Courtney LoveCourtney Love has been in the news again recently, this time as the defendant in a defamation suit. The rocker has just settled for the impressive sum of $430,000. The forum for her defamation? Twitter.

The suit was filed by fashion designer Dawm Simorangkir, otherwise known as the “Boudior Queen,” after Ms. Love posted a series of comments about the designer on her Twitter account. The Twitter comments included statements that Ms Simorangkir was a thief and a criminal.

The settlement ends a long-standing embroilment between the singer and fashion designer. The dispute first centered around a $4000 payment for clothing, and ended with allegations Love had ruined the designers business through the series of tweets posted during a twenty-minute rant in 2009.

The complaint was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and a trial had originally be scheduled for late January but was postponed in order to facilitate settlement negotiations. The money will be paid out by Ms. Love in a series of payment ending in 2014.

This suit has raised a number of unique legal issues and is being touted as the first Twitter defamation lawsuit. If the case had gone to trial, it could have set a legal precedent for what qualifies as defamation on Twitter. Love argued that her Tweets were merely an expression of opinion that the average reader would not assume to be true. Furthermore, Love alleges that there was no proof of damage to the designer’s business.

The plaintiff, on the other hand, pointed to Love’s influence as an entertainer and the power of social media in disseminating damaging comments. So the legal question remains unanswered: Can the power of celebrity alone be enough to make opinions into defamation?

The defendant’s lawyer expressed his clients happiness with the large settlement value, and added, “One would hope that, given this disaster, restrain of pen, tongue and tweet would guide Ms Love’s future conduct.” The Internet has certainly made it possible to make public comments about others in a manner that did not exist when the principles related to defamation were established. It appears that Twitter users — in particular celebrities — need to censor themselves before tweeting negative comments.

— Donna Baldry

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