Like most of the other legal gaming blogs, I occasionally find it necessary to comment on the activities of attorney Jack Thompson (as of this posting, he is still licensed in Florida). As a courtesy to another member of my profession, I will not delve into his long history with the gaming industry or the gaming community, or the series of statutes he has sponsored which have been struck down. On a basic level, I agree with him that titles with adult content should not be placed in the hands of children (I, however, disagree on the implementation and place a greater responsibility on the parents, but that is a separate matter for discussion at a later date).
However, today Jack issues this complaint, which was reposted by Kotaku. I have now forced myself to read it in its entirety, and it falls well beyond the norm of complaint drafting and more into the realm of a self-promoting tirade (not to mention the occasional typographical error, the first of which I found on page 5). While I could probably write an entire post critiquing his form and use of language, or all of the complaints he lists, I will rather focus on the specific complaint against Kotaku.
A short comment before I begin: I am not licensed in Florida, but as this is a federal claim, I feel competent to comment on it. Moreover, this is merely commentary, nothing more, and I do not claim it to be definitive, exhaustive, nor to have any actual legal effect. These are simply my observations on the matter.
Why this claim? Well, first, it’s not a claim at all. Let’s look at the specific statutes he references.
This statute, most notably, is a criminal statute. The basic premise of criminal law is that it is not a private action. When someone violates a criminal statute, it is the job of the government to bring charges and try the suit. If you were to assault me, I could only bring a civil suit. The District Attorney (or a similar official) would have to bring criminal charges. His reference to the statute is misguided at best.
42 U.S.C. § 1983
This is a civil claim, but once again, Mr. Thompson has missed an important element of the statute: The entity must be operating under color of law or authority. Here is a lengthy article on the statute. I can see no stretch of the imagination under which Kotaku or Gawker could be viewed as operating under the color of state authority or law.
42 USC § 1985 (3)
Under Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, the bias of the conspirators must be “some racial, or perhaps otherwise class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus.” Jack does not have any of these, unless he wants to claim that somehow Kotaku is discriminating against the class of people he claims to represent. Rather, I believe most reasonable jurists would see their actions as non-conspiratory (as conspiracy is an essential element) and non-discriminatory on a class level.
Section 1988 is not worth discussing, as it only allows for attorney’s fees in the event of a victory. There is no substantive issue to discuss.
While I can’t say how this case will turn out, I am at least glad that Mr. Thompson had the common sense to avoid a libel/slander claim against Kotaku, which would have likely failed as Mr. Thompson is undoubtedly a public figure. While many of these claims are relatively novel, they also seem to be relatively poorly constructed as a way to include a blog he particularly dislikes.
As a side note to anyone who wishes to pick up a cause as Mr. Thompson has:
Sensationalism will typically not yield the best results. Being reasonable and agreeable to compromise generally works much better.
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