Our first two items concern California.  First, another interesting “free speech” case.  In Anderson v. City of Hermosa Beach, the Court of Appeals of the 9th Circuit ruled that Hermosa Beach, California could not ban tattoo parlours because tattooing is a “purely expressive activity” protected by the First Amendment. 

Judge Bybee concluded

“In sum, we hold that the tattoo itself, the process of tattooing, and the business of tattooing are forms of pure expression fully protected by the First Amendment. We further hold that the City’s total ban on tattoo parlors in Hermosa Beach is not a reasonable “time, place, or manner” restriction because it is substantially broader than necessary to achieve the City’s significant health and safety interests and because it entirely forecloses a unique and important method of expression. Moreover, no genuine issue of material fact exists with respect to the constitutionality of the regulation”.

The case is mentioned on the Volokh Conspiracy blog in post entitled “Tattoos as Speech” – the post some interesting comments on the subject of tatoos and freedom of expression.

Second, it is reported that on 31 August 2010, the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 2479 to crack down on paparazzi photographers who harass celebrities.  The Bill is now awaiting Governor. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature.  Details of the Bill can be found here – we have considered the Bill in an earlier post. The Unruly of Law blog has a post on this.

The activities of “Pastor” Jones have been the subject of worldwide media attention this week.  We had a post on the case yesterday.  Associated Press traces the recent developments – with the threatened “Koran burning” event being on and off, on again and, finally, off.  One interesting feature of this story is how an obscure “Pastor” became an international phenomenon.  Roy Greenslade traces the history of this in a blogpost entitled “How the Qur’an buring pastor became an international story”. The ACLU blog of rights has a, perhaps predictable, post defending the “Pastor’s” right to burn books entitled “An Ugly, but Legal, Form of Free Speech”.  Religious fundamentalism has the support of free speech fundamentalism.

In the case of Ken Aronson v. Dog Eat Dog Films, Inc. (Case No. C10-5293) film maker Michael Moore successfully invoked Washington State’s revised anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute in ruling against Aronson, whose voice and image appeared in a 71-second snippet of Moore’s Oscar-nominated documentary Sicko, which focused on the U.S. health care system.  The case is the subject of a post at the Unruly of Law blog

“Yelp!” is an interactive website designed to allow the general public to write, post, and view reviews about businesses. In Reit v. Yelp! a dentist brought a claim for defamation against Yelp! as a result of an anonymous negative review.  The claim failed as a result of section 230 of Communications Decency Act which shielded the site as interactive computer service.  The Court dismissed an argument based on claims about manipulation of reviews. The case is discussed on the Internet Cases blog and also on the Rebecca Tushnet blog.

Billionaire real estate mogul Jeffrey Greene, who lost Florida’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary race has filed a 55-page defamation lawsuit in Miami Dade Circuit Court against The St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald.  He seeks $250 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.  The Unruly of Law blog has a post on the case and it is also considered on the Newsroom Law Blog and in the New York Times.

A defamation claim has been brought by an insurance agent called Douglas Heimowitz against Random House on the basis that he was defamed in a memoir about a gambler with a criminal record.  He says that he is “the only individual in the United States bearing the name Douglas Heimowitz,” but that the hero of “Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling” shares his name and some of his characteristics – and has other, unsavoury characteristics, which he does not.

Finally, the Concurring Opinions blog has an interesting post on“Reputation bankruptcy”.  The suggestion is that people be given the choice to deemphasize if not entirely delete older information that has been generated about them by and through various systems: political preferences, activities, youthful likes and dislikes.  The post draws attention to Daniel Solove’s book The Future of Reputation: gossip, rumor and privacy on the Internet – which is available online for free here.