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First Amendment protection applies to corporate newsletters

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  1. Libel and Privacy

    NMU         COLORADO         Privacy         Dec 4, 2001    

First Amendment protection applies to corporate newsletters

  • The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that press protections extend to newsletters and commercial publications that are newsworthy and include legitimate matters of public concern.

The Colorado Supreme Court recently held that newsletters and commercial publications that print stories of “legitimate public interest” enjoy First Amendment protection.

The Nov. 19 decision came in the case of Dickerson & Associates v. Dittmar where an assistant at a Denver security firm sued a private investigation agency after it published a story about her stealing bonds and cashing them.

According to the Associated Press, Joe Dickerson & Associates published an account of the investigation and a photograph of Roseanna Marie Brock in The Dickerson Report, an agency newsletter sent at no charge to police agencies and financial institutions.

Brock claimed the article was an invasion of privacy and that the newsletter article’s sole purpose was to promote the firm and attract business.

Justice Michael Bender said publications can be sued for invasion of privacy if they use a person’s name or likeliness for the publication’s own benefit, commercial or otherwise. Plaintiffs must also show that they suffered damages, and the publication caused those damages.

“It is well established that freedom of the press is not confined to newspapers or periodicals, but . . . comprehends every sort of publication that affords a vehicle of information or opinion,” Bender said.

“This means that if the contents of an article are newsworthy when published by a local newspaper, then they do not cease to be newsworthy when subsequently communicated by a different sort of publisher,” he said.

According to Bender, the discussion of Brock’s crime is a legitimate matter of public concern, and the use of her name and photo cannot be described as primarily commercial.

(Dickerson & Associates v. Dittmar; Media counsel: A. Peter Gregory, Michael Brice Sullivan, Harris, Karstaedt, Jamison & Powers) HP

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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