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Thursday 28 August 2008

Where a link turns into a lawsuit

I've seen some daft excesses in local politics in my time, but over Sheboygan, Wisconsin, things have taken a new twist... with a lawsuit over a link.

Jennifer Reisinger operates a website called Sheboygan Spirit which appears to be very critical of local officials and also a now defunct web design business called Brat City Web Design. She was also involved in a campaign to recall the elected mayor, which probably didn't endear her to some city officials.

Last year, the city filed a lawsuit against Ms Reisinger. Why? Because one of her sites carried a link to the Sheboygan Police Department (oops). First, the city sent a cease and desist asking her to remove it, and when she refused to do so they initiated a criminal investigation and legal proceedings.

Remember, this is just a link to the local police department. Not a link to illegal or confidential material. Of course, really the city didn't have a leg to stand on and in November 2007 decided not to pursue the case.

But Ms Reisinger wasn't finished, and a few days ago filed a counter-suit alleging loss of business and a violation of first amendment rights. It looks like it could be a significant case.. depending on the outcome.

There's more information in this item at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and also here at the Citizen Media Law Project.

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