Nik Richie

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Nik Lamas-Richie
Nik Richie at Pure.jpg
Nik Richie on the Red Carpet at Pure
Born Hooman Abedi Karamian
(1979-02-12) February 12, 1979 (age 35)
Hackensack, NJ, United States
Occupation blogger, writer
Years active 2007–present
Known for Gossip website TheDirty.com
Spouse(s) Shayne Lamas (m. 2010–present)
Children 1
Website
TheDirty.com

Nik Lamas-Richie (born Hooman Abedi Karamian, February 12, 1979), known professionally as Nik Richie, is an American blogger, author,[1] and Internet personality.[2] Richie is best known for his controversial gossip website Thedirty.com which he began in 2007 as www.dirtyscottsdale.com.

Background[edit]

Richie is best known as the founder and contributing editor of the online gossip and "reality internet" website Thedirty.com. Richie began the site in March 2007 as Dirtyscottsdale.com while living in Scottsdale, Arizona.[3] At the time, Richie was working as a credit card processor but was unhappy with that job, so he began Dirtyscottsdale.com "to chronicle the nightlife of the 'cool kids' in the Arizona town."[4]

The content on Dirtyscottsdale.com initially focused on Richie's personal criticism and lampooning of Scottsdale and its club scene, which he highlighted with "rudely captioned photos of drunk people, of breast jobs gone bad and so-called $30,000 millionaires showing off their cars, apartments and expensive jeans."[5] The current version of TheDirty.com allows users to upload their own "dirt" which may include news, gossip, photos, videos, or text, and users can comment on posts submitted by others.[6] Richie has described the decision to create Dirtyscottsdale.com "as a joke for me and my buddies. The word spread so quickly it got out of hand."[7]

Anonymity Lost in 2008[edit]

In the early days of Dirtyscottsdale.com, Richie's true identity was unknown. When the site began to receive widespread attention, Richie attempted to maintain his anonymity by giving media interviews in disguise, sometimes using a fake British accent,[8] or sometimes appearing with his back to the camera.[9] Using these methods Richie was able to keep his identity secret for 18 months.

Richie's anonymity ended on September 4, 2008 after he was arrested for DUI and reckless driving in Scottsdale. On the police report, Richie (then Karamian) described his occupation as "web site writer" and his employer as "Dirty Scottsdale".[10] Ironically, prior to his arrest Richie included a section on Dirtyscottsdale.com which prominently featured mugshots of drivers arrested for DUI with a message warning, "Learn to laugh at yourself or DON'T DO STUPID SHIT LOVERS!!!“[11] Once news of his arrest surfaced, Richie publicly "outed" himself and admitted his real identity with a post entitled "Is Hooman Karamian (nice name) the Real Nik Richie?”[12]

Criticism[edit]

Some have criticized Richie for the harsh comments frequently posted on his site, suggesting that the site encourages cyber bullying[13] and slut shaming.[14] Other critics have suggested that Nik Richie and his website Thedirty.com could potentially ruin someone's life, career or reputation.[15]

Richie seldom honors requests to remove content from thedirty.com, even though the site offers a removal request page.[16][17] Some reputation management firms offer removal services for thedirty.com.[18]

In the debate, some have questioned whether the site is actually a public nuisance or a much needed public forum.[19] As interest in the site continued to grow, Richie was named one of the 10 most fascinating people by the Arizona Republic newspaper which noted, "what makes him interesting is that his site has prompted a dialogue about public and private space and about what is and is not celebrity."[20]

TV appearances[edit]

In November 2010, Richie was interviewed by Dr. Phil during a nationally televised hour long episode devoted exclusively to the subject of online bullying and gossip entitled “Dirt, Lies and the Internet”.[21] Dr. Phil questioned Richie about the morality of a website which allows users to bash each other with hurtful comments, to which Richie responded that there is evidentially a marketplace for such a website. Dr. Phil stated the following criticism, "Well, there's a marketplace for heroin too, but that doesn't justify being a heroin addict."[21] After the show aired, viewers posted more than 700 comments about the program on Dr. Phil’s website.

In November 2011, Richie was interviewed by talk show host Anderson Cooper in an episode during which he was confronted by Sarah Jones, the former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader and high school teacher who is currently suing Richie for defamation.[22] Richie was featured in an second interview with Anderson Cooper which aired in January 2012.

In June 2011, ABC News program 20/20 ran a story about Richie and his legal battle with Sarah Jones.[23]

In August 2012, Richie and his wife were announced to be filming upcoming episodes of the VH1 reality show Couples Therapy along with several other celebrity couples.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Richie is married to actress and reality TV star Shayne Lamas. The pair met in Las Vegas and were married on April 18, 2010 at the Little White Wedding Chapel[25] 8 hours after the couple first met.[26] On November 11, 2011, Lamas and Richie welcomed their first child, a daughter named Press Dahl Lamas-Richie.[27] On January 19, 2014, Richie confirmed that Shayne is pregnant with their second child.[28] On February 10, 2014, Shayne suffered a complications which caused doctors to abort the child for the sake of her life and was hospitalized with serious internal bleeding.[29]

On March 13, 2013, Richie's wife Shayne was hospitalized citing "marital stress" allegedly caused by Richie's "non-stop partying".[30][31] Richie released a photo of his wife in the hospital on Instagram,[32] but has offered no details about the incident except a short apology posted on Twitter, stating "my personal life is a mess."[33]

News Events[edit]

Although much of the content on TheDirty.com involves non-celebrities, since 2007 the site has been involved in breaking several national news stories. These stories include:

  • In 2008, pictures of NBA star Kobe Bryant were posted on TheDirty.com with reports that he was involved in an extra-marital affair with a team cheerleader.[34] Bryant's attorney sent a cease and desist letter demanding removal of the story,[35] but Richie refused to comply with the demand.[36]
  • In 2008, TheDirty.com published several embarrassing photos of NFL quarterback Matt Leinart partying with female college students.[37] The event occurred while Richie was still anonymous, and the story resulted in widespread media exposure.[38]
  • In October 2009, TheDirty.com posted a copy of a bad check allegedly written by NFL star Chad Johnson.[39]
  • In 2009, TheDirty.com published several nearly-nude photos of Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean who had initially denied ever taking any such photos.[40] The scandal eventually resulted in pageant owner Donald Trump terminating Prejean's contract thereby stripping her of her title as Miss California. At the time, Prejean was under significant scrutiny for her answer to a question during the Miss USA 2009 controversy in which she was asked whether states should legalize same-sex marriage. Prejean's answer—that marriage should be between a man and a woman—was viewed as a significant reason for her not winning the Miss USA crown.[41]
  • In 2010, Arizona congressman Ben Quayle initially denied rumors that he was involved in creating posts on Dirtyscottsdale.com.[42] Several weeks later, Quayle changed his story and admitted that he did write material for the site using the pseudonym "Brock Landers".[43][44] Despite the admission, Quayle was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on November 2, 2010.[45]
  • In 2011, TheDirty.com published a story alleging that actor/director Ashton Kutcher cheated on his wife Demi Moore during a tryst at a San Diego hotel. On November 17, 2011, Moore released a statement announcing her intention to divorce Kutcher.[46]
  • In 2011, TheDirty.com published a nude self-portrait depicting Neal Schon, lead guitarist of the rock band Journey. Prior to the release of the photo, Schon reported "received menacing texts messages over the past couple weeks from a person he has never met, telling him that he was in possession of Neal's stolen phone and threatening to release the photos."[47] The photo was later removed.
  • In 2013, Richie published a story[48] accusing former U.S. Congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner of sending steamy photos/text messages to an unidentified woman. In response, Weiner confirmed that more sexually explicit text messages had been sent during his sexting scandal.[49][50][51] Despite the admission, Weiner has stated that he will not withdraw from the race for mayor of New York City.[52]

Lawsuits[edit]

Communications Decency Act Immunity[edit]

Nik Richie has been the subject of several lawsuits relating to material posted on TheDirty.com. Like operators of other blogs and websites which allow third party users to submit content, Richie has argued that he is protected from liability by a federal law called the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230(c), which provides: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”[53] The CDA generally protects website owners and operators from most forms of liability; "Most courts have held that through these provisions, Congress granted interactive services of all types, including blogs, forums, and listservs, immunity from tort liability so long as the information is provided by a third party."[54]

At least one federal court in Missouri has agreed with this argument, holding that a lawsuit against Richie was barred by the CDA. The case, S.C. v. Dirty World LLC, Case No. 11-CV-00392-DW (W.D. Mo. March 12, 2012) involved a post entitled "Dirty Church Girl" which was submitted to TheDirty.com by a third party user. The young woman named in the post sued Richie for defamation and other claims, but the court held that Richie was entitled to immunity under the Communications Decency Act.[55]

In another case, Sarah Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, LLC, Case No. 09-CV-219-WOB a federal court in Kentucky reached the opposite conclusion, finding that Richie was not entitled to immunity in a case arising from several posts about a Kentucky high school teacher and part-time cheerleader named Sarah Jones. The decision has been criticized by some legal experts who described the case as "a troubling and probably lawless ruling."[56] The Citizen Media Law Project has posted a lengthy discussion of the case on its website, which, while describing thedirty.com as "a tasteless website," suggests the ruling could have a "chilling effect" for online speech.[57]

The Jones civil case was heard by a Kentucky jury on January 22–25, 2013. After two days of deliberation, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. On January 25, 2013, the court found the jury was deadlocked resulting in a mistrial.[58] Subsequent media reports explained that although the hung jury failed to reach a verdict, "Jurors did unanimously agree that thedirty.com's operator, Nik Richie, did not act with malice when he posted the submissions. That means jurors would not have awarded Jones any money had they all been able to agree that the posts were substantially false."[59] However, on the question of whether Jones was defamed, the jury was deadlocked 9-1 in favor of Jones.[60] A retrial was set for July 8, 2013.[61]

Federal Judge William Bertelsman denied a request by Richie's attorneys to reconsider their argument that the website is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Richie's lawyers also asked the court to allow an immediate appeal rather than forcing them to defend the case a second time, but both were denied.[62]

On July 11, 2013, after a two-day trial and 10–11 hours of deliberations, a jury of 8 women and 2 men in Covington, Kentucky delivered a unanimous verdict in favor of Jones' claim of defamation.[63] The jury awarded Jones $38,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages for a total award of $338,000.[64]

On July 13, 2013, Richie released a statement on TheDirty.com responding directly to the Jones verdict.[65] In his response, Richie's attorney argued that the judge's instructions to the jury were legally incorrect because they allowed the jury to treat Richie as the "publisher" of content submitted to his site by a third party—exactly the result prohibited by Section 230 of the CDA.

On July 15, 2013, Richie filed an appeal in the case which is now pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.[66] Richie's opening brief in the appeal was filed on November 12, 2013.[67]

The main reason of the judge not allowing the CDA as a defense is believed to be the fact that Richie acts as an editor of all content posted on the website and often modifies or adds his own comments. Richie's attorney has responded to this argument claiming that Richie's actions as an editor are irrelevant to his eligibility for immunity.[68]

The Jones case has been closely watched by the legal and reputation management industries as it could have major implications on how public forums post user submitted content.[69] It is believed that the success of this lawsuit may open a flood of new lawsuits against TheDirty and other sites like it that hosts 3rd party content.[70]

Personal Jurisdiction[edit]

In addition to seeking dismissal of cases based on CDA immunity, Richie has raised other arguments. For example, on March 13, 2014, a federal court in Arkansas found that Richie was not subject to personal jurisdiction in that state because "posting defamatory material on the internet, standing alone, is insufficient to create personal jurisdiction over a defendant in the plaintiff's home state."[71] On that basis, the court dismissed the case against Richie who represented himself in the lawsuit without an attorney.[72] Notably, the Kentucky district court reached the opposite conclusion in the Sarah Jones case, finding that Richie was subject to personal jurisdiction in that state.[73]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nik Richie Announces Book Deal
  2. ^ TMZ Bio Page for Nik Richie
  3. ^ VegasSeven.com Interview with Nik Richie, July 1, 2010
  4. ^ The Dirty Business: How Gossipmonger Nik Richie of TheDirty.com Stays Afloat
  5. ^ Web sites put Scottsdale’s party life on display for all
  6. ^ A Dirty Job: TheDirty.com Cases Show the Limits of CDA Section 230
  7. ^ Exposing the trashy side of Scottsdale nightlife
  8. ^ ABC 15 Interview May 31, 2007
  9. ^ Fox10 Interview August 18, 2007
  10. ^ Man behind thedirty.com gets DUI, sheds anonymity September 4, 2008
  11. ^ The Dirt on The Dirty September 4, 2008
  12. ^ Is Hooman Karamian The Real Nik Richie?
  13. ^ Digital Dirt: Website Allows Easy Cyber Bullying
  14. ^ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  15. ^ Dirty Business with Nik Lamas-Richie
  16. ^ http://thedirty.com/removepost/
  17. ^ TheDrity.com will seldom remove posts ReputationFighters.com
  18. ^ Zarokian, Pierre (July 10, 2013). Search Engine Watch. The Dirty Lawsuit Could be First of its Kind in Reputation Management Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  19. ^ TheDirty.com: Public nuisance or a much needed public forum?
  20. ^ Valley’s10 most fascinating people
  21. ^ a b Nik Richie of TheDirty On Dr. Phil Show
  22. ^ Bengals Cheerleader Confronts Website Owner for Defamation of Character
  23. ^ Ben-Gal Sarah Jones on 20/20 Tonight
  24. ^ Nik Richie and Shyane Lamas to Appear on 'Couples Therapy".
  25. ^ 'Bachelor' Winner – Elopes in Vegas
  26. ^ Shayne Lamas elopes with Nik Richie one day after meeting him in Las Vegas
  27. ^ Shayne Lamas Births 11-11-11 Baby
  28. ^ Brace Yourself World! Nik Richie And Shayne Lamas Expecting Baby Number Two
  29. ^ Shayne Lamas In A Coma, Loses Baby
  30. ^ Couples Therapy Casualty? Shayne Lamas Hospitalized, Marital Stress Over Nik Richie’s Non Stop Partying
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^ 5 hours and counting
  33. ^ Tweet after Hospital Stay
  34. ^ This Dirty Kobe Bryant Business
  35. ^ Kobe's Beef Over "Dirty" Affair Allegations
  36. ^ Cease and desist letter from Kobe's lawyers won't deter website
  37. ^ Matt Leinart, Alex Smith Pics at TheDirty.com: The Future of Sports Media?
  38. ^ The Dirty Players In The Game April 5,2008
  39. ^ [2]
  40. ^ Miller, Korin (May 7, 2009). "Miss California Miss USA Carrie Prejean may lose her title over little white lie, nudie pics". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 7, 2009. 
  41. ^ "Gay marriage row at Miss USA show". BBC News. April 20, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 
  42. ^ Ben Quayle denies link to Dirty Scottsdale website
  43. ^ Ben Quayle admits writing for ‘Dirty Scottsdale’ Website
  44. ^ Quayle's ties to 'The Dirty' founder began in 2005
  45. ^ Ben Quayle Elected to Congress in Arizona
  46. ^ "Demi Moore announces plans to end her 6-year marriage to Ashton Kutcher". The Washington Post. Associated Press. November 17, 2011. [dead link]
  47. ^ Neal Schon Nude Photo: Relationship With Michaele Salahi Still Going Strong
  48. ^ http://thedirty.com/2013/07/exclusive-image-anthony-weiner-penis-picture-and-timeline
  49. ^ Fox News Insider (July 23, 2013). "At It Again? Weiner Confirms New Explicit Photos, Texts to ... Not His Wife". Fox News. 
  50. ^ Phillip, Abby D. (July 23, 2013). "Anthony Weiner Acknowledges Previously Undisclosed Sexting". ABC News. 
  51. ^ Moore, Martha T. (July 23, 2013). "Weiner still in NYC race despite improper messages". USA Today. 
  52. ^ Weiner Remains In Mayoral Race
  53. ^ FAQ Page on TheDirty
  54. ^ Legal Guide to Online Publisher Immunity
  55. ^ TheDirty Gets Its First 47 USC 230 Win—S.C. v. Dirty World
  56. ^ TheDirty Denied 47 USC 230 Immunity—Jones v. Dirty World
  57. ^ Sixth Circuit's 'Dirty' Decision Sends a Chill
  58. ^ Order Declaring Mistrial
  59. ^ Mistrial in ex-cheerleader's lawsuit
  60. ^ [3]
  61. ^ Nik Richie Squares Off Again with Ex-NFL Cheerleader "Slutshamed" on his TheDirty.com
  62. ^ http://www.scribd.com/doc/129184988/Sarah-Jones-v-Dirty-World-Renewed-Motion-for-Summary-Judgment Sarah Jones v. Dirty World – Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment
  63. ^ Hannah, Jim (July 11, 2013). "Former Bengals cheerleader awarded $338,000 in defamation lawsuit". USA Today. 
  64. ^ http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/local_news/Ex-Bengals-cheerleader-Sarah-Jones-Jury-starts-deliberations-in-defamation-case
  65. ^ http://thedirty.com/2013/07/thedirty-coms-official-response-to-sarah-jones-verdict/ TheDirty.com’s Official Response To Sarah Jones Verdict
  66. ^ http://www.scribd.com/doc/153968982/Sarah-Jones-v-Nik-Richie-Notice-of-Appeal Notice of Appeal
  67. ^ http://www.scribd.com/doc/183679179/Sarah-Jones-v-Dirty-World-Opening-Appellate-Brief Opening Brief of Dirty World, LLC and Nik Lamas-Richie
  68. ^ http://gingraslaw.com/does-editingselecting-content-affect-cda-immunity-absolutely-not
  69. ^ Hill, Kasmir Big Deal For Internet Law: Ex-Bengals Cheerleader Sarah Jones Wins Suit Against The Dirty Over 'Reputation-Ruining' Comments Forbes. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  70. ^ Zarokian, Pierre The Dirty Loses Reputation Management Lawsuit Search Engine Watch. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  71. ^ Order Granting Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction
  72. ^ Nik Richie Represents Himself In Court, Wins Defamation Lawsuit
  73. ^ Order Denying Motion to Dismiss