The Texas Supreme Court today ruled that orders preventing people who have been found liable for defamation from publishing further statements about the plaintiff are “prior restraints,” a remedy that the First Amendment rarely permits. Adopting a position advocated by EFF in an amicus brief, the court also delightfully quoted The Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak: “For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint.” It further rejected the argument that the ability of Internet publication to reach millions of readers almost instantaneously somehow required a change in First Amendment law.

EFF filed the amicus brief on behalf of itself and First Amendment scholars Erwin Chemerinsky and Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky urging this position, and the brief appears to have been highly influential on the court, which cited Prof. Chemerinsky’s scholarly writings extensively.

The court, in a case called Kinney v. Barnes, not only rejected the Internet-is-different argument, it took the exact opposite position, emphasizing the role of the Internet “as an equalizer of speech and a gateway to amplified political discourse.”

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