Hearing Wednesday: EFF Urges Court To Rule That Blogger’s Opinion of Open Source Licensing Agreement is Protected by the First Amendment

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Patch Maker Sued For Defamation To Shut Down Critic

San Francisco, California—On Wednesday, January 22, at 9 am, EFF Staff Attorney Jamie Williams will tell a federal appeals court that a lower court correctly dismissed a defamation lawsuit against a blogger, finding that his criticisms of a company’s business practices were opinions about an unsettled legal issue protected by the First Amendment.

EFF is representing Bruce Perens, founder of the Open Source movement, who criticized restrictions Open Source Security Inc. (OSS) placed on customers of its security patch software for the Linux Operating System. OSS sued Perens in response. The lower court found that OSS’s lawsuit not only failed to plausibly state a claim for defamation, but also that it ran afoul of a California statute that protects defendants from SLAPPs, short for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPPs are malicious lawsuits that aim to silence critics by forcing victims to spend time and money to fight the lawsuit itself—draining their resources and chilling their right to free speech.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Williams will tell a panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges that Perens’s blog post merely expressed his opinion about an unsettled legal issue of concern to a worldwide Open Source community, and that Perens disclosed the factual basis for that opinion. OSS, which disagrees with Perens, was free to state its disagreement publicly, but it was not free to sue Mr. Perens for exercising his First Amendment right, Williams will tell the court.

Read EFF’s filing in the Perens case:
https://www.eff.org/document/oss-v-perens-answering-brief

WHO: EFF Staff Attorney Jamie Williams

WHAT:
OSS v. Perens

WHERE:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals-James R. Browning Courthouse
Courtroom 1, 3rd Floor, Room 338
95 7th Street, San Francisco CA 94103

WHEN:
Wednesday
January 21
9 am

Contact: 
Jamie Lee
Williams
Staff Attorney

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