Taylor Swift’s lawyers threatened to sue a blog if it didn’t take down an article that refers to the pop superstar as a white supremacist sympathizer.
In a letter dated October 25, William J. Briggs, II, an attorney at Venable LLP, a firm based in Los Angeles, demanded Meghan Herning, editor of PopFront, retract and take down her article titled, “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.” Otherwise, Briggs said, “Ms. Swift is prepared to proceed with litigation.”
Herning’s 2,200-word article, posted on September 5, centers around Swift’s support among figures of the alt-right and neo-Nazi groups.
. . . .
Swift’s attorney charges Herning with malice and reckless disregard for the truth, claiming that “even a small amount of research shows that the notion that Ms. Swift either belong to or silently supports such an infamous and reprehensible group is a fabrication.”
The letter ends with a warning for Herning not to publish its contents.
“Any publication, dissemination, or broadcast of any of the letter will constitute a breah of confidence and a violation of the Copyright Act,” it states.
On Monday, the ACLU of Northern California came to Herning’s defense. In a letter addressed to Briggs, the group argues that the article is protected under the First Amendment.
“Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damager her reputation,” the letter reads.
The ACLU also contends that the copyright claims made in Briggs’ letter are “total nonsense” and malicious.
Link to the rest at Newsweek
The ACLU of Northern California released a statement about this matter. PG particularly liked the following bits:
“Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable,” said ACLU attorney Matt Cagle. “Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”
. . . .
“The press should not be bullied by high-paid lawyers or frightened into submission by legal jargon,” said Herning. “These scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, but I am not backing down.”
PG had never heard of PopFront prior to reading the OP and suspects a great many of the visitors to TPV and internet denizens in general had not either.
The attorney’s letter is a classic example of how to transform a complaint from a client from a minor, relatively private matter to a giant public fiasco.
PG has no doubt that Ms. Swift was quite upset when she contacted her attorney and further suspects that Ms. Swift is the source of much profitable legal business for the law firm. However, one of the responsibilities of experienced attorneys is to cool a client down and help the client avoid the consequences of turning a molehill into a mountain.
Counsel could followed his client’s wishes by sending out something that was obviously a boring form letter containing nary a quotable sentence to PopFront. He could have larded the letter with case citations guaranteed put any reasonable reader to sleep.
Instead, in PG’s litigiously humble opinion, the attorney’s letter poured a truckload of fuel onto a tiny little fire that would have otherwise burned itself out in a couple of days.
Here’s the letter from ACLU of Northern California to Swift’s attorney (and a lovely letter it is in PG’s musically humble opinion):