Ryan Kopf Sues Blogger Trae Dorn

Ryan Kopf

Ryan Kopf

Conrunner Ryan Kopf charged Nerd & Tie newsblogger Trae Dorn with defamation in a lawsuit filed December 14 in Iowa.

Kopf is the organizer of several Midwestern conventions – Anime-ZAP!, QC Anime-Zing!, AniMinnapolis, Anime Midwest, Meta Con and Con Alt Delete.

The suit responds to a pair of Nerd & Tie articles published last summer.

In the suit, Kopf denies what is alleged about him in the two stories.

Trae Dorn published statements on Nerd & Tie’s website on or about August 6, 2015, and September 8, 2015, which falsely represented that the Plaintiff had physically assaulted a vendor at a convention he was running, that his business had harassed another business, and that impinged on his integrity, moral character, and professional reputation.

Kopf is asking for actual and punitive damages, plus an injunction ordering Dorn to remove the defamatory posts and avoid posting future defamatory statements.

Kopf, on his own blog, elaborated his reasons for filing suit. His real complaint seems to be the amount of coverage he is receiving.

…a blogger… has written several articles about me calling me sketchy and a “villain.” He writes a new article after almost every convention I run.

No other non-famous person receives that level of attention.

And when he says “villain,” we’re not talking the villains of the trope where the villain turns out to be a good guy like Megamind, nor the villains of the slightly-realty-bending-mind of some writers at Cracked.com.

In these stories I don’t even get to be a super-villain.

I do not claim my conventions are perfect. We have had complaints and problems like any other conventions. We have dealt with things like complaints of shortages of free ramen in our ConSweet to complaints on social media about registration line that reached a peak of two hours long at our largest convention. But countless other conventions have had a few problems, often far worse.

From arrests to bankruptcy, none of which apply to me, none of these conventions have earned the same level of exhaustive coverage I have….

Trae Dorn of Nerd & Tie says he will fight the suit. He has started a GoFundMe appeal to defray the expenses.

Now, I don’t want to discuss details, but I still stand by what I wrote – as do Nick and Pher (who co-own Nerd & Tie with me). I have secured legal counsel, and intend to fight. But this isn’t going to be cheap for me….

Right now I’m asking for $3,000 which will cover my initial legal costs. I will probably end up needing more, but this is where we’re starting.

People have donated $1,285 in the first three days.

Dorn has posted a copy of the lawsuit here.

44 thoughts on “Ryan Kopf Sues Blogger Trae Dorn

  1. Its pretty obvious why Kopf wants to litigate in Iowa, since it doesn’t have an anti-SLAPP law, but I’m not sure how he plans on getting personal jurisdiction over Dorn, who lives in Indiana.

  2. Aaron: I wondered about that, too.

    I also wondered why the lawsuit bothered to state that Dorn founded a con in Wisconsin, and was starting another, also in Wisconsin. Perhaps they are trying to justify personal jurisdiction by arguing that the conventions solicit members in Iowa, therefore Dorn does business in Iowa.

    It does not seem to be enough that people can read Nerd & Tie in Iowa via the internet.

  3. Fascinating – I hadn’t know we had a convention for anime that wasn’t the Detour. Suing in state court seems to be an odd choice jurisdictionally.

  4. @TheYoungPretender: Its pretty clear if one looks at a map of where there are anti-SLAPP laws and where there are not why Iowa was chosen, although it would seem that Wisconsin would have been a better choice.

  5. @Aaron

    I get the anti-SLAPP laws, its that he filed it in state court. What jurisdiction would an Iowa court have over an Indiana resident? There’s no Federal anti-SLAPP statute, why not go Federal? Doesn’t auger well for him if he couldn’t find anyone Federally licensed to take the suit.

    Wisconsin would seem to be a far better choice, if the defendant has business opportunities there, and, well, it’s Wisconsin.

  6. @TheYoungPretender: A Federal court in Iowa would just apply the substantive law of Iowa to the defamation case, and wouldn’t be any better at getting jurisdiction over an Indiana defendant than an Iowa court. Plus, even if it could get personal jurisdiction, there is the possibility that the defendant could have the case transferred to the Federal court in Indiana via forum non conveniens.

    I suspect that if it isn’t dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, this case will get removed to Federal court on diversity grounds and then transferred to Indiana.

  7. @Aaron.

    So anyway one slices it, this case could be going no-where fast… or as fast as anything happens in a civil litigation.

  8. TheYoungPretender on January 8, 2016 at 6:20 am said:

    … well, it’s Wisconsin


  9. @TheYoungPretender: Probably. This is the sort of suit that anti-SLAPP laws are intended to deter. There doesn’t appear to be an actual cause of action articulated by the plaintiff. Someone writing too many articles about you for your liking isn’t defamation.

  10. @Peace is My Middle Name

    Legally, Wisconsin is kind of on a different trajectory than the other Great Lakes, Upper Midwest States. Every state is different from every other, but there are common trends in how a bunch of states will do something like, say, DWI or marital property (non-exhaustive list) that will be common across a wide variety of states.

    States will have open records laws or other good government laws; Wisconsin often did them a generation earlier and then might not have gone as far as the states that started latter. And in this case, there is no anti-SLAPP in Wisconsin, and a better connection between the defendant and the forum.

    Still, that’s not a strong complaint.

  11. @TheYoungPretender:

    Thank you for the clarification. It is interesting to hear a legal-historical perspective.

  12. @Hampus: “SLAPP” is an acronym for “strategic lawsuit against public participation”. It refers to strategic lawsuits against news reporting organizations and individuals intended to drive up their legal costs and run them out of business in retaliation for reporting news the plaintiff doesn’t want made public. Usually the plaintiff doesn’t intend to win the lawsuit – they just want the target to incur legal costs defending themselves.

    Anti-SLAPP provisions are laws intended to limit these sorts of suits. Usually they involve fee-shifting so the plaintiff bears the burden of the litigation costs if it is determined that their case was frivolous or vexatious. Some anit-SLAPP laws (such as California’s) halt discovery when an anti-SLAPP motion is filed and require the plaintiff to prove their case has merit before they can go fishing in the defendant’s records. And so on.

  13. The conflict between Kopf and Dorn is about more than allegations about business practices, but I can’t elaborate on that here at the request of the host. Do your homework before championing one side or the other.

  14. Regarding the Streisand Effect: if the last year or so has taught us anything, it’s how motivated reasoning is a powerful thing, and someone capable of believing that their words are self-evidently right is probably also capable of convincing themselves that the Streisand Effect will work in their favour.

  15. The complaint doesn’t mention what I’m referencing, Aaron.

    Which makes it entirely irrelevant to the actual lawsuit.

  16. Send me an email and I’ll explain why you’re incorrect.

    If it isn’t in the complaint, it is by definition irrelevant to the lawsuit. You can’t change that.

  17. I said the conflict between them was about more than the lawsuit, not that the lawsuit was about more than the lawsuit. You’re getting lost in the weeds here.

  18. @rcade: Tracking someone down on social media so you can send them irrelevant material that doesn’t pertain to the matter in this thread is really something of a social faux pas. I blocked you on Twitter, and I am considering whiting you out here.

    @Peace: Alternative Dispute Resolution. Essentially arbitration using a private party as the arbiter.

  19. Be my guest. We’ve had pleasant interactions here many times and I’m just trying to help people before they leap into this hornet’s nest with partial information, but if you want to be unnecessarily hostile that’s your call.

    I don’t think my attempt to contact you over Twitter was inappropriate. I knew you had an account there because of the Lou Antonelli dustup. It was easier than looking for an email address. I get unsolicited @ comments all the time directed at me there. It’s a public medium.

  20. Be my guest. We’ve had pleasant interactions here many times and I’m just trying to help people before they leap into this hornet’s nest with partial information,

    You do realize that the link you provided doesn’t really help Kopf’s case, don’t you?

    I don’t think my attempt to contact you over Twitter was inappropriate.

    Of course you don’t, or you would not have done it. But it was.

  21. I don’t see any reason to assume people are lining up on “sides” about this.

  22. A complaint is not much of a limit on what is or isn’t relevant in a lawsuit. Complaints, per the doctrine of notice pleading, a complaint need only contain a very general summary of the dispute. (Some jurisdictions have more specific pleading requirements for defamation cases.)

    Actually, this morning I had a conversation with a former magistrate who heard a case where a local hospital tried to sue a lady for making derogatory comments on the Internet. It did not go well for the hospital.

    I would also note that the prayer for an injunction against future postings runs badly afoul of the prior restraint doctrine enough enunciated in Brandenberg v Ohio.

  23. You do realize that the link you provided doesn’t really help Kopf’s case, don’t you?

    Yes. I have zero interest in helping his case. You’re jumping to the wrong conclusion about my intentions. I fought a legal battle with AP over the free speech and fair use rights of bloggers that had the Stanford Fair Use Project offering to secure me legal representation. I am not a fan of people suing to shut up a blogger.

    Of course you don’t, or you would not have done it. But it was.

    I’m having trouble understanding the etiquette rule I broke. Your Twitter stream is full of @ comments you’ve directed at people, many of which appear to be unsolicited. You sent unsolicited comments to Antonelli on Twitter calling him an asshole. You also retweeted an unsolicited comment I sent to John Scalzi. My message to you wasn’t rude or hostile. Perhaps you could clarify the rule.

  24. If you have an interest on the intersections of the First Amendment and the Internet, I highly recommend the blog Popehat which delivers good analysis combined with a veritable Mesabi Range of irony.

  25. I’m having trouble understanding the etiquette rule I broke.

    If I wanted to hear from you, I would have e-mailed you when you offered.

    You sent unsolicited comments to Antonelli on Twitter calling him an asshole.

    No, I did not. I specifically did not @-message him.

  26. A complaint is not much of a limit on what is or isn’t relevant in a lawsuit.

    In this case, the additional material rcade is referring to is another post Dorn made concerning Kopf, which is not referenced in the complaint. I suspect it is not referenced in the complaint because Kopf’s lawyer was at least competent enough to tell him that it was sufficiently backed up by facts to make any attempt to sue over it completely futile. On the other hand, the complaint itself is pretty flimsy, so its absence is mildly surprising.

  27. No, I did not. I specifically did not @-message him.

    OK. Here’s my clarification: You called him an asshole on Twitter without an @, got an email from him, called him “dumber than a box of rocks” on Twitter without an @, he replied to you and you sent four @ replies in April full of venom: #1, #2, #3 and #4.

    But I’m committing a block-worthy “social faux pas” for sending you a non-hostile message on Twitter to provide some context for this conflict?

    That’s weird. You shouldn’t have a hair trigger for taking offense, considering your sharp-elbowed persona here and on Twitter. Unlike your tweets about Antonelli, I wasn’t seeking to offend you. I can say with all honesty that when I sent you the message, I thought we were on friendly terms.

    My usual etiquette on Twitter: Don’t use unsolicited @ replies to make a harsh remark about that person, except when it’s a mega-famous politician or the like who isn’t seeing all their replies anyway. Don’t send @ replies to people who’ve told you they’re not welcome. And don’t make a hostile remark about someone without an @ while pretending you didn’t know they would read it.

  28. This is beginning to remind me of when I discovered that Arthur Chu had blocked me on Twitter. This bummed me out, because I liked Chu, enjoyed his takes ripping the Puppies and was not aware of anything I might have tweeted that prompted the block.

    So I sent him an unsolicited email (gasp!) in which I said this:

    I think you might have blocked me on Twitter by mistake. We’ve only exchanged messages a couple of times about the Puppies and we agree with each other that they are putzes. I’m a fan.

    Here’s my Twitter account, if you’d like to honor my request for an unblock:


    And he unblocked me. And the people were happy.

    Sometimes I think Twitter is a medium over-optimized for becoming mad at people.

  29. I’m blocked on Twitter by by a satire account, which I suspect is completely a mistake. But even in that instance (not a personal account, pretty sure it’s an accident) I would never e-mail them to ask about it. A block is the same as stating one does not want interaction. To interact despite that is, IMO, harassment.

    That may mean I can’t see tweets because of a mistake on their part. But that’s far better than contacting them if they, for some unlikely reason, did mean it.

  30. Chu unblocked me, so he obviously thought it was an accident too. It is a common mistake on Twitter to block the wrong person in a chain of replies during a heated discussion. Chu gets into a lot of those because the GamerGate crowd hates him.

    I don’t think what I emailed him was harassment. I had zero reason to believe I’d done something to upset him.

    But normally I don’t contact someone who blocked me. It would have to be a situation where the person and I had interacted and seemed to be on good terms. If you have a pal who appears to be avoiding you, you might reach out to them to see if fences can be mended.

  31. @rcade

    If unintentional offense has been given, it isn’t a bad idea to apologise for it. Instead of repeatedly telling someone they shouldn’t have been offended.

  32. I’m not going to apologize for sending an unsolicited message to someone on Twitter that was neither hostile nor abusive. He made an issue out of my Twitter etiquette so we discussed it. I would not characterize that as repeatedly telling him he shouldn’t have been offended. It’s a useful discussion. How do people establish the norms of behavior if those who disagree on them can’t explain their viewpoint?

  33. @Peace, @Aaron

    ADR is more than just a private arbitrator. It encompasses settlement and mediation as well – all the ways a case can end with out a decision in court.

    A complaint contains what someone wants to get from the court and why they think they deserve it. Why they personally want it and what they hope to personally achieve can be very separate, and might not be in the complaint. An apology, the feeling of being heard, the knowledge that you affected someone’s life – these are not plead in the complaint, and can be quiet different.

    A messy stew of people’s emotions and memories. A mediation can have both parties fine on a not inconsiderable sum of money, but nearly fonder on some acknowledgement one side won’t give the other.

    Short version: it ain’t all in the complaint. And understanding of when it ain’t can be a very good thing.

  34. Pingback: Dorn Granted Dismissal From Kopf Suit | File 770

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