Media & Communications Law

Fake News Article Results in Real Lawsuit

Admittedly not thinking about the consequences, a computing services manager for the University of Texas reportedly says he was the practical jokester who posted a fake Oklahoman article online under the byline of a real sportswriter.

It falsely claimed that two quarterbacks at the University of Oklahoma had been arrested for intent to distribute cocaine, writes the Oklahoman in a real news article earlier this week.

Now the newspaper publisher and the sportswriter, Jake Trotter, have sued James Conradt, 36, who is a Nebraska fan and the alleged perpetrator of the hoax. Their federal suit, filed in Oklahoma City, seeks injunctive relief and unspecified damages for claimed defamation and copyright and trademark infringement.

The suit also alleges that Conradt placed Trotter in a false light by publishing the story.

“I think anonymity brings out the worst in people,” Conradt, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment about the lawsuit, reportedly said in a 2005 article in the Lincoln Star. “There are no consequences for saying what you say. I think that’s probably where the whole concept of flaming comes from. They probably didn’t have that in the old days around the coffee pot at work, the profanity-laced, ultra-negative outbursts.”

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