When Does Freedom of Speech Go too Far: Right to Sue for Invasion of Privacy — Chicago Libel Slander and Defamation Attorneys Near the Chicago Loop

If something is frequently discussed in public, does that warrant posting a video of it online for everyone with access to a modem to see? According to Terry G. Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, it does not.

Bollea has talked frequently and publicly about his sex life, but he apparently feels that talking about something and showing it are too very different things. While it has been his choice to talk openly about his sex life, it was not his choice to post online a sex tape involving himself and Heather Clem, the wife of Bollea’s former friend.

The news site Gawker received the video footage from an anonymous source and posted clips of it on its website, along with a full description of everything that happens in the full 30 minutes of video. The events were allegedly recorded via a security camera and without Bollea’s knowledge or consent.

Bollea blames his former friend, who had his name legally changed to Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. Clem had the tape made and kept it in his office. He claims the tape was stolen from his office and no one seems to know how it got into Gawker’s hands.

Bollea has filed claims for $100 million against Gawker, claiming invasion of privacy, emotional distress, and punitive damages to discourage others from engaging in similar practices. He claims if the jury does not side with him and punish Gawker for distributing clips of the sex tape online, it will mean the end of privacy for everyone.

Conversely, Gawker claims if Bollea is allowed to prevail in his lawsuit, it will mean the end of freedom of the press.

The freedom of speech and freedom of the press are revered as two of the most sacred rights of our country. But the right to personal privacy is also important and protecting all three rights has created a proverbial tightrope the courts have long had to walk. The Supreme Court has never said specifically where the line between privacy and freedom of speech lies and now the Internet has blurred that line even further.

In general, public figures have been less likely to win legal battles over breaches of personal privacy and defamation. The law values public discussion of public figures because that is generally considered to be in the best interests of the public. This makes the most sense when the term “public figure” relates to politicians who create and vote on the legislature that govern our country. It doesn’t make as much sense to apply it to actors, musicians, and other entertainers, and even less so when it comes to their sex lives.

Gawker is claiming that by publicly discussing the details of his sex life, Bollea himself has positioned the topic as a matter of public discussion. As such, the news site claims that by posting clips of the sex tape online, Gawker was simply taking part in the already public discussion.

Bollea argues that, although Hulk Hogan is a public figure and household name, that does not mean that Terry G. Bollea the person has forfeited his right to privacy.

Our Chicago libel and slander lawyers concentrate in this area of the law. We have defended or prosecuted a number of defamation and libel cases, including cases representing a consumer sued by a large luxury used car dealer in federal court for hundreds of negative internet reviews and videos which resulted in substantial media coverage of the suit; one of Loyola University’s largest contributors when the head basketball coach sued him for libel after he was fired; and a lawyer who was falsely accused of committing fraud with the false allegation published to the Dean of the University of Illinois School of Law, where the lawyer attended law school and the President of the University of Illinois. One of our partners also participated in representing a high profile athlete against a well-known radio shock jock.

Our Chicago defamation attorneys defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to post on Facebook, Yelp and other websites information that criticizes businesses and addresses matters of public concern. Our Chicago Cybersquatting attorneys also represent and prosecute claims on behalf of businesses throughout the Chicago area including in Naperville, Aurora and Sugar Grove, who have been unfairly and falsely criticized by consumers and competitors in defamatory publications in the online and offline media. We have successfully represented businesses who have been the victim of competitors setting up false rating sites and pretend consumer rating sites that are simply forums to falsely bash or business clients. We have also represented and defended consumers First Amendment and free speech rights to criticize businesses who are guilty of consumer fraud and false advertising.

Super Lawyers named Chicago and Oak Brook business trial attorney Peter Lubin a Super Lawyer in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation, and Consumer Rights Litigation. Lubin Austermuehle’s Oak Brook and Chicago business trial lawyers have over a quarter of a century of experience in litigating complex class action, consumer rights, and business and commercial litigation disputes. We handle emergency business lawsuits involving injunctions, and TROS, defamation, libel, and covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud or defamatory attacks on their business and reputations.

Lubin Austermuehle’s Elmhurst and Rolling Meadows defamation and slander lawyers have more than two and half decades of experience helping business clients unravel the complexities of Illinois and out-of-state business laws. Our Chicago business, commercial, class-action, and consumer litigation lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. From offices in Oak Brook, near Schaumburg, Lincolnwood, and Evanston, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest.

If you are the victim of a defamatory attack on your business or a consumer who has been sued to stop you from posting criticism of a business online at Yelp or anywhere else, contact one of our Oak Brook and Chicago defamation lawyers for a free consultation at 630-333-0333 or online by filling out our contact us form.

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