Price v. Time
416 F.3d 1327 (2005)

  • Sports Illustrated Magazine (owned by Time) published a story about Price that said some unflattering things. Price sued for libel.
    • The suit was originally brought in Alabama State Court, but Time successfully had the case removed to Federal Court.
  • During discovery, Price asked Time to provide the source for their story. Time refused.
    • In order to win a libel suit, a plaintiff must establish that the accusation is false. Time claimed to have a source for their accusations, but refused to reveal the source's identity.
      • Price argued that Time was either lying about having a source, or should have reasonably known that the source was lying to them.
    • Time cited an Alabama State Statute (Ala. Code 12-21-142) that shields reporters from having to reveal their sources.
      • Specifically, the Statute protects "newspapers, radio broadcasting stations or television stations..."
    • Price filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing that Sports Illustrated is a 'magazine', not a "newspaper, radio broadcasting station or television station..." and therefore not protected under the Statute.
  • The Trial Court found for Price and ordered Time to reveal their source. Time filed an interlocutory appeal.
    • The Trial Court found that a magazine was not covered under the Statute.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed and ordered Time to reveal their source.
    • The Appellate Court looked to the legislative intent in the plain meaning of the words of the Statute.
      • The Court noted that the word "any" does not mean "all plus."
      • The Court found that the common usage of the word "newspaper" did not mean "newspaper and magazine".
      • The Court looked to some thesauruses and found that "magazine" is not a common synonym for "newspaper."
        • Although, Time was able to find one thesaurus that did.
        • Most courts will not consider a thesaurus as canonical for defining words.
      • The Court looked to some dictionaries and reference works (including both legal dictionaries, general reference dictionaries, and encyclopedias) and found that "magazine" is not a common definition for "newspaper."
        • Although, Time was able to find some dictionaries that did.
        • The Court even looked at old dictionaries from when the law was passed, to see what the common usage was at that time.
        • The dictionaries all pretty much said that a newspaper is made of folded unstapled sheets. So this entire case turned the presence of a staple!
      • The Court noted that Sports Illustrated did meet the dictionary definition of a "magazine."
      • The Court looked to the common understanding of the term "newspaper," as opposed to basing their findings on "dueling dictionaries."
      • The Court noted that the Pulitzer Prize (given to newspaper reporting), has never been won by a magazine, and that Sports Illustrated is a member of the Magazine Publishers of America Association, not the Newspaper Association of America.
      • The Court asked Sports Illustrated if they'd ever referred to themselves as a newspaper, and Sports Illustrated admitted that they hadn't.
    • The Appellate Court looked to other Alabama Statutes that used the term "newspapers and magazines" and found that since the Legislature had chosen to make the distinction in 20 other Statutes, they probably did not intend for 12-21-142 to cover magazines.
      • The Court made the presumption that every word in a Statute has "some force and effect" and that no superfluous words are used.
        • If the term "newspaper" really meant "magazines and newspapers", then all those other Statutes would be wasting words by specifically mentioning "magazines."
          • That's the Rule Against Surplusages.
  • In this case, the Court chose not to look at legislative history or legislative intent. If they had, they probably would have found that the lack of the term "magazine" in the law was an oversight, because there is no real justification for limiting freedom of the press on the basis of a staple.