Internet Porn Star Prevails Against Tabloid Newspaper

Overview: Jim Porter had fun this week writing about the most downloaded woman on the Internet, a soft porn star named Danni Ashe who claimed she was defamed when everyone’s favorite tabloid, the Daily Mail, wrote an inflammatory story on a porn star in LA testing positive for HIV –with a photo of Danni, later claiming the photo was a ‘stock photo’, not the HIV positive performer.  Danni has never had HIV so she sued and the federal Court of Appeals agreed she made the basic case of defamation.  I don’t disagree.

 

Am I the only person in North America who does not know and follow on the Internet Danni Ashe, real name Leah Manzari.  As the Court wrote, Danni Ashe is famous for her “groundbreaking work in monetizing online pornography.”

Danni, whose website is www.Danni.com, designed and launched her website in 1995, and has been generating multi-million dollar revenues ever since.  She has since retired but the website remains active under that name.  In case you’re interested – for researching this article.

Bigtime Porn Star

Danni is considered the most downloaded woman on the Internet.  She has been in all the major magazines, and not just those magazines.  She won the Guinness world record for most downloaded woman on the Internet, and attained the record with 841,271,545 downloads.  To be honest, that’s more than the Law Review earns.

Danni blows away Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.  ‘Enough about Danni, let’s hear about the case Porter, we want the law.”

Daily Mail Tabloid

The Daily Mail, a popular United Kingdom-based tabloid newspaper, has an online version and it ran an article covering the shutdown of the Los Angeles-area porn industry caused by a female performer testing positive for HIV.

The headline read:  “PORN INDUSTRY SHUTS DOWN WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT AFTER ‘FEMALE PERFORMER’ TESTS POSITIVE FOR HIV.”

Unfortunately (for the Daily Mail), the article contained a picture of Danni lying suggestively across a bed with “In Bed With Danni” written in neon lights behind her.

Danni v. Daily Mail

Danni’s attorney sent the Daily Mail a cease and desist letter insisting that it remove her photograph from the article.  Too late.  It had spread around the world.  Danni sued under California law in federal court seeking $3M in damages to her business and reputation, arguing that the juxtaposition of her image with the explosive headline and caption conveyed the impression that she was the performer who tested positive for HIV.  She made it clear she has never had HIV.

Public Figure

As you all know, if someone defames a well-known “public figure” they can do so with impunity (seriously) unless they publish the falsehood with malice or “reckless disregard for the truth” — more than mere negligence.

Willful Blindness

The United States District Court, Central District of California, wrote an Opinion with a conclusion worth reading:  “If all a publisher needed to do was to deny the allegation, all implied defamation suits would be dead on arrival.  If, for instance, a newspaper ran the headline:  ‘High Profile Figure Accused of Murder’ alongside a photograph of the Mayor of New York, or ‘Industry Shocked that Grocery Sprayed Veggies with Pesticide’ along an image of a nationally-known grocery chain, the publishers would be hard pressed to plausibly claim that they had simply selected a ‘stock’ photograph.  The same holds true for a story about the pornography industry, featuring a picture of a world-famous pornographic actress with her name written in neon lights behind her.  This sort of willful blindness cannot immunize publishers where they act with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the implication they are making.  Manzari [Danni] meets the ‘minimal merit’ threshold to avoid outright dismissal of her complaint.”

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada.  Jim’s practice areas include:  PORNO LAW, real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters.  He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or www.portersimon.com.  

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