Daily Mail Must Face Porn Star’s Libel Claim

A pioneer in monetizing online porn, “Danni Ashe,” won reinstatement of her $3 million defamation claim against the Daily Mail Online for its publication of her photo with a statement that conveyed the impression she had tested positive for HIV.

Leah Manzari,source Wikipedia
Leah Manzari,source Wikipedia

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that Leah Manzari, who worked under the name “Danni Ashe,” be allowed to pursue her defamation action in an opinion Monday. Manzari argued that the Daily Mail Online acted with malice when they published an article implying that she was an HIV-positive sex worker.

The Daily Mail, part of Associated Newspapers, sought dismissal of Manzari’s claim as no more than a lawsuit aimed at silencing the paper and stifling its First Amendment rights. The paper filed what’s known as an anti-SLAPP motion, to use a state law intended to shield newspapers and others from lawsuits filed only to harass controversial comments. Those lawsuits are known as Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. The law allowing motions to dismiss SLAPP lawsuits are called anti-SLAPP motions.

The appeals court agreed with the trial judge that at this point, Manzari has presented enough evidence to more forward with her claim of defamation.

Manzari became famous for her work in monetizing her pioneering adult web site. She started her adult Internet site in 1995 under her pseudonym.

Her first site quickly overwhelmed the server used by the ISP company hosting her site and shut down the system. She moved to her own server and began charging for access to the site.  By 2001, the website purportedly made a profit of $6.5 million, according to Wikipedia.

As a successful entrepreneur, with one of the most visited sites on the Internet, she retired from adult entertainment in 2004 and sold her site, according to the court. In 2013, the Daily Mail, a popular United Kingdom tabloid, ran an article about the shutdown of the Los Angeles-area porn industry caused by a female performer testing positive for HIV.

Under a few lines of text about the story, the article contained a picture of Manzari in bed in a suggestive pose.  Behind her is a sign, “In bed with Danni.” Under the photo the paper wrote, “Moratorium: The porn industry in California was shocked on Wednesday by the announcement that a former performed had tested HIV positive.”

Manzari sued for libel and false light, seeking $3 million in damages to her business and reputation.

Case: Manzari v. Associated Newspapers, No. 14-55329

 

Photo: Wikipedia

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