Meanwhile, I’m bringing you news of a less salacious sort — a tale of two lawsuits. One involves an artist who wants to get paid for his work and is suing a clothing company for breach of contract. The other features a university employee who wants to get paid for falling out of her allegedly defective chair and has filed a personal injury suit against the chair manufacturer (for breach of contact?).
The former gets to keep his Facebook and MySpace communications private, and the latter has to turn them over. Old electronic communications laws mixed with cutting-edge electronic communication on social networking sites translates into a confusing set of precedents around the country.
The two cases might leave you scratching your head over what’s discoverable in a civil suit, but personal injury lawyers can take away a concrete lesson. In addition to advising your clients to wear a neck brace to court, advise them to always slap one on for Facebook profile photos…
The first case comes to us from California. Artist Buckley Crispin sued an apparel company for using his designs in ways that violated his original contract. During the course of defending itself, the company — Christian Audigier, for the fashionistas out there, known in part for having put its logo on luxury condoms — wanted access to Crispin’s Facebook and MySpace postings about his work for Audigier. Defense attorneys were probably hoping to see evidence that Crispin was psyched that the company was not limiting his work to street-wear apparel, but was also slapping it on jewelry, pet accessories, wine bottles, luggage, and other goods. You haven’t really made it as an artist, after all, until your masterpiece is hanging around the neck of a chihuahua or on the tip of a… champagne bottle.
Crispin wasn’t keen on having his social networking communications turned over. He objected on privacy and electronic data privacy law grounds. A magistrate judge was unsympathetic, but a federal judge came to his rescue on appeal….