The New York Times reports that a libel suit has begun in London over content written in an anonymous blog. The legal battle pits WPP Group CEO Sir Martin Sorrell against Italian ad executives Marco Benatti and Marco Tinelli, whom Sorrell claims authored a blog that regularly mocked him with references to a Godfather-style figure nicknamed "Don Martino." Benatti, a former WPP country manager for Italy, was fired by Sorrell last year. Meanwhile, the blog itself has been reportedly "shielded from journalists' view" (a move that seems set up for failure) but allegedly contains a "long rant about Mr. Sorrell's management style" and was described rather poetically by Sorrell's attorney as "a host of libels." Also on the table for court consideration is an invasion of privacy claim brought by Sorrell and Daniela Weber, the COO of WPP Italy who had a "personal relationship" with the famed CEO. The two are suing as co-plaintiffs over a graphic image of them together that the defendants allegedly mass e-mailed throughout the office.
Back in the U.S., blog-related lawsuits have been picking up recently, with claims from libel to public disclosure of private fact hitting the courtrooms. So far, luck (and the law) have been on the side of the bloggers, with most of the claims tossed out. While U.K. courts don't follow American precedent, it'll be interesting to see whether a claim based on materials published in a blog is upheld under British law (we'd comment on libel laws in the U.K. but those damn International Law classes were always full in law school). The plaintiff's status as an international advertising icon will no doubt raise the stakes for both sides, and another twist is that the blog is still anonymous, with both defendants denying any involvement in its creation or postings. As such, Sorrell's lawyers will have to prove authorship as well as libel in order to win. All of which should make for quite the trial! We can't wait. Not that we're particularly focused on this topic or anything.