Even when a lawsuit is weak on merit it sometimes achieves its purpose. I will have no part in filing a meritless lawsuit, but sometimes it is appropriate to push the envelope.
Take the case of Tony La Russa, famous baseball manager. Like so many other well known people, someone hijacked his name and image on Twitter, leading many “followers” to believe that the musings coming from this Twitterer (Twitterite?) were coming from the real deal. La Russa tried to persuade Twitter to intervene and remove the fake identity, but sure as there is a fail whale, the fine folks at Twitter refused to cooperate.
La Russa filed suit and got a lot of grief for doing so, with most legal experts citing the Communications Decency Act (CDA) as a barrier to the suit. But, obviously, this is not a typical CDA situation. Yes, La Russa was seeking to hold Twitter liable for the “postings” of third parties, and that is classic CDA material. But there are some interesting side issues. For example, a website cannot encourage visitors to post copyrighted e-books for download and then expect to escape liability under the CDA because third parties are the ones actually posting the books. In that case, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act would trump the CDA. Like a copyright, people have a pecuniary interest in there own identities. Should Twitter be permitted to assist in those that would steal that identity?
The La Russa case will not be providing any answers to this question, because it has been withdrawn, but not before Twitter deleted the offending account. Most are reporting this story as a victory for Twitter, but didn’t La Russa get exactly what he asked for in the first place?
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