Tony La Russa, the famed baseball manager known for his charity work with injured pets, apparently knows when he has a dog on his hands.
In a June 26 court filing (pdf), La Russa's lawyer, Gregory McCoy, wrote that his client was dismissing the case, adding that "No payment was made by Twitter to La Russa in exchange for this dismissal." According to a person familiar with the case, there was no settlement of any kind.
In what appeared to be the first legal challenge to the popular San Francisco startup, La Russa sued Twitter on May 6, alleging that an unknown person had been tastelessly using his name and image, tweeting from an account named "TonyLaRussa." Besides claiming that La Russa's identity had been hijacked, the suit asserted that Twitter was damaging La Russa's trademark rights to his nationally famous name.
Legal observers were skeptical of the merits of the case, quickly pointing out that Twitter should not be liable for the parody because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives Web sites immunity from lawsuits over what their users post online.
"I would say that it looks like saner heads prevailed -- I don't think this lawsuit should've been brought in the first place," said Corynne McSherry, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has followed the case. "I think their legal claims were weak at best."
On June 5, La Russa told reporters that Twitter had agreed to pay legal fees and make a donation to his Animal Rescue Foundation to settle the suit. But the next day, Twitter CEO Biz Stone posted a response entitled "Not Playing Ball" on the company's blog, writing that "Twitter has not settled, nor do we plan to settle or pay."
Observers say the startup probably had in mind the implications of settling its first case without a fight.
"I think any time there's a settlement, a company may be concerned whether the settlement encourages more litigation," said Ian Ballon, a partner with Greenberg Traurig who specializes in Internet law. "Here, the fact that [they] put that no money changed hands should serve as a disincentive to others who might pursue similar claims."
McCoy, representing La Russa for Danville, Calif.'s Gagen, McCoy, McMahon, Koss, Markowitz & Raines, did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday. But McCoy told The Recorder in June that the lawsuit had already achieved one of its major aims: getting Twitter to take down the fake profile. McCoy said Twitter had ignored his client's complaints before the suit was filed.
Rodger Cole, the Fenwick & West partner representing Twitter in the case, said he was not authorized to comment. Twitter didn't return an e-mail seeking comment.
Even an observer like the EFF's McSherry was ready to put the whole saga to rest: "Let's move on to the next Web 2.0 controversy."