Dixie Chicks want to say goodbye to more than Earl

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Dixie Chicks want to say goodbye to more than Earl

Tue Jan 20, 2009 @ 01:03AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Maines Members of the Dixie Chicks have a knack for getting themselves into prickly situations. Now, lead vocalist Natalie Maines and the band are defendants in a lawsuit from a man she suggested on the band's website might be responsible for the murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.

Maines reviewed the sensational 1994 case of the West Memphis Three in an open letter to fans in 2007. She became interested in the subject after seeing a pair of HBO documentaries called "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Lost 2." Damien Echols was convicted of the crime, but some evidence pointed to another man, Terry Hobbs. 

Maines donated to Echols' defense fund and received a warm letter from Echols' wife. She then posted her missive pointing blame in Hobbs' direction. That's when Hobbs sued for defamation, according to this November complaint posted by Courthouse News.

A key question about this case surrounds whether Maines can assert a "fair report privilege." The media is typically protected from liability whenever an outlet relies upon official public documents or statements to report information — even false information that might be held as defamatory under normal circumstances. 

Maines is obviously not a journalist in the traditional sense—but isn't posting information on a website what any blogger does, and if so, do bloggers enjoy fair report privilege? A good question.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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