User:Cpalcisko/Blumenthal v. drudge

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Blumenthal v. Drudge

992. F. Supp. 44 (D.D.C. 1998)

Plaintiffs Sidney Blumenthal and Jacqueline Blumenthal sued Matt Drudge and America Online for statements made in the Drudge Report accusing Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton White House appointee, of abusing his wife in the past. America Online moved for summary judgment and Drudge moved to dismiss or transfer for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court held America Online could not be held liable for making the Drudge Report available to its subscribers and that Drudge engaged in a persistent course of conduct in the District of Columbia which warranted exercise of personal jurisdiction. [1]

Facts[edit]

Defendant Drudge was a citizen of California who in 1995 created an electronic gossip publication called the Drudge Report. Access to Defendant Drudge’s web site was available at no cost to anyone with an internet connection. In March 1995, Drudge had developed a list of approximately 1,000 regular readers or subscribers to whom he e-mailed each new addition of the Drudge Report and plaintiffs alleged that by 1997 Drudge had 85,000 subscribers. [2] In 1997, Drudge entered into a written license agreement with America Online. This agreement made the Drudge Report available to all members of America Online for a period of one year. In exchange, Drudge received a flat monthly “royalty payment” of $3,000 from America Online. Under this agreement, America Online had the ability to remove content which was reasonably determined to violate the standard terms of service. Drudge began transmitting new editions of the Drudge Report by e-mailing them to America Online, who then posted the new editions on the America Online service. [3] On August 10, 1997, Drudge wrote the edition of the Drudge Report which contained the alleged defamatory statements about the Blumenthals.[4] This was transmitted from California by e-mail to his direct subscribers and then he transmitted the text to America Online who then made it available to its subscribers. [5]

Issues[edit]

1) Whether America Online could be held partially responsible for the defamatory statements since according to the licensing agreement it had some editorial control over those whom it has contracts and whose words it disseminates

2)Whether the District of Columbia had personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant

Result[edit]

America Online’s motion for summary judgment granted. Drudge subject to personal jurisdiction in the District of Columbia. [6]

Holding[edit]

1) America Online’s Motion for Summary Judgment: According to the Communications Decency Act of 1996, Congress chose not to hold interactive computer services liable for their failure to edit, withhold or restrict access to offensive material disseminated through their medium in order to "promote the continued development of the Internet".[7] According to the Communications Decency Act, a service provider is protected from tort liability even if it has an active role in making available the content prepared by others, as America Online did in this case. [8] The court here woud have believed America Online should be held responsible for the statements made by on the Drudge Report since AOL was not acting exclusively as an internet service provider but had editorial involvement, District Judge, Paul L. Friedman asks in his opinion, "Why should AOL be permitted to tout someone as a gossip columnist or rumor monger who will make such rumors and gossip 'instantly accessible' to AOL subscribers, and then claim immunity when that person, as might be anticipated, defames another?" [9] However, despite the Court's belief that AOL might be taking advantage of benefits of the Communications Decency Act without any of the burdens, the Court held that AOL is immune from suit and the Court granted AOL's motion for summary judgement. [10]

2) Personal jurisdiction over Drudge: In order for the court to maintain personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, jurisdiction must be proper under the District of Columbia long-arm statute and consistent with the demands of due process. The court concluded the circumstances of the case warranted the exercise of personal jurisdiction because of: (1) the interactivity of the web site between the defendant Drudge and District residents[11]; (2) the regular distribution of the Drudge Report via America Online, e-mail and the world wide web District residents; (3) Drudge’s solicitation and receipt of contributions from District residents; (4) the availability of the web site to District residents; (5) defendant Drudge’s interview with C-SPAN; and (6) defendant Drudge’s contacts with District residents who provide gossip for the Drudge Report. [12] The court additionally concluded Drudge had sufficient minimum contacts to satisfy due process. Drudge’s motion to dismiss or transfer for want of personal jurisdiction was denied. [13]



References[edit]

  1. ^ Raymond S. R. Ku & Jacqueline Lipton, Cyberspace Law: Cases and Materials 249 (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 3rd ed. 2010)
  2. ^ Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44, 47 (D.D.C. 1998)
  3. ^ "Id."
  4. ^ Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44, 46 (D.D.C. 1998)
  5. ^ "Id."
  6. ^ "Id." at 45.
  7. ^ "Id." at 49.
  8. ^ "Id." at 51-2.
  9. ^ "Id." at 51.
  10. ^ "Id." at 52-3.
  11. ^ "Id." at 56.
  12. ^ "Id." at 57.
  13. ^ "Id." at 58.


External links[edit]

[1] Drudge Report

[2] AOL

[3] United States District Court for the District of Columbia