What You Need to Know About California's Anti-SLAPP Law
You may have heard of the Anti-SLAPP law before. More likely, you may have heard companies saying they will sue the people who talk badly of their brands. While it is their right to defend themselves against slanderous individuals, it is also your right to call companies out on their misdeeds and exercise your free speech in a meaningful and productive way.What is the Anti-SLAPP Law?
As its name suggests, the anti-SLAPP law protects you from SLAPPs, which stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. This happens when someone, usually a rich person or a company, silences their critics by “slapping” them with a costly lawsuit. While plaintiffs rarely win these kinds of cases, their point is not to win but to silence their critics.
“Costly” is the important word here. Usually, their critics just stop because they can no longer afford to defend themselves in court. In effect, it becomes a war of attrition. The party with the lesser funding will stop first. Usually, this is the party on the receiving end of the SLAPP.It Protects Your First Amendment Rights
Why would you want to criticize someone in the first place? When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they wanted a government that allows free speech for everyone. Their vision of an American society was one in which existed the freedom to criticize and reflect upon each others’ criticisms. The anti-SLAPP law protects this right by allowing people to speak out without the need to protect themselves from extensive litigation.Differentiating Between Defamation and Criticism
While the Anti-SLAPP law defends the critics’ rights to public participation, it is not meant to be used to protect someone from defiling someone else’s good name. The state of California has a law that defines slander as “a false and unprivileged publication, orally uttered, and also communications” which anyone can make through various means.
For instance, when a person posting about your brand over the internet says that it is bad while providing concrete examples, that counts as legal and proper criticism. On the other hand, if the same person were to judge your brand over baseless claims, such as your restaurant being infested by mice when it is, in fact, not, then that is slander — a form of defamation.Defending Yourself From SLAPP
Suppose you have been “slapped” with a lawsuit for defamation. What can you do? The first step is to have a lawyer to represent you in court who would then help you file an anti-SLAPP motion. Then a trial will begin so you can prove that you were exercising your First Amendment rights and that the lawsuit is merely a SLAPP. Once proven to be true, you will be paid a reasonable amount of money for lawyer fees from the plaintiff.Need a Lawyer Who Can Help?
For many people, the law can be a confusing spiral of legal speak and impenetrable regulations. At SAC LLP, we can help you process legal proceedings and guide you through this process. Whether you have been hit with a SLAPP or you are facing other similar issues, please contact us at (408) 716-1790 for a free, no-risk case evaluation.