Given the impending arrival of Anchorman 2, it seemed sort of appropriate to quote Ron Burgundy.
But the case of Sarah Jones v. thedirty.com, which is currently pending in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is, well, kind of a big deal. Here’s a post from Eric Goldman that explains why. The appeal from a six figure libel judgment in Sarah Jones’s favor has drawn 4 amicus briefs from a number of high profile online companies. According to Goldman, nine of the top ten United States Web sites are participating.
The term “amicus curiae” is Latin for “friend of the court.” An “amicus brief” allows people and companies who are not parties, but have an interest in the appeal, to weigh in. The idea is that the amicus briefs assist the court in coming to the right decision. In the interest of full disclosure, I participated in an amicus brief filed on behalf of 12 “friends” – including CNN, Amazon and the Magazine Publishers of America.
The concern for all of the amicus participants is that if the Jones verdict stands, it could have serious consequences for the broad immunity offered by the federal Communications Decency Act. Eric’s post lays out the arguments very well, so I will let you read it. The key point here, I think, is that none of the amicus participants have warm and fuzzy feelings for thedirty.com or its brand of snark. But it’s exactly these cases – where an unsavory and unsympathetic defendant gets slapped around – that allow legal protections for more “upstanding” citizens to erode.
Remember, the parties filing the briefs are “friends of the court” not “friends of thedirty.com” I suspect there isn’t even a Latin word for “Internet.”