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Aerosmith frontman Steven Tallarico, better known as Steven Tyler, filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court for the State of California on Wednesday, September 24, 2008, against several unnamed bloggers. Tyler is seeking damages and an injunction to stop the defendants, referred to in the complaint as “Does 1 through 20,” from impersonating Tyler and his girlfriend Erin Brady in online blogs.
Apparently, the defendants took Tyler’s instruction to “walk this way, talk this way” a little too seriously when they allegedly impersonated Tyler in two different blogs “in a manner that represents to the public that the statements contained therein [were] being made by [Tyler] when in fact they [were] not.” On the first blog, thirty-two diary entries were posted by “ST,” with the first entry appearing in December 2007. Each post contained pictures of Tyler, as well as facts describing Tyler’s relationship with either Brady, his children or his mother. While Tyler’s impersonators revealed intimate details about “ST’s” love life, Tyler, in his complaint, claims that “the impersonated statements related to [Tyler's] mother are perhaps the most hurtful given that she recently passed away.” On the second blog, seven entries posted by “EB” were written from Brady’s perspective and contained fabricated thoughts and commentary. Upon discovering the blogs, Tyler’s attorney notified Google that the blog entries were being written by an impostor, and requested that Google take down the blogs. Google promptly complied.
Tyler filed his lawsuit in California, which is not surprising given California’s generous statutory right to recover for the unauthorized use of another’s “name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness.” The lawsuit alleges three causes of action: (1) public disclosure of private facts, (2) “false light,” and (3) common law misappropriation of likeness. In support of these claims, Tyler asserts that the defendants knowingly circulated private and fabricated facts about his life without consent in a manner that served no legitimate public interest and would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. Tyler claims that the defendants circulated the sham blog entries in order to gain personal and commercial benefits. Tyler further alleges that he sustained, and will continue to sustain, general and special damages (including damages to his reputation, personal feelings and loss of publicity value) as a direct and proximate result of the defendants’ malicious and fraudulent conduct.
While Tyler’s complaint understandably lacks details, the facts Tyler provides indicate that his case does not have “what it takes” to reach a victorious outcome. Given Tyler’s fame and the public’s genuine interest in the rich and famous, many of the disputed statements are likely to be considered newsworthy and of legitimate concern to the entertainment news-following public. Further, it is unclear what personal benefits an anonymous blogger could receive from a blog that did not advertise any product or include self-promotion.
The multitude of obstacles Tyler will face in proving this far-fetched lawsuit makes this blogger wonder if the outcome will leave Tyler walking away from the lawsuit with a “three mile smile“– or maybe just “cryin’.”
–Laura Jill Robinson
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