How Dare You Make Ranaan Katz Look Foolish! That's Ranaan Katz's Job!

Law

The main characters on Seinfeld are awful, awful people. That's the point of the show. Many people hated the final episode of the series because it stopped showing that Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were awful, and spent an hour telling you they are awful, spoon-feeding the premise to the audience.

George Constanza may not be the worst character on Seinfeld, but he's as bad as they get. George is neurotic, narcissistic and possessed of a willful cluelessness that stands out even by sitcom standards.

In the Seinfeld episode "The Lip Reader," George is caught on camera at a sporting event eating ice cream in a messy and unflattering manner, something that is played for laughs, humiliating George. But George does not sue, or even talk about suing, the TV network that broadcasts footage of him looking foolish. Even on a show that is a broad farce about self-absorption and our capacity to justify any bad behavior to ourselves and others, a lawsuit storyline would be too farcical, distorting the character to the point of mere caricature.

This is why the imaginary George Constanza is a better and less ridiculous person than the regrettably real Ranaan Katz, owner of the Miami Heat.

Ranaan Katz, owner of the Heat, lacks the character to take it.

Katz has been engaged in a protracted legal campaign to shut down a relentlessly critical blogger. Katz last sued the blogger last summer, leading to implicit legal threats against media merely for reporting on the case:

Katz's attorney Todd Levine responds to Riptide: "You're being used as a pawn. They're using you to make Katz a public figure and to further spread the defamatory content on that blog."

. . .

In the meantime, Levine has strong words for anyone who would consider writing about Katz's lawsuit. "I'd ask you not to publish anything about this," he says. "Even pointing people toward that blog could constitute further defamation."

More recently, unsatisfied with the pace of the first lawsuit, Katz has filed another, this time suing both the blogger and Google for copyright violations. Katz's theory, apparently, is that the blogger committed a copyright violation by publishing a mildly unflattering photo of him, and Google wronged him by refusing to take it down from the blog. You can find the mildly unflattering photo here.

Google, of course, has plenty of money to pay for lawyers. The blogger, fortunately, has Marc Randazza on her side. I talked to Marc, who was kind enough to give me a quote about it, and offer an update of the status of the pending libel case:

The case began about a year ago, when Katz brought a SLAPP suit against Ms. Chevaldina. Apparently he didn't like that she was making his litigation history and tactics public. Florida state courts don't post everything up on line like federal courts, so this was a valuable public service. This is what citizen journalists do — their blogs are where stories first bubble up from the depths.

A few weeks ago, Katz's lawyers tried to get a preliminary injunction against Chevaldina's continued blogging. They actually asked the court to order her blog completely shut down. Failing at that, Katz hired a second law firm to file this silly copyright complaint as a collateral attack on her First Amendment rights.

My guess is that their strategy is this: If you keep whiffing against a small time blogger, you might as well then just pick a fight with one of the biggest companies in the world. Sit back and get your popcorn and watch how this one works out. I want to thank Mr. Katz for bringing in an 800 lb gorilla to help me in his unsupportable SLAPP suit.

We have yet to speak to Google's lawyers about this case, but we expect that they will be receptive to standing up for the First Amendment along with us.

I'm defending the case along with Robert Kain and Darren Spielman of Kain & Associates.

By the way, the 800-pound-gorilla is a reference to Katz suing Google, not a reference to Katz causing Randazza to come into the case. I had to re-read that a few times too. Clarification is only fair; gorillas are notoriously sparing in their use of obscene gerunds.

I also obtained a copy of the blogger's opposition to Katz's motion for a preliminary injunction, which explains (1) that Katz demands that a court order the critical blog taken down before trial, before an adjudication of whether or not the content is defamatory, and (2) Katz has, as is common with censorious litigants, a primitive belief in the totemic power of the phrase "defamation per se," which he imagines as lifting all burdens of proof from his apparently unusually sensitive shoulders.

Ranaan Katz has a great deal of money. Ranaan Katz can therefore, without too much effort, harass a single blogger critical of him. Once ten bloggers write about him, the harassment starts to become noticeably expensive for Katz. When a hundred bloggers write about him, harassment litigation becomes impractical. When a thousand bloggers write about him, Katz passes into legend.

It's not too late for Katz to abandon this approach and adopt some sort of minimally plausible and mildly face-saving excuse. I respectfully recommend "I was in the pool!"

Edited to add: Carlos Miller has the story too.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

19 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Dan Irving  •  Jun 25, 2012 @8:09 am

    Ken – methinks the book you should write should be non-fiction and examine the origin and permeation of The Streisand Effect as it pertains to modern culture, lawfare and the information age.

  2. bonez565  •  Jun 25, 2012 @8:10 am

    Wow what a great example of the Streisand Effect in action. Also the picture isn't even that embarrassing/unflattering, it just a slightly awkward expression of the kind that everyone makes once in a while. This one just so happened to be caught on film.

  3. Dan Weber  •  Jun 25, 2012 @8:15 am

    Levine has strong words for anyone who would consider writing about Katz's lawsuit. "I'd ask you not to publish anything about this," he says. "Even pointing people toward that blog could constitute further defamation."

    Bite me.

  4. jag  •  Jun 25, 2012 @8:21 am

    He's only a minority owner of the Heat, not the main owner. Robert Kain is also my IP attorney. Great lawyer. Glad to hear he's working with Marc on this.

  5. Josh M.  •  Jun 25, 2012 @8:32 am

    Truth is an absolute defense against defamation. The photograph is not doctored, therefore it is a truthful document. It was also taken in a public venue, with no expectation of privacy. Why has this not been laughed out of court already?

  6. nlp  •  Jun 25, 2012 @8:36 am

    I'm not following part of this argument. Are Mr. Katz's lawyers trying to say that Mr. Katz's face is protected by copyright law?

  7. Dan Weber  •  Jun 25, 2012 @8:48 am

    There's a whole body of IP law concerned with model rights. I only know that it often throws me a surprise, so it wouldn't totally surprise me if he actually has some sliver of legal remedy, until someone in the know says otherwise.

    That said, he's clearly using the law as a weapon to silence critics.

  8. John Eddy  •  Jun 25, 2012 @8:55 am

    I'm trying to decide if it's ironic that that approximate facial expression on Michael Jordan is an iconic testament to his focus while Mr. Costanz…I mean Katz here seems to think it is a copyright violation of the worst order.

  9. William Sutton  •  Jun 25, 2012 @10:20 am

    Someone should remind Mr. Katz how well this approach worked for Dan Snyder when he sued a Washington, DC-area sports columnist over The Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder.

  10. Gal  •  Jun 25, 2012 @12:10 pm

    OK, I happen to be a fan of Maccabi Tel-Aviv, an Israeli Basketball (well, athletics) club of which Katz was a partial owner until his share was bought out a few years back. I'm familiar with him to some extent, is what I'm saying. And I can assure you, he is a juvenile, petulant man, quite obsessed with his media image. I could show the headline of this blog to any basketball fan in Israel and they'd say something along the lines of "Yes, that's Raanan Katz alright."

    They might also say "You misspelled Raanan."

  11. Ken M  •  Jun 25, 2012 @8:44 pm

    Just did a Google image search on Raanan Katz – its 2 of the top 3 images returned. Streisand Effect indeed. :)

  12. twency  •  Jun 27, 2012 @2:27 pm

    @ Dan Weber -

    Model rights generally apply only in commercial use situations. Not editorial or artistic uses. (I am not a lawyer; I have worked as a photographer in the past.)

  13. twency  •  Jun 27, 2012 @2:30 pm

    Ok, my last comment was an oversimplification and not entirely accurate. Rather than dig myself in deeper I'll just say "consult an attorney" for more (and much more accurate) information. :-)

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