Too Much Media Moves Forward in Defamation Case

Jun 7, 2011 9:45 AM PST

TRENTON, N.J. — Too Much Media's defamation suit against blogger Shellee Hale moved forward after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that those posting on message boards don't have the same protections for sources as mainstream journalists.

With the high court ruling intact, Too Much Media now will be allowed to continue with its civil suit against Hale.

New Jersey justices, 5-0, said that the state's shield law for journalists does not apply to message boards because they are nothing more than forums for discussion and don't fit the definition of news media as described by the law.

"The court does not believe that the Legislature intended to provide everyone who posts a comment on an Internet message board an absolute privilege," Justice C.J. Rabner wrote for the court. "As a result, even under the most liberal interpretation of the statute, Hale’s use of a message board to post her comments is not covered under [New Jersey's] Shield Law."

The justices said they agreed with an earlier appeals court decision on Hale's status.

"The panel concluded that Hale did not meet the statute’s standard because, in part, there was no mutual understanding of confidentiality between defendant and her sources, she did not have credentials or proof of affiliation with a recognized news entity, she did not adhere to journalistic standards, she did not identify herself as a reporter to her sources, she did not contact Too Much Media to get their side of the story, and she assembled the writings and postings of others without creating her own independent product."

Hale’s connection with the online adult industry has been one best described as adversarial.

She was so incensed by the pervasiveness of adult material on the Internet in 2007 that she took it upon herself to begin an anti-porn campaign, which included gathering intelligence on the industry and developing a website called Pornafia.com.

According to court filings, she attended several adult entertainment industry conventions and created the monikers Sexyteaser and Sexyteaserguys, which she used to interact on various adult industry websites, including GFY.com and Oprano.com.

Hale later posted on Oprano that Too Much Media failed to inform customers of a security breach because she alleged it was making money off of it. The posts in 2007 alleged that breached Too Much Media data could have given hackers access to names and addresses of account holders, which the company denies.

New Jersey-based Too Much Media sued Hale, alleging she defamed the NATS affiliate- tracking software firm by claiming its principals, John Albright and Charles Berrebbi, threatened her and others.

The suit wasn’t the first filed against Hale over comments made on message boards. Montreal-based live-cam company 2Much Internet Services settled with Hale before that case went to trial earlier this year, 2Much owner Mark Prince told XBIZ in a previous interview.

With the ruling, justices remanded the case back to the lower court.

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