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Hulk Hogan Vs. Gawker Media And Nick Denton In Sex Video Case That Shows Gawker Runs Political Defamation “hit-jobs”

Hulk Hogan’s Suit Over Sex Tape May Test Limits of Online Press Freedom

 

 

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Hulk Hogan, right, with his lawyer David R. Houston, on Tuesday at the Pinellas County Courthouse in St. Petersburg, Fla., during the start of jury selection in his trial against Gawker. Credit Scott Keeler/Tampa Bay Times, via Associated Press

The details are tawdry all around: explicit video footage of Hulk Hogan having sex with the wife of a friend, taped without his knowledge and, years later, posted online by the popular website Gawker along with gleeful commentary.

No one involved in the flamboyant celebrity’s $100 million invasion of privacy lawsuit is likely to gain much public sympathy. But the lawsuit against Gawker, which prides itself as an irreverent source of news, raises what legal scholars say are important and largely unresolved questions about the line between privacy and free expression in the Internet era.

Opening statements are scheduled for Monday in a jury trial in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the county where the wrestler and reality television star, whose real name is Terry G. Bollea, was surreptitiously recorded in 2007.

 

Both sides are flinging doomsday superlatives. Mr. Bollea is demanding that Gawker pay a severe price for the intimate invasion and says that the privacy of every American is at risk. Gawker says that if Mr. Bollea’s claims prevail, the nation’s hallowed press freedoms could be crippled.

 

Continue reading the main story

When a Sex Tape is Newsworthy: Privacy in the Internet Era

The Hulk Hogan sex tape case is one of several high-profile suits in which the line between news and privacy has been blurred.

 

 

In 2012, Gawker posted one minute and 40 seconds of salacious excerpts from a 30-minute videotape that it said it received from an anonymous sender. Mr. Bollea sued, saying that his former friend, a radio shock jock who had changed his legal name to Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, made the tape without his knowledge. He said its online publication was cruel and crass, driven solely by the quest for clicks and profits.

Lawyers for Gawker Media and its chief owner and founder, Nick Denton, who is personally named in the lawsuit along with a former editor, argue that Mr. Bollea is a flashy celebrity who in radio appearances and writings had often discussed details of his sex life, stoking public fascination that, they say, made the topic fair game for journalists — a matter of “public concern,” in First Amendment parlance.

In particular, they said, the existence of the tape had been publicly discussed in the news media, and by Mr. Bollea himself, for several months before Gawker posted the excerpts.

“Gawker is defending its First Amendment right to join an ongoing conversation about a celebrity when others are talking about it and the celebrity is talking about it,” said the website’s chief trial lawyer, Seth D. Berlin of the firm Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz, in an interview.

“This is a crucial issue not only for Gawker, but for all media organizations,” he said.

But “conversation” is the critical word in that statement, countered Mr. Bollea’s personal lawyer, David R. Houston, who is part of the trial team. “There’s a world of difference between discussing something and showing a pornographic video, something that goes online and can be seen forever,” he said.

The lawsuit does not challenge Gawker’s right to publish the lurid description of the full tape’s contents that accompanied the video.

In appearances as the character Hulk Hogan, Mr. Houston said, Mr. Bollea is encouraged to say outrageous things. “But that does not mean that Terry Bollea the person has forsaken all rights of privacy,” he said.

If Mr. Bollea does not prevail, Mr. Houston said, “absolutely nothing will be private anymore.”

The tension between privacy rights and free expression is longstanding, and the dividing line has never been well defined by the Supreme Court, experts on the First Amendment said. But new conundrums are arising because the Internet can spread personal secrets so far and fast.

“This case is fascinating, and ultimately it comes down to a question of what is newsworthy,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine.

The difficulty, he and other experts said, is that the word “newsworthy” is inherently vague and different standards may apply to celebrities and private individuals who are victimized, as in revenge-porn cases.

“Clearly, the existence of the sex tape is newsworthy in the context of this particular celebrity,” said Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky, a law professor at the University of Florida. “But does that mean the actual tape itself is newsworthy?”

Gawker Media, which said it had revenues of $44.3 million in 2014, has already spent large sums defending itself against the lawsuit.

In January, the company announced that for the first time it had sold a minority stake to a private equity firm, Columbus Nova Technology Partners, “to help gird against any adverse decision,” Heather Dietrick, Gawker Media’s president and general counsel, said in an interview.

“It gives us the resources to continue to fight this case as long as necessary,” Ms. Dietrick said, seeking to dispel speculation that a large award of damages could bankrupt the company.

If the six-person jury finds against Gawker, the company has said it would appeal, which could result in a reversal of the verdict or a reduction of the monetary award. In the meantime, Gawker might have to post a large bond.

Mr. Houston, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said Mr. Bollea had asked for a large penalty to deter other publications as well as to compensate for emotional distress and harm to his legacy.

The case was set off in October 2012, when Gawker posted excerpts it compiled from the longer videotape, apparently drawn from a surveillance camera in the home of Mr. Clem and his wife, Heather Clem. Mr. Clem has claimed that a copy was stolen from his office, but how it came to be distributed remains unclear.

The accompanying text provided a graphic description of the tape by a former Gawker editor, A. J. Daulerio, who is also named in the suit. “Because the Internet has made it easier for all of us to be shameless voyeurs and deviants,” he wrote, “we love to watch famous people have sex.”

In their written complaint, Mr. Bollea’s lawyers called the posting a “massive, highly-intrusive and long-lasting invasion of Mr. Bollea’s privacy” and claimed that at least seven million people had viewed it.

His initial effort in federal court to force Gawker to remove the posting failed. Mr. Bollea then turned to Florida state court, where Judge Pamela A. M. Campbell required Gawker to take down the video pending a trial.

A state appeals court overruled Judge Campbell, saying she had not established grounds for taking the rare and weighty step of blocking publication.

While the injunction was lifted, Gawker did not repost the video, but the text remains online.

Gawker has reason to be worried about the trial, said Mary-Rose Papandrea, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Courts have in general been friendly to the media, and often will reverse on appeal decisions that came down against the media,” Ms. Papandrea said. “But the jury trials can be a wild card.”

Confidential files in Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit remain sealed

 

Sarah Palin, Scott Douglas Redmond, Mitt Romney and hundreds of others have charged Nick Denton and Gawker Media with simply being a sham front for the White House Press Office.

 

Huge numbers of people found themselves in business, or ideological competition with the White House or it’s campaign financiers. As soon as their products, or voices, become too effective, the following attacks took place in lock-step procedure, in each and ever case: 1.) Gawker Media would suddenly run a character assassination attack based on some convenient hack, leak or other thing that Gawker often seems to have arranged. 2.) Gawker markets the hell out of that one story 3. Google, Gawkers financial and political partner, locks the article on the top lines of the front page of its search engine, around the world, forever, and puts hidden codes in the links asserting that the Gawker article is “Fact”.

 

The FBI are now involved. The tracks lead right back to the White House. Ordering hit jobs on American citizens, like Hogan, seems to be the new trend. Hogan was being considered as a political spokesperson, of course, The White House had to have him taken down….just like they did to all of the rest of the victims. The years-long lead-up to the trial has been messy, with attorneys for Hogan accusing Gawker’s lawyers of releasing confidential information to the media from the video. Some of that information included Hogan making racist remarks. Hogan suffered swift backlash; World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. severed ties with him. In a statement, Hogan apologized for using “offensive language.”

Gawker denied that its lawyers leaked the information and said that many people had copies of the video, along with the audio and the transcript. Hogan, perhaps the biggest star in WWE’s five-decade history, was the main draw for the first WrestleMania in 1985 and was a fixture for years in its signature event, facing everyone from Andre The Giant and Randy Savage to The Rock and even company chairman Vince McMahon. He won six WWE championships and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 by Sylvester Stallone.
But he was able to transcend his “Hulkamania” fan base to become a celebrity outside the wrestling world, appearing in numerous movies and television shows, including a reality show about his life on VH1, “Hogan Knows Best.”

 

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