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Posted at 2:57 PM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Courtney Love Twitter trial, husband's e-mail prying and the impostor Nike shoe: 3 cyber trials to watch

By Melissa Bell
Courtney Love (Kyle Gustafson/The Washington Post)

Three court cases have popped up in the past few months that may give people pause about the way they use the Internet. Here's the run down:

Courtney Love's Twitter trial

Courtney Love is not known for reserved Twitter behavior. The musician has used it to send odd tirades to her teenage daughter, she's posted naked photographs of herself, and she accused a fashion designer of being a "drug-pushing prostitute with a history of assault and battery who lost custody of her own child," the Hollywood Reporter says.

While most of her antics lead to good celebrity gossip fodder, the last action could cause serious legal trouble for Love. The fashion designer, Dawn Simorangkir, is taking Love to court and it could end up costing Love millions of dollars in damages. The trial starts Jan. 18 and may set precedents for how liable users should be for sending information out into the Twittersphere.

On trial here: How influential is a tweet? Do followers see tweets as opinion or as fact?


A husband's e-mail snooping

A Michigan couple is at odds over e-mail privacy. Clara Walker has filed charges against her ex-husband after he read her e-mails. He could face up to five years in prison for hacking charges. Leon Walker contends he was looking to see whether his wife was cheating on him and whether she was putting their daughter in danger while conducting the affair. The e-mail confirmed his suspicions about her infidelity. Clara Walker, however, spoke to "Nightline" and said her privacy was violated and that she had already filed for divorce before her husband peeked into her e-mails.

On trial here: What is communal property in a marriage? Like a postal package, can husbands open their wives' e-mail without repercussions or is e-mail a separate thing?


Nike sues over counterfeit shoes

When Nike discovered a shipment of counterfeit trainers at the U.K. border, rather than go after the manufacturers, it chose to sue the purchasers. Most of the cases settled out of court or were otherwise ignored, but one buyer fought back, filing a case against Nike asserting that he did not know he was purchasing impostor shoes and should not be held accountable. The court case was settled in October in favor of Nike. According to U.K. trademark law, the intent of the buyer does not matter: "Whether or not the defendant believed the goods were authentic is irrelevant to the question of trade mark infringement," the filing declared.

On trial here: How much is it the responsibility of customers to vet their online purchases?

By Melissa Bell  | January 5, 2011; 2:57 PM ET
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I love Courtney, and if she says bad stuff about somebody, I believe her. She isn't as bad as so many people think she is. She must have a very good reason to say what she did about that Boudoir Queen person. I hope Courtney wins and nobody ever buys that Etsy druggie ladies stuff again! GO COURTS!
p.s. Courtney has a big VERY loyal fan group and we all support her and believe her. Ask any of us on Twitter or Facebook. BOOooooooo to Dawn whatever her name is. :/

Posted by: MLink | January 5, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I have no idea as to what legal minds might have to say about those stories, but I think common sense suggests we look at the intent or the "spirit" of the law.

Tweets are sort of an unholy blend of publishing and speech, so I can see that some mixture of libel/slander laws would apply - especially since Love clearly intended to damage the designer's reputation. That said, given that Courtney Love has a pretty strong reputation with the general public for being a tad bit unstable, I can't imagine too many people are going to take the accusations seriously. I think the person most damaged by Love's Tweet is Courtney Love.

Regarding the cheatin' spouse. We have hacking laws because it is in society's best interest if certain things, like our ATM pin numbers, are kept secret. But I don't think being a philanderer really applies here. That is, the real intent of the hacking laws is not to prevent hacking in and of itself, but to prevent legitimate secrets from being exposed. I don't think protecting an illicit affair is really what the authors of the law had in mind.

The same sort of thinking applied to the Nike story. The intent of trademark laws is to prevent consumer confusion. It isn't to punish people for buying fakes. I mean, in theory, the consumer is being victimized by the counterfeiters because they are getting shoddy goods. So, again, I think the law is being used for a purpose other than its original intent.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 5, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Re: Simorangkir v Love

This case is likely to have significant ramifications for protecting reputations tarnished by defamatory material published on the internet worldwide. Following the recent passing of the Speech Act in the US, it has become more difficult for a US citizen to bring a defamation action in another country unless it can be established that a US Court would have entertained similar proceedings. If Dawn Simorangkir is successful in her case, it will immediately improve the prospects for suing US based internet service providers in the UK and other European countries. At present, US and offshore ISPs can effectively publish whatever they like with impunity.

Paul Tweed
Senior Partner
Johnsons Solicitors
Belfast | Dublin | London

Posted by: PaulTweed | January 11, 2011 4:12 AM | Report abuse

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