Bristol Palin Lawsuit Win Helps YouTube Partners

Bristol Palin, the daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and a reality TV show star, just won a defamation lawsuit filed against her. The win, reported by, may open the door for a clarification of the rights of YouTube Partners. I saw that because of the reasons stated for why the lawsuit was thrown out of court.

What happened was that a drunk man named Stephen Hanks saw Palin, Bristol, riding a mechanical bull, and then falling. Without provocation, Hanks referred to Bristol’s mother as “a whore,” and then got into her face for no reason and said that the elder Palin was “evil.” Bristol, to her credit, handled Mr. Hanks with calm and let him talk – all the better for the show. But during the encounter, Palin stupidly said that Mr. Hanks was a homosexual because of the way he talked – a point that set off Hanks into orbit. The result, because cameras for Palin’s show Bristol’s new Lifetime show, “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp.” were rolling at the time, was that Mr. Stephen Hanks wound up being made famous.

He didn’t like that.

Here’s the video of the event that caused the lawsuit to be filed by Mr. Hanks.

According to, Hanks filed a defamation lawsuit because he said he did not sign a waver to allow his face to be used on television. Mr. Hanks also claims that her statement in the video that he was gay cost him economically. But the lawsuit was tossed because, again according to TMZ as I’ve not seen the actual court document yet, the comments she made in the video and the video itself were a form of free speech. Moreover, because Hanks is documented on social media as being gay, no unknown facts about him were released. In all, Palin and A&E Channel won on every count.

But here’s the YouTube bottom line: this is a major victory for YouTube Partners. Essentially the court sees the video as a form of free speech, not just the dialog within it. Thus, Bristol’s video team did not need a waver to be able to use his image, and they didn’t get one. So say you’re in a video of a bar fight like this one:

You can’t claim I didn’t ask you for a waver to use your image. But in my case, I took care to make sure I was in the public domain at the time, where my video rights are protected. What’s different in the Palin case is they were filming indoors in an establishment – I don’t know if they received permission to film or not. There wasn’t anyone stopping their encounter with Mr. Hanks, saying “OK, your time’s up.”

In all, what Bristol’s victory has done is made it OK to film barroom or indoor altercations without a waver from the parties involved.

The ACLU Video Rules Apply

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a set of video-making rules that apply to YouTubers. Here are the basics:

– When you are on private property, the property owner sets the rules about the taking of photographs or videos. If you disobey property owners’ rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).
– Police should not order you to stop taking pictures or video. Under no circumstances should they demand that you delete your photographs or video.
– Police officers may order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. In general, a court will trust an officer’s judgment about what is “interfering” more than yours. So if an officer orders you to stand back, do so.
– If the officer says he/she will arrest you if you continue to use your camera, in most circumstances it is better to put the camera away and call the ACLU for help, rather than risking arrest.
– Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant. If you are arrested, the contents of your phone may be scrutinized by the police, although their constitutional power to do so remains unsettled. In addition, it is possible that courts may approve the seizure of a camera in some circumstances if police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that it contains evidence of a crime by someone other than the police themselves (it is unsettled whether they still need a warrant to view them).

Stay tuned.