This Time, Tony La Russa Drops Twitter Case for Real Print

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has officially dismissed his lawsuit over a fake profile on Twitter and will not receive any money from the social media website for doing so.

A settlement of the case -– the first to be filed by a celebrity against Twitter –- was reported in early June, with La Russa saying Twitter had agreed to pay his legal fees and make a donation to his Animal Rescue Foundation charity.

Twitter responded with a statement in which it said, “Twitter has not settled, nor do we plan to settle or pay” and described the suit as “an unnecessary waste of judicial resources bordering on frivolous.”

La Russa was never likely to hold Twitter liable for the actions of the user who posted the phony profile and a court document shows he voluntarily dismissed the case June 26.

"La Russa hereby dismisses with prejudice all claims in this action against Twitter Inc., with each party to bear its own costs and attorneys' fees," it says. "No payment was made by Twitter to La Russa in exchange for this dismissal."

Twitter probably insisted that the unusual last sentence be included in the notice of dismissal to avoid any suggestion of a settlement. Attorneys involved in the case did not respond to requests for comment.

La Russa alleged in his complaint that Twitter was liable under trademark law for the unauthorized use of his name in the profile. He also said postings on the page -- one of which referred to drunk driving incidents involving the Cardinals -- were “derogatory” and “damaging” to his trademark rights.

By framing his case as trademark infringement, La Russa was hoping to pierce Twitter's shield under the Communications Decency Act, which broadly protects internet service providers from liability for content posted by third parties.

The case did inspire Twitter to start experimenting with software that verifies whether a celebrity page is legitimate.

In another Twitter imposter case, a Farmington Hills, Mich., public relations agency has taken control over a page in its name after Twitter provided information showing the account was registered to another PR firm in suburban Detroit.

Tanner Friedman had filed a cybersquatting suit which named only a John Doe who had assumed the Twitter profile “tannerfriedman” as a defendant. “It wouldn't have done us any good to sue Twitter,” co-founder Matt Friedman explained. “Only individual posters are responsible for their actions.”

Twitter turned over the account information after a judge granted Tanner Friedman's request for a subpoena “to determine the true identity of the Defendant.” The records showed the last login Internet address of the account was registered to Marx Layne Communications, where Friedman and partner Don Tanner both formerly worked.

Marx Layne's managing partner has denied having anything to do with setting up the account.

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By Matthew Heller
7/2/09