So, now we know what a SLAPP suit is, and what anti-SLAPP is. You may wonder… What does it have to do with photography?
There are a couple of cases where SLAPP was used as intimidation against photographers:
California Coastal Records Project: In a classic Free Speech vs. Right to Privacy case, when environmentalist and photographer, Kenneth Adelman, posted aerial photographs of the California Coastline, he ended up with a photo of Babara Streisand’s house in the collection, available on the internet. She filed an invasion of privacy suit. Adelman filed an anti-SLAPP motion. It was granted and she was forced to pay over $150,000 in his legal fees.
Ironically, before the lawsuit, the image had only been downloaded a few times. Now the very photo that she was trying to keep away from public eye has been seen in connection with the dozens and dozens of articles posted on the case, and the blossoming environmental group attained global recognition, and more positive publicity than legions of PR agencies could ever get them. This is now called the “Streisand Effect.”
Copyright SLAPP: Photographer Chris Gregerson filed a copyright infringement suit against a local business who violated his copyright and the infringers attempted to bury him in countersuits with charges such as libel, defamation and misappropriation. His SLAPP motion to strike was denied. He eventually won his case, but after 2 years of legal wrangling. He documents the saga on his website here.
Here is a case where SLAPP was alleged, but it wasn’t really so and the motion to strike was denied.
Sports Illustrated/ Invasion of Privacy: In 1999, Sports Illustrated ran a story about child molesters in little league baseball. They included in the story a photo of a team whose manager had plead guilty to molesting five children that he had coached. Some of the children in the photo sued SI parent corp, Time Warner. Time Warner filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike. It was denied and upheld on appeal.
One of the elements of a SLAPP suit is that it is unlikely to succeed. The reason this anti-SLAPP motion to strike was denied was these plaintiffs had a case that was reasonably likely to succeed if all the allegations were true. They had demonstrated a prima facie case of invasion of privacy. Anti-SLAPP is designed to curb meritless lawsuits, not to prohibit bona fide claims.