California Supreme Court Reverses Anti-SLAPP Motion So FilmOn Libel Suit Can Proceed
In 2014, FilmOn, an internet-based television provider, sued DoubleVerify for libel, alleging that DoubleVerify wrongly classified FilmOn as a copyright infringer and adult content distributor, according to Media Post. DoubleVerify is a company that provides online media verification to advertisers, so when they published the claims against FilmOn, the company alleges that it caused harm to their relationships with advertisers, which is understandably so.
DoubleVerify chose to fight the libel suit with help from the anti-SLAPP law. Anti-SLAPP laws serve to provide a remedy from SLAPP suits. “SLAPP” is an acronym that stands for strategic lawsuits against public participation. SLAPP lawsuits have become a common tool used to silence those who criticize businesses, oftentimes regarding issues of local land development or the environment, according to the Reporters Committee For Freedom Of The Press.
According to Media Post, DoubleVerify used anti-SLAPP to argue that the statements they made about FilmOn in their report were matters of public interest. FilmOn then clapped back to their Anti-SLAPP claim, arguing that their reports were commercial and confidential and therefore not matters of public interest.
During trial, the judge and appellate court took the side of DoubleVerify, but when the case was taken to the California Supreme Court, FilmOn came out on top. According to Media Post, the Supreme Court ruled that the report was not protected by anti-SLAPP because it is not released to the general public. Instead, the report is distributed privately to paying clients for business purposes, therefore rejecting DoubleVerify’s position in the case.
This ruling could slow down the use of anti-SLAPP to secure companies speedy dismissals in similar cases. Many have argued that anti-SLAPP has been used too broadly but this decision makes it clear that issues of public interest must be taken into account in order to qualify for anti-SLAPP protection.
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