“It is time for the conspiracy theories about Britney Spears’ well-being and the mob #FreeBritney movement to stop,” the pop star’s father asserts in a newly-filed lawsuit. James Spears, as conservator of the estate of Britney Spears, filed suit in a California state court on Wednesday, alleging that by making it his “mission to spread numerous false and malicious lies on the internet about Britney, her conservatorship, and her team,” Anthony Steven Elia, the founder of the blog “Absolute Britney,” is engaging in defamation.
According to Mr. Spears’ complaint, “Britney and her father Jamie have sat by [over the past few months], while fans have accused them of numerous false and malicious things, including attempts to mislead the public with the content that appears on her social media.” The “loudest voice in that crowd,” the complaint asserts, is Anthony Steven Elia, who has “made it his agenda to ensure that Britney is no longer in a conservatorship” by posting “false and defamatory statements … with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity and in a grossly irresponsible manner with want of due care.”
Elia’s coverage of Britney Spears, the lawsuit asserts, consists largely of “false and defamatory” assertions that “Britney’s team is deleting positive comments on Instagram, leaving negative comments up, and removing all comments on Instagram in the past.” More than that, the blogger has publicly asserted that by allegedly “manipulating [Britney’s] Instagram comments,” her team is engaging in “a human rights violation.”
“Steven’s allegations are damaging, as they are designed to disrupt the conservatorship and threaten its reputation and success to the extent that valuable third party business partners and others read and believe them,” Spears states. Moreover, damage is done to Mr. Spears’ “reputation as conservator and [is] adversely affecting his and the conservatorship’s business efforts” when these comments are “picked up and republished by publications all over the world,” such as MSN, US Weekly, InTouch, DailyMail, OKMagazine, and Perez Hilton, “without verifying [their] veracity,” the complaint further asserts.
With the foregoing in mind, the complaint argues that “it is time that Steven understands that his words have consequences and he cannot blindly spout his baseless theories any longer.” Mr. Spears has set forth claims of defamation and for False Light Invasion of Privacy, and is seeking injunctive relief, barring Anthony Steven from posting any further defamatory information, and monetary damages, including triple damages since “Steven’s conduct was done with oppression, fraud and malice.”
In a statement provided to THR, Steven said, “I am forever blessed and I have faith that good always wins. I have no further comments, except that I love Britney and the Britney army.”
Can Britney’s dad win? That will depend almost exclusively on whether or not he is considered a “public figures.”
Instances of celebrities filing defamation lawsuits are relatively rare (although certainly not unheard of) due to the very difficult standard that a plaintiff must meet if he/she is a public figure or official. For an average plaintiff to prove the necessary element of fault, he/she will merely have to show that the defendant acted negligently. For a public figure, the level of fault required is “actual malice,” or in other words, the famous plaintiff has to show that the defendant knew for sure that the information it published was false, and decided to publish it anyway. This is no small feat for a plaintiff, and largely what tends to dissuade famous figures from taking most gripes to court.
*The case is James P. Spears, as Conservator of the Estate Of Britney J. Spears, v. Anthony Elia, et al., 19-STCV-22381 (Cal.Sup.)