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$430k Love settlement shows tweets can be costly

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FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2010 file photo, musician Courtney Love attends the premiere of 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File) FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2010 file photo, musician Courtney Love attends the premiere of 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Courtney Love's settlement of a case sparked by online attacks on a fashion designer show that while Twitter posts may be short, they can also be costly.

The singer has agreed to pay Dawn Simorangkir $430,000, plus interest, to settle a lawsuit the designer filed in March 2009 over comments Love made on Twitter and her MySpace blog.

While the case didn't go to a jury, First Amendment experts say the case highlights the need for celebrities and average people to watch what they say online.

"People are getting in trouble for Twitter postings on an almost daily basis," said First Amendment Attorney Doug Mirell, a partner at Loeb and Loeb who did not handle the case.

"The laws controlling what is and isn't libelous are the same regardless of the medium in which the statements appear," he said.

Simorangkir's attorney, Bryan J. Freedman, agreed, and said Love's settlement should drive that point home.

"The fact is that this case shows that the forum upon which you communicate makes no difference in terms of potential legal exposure," Freedman said. "Disparaging someone on Twitter does not excuse one from liability."

Twitter's popularity has skyrocketed in the past year, in part because celebrities interact with fans on a daily basis by posting candid photos, thoughts and even product endorsements.

The widow of grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, Love has gained a reputation on the microblogging service Twitter with her posts, which are occasionally profane and sometimes nonsensical messages on a variety of topics. Several posts have lashed out at attorneys and other individuals who have drawn the musician's ire, with her tweets coming in rapid succession and using every bit of the site's 140 character maximum per post.

Simorangkir sued over several postings written under Love's former Twitter account, courtneylover79, that accused the designer, who is known as Boudoir Queen, of theft and of having a criminal background.

Simorangkir's lawsuit claimed Love became angry with her after she completed five outfits for the singer and sent her a bill.

"Love mounted a malicious campaign to not only terrorize Simorangkir, but to ruin and destroy her reputation and livelihood," Freedman wrote in a May 2009 filing.

Love's attorney, Michael Niborski, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

The case had been scheduled to go to trial in February, and was expected to be the first in which a jury decides whether a celebrity's Twitter posts could be considered libel.

Freedman confirmed that a settlement had been reached, and said Love's attorneys had hoped to keep it confidential.

"In order to show the world the comments were derogatory and completely illegal, it was imperative to my client to have the settlement be public," Freedman said.

The attorney said a public statement will be issued next week, but the monetary settlement that Love is required to pay, reflects the seriousness of the case.

"Personally, I think $430,000 is an appropriate way to say she's sorry," Freedman said.

Mirell said stars need to be cautious about how and what they post online, especially when they're talking about others.

"When you start talking about someone other than yourself, you are beginning to get into dangerous territory," Mirell said.

 

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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