...specifically, a threatened lawsuit for calling someone an "asswipe" on Twitter. After getting in a feud with fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir over some money, Love tweeted a twenty-minute rant about her nemesis, including the (unprovable?) allegation that Simorangkir was an "asswipe nasty lying hosebag thief."

Which is not a nice thing to say. But I'm unsure why Simorangkir was then able to legally pressure Love out of $430,000. The Hollywood Reporter says that "[t]he fashion designer... pointed to Love’s influence as an entertainer and the power of social media to disseminate damaging comments..." But doesn't the First Amendment protect even wealthy, profane grunge widows?

I mean, only a week ago, a judge threw out a lawsuit brought against Jerry Seinfeld by a cookbook author named Missy Chase Lapine. Lapine had alleged that Seinfeld's wife, Jessica, had ripped off Lapine's book, Deceptively Delicious, for a cookbook of her own. In response, Seinfeld had called Lapine a "wacko" and a "nutjob" in a bunch of late-night TV interviews. Lapine sued for slander, but to no avail. Maybe someone on Courtney Love's legal team just reasoned that Love might not make as attractive a witness as Jerry Seinfeld.

Commentarium (4 Comments)

Mar 04 11 - 8:51pm
Ken O'Brien

The ignorance of the media (Nerve.com in this particular case) and the general public over first amendment rights versus libel and slander is incredible.

The First Amendment - basically - says the government can't in advance prohibit speech or punish public employees from making it. Libel and slander are private sector ways to address lies in civil court.

Mar 05 11 - 2:20am

I haven't seen Love's whole statement, but the quoted part is constituionally protected opinion and hyperbole. (The First Amendment protects speakers against civil liability as well as criminal liability for what they say. The involvement of the courts in private libel damage actions is, by itself, sufficient government involvement to implicate the First Amendment.) Libel and slander require a defamatory, false statement of fact -- something that can be objectively proven false or true. There is no such thing as a "false opinion." It's possible that the term "thief" could be libelous if a reasonable reader would think that the plaintiff had actually stolen, but from context it could easily be hyperbole meaning "over-charging," which, again, is opinion. Another possibility is that in the balance of what Love wrote, she implied that she knew facts that she did not disclose; implied, undisclosed facts may also be actionable.

Finally, Love's lawyers may also have figured the cost of defending the suit would be substantial. Many libel plaintiffs win at trial and only lose ultimately on appeal. The courts have noted that the in terrorem effect of libel suits has a chilling effect on free speech. Love may simply have decided to get this over with and pay the designer, not her lawyers.

Mar 06 11 - 12:03am
Ken O'Brien

profrobert doesn't seem to be able to distinguish between a government prohibtion on speech and the fact that individuals are responsible for their untrue speech if it damages another.
The First Amenment (from the Bill of Rights) - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Slander (from dicionary.com) - a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report

Mar 06 11 - 10:09pm

That's right, you guys. Simorangkir is, beyond any suspicion of doubt, an asswipe AND a hosebag. It's just a fact!

Um. While you're poking through your "dicionary" over there - do you know what "hyperbole" means? Or "opinion"?