28 April 2006 by Published in: General News 2 comments

Thanks to Andy MacIsaac for bringing this to my attention with the post on his blog today.

Apparently, a blogger in Maine has been served with a multimillion dollar Federal law suit for stating his personal opinion on his blog. The blogger criticized certain spending policies of the State of Maine in posts on his blog, and was sued for copyright infringement and for defamation. Fortunately, there are some talented lawyers out there who are going to defend him pro bono, as this sort of thing absolutely terrifies me.

It terrifies me on several levels.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution creates and protects the right of freedom of speech. Opinion has traditionally been protected pursuant to the First Amendment, since the failure to protect the free expression of opinion will chill the free exchange of ideas and discourse. Traditionally, Americans have been free to express their opinions about the government freely and without fear of retribution. That’s always been part of the American way. The State of Maine, using some exceptionally heavy-handed tactics, has decided that the suppression of political dissent and the suppression of the free flow of ideas, is more important than the First Amendment. The State of Maine wants to quash the dissent by hitting the blogger with a sledgehammer. This is, in my humble opinion, governmental bullying in its worst form. Has Maine turned into the Third Reich? That it is occurring in a traditionally liberal state such as Maine makes it all the more reprehensible.

The other reason why this horrifies me is that as a blogger, I will now have to be worried about anything that I write. Andy MacIsaac put it quite well when he wrote: “If the Maine Department of Tourism can do this then what is to keep Pulitzer Prize winning authors from aiming their sights at the ACW Blogging community.” What comes next? Suing someone for writing an unfavorable book review?

Thus, I am deeply worried about this turn of events both as a lawyer who occasionally works in the arena of media law, and also as a blogger who takes pride in expressing my opinion freely in this blog. I think I might offer my services to the defense of this law suit on a pro bono basis. I normally would never consider such a thing–I have enough demands on my time–but this one REALLY bothers me a great deal, and I feel compelled to try to do something about it.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Valerie Protopapas
    Sat 29th Apr 2006 at 9:06 pm

    Why does this surprise anyone? First the entire understanding of the First Amendment was watered down when it was used to defend obscenity and profanity – neither of which was understood as protected by that Amendment in the minds of the Founders. First Amendment protection involved political and social comments directed at the social and political establishments. Indeed, it was ESPECIALLY designed to protect people who had extremely UNPOPULAR ideas to express.

    However, with the ‘watering down’ of the understanding of the Amendment to include naked bodies, violence and sexual situations on your TV screen, movies, recordings etc., this of necessity also cheapened the ORIGINAL meaning; that is, protecting one’s right to oppose government or cultural institutions. Ergo, this kind of speech was seen to have no greater value than the use of cuss words on television.

    As a result, when the ‘politically correct’ movement appeared, ‘free speech’ was ripe for an attack. Using the understanding of ‘can’t we all get along’, ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ (how I HATE that word!), people were criticized and even punished for their speech and, consequentially, their thoughts and opinions if they were considered belligerant or ‘hateful’. This same mind set even moved into the area of criminal justice and crimes were no longer judged by their nature, but by the possible motive of the criminal; that is, a crime against a person of a particular racial group or who had certain sexual preferences became a ‘hate’ crime and therefore of a more serious nature than if that same person had been just another member of ‘the majority’. Big Brother was everywhere, telling people what they could and couldn’t say and especially in public places (like the internet).

    Indeed, I don’t see how ANYONE can be surprised when the force of law is brought against someone who has uttered (or written) a sentiment that can be taken as ‘intolerant’ or ‘hateful’ – which I’m sure is the way that this ‘blogger’s’ comment is being categorized. It is wise in these days wherein ‘free speech’ is limited to those sentiments encouraged by the prevailing Spirit of the Age but disappears entirely when it runs counter thereto, that one watches very carefully what one commits to paper – or to a blog.

    V. P.

  2. Paul Taylor
    Sun 30th Apr 2006 at 7:44 am

    Sounds like a case that the ACLU should be interested in…

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