By IT-Lex Intern Karina Saranovic (LinkedIn)
Steve Carbone, who goes by the online handle “Reality Steve“, runs a blog that’s focused on reality TV. He has a network of insiders who feed him scoops, and he publishes spoilers about upcoming episodes of shows including ‘The Bachelor’ – particularly, the secret about which contestant is going to be eliminated in any given upcoming episode. Not surprisingly, producers of ‘The Bachelor’ aren’t too crazy about Reality Steve, and last year sued him for “attempting to induce contestants into breaching their confidentiality pledges”. That case settled in the summer, but last month, producers filed new papers against him, claiming a violation of the terms of the settlement.
The Hollywood Reporter covers the story, and via Carbone’s motion to dismiss, lays out the terms of the settlement, and Carbone’s interpretation thereof:
For five years, he is not to contact directly or indirectly any cast, crew or employees of The Bachelor. But the agreement arguably contains a loophole. He is not barred from being contacted by the cast, crew or employees. In such instances, he is barred from offering or paying any financial inducement for nonpublic details about the show.
More precisely, Carbone’s attorney, argues that, “The language of the Settlement Agreement is important because it establishes a number of permissible ways in which Defendants could obtain information concerning the Series, none of which would run afoul of the Settlement Agreement.”
Predictably, producers haven’t embraced this reasoning, and have thus filed a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suit. Since a successful SLAPP suit would freeze his speech, Carbone voices that “plaintiffs are using the court system improperly to interfere with his First Amendment rights.”
Accordingly, Carbone and Davis have filed a) a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and b) an anti-SLAPP. Carbone urges that his “website qualifies for protection under the anti-SLAPP statue because “information concerning contestants on reality television shows has been held to be a matter of public interest.””
If the judges side with Carbone, “the burden would shift to producers to demonstrate that they have a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of their allegations.” It should be interesting to see how this one plays out.
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