MySpace Diatribe Brings Death Threats

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.--David
, Threat Level (Wired)

The student’s high school principal forwarded her MySpace rant to the local paper, which (re)published her essay. I don’t think the principal should have done that, but the court has ruled that what Moreno wrote was public, so re-publishing it with attribution was not, in itself, and illegal action. If its true that someone in the community fired a shot at the house and her father had to close his 20-year-old business over an angry rant, that doesn’t make Coalinga look very good.

But the reason I’m blogging this is to point out (once again) that the First Amendment right to free speech simply prevents Congress from passing laws prohibiting citizens from speaking. That right does not insulate the speaker from the consequences (professional, academic, or personal) of choosing to exercise that right unwisely.

2 thoughts on “MySpace Diatribe Brings Death Threats

  1. Yes, that’s an interesting question. As I understand it, the newspaper was cleared as a defendant pretty quickly, I presume on the grounds that the MySpace publication already caused a reaction in the community, so the essay was a newsworthy document. Did reprinting the essay hurt its financial value? Probably not, since she had initially published it for free, on a public site.
    I am speaking hypothetically, of course, as I only know of this case from scattered media reports.

  2. I’m curious about intellectual property here, though. I agree with the court’s ruling about privacy here, but isn’t (under current legal parameters) this rant her intellectual property and re-printed without her consent?

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