Feeds

MySpace rant was not private, rules US Court of Appeal

Why not just keep your trap shut? That might help

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A student who wrote an unflattering diatribe about her hometown on MySpace has lost a claim that its republication by a local paper invaded her privacy. She might yet prove that its wider dissemination was an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

University student Cynthia Moreno published a rant on her MySpace page detailing the failings of her home town, Coalinga in California. Calling it an 'Ode to Coalinga', she wrote: "the older I get, the more I realize how much I despise Coalinga,", before going on to criticise the town.

She removed the post six days later, but the principal of the school she had attended handed a copy of the post to the editor of the local newspaper, who printed it under her full name. Only her first name had been used to sign the post.

The letter was printed in the Coalinga Record by its editor, Pamela Pond. Moreno's sister and mother and father still lived in the town, where her father had a business.

The family were threatened and a shot was fired at their house. They closed the family business and moved away.

Moreno tried to sue the newspaper, but the court upheld its claims that it was exempt from the suit under California laws designed to stop people intimidating news organisations and stifling free speech. Moreno's suit was then targeted against the school district and the principal of the school who had handed the blog posting to the newspaper editor.

The Court of Appeal for the state of California said that Moreno had no right to take a privacy case because MySpace is public, not private.

"A crucial ingredient of the applicable invasion of privacy cause of action is a public disclosure of private facts. A matter that is already public or that has previously become part of the public domain is not private," said the Court's ruling.

"Here, Cynthia publicized her opinions about Coalinga by posting the Ode on myspace.com, a hugely popular internet site. Cynthia’s affirmative act made her article available to any person with a computer and thus opened it to the public eye. Under these circumstances, no reasonable person would have had an expectation of privacy regarding the published material," it said.

The Court said that the fact that Moreno's last name had been added to the newspaper version of the article was immaterial. Her photo and the context of the MySpace page made it clear who she was, the Court said.

But the claim that the actions of the school principal were sufficiently extreme and outrageous to result in liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress may yet succeed, the Court said.

Moreno's case claims that the school principal Roger Campbell's actions were designed to punish her for the contents of the article, that he knew he did not have permission to submit it for publication, and that he intended to cause Moreno and her family emotional distress. The case said that the actions were extreme and outrageous, particularly in the context of his being the school principal.

The Court refused to strike out this claim and said that Moreno was entitled to a jury trial on the matter.

"Based on these allegations, we conclude that reasonable people may differ on whether Campbell’s actions were extreme and outrageous," said the ruling. "Accordingly, it is for a jury to make this determination."

The ruling can be downloaded from here.

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.