation law, I can give you some general ideas on the subject. I am, of course, not your lawyer, and you should obtain your own legal representation before proceeding in any manner. From my response there:

Defamation law is tricky and quirky, and it is fairly rare to win a defamation case, and rarer still to win substantial damages.

Putting aside the differences between libel and slander (which can be significant), many jurisdictions require that the plaintiff plead the defamatory language in haec verba, meaning in the exact words. If you cannot find the exact defamatory words used, you may be unable to set out a viable legal complaint.

For a comment to be defamatory, it must be shown to be a factual statement that is false. Comments that are opinions are, in most cases, not defamatory because they are statements of someone's belief, not a statement purporting to be a true factual statement.

The allegedly defamatory words must legally be considered to be defamatory as a matter of law in the context which they were uttered. Certain statements regarding loathsome conduct are defamatory per se, meaning defamatory in themselves, but most others must be analyzed to see if they would actually be legally sufficient to injure someone's reputation in the context they were given.

Most jurisdictions also provide a "fair commentary" qualified privilege for various types of comments made and opinions expressed in good faith in the course of some business relationships. Commenting to a business on the conduct of a its employee in the course of contracted work may well fall into this privilege in many jurisdictions.

Even if defamation can be shown, depending on the type of defamation, there is often a requirement to demonstrate actual damages resulting from the defamatory comment. Your situation also raises the question of whether the mere use of a person's name in a fictional story is legally defamatory or can be considered to damage your reptutation.

There is the further question of whether you can track down the original author and whether the website would be legally liable for republication.

I somehow doubt that a fictional story in some obscure corner of the internet will cause much reputational harm, despite how distasteful it might be to you, so even if you can demonstrate defamation, there may be little chance of more than nominal recovery. Further, in the event you pursue it, there is the possibility that it may cause publicity to this otherwise forgotten fiction.

Quartz
06-05-2007, 05:41 PM
I somehow doubt that a fictional story in some obscure corner of the internet will cause much reputational harm, despite how distasteful it might be to you

Search engines reach just about everywhere. Imagine a prospective employer doing a search on the OP and coming up with a porn story.

Q.E.D.
06-05-2007, 06:00 PM
Imagine a prospective employer doing a search on the OP and coming up with a porn story.
And, so what? A name alone isn't sufficient to identify someone. You can search on my name and come up with a large number of people, including an actor. Guess what, I ain't him. Frankly, I wouldn't want to work for an employer who thinks simply typing a prospect's name into Google makes for an adequate background check.

Rick
06-05-2007, 06:11 PM
And, so what? A name alone isn't sufficient to identify someone. You can search on my name and come up with a large number of people, including an actor. Guess what, I ain't him. Frankly, I wouldn't want to work for an employer who thinks simply typing a prospect's name into Google makes for an adequate background check.
Well I think there might be a bit of a difference in the id-ability of say John Smith and Throatwarbler Mangrove.

Shagnasty
06-05-2007, 06:18 PM
Well I think there might be a bit of a difference in the id-ability of say John Smith and Throatwarbler Mangrove.

If you do a search on Throatwarbler Mangrove especially on this board you will come up with lots of references as well. I am not sure how the name got to be so popular but it proves that names don't mean much for identification.

The Hamster King
06-05-2007, 06:35 PM
If you do a search on Throatwarbler Mangrove especially on this board you will come up with lots of references as well. I am not sure how the name got to be so popular but it proves that names don't mean much for identification."Throatwarbler Mangrove" isn't really a name.

It is, however, the correct pronunciation of "Raymond Luxury Yacht" ... .

Rick
06-05-2007, 06:41 PM
If you do a search on Throatwarbler Mangrove especially on this board you will come up with lots of references as well. I am not sure how the name got to be so popular but it proves that names don't mean much for identification.
:rolleyes:
Google search:
John Smith 22,000,000
Throatwarbler Mangrove 3,540
I think that the chance of finding one particular Throatwarbler Mangrove is much higher than finding any one particular John Smith using a Google search.

Rick
06-05-2007, 07:27 PM
Just for giggles I did a Google on my name. Four hits all of them me. So if someone were to use my complete RL name in a porno story, it probably would show up in a quick Google search.

Myself
06-05-2007, 07:44 PM
This story does not appear when I searched for my name, Rick. I search for my name from time to time as well.

The HOSTS mentioned they have taken steps to keep the stories out of the hands of kids. It may be as simple as "no bots" in the page code. I believe this is one way to do it.

Myself
06-05-2007, 09:14 PM
You are in no way my lawyer, Billdo. This is just the kind of general advice I was looking for.

Thanks very much, indeed.

If I read Cryptoderk's link correctly, I don't have a prayer. Even as I type, the Flint/Hustler cartoon about Falwell comes to mind.

I can't prove I've been harmed. I can't prove it didn't happen. I can't do anything except sit back and watch this low-life tell his lies and shit on my good name.

This is why I volunteered to serve in the US Army? This is the country I've defended all my life. God bless America.

I'll post my response from the HOSTS.

And you can watch the Pit for my considered opinion at a later date.

Thanks to Billdo, and Cryptoderk, and to you all.

Telemark
06-05-2007, 09:42 PM
I can't do anything except sit back and watch this low-life tell his lies and shit on my good name.
It's on a porn site, why would anyone think that it was intended to be truth? They're not lies if they are presented as fiction, are they?

Myself
06-05-2007, 10:22 PM
The location was real. The college class mentioned is real. The four of us named are real, (I miscounted earlier), including my friend and his wife. The description of us is what we looked like then.

Anyone who worked on the college newspaper during those years in the mid-seventies will easily recognize us since we were officers. (I had 54 artists working for me during one quarter alone, and there were several journalism classes that blurred together back then.) We won awards and got some publicity about that.

My picture has been online as an officer of my charity. I've searched for my name on the net and found only one other person with my name. I'm on a few other sites, all legit.

I've gone to some effort to keep my rep clean for nearly 60 years. No I won't suffer financially, professionally or socially, but it's the principal.

We took that jerk in when he didn't have a place to stay or food to eat. We gave him money, took him to concerts.... We didn't realize he was stealing all we gave him. He rewarded our generosity by stealing from our home and running off.

It's letting a scumbag get away with it and knowing he's somewhere grinning.

"Oh, well. Too bad. So sad."

That story will be online forever.

LinusK
06-06-2007, 01:02 AM
I'd like to know what legal remedies are available to me.

None. Sorry.

Start with damages. What are your damages? You "won't suffer financially, professionally or socially." So, how will you suffer, and how much is it worth?

Next, how much money is the defamer worth, do you think? What are his hard assets? What real property of his can you attach, should you go to court and win?

If he doesn't have money, it doesn't matter if you win. You can't get blood from a turnip.

Then consider some of the legal obstacles. Truth is always a defense to slander. Suppose he goes to court and says it happened just the way he wrote it. (I know it didn't, but suppose the jury can't see through his vile lies?) Suppose he says it's just a story - ie, fiction. In other words, suppose he says he didn't libel you, because he never claimed the story was true? I mean, I'm not saying he'd win, I'm just saying your case is not a slam dunk. Do you know if anyone who knows you has 1.) read the story, 2.) believes it's true, and 3.) thinks less of you because of it?

Finally, you need to consider the cost, in time and money, of attempting to litigate all of that, based on an uncertain outcome, and the possibility that the defendant is judgment-proof.

And if the guy lives in another state, that makes it all the more complicated.

Quartz
06-06-2007, 03:55 AM
And, so what? A name alone isn't sufficient to identify someone.

In my case, actually, it is. My given name is unique within the U.K. and my full name is globally unique.