Even The Worst People, People Who Seek To Censor Others' Speech, Deserve Free Speech Protections
In a fascinating and instructive long read, Ken White at Popehat on the Crystal Cox saga:
This is how the rule of law works: we extend rights to the very people who would deny us those rights if they had the chance.
Ariel Castro imprisoned young women in his basement without anything resembling due process, but he got a lawyer and his days in court until he thoughtfully offed himself. We protected the Nazis' right to march at Skokie, and say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, dude, but it doesn't protect the free speech or assembly rights of others. We protect the right of Fred Phelps' family to protest at funerals even though the America of Phelps' dreams is a theocratic hellhole.
So it shouldn't be any surprise that we protect the free speech rights of the disturbed and vengeful blogger Crystal Cox, even though she abuses the legal system in an effort to censor and retaliate against people for criticizing her.
That's how we roll.
Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld Crystal Cox's First Amendment rights, and in doing so protected yours, and mine, in important ways. This post is about that decision, and about what Crystal Cox was doing to undercut the First Amendment while the Ninth Circuit was thinking about it. As you will see below, I am one of the people Cox has tried to silence with frivolous litigation even as courts were protecting her right to speak.
Marc J. Randazza, who, with his wonderful associates, defended me against the TSA worker who tried to get $500K out of me, also flies like Popehat -- going after only the true free speech violations. Popehat continues:
Marc Randazza -- who is a friend and occasional client, in addition to being a First Amendment badass -- is not one to take abuse lying down.
So when Cox registered a bunch of domains in his name (like marcrandazza.com and marcjohnrandazza.com) in order to bad-mouth him and sell advertisements, he fought back. The results have been very upsetting to Cox.
First, Randazza filed an action with the World Intellectual Property Organization, which resolves disputes over domain names. Marc chose wisely by proceeding narrowly -- he didn't seek to capture domains that were on their face critical or satirical, like marcrandazzasucks.com. Instead, he sought only to capture those domains that used his name in a way that caused confusion, on the theory that Cox registered those domains in bad faith to cause confusion and make ad revenue. Marc knew to narrow his claim like that because he's successfully defended satirical bloggers who use their targets' names in non-confusing and clearly satirical ways, like glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com. WIPO agreed, and awarded Marc several domain names that used his name in a confusing and non-satirical manner, and in the process noted that Cox registered the domains fraudulently to commit extortion.
...But Randazza wasn't done. He sued Cox in United States District Court in the District of Nevada. In his complaint, Randazza explicitly disclaimed any intent to sue Cox for theories like defamation or infliction of emotional distress. Instead, he accused Cox of registering domains in his name in order to make money of it, in violation of his rights, and as a pattern of extortion. He noted, for instance, one of Cox's posts titled "Marc Randazza Domain Name for Sale.. Here Kitty Kitty..." Based on that, Randazza articulated causes of action under the federal cyberpiracy and cybersquatting statutes, as well as under state right to publicity statutes. The gravamen of his claim -- and what distinguishes it from most cases of satirical websites -- is that Randazza alleged that Cox acted to extort money from him or make money through selling the domains or collecting other revenue.
Randazza's suit has been successful. United States District Judge Gloria Navarro first issued a temporary restraining order against Cox locking the domains to prevent their transfer, and making this finding:In this case, Defendants have embarked on a campaign of cyber-extortion. Specifically, Cox sent an e-mail to Plaintiff Randazza that informed him that she had purchased and, in that same email, informed him of her "need to make money." (Pls.' Mot. for TRO, Ex. 8, ECF No. 2-10.)
Judge Navarro later issued a preliminary injunction transferring the domains to Randazza.
First Amendment lawyer and scholar Eugene Volokh writes about his defense of Cox here, and how "Bloggers = Media."
Thank you -- Popehat, Randazza, and Eugene -- and all the lawyers out there ultimately defending the free speech of the rest of us with every case they take.