BOSE CORP. v. CONSUMERS UNION OF U.S., INC.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
82-1246
Petitioner 
Bose Corp.
Respondent 
Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
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Term:
Facts of the Case 

Bose Corporation, a loudspeaker manufacturer, brought a product disparagement action against Consumer Union for publishing a negative review of Bose products. Among other comments, Consumer Union's article mistakenly said that Bose loudspeakers caused sounds of individual musical instruments to wander "about the room" when they in fact merely wondered "along the wall[s]." Ruling in favor of Bose, the District Court found that the article's statements were factually wrong and made with "actual malice." On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed as it found the lower court's ruling to be clearly erroneous. The Supreme Court granted Bose certiorari.

Question 

Was Consumer Union's article written with "actual malice," thereby placing it outside the First Amendment's freedom of speech protections?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Consumers Union of U.S., Inc., 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

No. The Court held that while the record revealed that the article's author mistakenly described the sound path of Bose speakers, he did not do so with actual malice. A review of the author's testimony showed that he heard the Bose speaker sounds as tending to wander "along the wall" between speakers, rather then "about the room." Despite this disparity, the Court held that the description of Bose speaker sounds as wondering "about the room," though a misconception, was not written with actual malice since its author was not aware of his mischaracterization in time to remedy the error. Therefore, his speech was entitled to First Amendment protection.

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BOSE CORP. v. CONSUMERS UNION OF U.S., INC.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 20 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1983/1983_82_1246>.
BOSE CORP. v. CONSUMERS UNION OF U.S., INC., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1983/1983_82_1246 (last visited October 20, 2014).
"BOSE CORP. v. CONSUMERS UNION OF U.S., INC.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 20, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1983/1983_82_1246.