Courtney Love defends tweet at first-ever 'Twibel' case, could set precedent
Published Friday, January 17, 2014 8:11AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 17, 2014 8:41AM EST
A Twitter libel case involving singer and actress Courtney Love may set a legal precedent in the United States and Canada.
Love is being sued for defamation by her former lawyer over a tweet she posted from the now-suspended @CourtneyLoveUK account.
Other Twitter libel cases have been filed in the past, but this is the first “Twibel” case to make it to trial in the United States.
The case dates back to a tweet sent by Love in 2010, in which she suggested her former attorney Rhonda Holmes had been “bought off.”
Love had retained Holmes and her San Diego firm, Gordon & Holmes, to pursue a fraud case against the executors of her late husband Kurt Cobain’s estate.
“@noozjunkie I was f***ing devastated when Rhonda J Holmes Esq of san diego was bought off @fairnewsspears perhaps you can quote,” the singer tweeted.
Love was sent to trial after Judge Michael Johnson disagreed with her claim that her tweet was not defamatory because it represented an opinion. Love took the witness stand on Wednesday, and repeated that the tweet was merely an opinion.
Montreal Internet lawyer Allen Mendelsohn says it will be interesting to see whether the courts decide that there should be a different standard on Twitter.
"The conservation -- the way it happens in 140 characters -- is quite different than the average Internet site," Mendelsohn told CTV’s Canada AM.
And while it may be difficult to show libel in the U.S., it is much easier to prove in Canada.
"In Canada, you really only need to show that the statement lowers the reputation of the person who was tweeted about, and you also only need to show that it was published," Mendelsohn said. "Whereas in the United States, you would have show to that the statement is actually false."
Mendelsohn says the lawsuit is significant because it is the first one of its kind to make it to trial. The trial is expected to last just beyond the end of next week.
"If (Love) loses, it'll certainly set some sort of precedent, and given that it’s much easier to show defamation in Canada, you can certainly imagine a lot more lawsuits going forward."