Dear Mr. Given:
I am writing in response to the letter you sent me, dated March 9, 2004, regarding a November 17, 2003 post I made on my weblog that referenced information on another website regarding John Gray (“the post”). In the letter, you stated that my post was libelous and demanded that I publish a correction on my website, pursuant to Section 48a of the California Civil Code. I decline your request, because I do not believe that my statements were libelous, based on my review of your letter and of California case law.
As a preliminary matter, I am astounded by your suggestion that you might initiate legal action against me in California. I live in Ireland, and I publish a noncommercial, passive website that is hosted on servers located in the United Kingdom. Legal proceedings in California would pose an undue and unreasonable burden on me, and a California state court would have no personal jurisdiction over me, under well-established law. See, e.g., Cybersell, Inc. v. Cybersell, Inc., 130 F.3d 414, 419 (9th Cir. 1997) (holding that there was no personal jurisdiction over a Florida corporation that conducted “no commercial activity” on “an essentially passive home page on the web”).
Even if a California court had jurisdiction, it is clear that my statements were not libelous. It is indisputable that John Gray is a public figure under U.S. law. According to his own website (http://www.marsvenus.com/detailedbiography.php), Gray is “the best-selling relationship author of all time,” and the author of “the number one best-selling book of the last decade,” having sold “30 million Mars and Venus books.” As a public figure, Gray could not prevail in a suit unless he showed that I acted with “actual malice,” that is “knowledge that [the weblog post] was false” or with “reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 280 (1964). It is highly unlikely that you could meet this burden, given that my post quoted a web page containing information about John Gray that I believed to be true.
Based on the information on your letter, I cannot conclude that my post was false, much less libelous. Despite your blanket statements that my post was “false” and “libelous,” you did not dispute the specific information in the post regarding Gray’s biographical information, such as the claim that John Gray received his undergraduate degree from an unaccredited institution. Additional research I have undertaken has not revealed information that suggests that my post was false, and the post was an accurate quotation of a source (buzz.weblogs.com) upon which I relied. You complain of only five words of which I was the original author “John Gray is a fraud” which are “classic rhetorical hyperbole which cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts.” Seelig v. Infinity Broadcasting Corp., 119 Cal. Rptr. 2d 108, 117 (1999) (internal citation and quotation omitted). Such statements are not libelous under California law. Id.
Given that my post was not libelous, I decline your request for removal of the post and the posting of a correction on my website. I assume that you will not pursue this frivolous claim any further.