Everyone’s a Critic: How the Opinions and Fair Comment Privileges Protect California Journalists

Vincent Cortez

Oakland, Calif. (April 14, 2013) — Vincent Cortez, local filmmaker checks the IMDb movie rating for his unreleased film The Hush, which has already received negative ratings from unknown reviewers. (Photo: Natalie Rodriguez)

There is an old saying that everyone’s a critic, however, with access to social media and blogging, being a critic may well cost you a defamation lawsuit. The Internet gives you an instant audience that can, and will, both admire and criticize your work, and in some instances your personal life. Bloggers beware; writing statements that could damage a person’s reputation could land you in a lot of legal trouble. In California, journalists are protected from potential defamation lawsuits through several privileges, among them the opinion and fair comment privileges under which you can state opinions about others as long as they cannot be proven true or false. Vincent Cortez, local filmmaker of Mitchell Street Pictures, says, “Defamation can be a concern because that is when it becomes about someone trying to make you, the artist, look bad.”

In February 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle published the article titled “Web 2.0 defamation lawsuits multiply,” in which business reviews on popular websites, such as Yelp and college gossip sites were under fire for statements alleged defamatory reviews and statements. Five years later, in January 2013, a contractor who received a bad review on Yelp filed a $750,000 defamation lawsuit in Fairfax County, VA. Yelp’s Terms of Service specifically warn that the users are responsible for the content that they chose to publish and that they may be exposing themselves to liability if the content “contains material that is false, intentionally misleading, or defamatory.” Those same terms of service include and indemnity release and state, “California law will govern these terms.”

Cortez who currently is experience low ratings on the IMDb page of his unreleased movie, The Hush, comments on how direct access to

information allows for any comment or opinion to be attached to your name and work in search engines. The opinion and fair comment privileges protect online journalist in that the context and the circumstances under which statements are made are taken into account in a legal case of defamation. For example, in the case Global Telemedia International, Inc. v. Doe 1, statements made in a chat room were dismissed as opinion and protected under the privileges because the statements were full of exaggerations and “language not generally found in fact-based documents,” amongst other things.

While the first amendment protects our freedom of speech and the opinion and fair comment privileges make sure that journalist are protected from defamation lawsuits, we should not forget that when we write reviews we do so at our own risk. Cortez tells us that, “negative reviews can turn away potential interest in your project and even potential work for you as an artist.” Opinion and fair comment privileges do not protect against facts with the preface “in my opinion,” nor do they protect from false facts that may be implied.

Infographic created using www.easel.ly by Natalie Rodriguez.

Created on www.easel.ly by Natalie Rodriguez

Raul y Mexia Bring a Menudito of Musical Flavors

Raul y Mexia

March 30, 2013. Raul Y Mexia perform for their hometown CD release party at the Pagoda in San Jose, Calif. (Photograph by: Natalie Rodriguez/Full Sail University)

Raul and Mexia Hernández are preparing to take the stage at their hometown record release party for their new album “Arriba Y Lejos.” The brothers are polite and courteous. They have a boyish charm to them and despite their smiles; you can tell that they are nervous about their performance. They grant interview after interview and pose for pictures for magazines, with admirers, friends and family. Music has been a part of the lives of the Hernández family for a long time, and this record release party is a family affair. Uncles, aunts, cousins, mom and their musician father, Hernán Hernández of the internationally recognized Los Tigres del Norte are all ready to cheer Raul y Mexia on. Having a famous father has not made the two, any less humble, or hard working. The two have worked hard for the opportunity that they have finally been given in being signed with Nacional Records.

Local Bay Area Boys

Both Raul and Mexia cannot stress enough how proud they are to be from San Jose, Calif. As Mexia says, they are proud of being local boys because they were “born and raised here, our mom is from here as well, all our family is born here. Our dad, this is where our dad first [came to] back in ’68, ’69, back with Los Tigres.” As proud of being local boys as they are, being back home to promote their new album makes them both excited and nervous. “Arriba y Lejos” was released in February 2013, and since then according to Raul, they have been promoting the CD, now they get to come home and showcase their work. “You know we’re from here, from San Jose, so we’re really happy, really excited to be here in our hometown in front of family and friends singing because I don’t think they’ve ever seen us in this light before so they’ll probably make fun of us right after we’re off stage,” says Raul with a smile on his face. Mexia chimes in to say that “they’re gonna tell us the truth, that’s for sure.”

Missing Birthdays, Bautizos and Graduations 

Although the two were born into a musical family, the love for music was not automatic for both. When asked about what led them to collaborate they reminisce about their differences in their musical journeys. Mexia has been interested in music since childhood. He holds a license in sound engineering and has been working on different music projects for more than a decade. Raul on the other hand, was on a path to become a professional soccer player prior to taking up music. In fact, because Raul realized how much his dad was away when he was younger, he believed that music was not the life for him. “I seen my dad out of the house you know at a young age, never being home and I was like ‘no, I’m never gonna be like that. I’m never gonna be like that.’ But, yeah, you know all the sacrifices one makes you know? Being out, missing birthdays, missing bautizos, missing you know, a lot of things, graduations, you miss a lot of things,” explains Raul. When he injured himself prior to signing his professional soccer contract he switched his focus from soccer to music. Raul remembers that the same energy that he would put into his soccer practices he would then put into his music, and he is grateful for that because it has lead him to this moment.


Proud Father

March 30, 2013. Hernán Hernández, bass player for the legendary Regional Mexican band, Los Tigres del Norte, watches as his sons perform at the Pagoda in San Jose, Calif. (Photograph by: Natalie Rodriguez/Full Sail University)

The proud, teary eyed, father moves closer to the stage to get a better look at his sons performing in their home town. He applauds and bops his head to the contagious rhythms that his sons produce. When Raul and Mexia invite him up to the stage he gives his three children a kiss before speaking. Raul and Mexia are the duo’s vocalist, but their younger brother Giovanni Hernández keeps the beat on the drums. Mr. Hernández goes on to say that he was almost on the verge of tears while watching his boys perform on stage. He acknowledges their producer and DJ from Monterrey, México, Toy Selectah who was present to support them and perform. Hernández acknowledged that he did not want to stop the music because it was his boy’s show and not his. He did not come down from the stage until he acknowledged his wife’s presence and made it clear that the artistic talent that their sons were demonstrating was because of her and not him.  Like the proud father that he was, he shook hands, took pictures and walked around thanking the event organizers and press for their support. The sense of family pried is mutual. When the question of what the hardest part of working with family is, Raul’s only complaint is that he wishes that Mexia were more punctual. Other than that he says they know that they can count on each other to be honest and make helpful suggestions in the studio and outside of it too. They even count on each other to make wardrobe suggestions on what matches and what doesn’t. They both smile while Mexia says, “we always try to coordinate.” “We try to take care of each other [as] much as we can,” says Raul. When asked about a possible collaboration with their father Mexia was quick to say, “We’d definitely like to work with my father and my uncles and the whole band, they’re all super talented and they’ve showed us, you know, they are the blue print to how we [want to], guide our career and hopefully we’re able to gain a piece of the public’s heart like they have.” It is because of this pride and what their father and their band represent to the people that Raul and Mexia want to represent the new generation.

The Mix of Flavors 

Coming from a family that is a legend in the Regional Mexican industry, some followers of this genre had high expectations that they would continue in this tradition. Despite negative comments on some of their YouTube videos because their music is not traditional Regional Mexican, or because it is not fully in Spanish, their responses are always courteous and appreciative.  Raul y Mexia mix traditional Latin American rhythms with edgy hip-hop and electronic sounds. Their lyrics are a mixture of Spanish and English commonly known as Spanglish. It is this new generation that that the duo are hoping to represent. According to Mexia, “The modern day Latino is a mixture of everything. There’s really no limits, there’s really no boundaries. I think we’re all kinda like a little menudito, a little salsa, a little fusion you know? A little bit of hip-hop, a little bit of cumbia, a little bit of norteño.” He compares this fusion and mixture to the diversity and beauty of living in the Bay Area. With this menudito of flavors Raul y Mexia currently promote their single “Las Escondidas.” 


Gallery of the Hometown Record Release Party of Raul Y Mexia’s Arriba y Lejos in San Jose, Calif.