When you post your opinion on YouTube, are you protected by the First Amendment? In the case of one of our clients, we strongly believed so and we took the case to court to prove it.
The speech at issue appeared in a short video clip produced by our client and posted on YouTube. The clip offered political commentary and opinion regarding a candidate running for the Mt. Pleasant City Commission. It was in the context of this political speech that our client referred to one of the candidate's supporters as a "slumlord”.
Claiming he was a private citizen, as opposed to a public figure, the candidate's supporter filed a defamation action in the Isabella Count Circuit Court. Fraser Trebilcock attorneys Gary Rogers and Ryan Kauffman argued that the reference to the supporter as a slumlord constituted "rhetorical hyperbole," which is protected by the First Amendment. Given the context of the political speech, and the internet forum in which the speech was published, the trial court agreed, and concluded that the epithet could not reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts about the supporter.
In our favor, the trial court concluded that the video clip had used the word slumlord in a loose and figurative manner, and not in way that was meant to convey anything more than our client's subjective opinion. As such, the trial court granted the motion for summary disposition and dismissed the complaint with prejudice.