Monday, November 9, 2015

Obsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox is a 2011 case from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon concerning online defamation

Plaintiffs Obsidian Finance Group and its co-founder Kevin Padrick sued Crystal Cox for maintaining several blogs that accused Obsidian and Padrick of corrupt and fraudulent conduct. The court dismissed most of Cox's blog posts as opinion, but found one single post to be more factual in its assertions and therefore defamatory. For that post, the court awarded the plaintiffs $2.5 million in damages. This case is notable for the court's ruling that Cox, as an internet blogger, was not a journalist and was thus not protected by Oregon's media shield laws,[1] although the court later clarified that its ruling did not categorically exclude blogs from being considered media and indicated that its decision was based in part upon Cox offering to remove negative posts for a $2,500 fee.

Cox also asserted that even if the plaintiffs weren't public figures, in order for the plaintiffs to claim damages, they must prove actual malice because she is a "media" outlet. Here, the court again held that Cox did not qualify as "media". In its reasoning, the court cited her lack of a journalism degree, lack of affiliation with traditional media outlets, lack of adherence to journalistic standards such as fact-checking and fair coverage, and the absence of Cox writing any original material rather than assembling the works of others. As such, the plaintiffs could seek damages without any further evidence of actual malice.[6]

Reactions and current status after district court ruling

The holdings in this case re-ignited a public discussion over whether bloggers should be considered journalists and entitled to the same protections.[10] Cox suggested that this case "should matter to everyone who writes on the Internet" and that if she "[doesn't] win [her] appeal, we all lose".[1][11] Padrick responded by saying that "the concept of media [would be] rendered worthless [...] if anyone can self-proclaim themselves to be media". Padrick also pointed out the real damage done to his reputation and business by Cox, and stated his belief that he would have won the case even if Cox had been considered "media".[11][12][13] Subsequently, a World Intellectual Property Organization arbitration decision ordered the disputed domain names,,,, and all to be transferred to Marc J. Randazza.[14]
Cox's motion for a new trial was denied. Currently, Cox is seeking to appeal the judgment, citing First Amendment grounds. Obsidian has filed a motion to seize and sell Cox's right to appeal to help satisfy its $2.5 million judgment, on the grounds that Cox's appeal right is intangible personal property subject to seizure. Cox is attempting to block the seizure to proceed with the appeal.[15][16][17],_LLC_v._Cox

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