Win for Facebook In Anti-SLAPP Case Involving Country Artist

Cross v. Facebook, Inc., 2017 Cal. App. LEXIS 691 [Ct App Aug. 9, 2017, Nos. A148623, A149140]

A California Court of Appeals sided with Facebook, granting an anti-SLAPP motion and striking the complaint by Mikel Knight, a Country Rap/Urban Country artist. Knight filed a complaint against Facebook alleging six causes of action arising from a Facebook page inciting violence and death threats against Knight and his team.

As a part of Knight’s label’s marketing efforts, independent contractors were hired to drive vans throughout the country, promoting Knight’s music and merchandise. In 2014, two separate incidents occurred where drivers fell asleep at the wheel and were involved in car accidents, resulting in two deaths and one serious injury. Shortly after the incidents, a Facebook page called “Families Against Mikel Knight” was created by people related to the victims. Numerous individuals posted comments to the page inciting death threats and violence, and members of Knight’s promotion team were verbally threatened and physically assaulted. Knight requested Facebook remove the page after various business deals fell through due to its existence. Facebook refused.

The Court agreed with a special motion filed by Facebook to dismiss all six causes of action as they arose from protected activity and that plaintiffs could not show a probability of prevailing on any of them. The Court of Appeals instructed the trial court to enter an order granting the anti-SLAPP motion and strike the complaint.


Only Breach Of Contract Claim Survives in Ozzy Osbourne Guitarist Case

Rhoads v. Margolis, No. B249800 (Cal. App. Ct., 2d Dist. - Div. 7, Jan. 26, 2015).

Only a breach of contract claim survived in an action, brought by the family of a well-known rock guitarist who died in a 1982 plane crash, against Defendants based on the family's grant of the right to use personal information and memorabilia to make a documentary film about the deceased guitarist.  When the documentary project faltered, defendants instead published a book about the guitarist.  The family sued, alleging the book was based on materials they had provided for the exclusive purpose of making the documentary film.  Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint.

On appeal, the Court found that the Anti-SLAPP Statute (section 425.16) applied because the principal thrust of every claim was premised on the allegation that the defendants, in researching, writing and publishing the book, used the family's proprietary material provided solely for the purpose of the documentary.  Whether or not defendants violated the terms of the agreement, their conduct in writing and publishing the book qualified as a form of protected activity.  With the exception of the breach of contract claim, the family failed to establish a probability of prevailing on its claims. The fraud claim failed because there was no allegation that the defendants intended to create the book at the time of the agreement.  The misappropriation claim (based on the right of privacy) failed because the alleged acts did not implicate the personal privacy or publicity rights of the guitarist's family members.  Additionally, the life and death of the guitarist was a matter of public interest.  The unfair competition claim failed because plaintiffs had not articulated an actionable manner in which the public was likely to be deceived by the book or that consumers suffered substantial injury.