July 15, 2005
Judge Dismisses SEALS' Lawsuit
U. S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Miller has dismissed the invasion of privacy and copyright infringement case against the Associated Press and photographer Seth Hettena. He found that the pictures which formed the basis of the suit were newsworthy, and that the AP broke no law in publicizing them. He also found no merit in the invasion of privacy claims, noting that the subjects of the photographs chose to be photographed. One of the plaintiffs' attorneys said they may refile the copyright claims. Read the story here.
Judge Will Review Reporters' Notes in Intelligent Design Case
In order to decide whether journalists who covered the current controversy over whether intelligent design (ID) should be taught in the Dover Area, Pennsylvania, schools, should be required to testify, the federal judge presiding over the case will examine those reporters' notes. The two reporters will turn over their source materials to Judge John E. Jones III in order for him to decide whether the reporters' testimony is relevant to the proceeding. If he decides it is not, he will quash the subpoenas issued to the journalists by the school board, which hopes to defend the changes in its curriculum made last year. Those changes include the introduction of information on intelligent design, which presents the notion that the universe must have been created by an unnamed but purposeful force. The Thomas More Law Center, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is providing legal assistance to the school board. Eight families are challenging the changes in the curriculum, saying that ID is simply creationism dressed up in secular language. See a story here about the judge's decision to review the notes, an ACLU press release about the lawsuit here, and a December 2004 story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the lawsuit here.
John Dean Ruminates on Karl Rove's Potential Legal Troubles
FindLaw columnist John Dean has posted an interesting piece on Karl Rove, in which he discusses among other things the applicability of the Intelligence Identities and Protection Act to Rove's presumed situation, since Time reporter Matthew Cooper has now identified Rove as his source. According to Dean, it's not clear that the Act applies yet, if at all. But it's possible that other laws were violated, and he goes on to discuss a prior case involving Jonathan Randel, a government employee convicted of leaking information in 2002. Further, he discusses whether, if New York Times reporter Judith Miller told Rove about Valerie Plame (and not the other way around), that lessens Rove's legal problems. His conclusion--not necessarily. See his column here.
Meanwhile, yet another source, speaking on condition of anonymity (what, again?) says that Karl Rove told the grand jury he learned about Valerie Plame's identity from reporters, then talked about her with "a Time magazine reporter" (presumably Matthew Cooper) later. Read AP writer John Solomon's story here.
German Product Placement Scandal Costs Jobs--Investigation Continues
Variety and other media report that Bavaria Film admits it engaged in product placement, which is illegal in Germany, even if disclosed. An investigation by Evangelischer Pressedienst (EPD) revealed that covert pitching for products and issues, including Turkish membership in the EU, had been going on for years. Several execs have now been fired and an investigation continues, not only into the activities of Bavaria Film, which is a public entity, but into what may have been going on at Germany's commercial networks. Read more in Variety here and in Hollywood Reporter here.
July 14, 2005
Polanski to Testify Via Video-Link in Libel Case
Director Roman Polanski, who has lived in France since he pled guilty in 1977 in a U.S. court to having sex with a 13-year-old girl, and then fled the country before he was sentenced, is preparing to testify via video link in his defamation case against Vanity Fair magazine. He claims that the periodical libelled him in a 2002 article when it wrote that he flirted with a Swedish woman while on the way to his wife's funeral in 1969. A lower court had ruled that in order to proceed with his case, Polanski would have had to come to London to testify. Setting foot in England would have put him at risk of extradition to the United States. But England's highest court overturned the lower court ruling, allowing him to use a video link from Paris instead. France will not extradite him to the U.S. Read Mike Collett-White's article here. Read the opinion of the House of Lords overturning the lower court here.
Federal Judge Dismisses Defamation Claims Against Filmmaker Moore
Ruling that Michael Moore's statements were "factual and substantially true", U. S. District Court Judge Paul D. Borman has tossed James Nichols' lawsuit against the filmmaker without allowing the case to proceed to trial. Nichols had objected that Moore's portrayal of him in the 2002 film "Bowling for Columbine" might cause viewers to believe that he actually participated in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. He also claimed that Moore's film caused him emotional distress and invaded his privacy. Borman considered Nichols a public figure for purposes of the suit, since the brother of convicted bomber Terry Nichols "voluntarily injected himself into the public controversy surrounding the bombing". Read more about the ruling here and here.
Media Loses Effort to Block Turnover of Pro-Hunt Rally Materials
The Guardian, ITV, Reuters and other media outlets lost their appeal to keep hold of photographs, tapes and other materials related to the 2004 pro-hunt rally in Parliament Square, which resulted in allegations of police violence against demonstrators. In order to investigate the allegations, John Cummins of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, had requested the materials. But Andrew Nicol, representing the media, maintained that Cummins did not have adequate authority under the relevant statute to make such a sweeping request. However, the ruling of the judge in the case has been upheld, and Mr. Nicol's further request for judicial review has been denied. See the Media Guardian's coverage here. See more about the 2004 rally and fox-hunting here. See more about the Independent Police Complaints Commission here.
July 13, 2005
Harry Potter and the Law of Magic
As The Day (July 15) nears, speculation on which character in the Harry Potter universe will bite the dust by the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is running rampant. Security is still tight in order to make certain that no one gets a copy of the book before the Big Day. Read more about Potter security in the Christian Science Monitor here.
The two men charged with stealing two copies of the book in June were stopped dramatically, and author J. K. Rowling got an injunction against them--read an account here. She and her lawyers have also gone after all sorts of "take-offs" on the Harry Potter books, such as Tanya Grotter and the Magic Double Bass--read Tim Wu's article about their odyssey here. Are these books unprotected HP ripoffs, or protected parodies? Somewhat difficult to tell--the Barry Trotter parodies are available here in the U. S., though (you can read Michael Gerber's Barry Trotter and the Unauthorized Parody and Barry Trotter and the Unnecessary Sequel any time you like).
BBC Changes Copyright Terms With Independents
In a reversal of its long-standing policy, the BBC has now changed the way it handles copyright for independent companies that provide it radio programs for broadcast. Instead of keeping the copyright for such programs, it will now license the programs for 10 years. The companies will hold their own copyright in the material. While the deal is not quite as liberal as that in place for independent television companies, which get a five year licensing deal, it's still much better than what faced the radio producers previously. In addition to keeping copyright, the producers will be able to sell their programs abroad and exploit the possibility of creating new works through other technologies such as podcasting. The industry group Radio Independents Group (RIG) is reported to be pleased with this outcome. Read Julia Day's story here.
A Follow-Up on "Die Bunte"
The German mag Die Bunte, mentioned in one of yesterday's posts, is a popular mag that features stories about celebs, politicians and those currently in the public eye. It also carries hot news, of the Time and Newsweek variety. Thanks to Michael Botein of New York Law School for pointing out that some folks might not know of the popularity of Die Bunte over here.
July 12, 2005
Juris Novus Featuring Blogs from the Law Professor Blogs Network
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BBC Apologizes for "Distressing" Images
After receiving at least one complaint on the subject, the BBC has apologized for broadcasting live pictures of a man being resuscitated in the wake of the London bombings last week. Read Media Guardian coverage here. Read the BBC's own response here.
Fifth Circuit Upholds Lower Court Dismissal of Lawsuit Brought by Former Swiss Ambassador, Wife Based on Lack of Jurisdiction
The U.S. FIfth Circuit has upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a lawsuit involving defamation, IIED and other claims against Hubert Burda Media, Bertelsmann AG, and Gruner & Jahr on the basis of lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that "none of [the] appellees has sufficient contacts in Texas to satisfy due process limitations on general or specific jurisdiction in the forum state." Thomas Borer, former Swiss Ambassador to Germany, and his wife, a former Miss Texas, brought the action based on stories (later admitted to be false) that Borer had had an affair with a beautician, and that the plaintiffs alleged cast Mrs. Borer in an unflattering light as "accustomed to playing the role of wife to an unfaithful husband...". As media scrutiny continued, "the couple suffered negative ramifications. In April 2002, Borer was recalled to Switzerland and was stripped of his ambassadorship. Around the same time, Fielding [Mrs. Borer] suffered a miscarriage....The couple alleges that they suffered injury to their reputation amongst their family, friends and acquaintances in Texas."
The district court examined the contacts that the magazine which published the stories had in Texas and found them insufficient to assert jurisdiction. "Knowledge that sufficient harm would be suffered in Texas is conspicuously lacking. In addition to reporting German activities of German residents, the Bunte articles were directed at a German audience, as demonstrated by the fact that all of the articles were published in the German language, and 97% of the magazine's issues were sold in Germany. Moreover, the plaintiff's mere residence in the forum state is not sufficient to show that the defendant had knowledge that effect would be felt there...Here, Fielding and Borer have not even proven that they did, in fact, ever reside in Texas during any of the time relevant to this suit." Plaintiffs also failed to establish that the court had any personal jurisdiction over the publishers. Thus, "since the brunt of the harm of the alleged libel was not suffered in Texas and the publishers did not meaningfully direct their activities toward Texas" the 5th Circuit upheld the district court's grant of dismissal in the case. Read the opinion here.
July 11, 2005
UK Issues Another Report on Cameras in the Courtroom
The United Kingdom's Department for Constitutional Affairs has released its Post Consultation Survey on cameras in the courtroom. Photographic equipment has been banned from UK courtrooms since 1925. Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, announced he had not made a decision on whether to allow cameras in any courtroom. Most proponents of courtroom cameras thought that justice should be seen to be done, and that broadcasting, whether over the airwaves or via the Internet, would assist in this enterprise. Opponents thought that the right to a fair trial would be infringed. In between were those who thought that some proceedings in open court, or in some types of courts, such as the Courts of Appeal, might be broadcast, but others should not. The paper is available here.
Fear of Filing
Doug Clifton, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's editor, said in a June 30, 2005 column that he is sitting on two stories because "[p]ublishing the stories would almost certainly lead to a leak investigation and the ultimate choice: talk or go to jail." The column has made headlines across the pond. See the PD story here. See Media Guardian coverage here.
Meanwhile, commentary continues to pour in from abroad. In a piece that appeared in Beirut's The Daily Star, David Ignatius sympathizes with the New York Times' Judith Miller but maintains that this case makes bad law. The Jamaica Observer supports Miller's position. See here.
Time's website currently has a piece called "When To Give Up a Source." See here. (Payment may be required).