Too bad it wasn’t a published ruling. Otherwise, staples of Hollywood gossip like Us Weekly and In Style might have to thank a “tabloid magazine” in Finland for lowering the bar as to what constitutes
good taste public interest, in the eyes of California law.
You can read this week's opinion (.pdf) for all the juicy details about what the cast and crew of "Into the Blue" — the 2005 flick starring Jessica Alba — supposedly saw when they hung out at the Bahamian villa of a “fashion celebrity” (the court’s term, not ours). Suffice it to say, plaintiff Peter Nygard — apparently a man with Finnish roots who now heads a big Canadian clothing company — disputed pretty much all of it.
The upshot, though, was that the publication, Iltalehti, got the defamation suit thrown out by calling it a SLAPP, or a strategic lawsuit against public participation — an argument that hinged on whether the article was about “an issue of public interest.”
Two of the three justices said: Of course. “The film and fashion industries, as well as the lifestyle of someone rich and famous, are all matters of interest to the news-consuming public.” Not that Legal Pad is one to throw stones, but this all makes us wonder what’s on the justices’ bookshelves …
To be fair to the majority — Paul Turner writing, Sandy Kriegler concurring — their opinion does seem to give some weight to the context of the reporting. The writer said she got her information at a Beverly Hills press conference for the movie’s release, where she interviewed the film’s actors and director.
The dissent came from Justice Richard Mosk, who agreed with L.A. County Superior Court Judge Irving Feffer that the anti-SLAPP argument shouldn’t apply here.
The majority opinion, by the way, is also notable for its substantial citations — down to the page number — of past books or whatever that got into the “sexual conduct and lifestyles” of famous people like Spencer Tracy, or John Belushi.
— Pam Smith