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Four Navy Seals & Jane Doe v. AP - 413 F. Supp. 2d 1136 (S.D. Cal. 2005)

Rule:

California's Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (Anti-SLAPP) statute, Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16, encourages continued participation in matters of public interest and allows defendants to file a special motion to strike a cause of action based upon an act in furtherance of the right to free speech. Once a defendant establishes that the suit arises out of an exercise of free speech, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to present admissible evidence showing a probability of prevailing on the privacy claims by stating and substantiating a legally sufficient claim. A defendant who files a successful Anti-SLAPP motion to strike is entitled to attorneys' fees under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 425.16(c). Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16(b), (c) applies in federal courts.

Facts:

The complaint alleged that defendants invaded plaintiffs' privacy rights by discovering photos and widely distributing them along with a news story suggesting that some Navy SEALs engaged in abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Plaintiffs sought damages and injunctive relief. The court held that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for relief as to their three counts for invasion of privacy. Because plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of establishing a probability of prevailing on the claims, defendants were entitled to strike the privacy counts under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16, California's anti-SLAPP statute. The fatal defects in the privacy claims included the absence of an offensive or egregious invasion of privacy and plaintiffs' lack of a reasonable expectation of privacy in the photographs that the wife posted on her publicly-accessible website. Locating photographs on the internet and distributing them along with an article addressing a newsworthy issue of public concern was not offensive behavior. As to the copyright claim, plaintiffs failed to identify which works were infringed and when the works were registered.

Issue:

Was there an invasion of privacy and  copyright infringement?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court granted defendants' motion to dismiss and also granted defendants' motion to strike the three claims for invasion of privacy rights. The court granted defendants' implied motion to compel a more definite statement of the copyright infringement claim. The court directed plaintiffs to file an amended complaint within 30 days to clarify the allegations concerning the allegedly copyrighted photographs.

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