back to article MySpace rant was not private, rules US Court of Appeal

A student who wrote an unflattering diatribe about her hometown on MySpace has lost a claim that its republication by a local paper invaded her privacy. She might yet prove that its wider dissemination was an intentional infliction of emotional distress. University student Cynthia Moreno published a rant on her MySpace page …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Regardless of the rant being public, didn't she hold the copyright? The fact that she allowed it to appear on MySpace doesn't automatically grant the newspapers the right to print it, surely?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Isnt there a copyright issue here? As newspapers are now making a fuss about google using their copyrighted materials, shouldnt the newspaper have obtained permission of the coyright holder before publishing? Or is it the usual one rule for them another for the little people.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    strategic rethink proposed

    What the hell is she doing suing under these tenuous reasons of privacy on the web etc? She should be suing the paper for breach of copyright. That's where the $big bucks$ are!

    Plus that town sounds like a shithole.

  4. psychochief

    an old addage lol :O)

    as my old pappy used to say lol

    "keep ya mouth closed and peeps might THINK your a prat, open it and they'll KNOW you are" !!!!! O_O

    MY SPACE private ?????? silly cow, ROFLMFAO :O)

  5. Rachel Greenham

    What about copyright?

    Can't she sue the paper for breach of copyright?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Royston Vasey?

    "The family were threatened and a shot was fired at their house. They closed the family business and moved away."

    With neighbours like that it sounds like the girl may have a valid point about the place, and the whole family may be better off out of there!

    <- Coat with bullet proof lining and maps of nicer places to live in the pocket.

  7. Edwin

    Push vs. Pull

    I find it quite hard to form an opinion on these sorts of cases.

    On the one hand, the woman should indeed not have published anything she didn't want someone else to read, but I think she has a point about the newspaper publication.

    Two points here:

    - Copyright: whether or not she published it on MySpace, she wrote it and the newspaper should at the very least have asked for permission before publication.

    - Push vs. pull: her mySpace target audience chooses to read her rantings voluntarily - "pulling" the content. By publishing the post, the newspaper "forces" its target audience to read the rantings - "pushing" the content.

    I think a distinction should be made between this sort of "passive" vs. "active" publication, and until the law recognises that, these sorts of cases are going to continue to eat up too much bench time...

  8. Anonymous Coward


    I would have sued for copyright infringement myself, as republication of a (full) text without authorisation probably amounts to...

  9. Daniel


    I can't imagine why anyone would have a bad word to say about a town where people shoot at your parents' house, and threaten your family, if you choose to call it a bit of a dump. That local newspaper's done the town a great service, by drawing international attention to the fact that it's California's answer to Chelmsley Wood.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Why has no'one brought up the issue of copyright???


  11. Colin Millar
    Thumb Up

    Copyright - yeah right

    I haven't read the T&C but it is inconceivable that mySpace allows users to retain copyright - in fact posting copyrighted works is probably banned - any rights will be held by mySpace.

    It is also extremely unlikely that mySpace is going to sue a paper which just gave it lots of free publicity.

  12. Michael

    Wow. Crap Towns: USA

    would probably get someone lynched.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If the newspaper in question is part of the Murdoch empire then probably under MySpace (another part of Murdoch empire) T&Cs they had rights to use the material ... though not being a member of MySpace I'm not 100% conversant with their T&Cs

  14. Rachel Greenham

    @Colin Millar

    Just skimmed it. In particular:

    "6.1: MySpace does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") that you post on or through the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain any such rights that you may have in your Content, subject to the limited license herein."

    The whole of section 6 is probably relevant, but it seems to indicate that copyright is hers. They only claim sufficient rights to display the users' content that they upload.

  15. Richard

    @Colin Millar

    Next time, before you assume something is inconceivable, you might want to spend a few seconds checking -

    "# Proprietary Rights in Content on

    1. does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") that you post to the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain all ownership rights in such Content, and you continue to have the right to use your Content in any way you choose. By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the MySpace Services, you hereby grant to a limited license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on and through the MySpace Services. "

    Now, do you want to take that back?

    Much like a lot of other people I was thinking copyright. And using someone elses copyrighted material to sell newspapers is not something that I approve of.

  16. Peter H. Coffin

    Regardless of who owns it

    @Colin MySpace's T&C allow it to do many things to things you "publish" via it, but granting commercial use to third parties is not one of them.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Re: strategic rethink proposed

    @AC 9th April 2009 10:30 GMT

    Interstate 5 runs right past Coalinga, and the feedlots for cattle headed off to slaughter as far as the eye can see. Anyone who has driven from Los Angeles to San Jose , or the reverse, definitely knows the "aroma" of cow manure. It's not a shithole -- it just smells like one.

    @Daniel: So no, it's not California's answer to Chelmsley Wood, Based on the Wikipedia article on Chelmsley Wood I'd have to say that Coalinga would be a step up.

  18. Mat

    I cannot believe it..

    No one has mentioned that she could sue the newspaper for copyright infringement.

    Oh wait. - Never mind!

  19. Andy Worth

    Re:Copyright - yeah right

    Again, I am also guessing but by posting something on MySpace I don't believe you automatically transfer all copyright rights to them. It is more likely that you grant them rights to reproduce what you publish as they see fit but retain the intellectual rights to what you post.

    I don't know much about copyright in the U.S. but if it's similar to the U.K. then you can reproduce something like that as long as it is not for financial gain. Now as this paper is a business, I am guessing that they will have made some financial gain by publishing the story, so they might just have a case based on intellectual property law.

    While I think she's an idiot for publishing this story on the web, the actions of her principal were out of order. Mind you, the threats that her and her family received kind of prove her point about the place - I mean, I live in Milton Keynes and people always say it's shit but I don't feel the need to go to their house and shoot at them....

  20. Tony

    @Copyright - yeah right

    Actually that is not true Colin. MySpaz's terms and conditions DO give them unlimited rights to distribute (and profit from) anything you post for as long as it is up there, but once you remove it from their site they no longer have the rights to do so and copyright for the work wholly returns to the creator.

    As the article states that by the time the paper republished the text it had been removed from MySpace the rights to it would have reverted entirely to the author and Myspace could not have given them permission to use it even if they wanted to. So technically she WOULD have a case.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You have to assume that anything you post on the internet, in any way that can be traced back to you, will be found and traced back to you at the time you least want it.

    I can't wait for the mass of lawsuits in 5 years of so when the teenagers who have posted really stupid / offensive things on YouTube etc. try to sue because someone looks it up when they go for a job interview:

    Interviewer: So, Michael, or should I call you Sir Mikey 1st Earl of Upskirtistan, can you tell us if you still have an obsession with Star Trek, Star Wars, although I believe you don't count Clone Wars because you think it is "The crappiest thing since not having any weed left" and Summer Glau, and if you still follow your hobby of covert photography?

    However, regarding copyright you will need to look at the terms of posting on mySpace. They will insist you grant them the rights to publish your posts, and for other users to quote / remark / answer them but you might well retain the actual ownership rights - that is typically how these things work. I am sure the paper would just claim "public interest" though.

  22. Cian

    @Copyright - yeah right - Colin Millar

    Nope, according to the Ts&Cs on Myspace you retain your copyright. See:

    "Proprietary Rights in Content on MySpace.

    6.1 MySpace does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") that you post on or through the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain any such rights that you may have in your Content, subject to the limited license herein. <snip>"

    So she could sue under copyright...

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Way to go

    It is interesting that the focus of this story is on a crap lawsuit, rather than the rather more important fact that someone shot at her parents. This is the usual story in the US: they don't take criticism at all well. Of course, the irony of people proving that it's a crap town in retaliation at being told it's a crap town.

  24. Lionel Baden


    Right on

    Puurrrfect points

    (sorry cat had kittens last night, in my head atm)

  25. Jimbo
    Black Helicopters

    I'm no lawyer but...

    ...surely 'copyright' does NOT mean that someone can't publish/use your work without permission ? IIRC it means that they have to credit the source (which the paper did, only too well) and give a share of royalties (if there are any).

    If I was her/her family it's the school principal I'd be dropping a hod of bricks on. Does he habitually trawl teenage girls' Myspace pages looking for embarrassing material, and then forward it to the local newspaper ? Does he not have any duty of care to his pupils to advise them quietly if they've done something daft, not ridicule them in front of the whole town ?

    Balck Helicopters because headmasters are all snooping control freaks, they just don't have the budget that the MIBs do...

  26. Anonymous Coward

    @Rachel Greenham

    "Can't she sue the paper for breach of copyright?"

    This is America. You can sue anyone for anything. Oh, I understand that works in the UK too. And yes, we have laws about frivolous lawsuits too.

    But I'd guess her attorney thought she stood a better chance of winning a larger settlement by going with the emotional distress angle.

    Pirates, because they're almost as bad as lawyers.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Copyright - Waste of time

    Come on people... use your noodle.

    Think about this before you start railing on copyright law.

    Its on the internet... in full public broad day light.

    Hell it's probably on google as well.

    Sinking in yet? Maybe the light on the console is lit...time to check the motor oil!

    If its public... its fair game... people should think twice before posting there crap on the net.

    Oh sure... newspaper should have asked first... but the fact remains... internet is not private... its her damn fault she did that in the first place.

    She deserved to get a cold splash of reality.

    This is why I do not advocate the use of myspace.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Why was her rant even news?

    I wonder why the principal and the paper editor even thought that a complaining teenager is news.

  29. Anonymous Coward


    That is not how copyright works, otherwise you just resell pirated copies of the latest Metallica album, credit them for making it originally and send them 1 cent because you made money out of it.

    You cannot use copyrighted works unless you are given permission or your use falls within explicit exemptions (satire, quote etc.)

  30. Anonymous Coward

    California Uber Alles

    Don't like what someone says about the sh*thole you live in? Time to use Brownshirt tactics. What a miserable right wing dive Coalinga must be. Probably like Middlesbrough but without the charm.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's the Septic Tanks

    In the UK we expect a certain amount of dislike of our towns. I would say a majority think that they live in a shit hole.

    What is it with the USA, anyone who diss's the place and its suddenly handguns and lock outs. You feel like giving them a good shake and pointing out that dissenting views are not a threat to your culture.

    Anyone see Top Gear when they drove some cars across America, at one point they painted slogans on each others car .. NASCAR is CRAP .. and USA Stinks .. that sort of thing. The reaction was pretty incredible.

    In the UK you would have people giving you the thumbs up and generally nodding at a good point well made !!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I read the ruling

    The judge specifically notes that this ruling does not affect any copyright claim.

    The piece was published by the paper as a "letter to the editor" under HER name, not a "news story" about a rant some local girl posted on MySpace. I think any publication of the entire work without permission or some sort of license (explicit or implied) would infringe. A news story quoting the rant ("Area Girl Hates Hometown") probably would be fine (note: I am not a lawyer etc.).

    However, I've recently been reading about copyright here in the US. I think the trouble with pursuing a copyright claim is that damages in copyright cases are usually based on the lost commercial value of the work. So while the newspaper may have infringed, the loss to the writer of her ability to profit from her work was probably negligible (it was never intended to be sold). I suspect that's why they pursued the "emotional distress" and "privacy" angle.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just never put your name to anything...

    ....illegal or inflamatory, and always use someone elses (ie - not paid for by you) Internet connection :)

    Easy, really.

  34. Pierre

    Copyright AND moral distress?

    Actually shouldn't she sue the principal over the intentional moral distress thing, and the newspaper on intellectual property grounds?

  35. Christopher Ahrens

    You cannot sue the newspaper

    They gave her credit for writing the work, in the US it is legal to reproduce any works so long as it is acknowledged that someone else wrote it. In any case this would be in the context of a quote, such as someone's speech / Press conference / press release.

    The principal is in no way responsible, the Myspace post was not a private conversation between her and the principal, which she had no expectation of privacy, the principal should have submitted the post to the paper as an anonymous tip, rather than with his name, but that's beside the point

  36. Gaz

    yeah, what they said..copyright

    My first thought was copyright. I really hope she goes after this. It's total BS that a reprinting of that rant ruined so many lives. The town would have probably never known about this even if she left it up forever if it were not for the newspaper.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    She has no copyright rights (per se). She can, however, sue the paper and the principal for acting in collusion to print the letter as if it came from her. It was in the editorial section and as far as my understanding goes, there was no mention of the principal submitting it for public consumption. It would have been assumed by the ordinary reader, that she had sent it in herself.

    The flip side is that not much seems to have been done about the retaliation to her family.

    Probably better that they closed shop and left. It seems she hit the mark in her comments.

  38. Andy Bright


    Definitely sounds like the emotional distress angle was the way to go. I would have rated her odds pretty high at winning that one if she hadn't proven herself to be a bit of 'tard with the whole privacy thing. She still might get something out of this from the school district, but her idiotic first attempt has probably nixed that. They probably would have settled just to make it go away.

  39. Bounty

    Jimbo you are not a lawyer, maybe a troll.

    "...surely 'copyright' does NOT mean that someone can't publish/use your work without permission ? IIRC it means that they have to credit the source "

    So I can post movies on the internet, so long as I keep the credits intact? Post MS Office, as long as I post the EULA with it? Jimbo you are not a lawyer, maybe a troll.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just thought you'd like to know.

    I live in Sheffield and I think it's a shithole.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Is this another case of an older man

    somewhat questionably pawing through a teenage girl's myspace page? Just what did her headteacher think he's doing? This is the real story here. What did he think she might blow the gaffe on?

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @By Anonymous Coward 17:15 GMT

    "She has no copyright rights (per se)"

    I think you will find she has *all* the copyright rights, per se or pro se.

    She may have no legal recourse other than an apology (and she definitely did write the piece), or she might have recourse for emotional distress, identity theft or whatever.

    However once you create something (be it a novel, song, movie script or just a letter to your mother) you hold the copyright and all rights pertaining to that until either you sign off some or all of those rights to a separate party or the copyright term lapses.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Really, no one sees the possibility of this falling under Fair Use? I understand that the rules around Fair Use are a bit, well, missing but, none the less...

    ( for those that did not take Journalism 101 in the US)

    This is an opinion piece that a former resident posted in public about her home town. The home town paper (so small it has no website) then republished it and gave her full name credit.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Obviously, you don't live in the states.

    By your own logic, a politician could prevent any public comments from being used if they didn't approve of the way they were used by claiming copyright. The examples you provide are either commercial or private works. Hers is neither. If the principal had hacked onto her computer and retrieved the comments, then that would be copyright violation. It's why criminals can't sue t.v. stations for showing video of them committing crimes and not paying them as actors. It's also why the t.v. crews for cops can be sued for trespassing when accompanying police into a home if the resident did not give them permission to enter.

    This woman made public comments about her home town. She has no right to prevent the press from re-stating those comments. What happened is that the principal and paper mis-represented her, in that they published the comments as if she'd sent them to the paper to be printed in the editorial section.

    I very much doubt most judges here would allow a copyright claim. She would have an easier time proving mis-representation on the part of the principal and paper.

  45. ed


    am very surprised to see the debate about copyright.

    This being the Reg, i thought people would be arguing that she should let anyone do what they want with it and compensate by selling t-shirts....

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