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MySpace diatribe brings death threats
That’s the recent message from a California appellate court. Those who post on MySpace cannot assert invasion of privacy claims if their words are republished in a newspaper without consent.
The case, California’s first on the issue, concerns a University of California student who ranted on her MySpace account about how much she hated her hometown of Coalinga in the Central Valley. The Coalinga Record, the local newspaper, published Cynthia Moreno’s "Ode." She sued the paper for invasion of privacy after members of the local community allegedly ran her family out of town and threatened to kill them.
The state appeals court, however, ruled she had no privacy rights to her internet speech.
"Here, Cynthia publicized her opinions about Coalinga by posting the Ode on MySpace.com, a hugely popular internet site," the 5th District Court of Appeal wrote. "Cynthia’s affirmative act made her article available to any person with a computer and thus opened it to the public eye. Under these circumstances, no reasonable person would have had an expectation of privacy regarding the published material."
However, the court said the woman could sue for infliction of emotional distress. Those allegations target the principal of the local high school who forwarded the MySpace essay to the newspaper for publication.
Cynthia Moreno’s family received death threats and a shot was fired at the family home, forcing the family to move out of Coalinga last year, according to the court. Due to severe losses, the father closed the 20-year-old family business.
The principal who forwarded the rant to the newspaper, according to court records, was Roger Campbell. Cynthia Moreno’s little sister was attending the school when the letter was published.
"We believed he foresaw there would be a serious reaction to this," the Moreno family attorney, Paul Kleven, said in an interview. The principal’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.
The court also ruled the local paper, which published Cynthia Moreno’s diatribe in the letter’s section, had a First Amendment right to publish the MySpace essay.
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