Anti-SLAPP Statute Extended to Wage Claim by Authors of Content of Public Interest

by Paul Alan Levy

Techdirt carries a discussion  of a recent decision dismissing a class action complaint filed against Yelp on behalf of Yelp users contending that, because their reviews provide content that allows Yelp to profit through the sale of advertising, reviewers are employees who are entitled to payment for their labor under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The lawsuit is bizarre, and the complaint and other papers are so ridden with typos and rhetoric as to cast substantial doubt on the competence of the lawyers who pursued it, but Judge Seeborg’s brief discussion of Yelp’s special motion to strike is worrisome.   Although he held that attorney fees cannot yet be awarded because plaintiffs were given leave to amend, he also ruled that an action for lost wages for time spend writing reviews on matters of public interest is subject to the anti-SLAPP statute because the action arose from work on those published reviews.

Considering the breadth of the language in the proposed federal anti-SLAPP statute recently proposed by a bipartisan group of House members, we will need to scrutinize the language carefully to make sure that it does not provide a general means for companies that publish content to punish plaintiffs who file suits over issues that have nothing to do with the content of the material that is being published.

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