Gawker Media, a pop culture blog, was sent a sex tape involving wrestler Hulk Hogan, and they decided to publish it. They claimed that the public had an interest in such footage and the sex between Hogan and the woman in the video was consensual. Gawker seems to believe that the First Amendment protects them in the case, though it will be up to the court to decide if this is true.
The first step has already been taken, though, as a jury awarded Hogan an astounding $115 million last week. Early this week, the jury decided to tack on another $25 million. This ups the total to $140 million. While this is a huge number in its own right, it's shocking because it also exceeds what Hogan was pursuing, as he asked for $100 million.
For Gawker, this blow could be enormous. While the company is doing well, it only made $44 million in 2014, according to reports. The owner, Nick Denton, has already said that he's selling some of his control of the company to generate funds to use as the case progresses. If they do have to pay the full $140 million, it could be well above Gawker's means. Even the bond that Gawker will have to pay at this point could be as much as $50 million.
An Invasion of Privacy
A case this large could take time to play out, but it appears that the jury and Hogan are on the same side in claiming that this was an invasion of privacy, whether or not people were interested in it. Hogan, who has publicly discussed his sex life before, even said he felt humiliated. Established, reputable journalism sites -— like the New Yorker -— have said they would never have run the video. However, the New Yorker's legal counsel did note that just because something was in poor taste didn't necessarily mean it was against the law.
How this case plays out is not just important for the future of Gawker. It is also significant because it could set precedents for what rights people have to privacy in the digital age.
It's illuminating for people to follow this case so that they know their rights, especially when personal information is shared or distributed online.
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