The Small Penis rule

February 8th, 2012

The small penis rule is a tactic that writers can employ to avoid libel suits:

One way authors can protect themselves […] is to say that a character has a small penis, Mr. Friedman said. "Now no male is going to come forward and say, 'That character with a very small penis, that's me!'"

Given that the basis for the Wikipedia article that defines the rule appears to be a single New York Times article (quoted above) in which precisely one writer uses the term in passing during a wider discussion about the perils of writing about real people, I have no idea whether the phrase 'small penis rule' is a genuine term of art among libel lawyers or just a throwaway line from one writer during an interview that somehow stuck in the reporter's mind. I'd say that if the term isn't widely used then it probably should be.

[Via Pop Loser]

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Denial

May 25th, 2009

Last.fm stand accused of allowing their parent company, CBS, to pass data about what tracks Last.fm's users have been playing to the RIAA.

Last.fm have flatly denied doing any such thing, but appear to be hamstrung by the fact that their corporate masters have yet to issue a statement backing up their denials.

Three observations:

  1. It's quite possible that Last.fm are sincere in their denials, but will be hung out to dry by CBS. That's the drawback of selling your company to a conglomerate with fingers in several pies.
  2. If I read one more comment to the effect that "If CBS/Last.fm don't sue Techcrunch for libel then we can only assume that the allegations are correct" I'll scream. Lawsuits are expensive and can take a long time to resolve; it's quite possible that some CBS executive will conclude that the cost/benefit analysis favours letting the story die down for lack of further evidence one way or the other and waiting to see if Last.fm haemorrhages users. The priorities of the management of CBS are not necessary aligned with yours. Or mine. Or those of Last.fm's management. And they're under no obligation to explain themselves to us, unless and until they find themselves in court.
  3. My favourite take on all this came courtesy of MeFi user verb:

    My theory? A service that deals with streaming music on the Internet today is balancing between two very tricky groups. The RIAA wants them to die in a fire, and has the ability to make life difficult. The general Stuff Wants To Be Free crowd wants the RIAA to die in a fire, and views music sharing services as either 'Friends in the struggle' or 'Collaborators with the RIAA.'

    Most services survive by dancing carefully between these two constituencies and NOT being drawn into a fight that pits them with one and against the other. Deny, deny, deny, and keep your head low whenever you can. That's the way you (hope to) survive long enough to develop a working business model.

I'm not planning to delete my Last.fm profile just yet, but I'll be watching for future developments.

[Via MetaFilter]

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After Godfrey

May 24th, 2009

Nine years after Godfrey, it's come to this:

Nadine Dorries, the Conservative frontbencher who claimed the Daily Telegraph's revelations on expenses could drive MPs to suicide, has had her blog shut down by lawyers acting for the newspaper.

[…] She had claimed that MPs were being "tortured" by the Telegraph's dripfeed of revelations.

The newspaper is understood to have acted after she made further allegations concerning the motivation of the newspaper's proprietors, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay. Withers, the lawyers acting for the Barclay brothers, are understood to have instructed the takedown, invoking the acceptable user policy used by internet service providers to protect themselves against libel action provoked by comments on websites they host.

I hope Dorries will repeat her allegations under the protection of parliamentary privilege.

[Via Ben Goldacre]

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