Right now the Pop singer Kesha Sebert, who goes by the stage name Ke$ha, is locked in a legal battle with a former producer. The courts just issued a ruling against her, which she intends to appeal, saying that defamatory statements she made in private to another singer, Stefania Germanotta, known by her stage name as Lady Gaga, are legally considered defamatory speech and liable to judgement in a court.
Kesha “made a false statement to Lady Gaga about Gottwald and that was defamatory,” Schecter wrote in the decision.
In a private text message exchange, Kesha accused Gottwald of having raped singer Katy Perry—a claim Perry later denied in court.
Kesha has also publicly accused her former producer of drugging and raping her. Gottwald alleges that she made up the story to get out of her recording contract with him.
What makes this case interesting, regardless of who you believe is telling the truth, is the circumstances of the ruling. Many people think of defamation as dealing only in public statements, but as the judge wrote:
Publication of a false statement to even one person, here Lady Gaga, is sufficient to impose liability.
Schecter also decided that although Gottwald is in the entertainment industry, he does not qualify as a public figure. If the subject of supposed defamation is a public figure, the statements about them must not only be false or harmful but also shown to have been spread maliciously or with “gross irresponsibility.”
“Though Gottwald has sought publicity for his label, his music, and his artists—none of which are the subject of the defamation here—he never injected himself into the public debate about sexual assault or abuse of artists in the entertainment industry,” states Schecter’s ruling. “The only reason Gottwald has any public connection to the issues raised in this lawsuit is because they were raised in this lawsuit.”
Since Schecter determined that Gottwald didn’t count as a public figure, his lawyers didn’t have to prove that Kesha intended harm in her text about him.
The judge ordered Kesha to pay Gottwald $374,000 in interest on late royalty payments.
“We disagree with the Court’s rulings. We plan to immediately appeal,” said Kesha’s lawyer in a statement.
The larger case is still ongoing. (source)
This will be a case to watch because the assumption is that if somebody says something defamatory in private, one is legally responsible for it, making it a civil violation.
In life, people say many things in private that they would not say in public. This is common knowledge. That is why people often put on a “public” face and and “private” face. Likewise, sometimes offensive statements are made in private as a way of working out differences, or trying to see through a difficult reality.
If this ruing goes through as such, it has potentially major consequences by criminalizing and opening to a lawsuit people who say things considered to be defamatory.
The issue is not about promoting defamation, but rather about re-defining what ‘defamation’ means, and forcing private conversations into public scrutiny that need not be scrutinized publicly as they have no bearing on public input. It is the end of any form of ‘free speech’ and even private speech, where words said in private become a variant of modern thought crime.
If things such as this continue as they have, and the seem to be so far, America will wish for Stalin, not because Stalin was good, but because Stalin’s reign of terror and the millions he murdered will be looked upon as something better than what the future may hold, for Stalin could only dream of the technology, social control, manipulation, weapons, and attitudes that exist today versus those during his times.