Monday, May 05, 2008

SOTT defends its free speech rights

I am watching this case that I previously posted on very closely. As I mentioned before, it seems like one heck of a free speech issue to me. And since the powers that be are clamping down so much on freedom, it would be interesting to see the outcome. I am glad that SOTT is not going gently into the night but instead is vigorously defending themselves and by proxy our right to state OPINIONS on matters of FACT. I am glad other web citizens are picking up on it too. Too bad more people are not. I am reminded of this:
First they came for the Communist and I did not speak out--because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the Socialist and I did not speak out--because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionist and I did not speak out--because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out--because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me."
----Reverend Martin Niemueller

It seems that friends of Mr. Pepin or maybe they're just individuals who see the case differently than I do, are going to little read blogs like yours truly to defend him. Free speech and all. I have no issues with them posting what they think about the case as long as they are not using foul language and threatening harm. I may not agree with what is said, but I certainty will support the right for it to be said. SOTT seems to be fighting back by asking for a dismissal of the case.

QFG and SOTT.net defend Internet First Amendment rights.

SOTT.net - May 02, 2008

(PRNewsChannel) / Portland, Oregon - Quantum Future Group, Inc. ("QFG"), the only defendant that has been served in an Internet defamation suit brought by New-Age guru Eric Pepin's sales company, has forcefully challenged the merits of the case and has asked an Oregon federal judge for a dismissal and attorneys fees.

The case concerns postings on a forum hosted by SOTT.net (Signs of the Times), an Internet site devoted to news and analysis in various fields, including analyzing and exposing cults. Citing Oregon's anti-SLAPP ("Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation") statute, QFG contends that the statements about Pepin and his company, Higher Balance Institute, LLC ("HBI") are constitutionally protected. Because HBI cannot show that it probably will prevail, QFG argues, the case must be dismissed before QFG or the other defendants must spend large amounts to defend themselves.

"Without exception," the motion states, "the statements are all constitutionally protected expressions of opinion rather than verifiable assertions of fact. HBI cannot meet its burden to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the statements are false, let alone that Defendants knew that they were false or had serious doubts as to their truth."

The statements cited in QFG's complaint question Pepin's meditation techniques and comment on Pepin's 2007 trial on multiple sexual charges involving a 17-year-old male acolyte. The statements at issue include a November 7, 2007 comment that "It's really starting to look like this Eric Pepin and his Higher Balance Institute may be merely COINTELPRO and a front for pedophilia" and a November 4, 2007 comment by an anonymous poster that something "fishy" was going on at HBI.

QFG's motions state that the forum posts are opinion based on stated facts published on a mainstream news source and are constitutionally protected. The motion also argues that the operator of an Internet forum cannot be liable for the posts of third parties under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 ("CDA") and questions Oregon's jurisdiction over QFG, a California non-profit corporation whose primary place of business is in France.

"These are exactly the sort of statements that the First Amendment and recent statutes protect as free speech," said QFG attorney Stephen Kaus, who prepared the papers with his colleagues Walter Hansell and Merrit Jones. "People are entitled to believe in gurus such as Pepin and buy their books and courses for hundreds of dollars or more, but people are also entitled to point out their view that the techniques of telepathy and development of a sixth eye promoted by Pepin are nonsense."

Much of the dispute concerns Pepin's trial on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor. Pepin was acquitted in a court trial because the judge did not feel the charges had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. According to the article in the Oregonian, Washington County Circuit Court Judge Steven L. Price stated that it was, " 'probable that the conduct alleged in all counts occurred,' but he wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt" and "called the leader of a metaphysical Internet sales company manipulative and controlling and his testimony unbelievable, even as he acquitted him today of charges that he had sex with an underage boy."

SOTT.NET posters point out that being found "not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" is not the same thing as being found "innocent of all charges."

The sexual charges aside, the SOTT.NET forum topic on Pepin and HBI has been the site of a lively debate on whether he is an exploiter, ever since a visitor posted an inquiry about them in 2006. Several Pepin devotees have posted fervent praise, while others have denounced him as a power-lusting cult leader who takes advantage of gullible followers.

SOTT.NET contends that it is the public's right to examine the claims of any company selling a product or service to the public and to form their own opinion as to whether it is "snake-oil" sold by con-artists or not and that those opinions may be made public for the safety of consumers.

In a previous press release, atty Walter Hansell noted: "HBI's lawsuit is a frontal assault on free speech, and on the free global flow of information and opinion on the Internet. It is a blunt force attack on the discussion of sincere opinions among people sharing common interests."

See: http://www.prnewschannel.com/absolutenm/templates/?a=423&z=4

Following the filing of the motions to dismiss on April 25th, Walter Hansell of Cooper, White & Cooper said: "The intent of this suit by HBI is to stifle free speech, but luckily the anti SLAPP statute allows us to nip the matter in the bud before the cost is out of hand."

About Signs of The Times:
SOTT.net is an independent alternative news and analysis outlet that seeks to shine a spotlight on significant events and trends that affect the entire world. SOTT.net helps bring clarity out of a sea of media spin. The site is funded entirely by donations from individuals and groups that seek to support its work. For more information visit http://www.sott.net

About Quantum Future Group:
Quantum Future Group (QFG) supports activities that bring together people to engage in and to promote the study of scientific ideas and research in all scientific and socio-cultural fields that further the deepest understanding of our world and our place within it without regard to nationality or ethnicity. QFG seeks to increase the understanding of humankind by humankind, as a whole, by sponsoring research into all the parts to see how they fit together. QFG supports documented research that is made freely and widely available to all humanity. For more information visit:http://quantumfuturegroup.org

About Cooper, White & Cooper LLP:
Cooper, White & Cooper LLP, based in San Francisco, is longtime defender of free speech and communications. For more information visit http://www.cwclaw.com/

Contact: Joseph Quinn
Email: : sott@sott.net
Phone: : +33 563 048231
Web site: www.sott.net
To view this press release online

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:45 PM

    http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message115499/pg149


    It seems to me that Laura is once again confusing issues regarding
    protection of free speech. She has done this in the past and apparently
    did not learn from her experiences. Not surprising, for those who know her.

    The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects the **right** to free speech. It does *not* protect one from any and all possible consequences which may result from speaking freely.

    As such, it would seem to me that her motion to dismiss is beside the point. This is a civil action, not a criminal action. The issue at hand is not whether or not Laura Knight-Jadczyk has the right to free speech. The issue is whether or not the results of her speaking freely about someone else has resulted in financial and/or other damages occurring to that person and/or his enterprise. And further, whether or not the plaintiff has the right to demand compensation as overseen by the Court for these alleged damages.

    I would think that Pepin's lawyers would be competent enough to be able to make that distinction before the Court in their counter argument. Likewise, I am a bit surprised that Laura's counsel would try to take this tack, considering that protection of free speech is not the issue here.

    And that brings the issue back to just what the First Amendment provides for one with regard to free speech. It appears that Laura, as in the past, honestly believes that she and QFG are to be allowed to say whatever they want to, anytime they want to and about anyone, anywhere and in any way that they could possibly conceive, without suffering any sort of consequences for this in any form or fashion or from any direction or entity whatsoever.

    But again, this is a civil action. The State has not stepped into the fray, demanding punishment for criminal malfeasance. A private individual has sought financial damages in a civil court, relating strictly to civil matters.

    Libel is normally pursued as a civil action and no division of government manages its conveyance. It is only when someone requests a hearing in a civil proceeding that the issue is debated and only then does the court pronounce a verdict.

    It will be interesting to see how the Court in Oregon responds to this motion to dismiss.


    http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message115499/pg154

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous2:46 PM

    The above commenter seems disappointed that a valid and potentially viable strategy has been employed to defend against Pepin's scurrilous lawsuit.

    It also seems like this person is practically saying that Laura/QFG are not defending themselves the way that HE/SHE would have them defend themselves: "hey! you are very well protecting yourself from a lawsuit that should be able to shut you down - no fair!"

    Of course the person can't say it outright, so it is veiled in "points" made about how this is really a civil case and not the affront to free speech that it is. After all, these were comments made on a website we're talking about here.

    As attorney Walter Hansell noted: "HBI's lawsuit is a frontal assault on free speech, and on the free global flow of information and opinion on the Internet. It is a blunt force attack on the discussion of sincere opinions among people sharing common interests."

    Further, I do not think that Laura/QFG would not expect certain consequences to arise from the writings that occur on SoTT. In fact it would be hard to imagine them producing and contributing to this website without some expectation of being attacked. Of course, some attacks are more ridiculous than others...

    ReplyDelete
  3. http://www.opednews.com/articles/Sneak-attack-on-Internet-f-by-Mr--Blint-080704-140.html

    An update ya might wanna post.

    Puh-lease, GLP? That forum is sooo fulla trolls and nonsense I can't believe someone actually cited it as a source. I also think the above bit from oped gives a clear indication of who is the sordid party in this lawsuit. My vote goes to the underdog - Speek Freely and Not Be Sued for it!

    ReplyDelete

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