Question of the day: Does a Celebrity have a Right to Privacy on Facebook?
UK Law Student Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri runs a very popular blog site called Ghanacelebrities.com. Although operating out of the UK, he is a celebrity African blogger.
Leila Djansi is a famous Ghanaian filmmaker who resides in Ghana. She is, from all accounts, a brilliant one too. Chris-Vincent according to Leila Djansi routinely takes Leila Djansi’s status updates from Facebook and posts it on his blog. Djansi is upset and sends a scathing email to Chris and also threatens to sue Chris for invasion of her privacy, within 24hours, if he does not take down his posts.
Legal question: Can Djansi indeed be successful on a Tort Claim of Invasion of Right to Privacy?
I’ll touch on a few things, too busy to delve into as much details as I’d like:
First,celebrities, seriously, you are celebrities. Do you all really expect privacy on your Facebook wall or status updates, even if it’s your personal facebook accounts? You should expect privacy in your emails authored on your Facebook accounts but your status updates where your friends and friends of friends see everything, no.
Second, the trend in USA courts, which are now trying to figure the role of social media and the law, is to allow, during litigation when relevant, discovery of facebook, myspace and twitter tweets, status updates etc. So, if you want it private, get off facebook or use facebook emails.
Third, bloggers and non-bloggers alike can be subject to libel or defamation lawsuits if you go around tweeting or writing “mess” about a person, company or individual. Gone are the days people could just get behind a computer incognito, say anything and get away with it. The law is catching up slowly but surely and if you put it out there and it harms a person/company’s reputation, best believe you could and will get sued. It is easy to track IP address and when the Internet Service Provider is also hit with a suit for your actions, you can trust they will provide details about who you are ASAP. #Endofstory
Fourth, let’s get creative i.e. push the envelope in the potential Djansi v. Chris-Vincent suit. Why should Djansi sue under Tort law? Isn’t tort law a bit weak? Why not try copyright law? Djansi can argue, “look I created my work, I own it. I never gave permission for it to be republished so you infringed on my copyright when you did this.” Obviously, I am keeping this simple and broad for argument purposes. New age, new media, new arguments, not so? But, Djansi would still have a hard time getting over the hurdle of being a celebrity because, Chris-Vincent would argue, successfully I believe, “look I am in the UK and I used your work under the UK “fair dealing” prong of the UK Copyright Act.” Under the “fair dealing” theory, there is a no infringement because “fair dealing” explicitly excludes “criticisms and news reporting.” Here I reported your drama that you put out there in a public forum. I am a celebrity blogger in the business of reporting celebrity entertainment news. Too bad so sad, deal with it.” This is like a “Fair Use” doctrine in the USA.
Bottom line, you don’t want your business out there, then refrain from using your Facebook or other social media accounts in a way that puts your business out there. Also, as Facebook continues to blur the line when it comes to privacy, it becomes harder to argue with a straight face that you expect privacy in Facebook. Really? Like really, really? It is a total waste of your time and stress, although your attorney would not complain because he/she gets paid.
Finally, a HUUUUUUUUGE ISSUE HERE IS what law applies. There is a legal doctrine called “Conflict of Laws.” Djansi is in Ghana, Chris-Vincent is in the UK. Chris allegedly caused harm to Djansi. Can Djansi sue him in Ghana? She can sue him in the UK but what about Ghana? What law applies? This has become the main issue in contention where the internet collides with the law. Courts must answer and show the power they have to force a defendant into their courts to answer to claims against the defendant.
In the USA, the courts would answer this through an analysis of a legal doctrine called “Personal Jurisdiction.” I like the article here on this doctrine for the curious minded among you.
In the meantime, can’t we just get along? Not! Then, there would be no need for lawyers. Imagine a world without lawyers? I can’t.
See the emails and read the Djansi v. Chris Vincent story here.
Photocredit: Washington Examiner