Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Athlete Obtains Preliminary Injuction Against Custom Swimwear Manufacturer for Unauthorized Use of Image

South African Olympic champion Richard Schoeman entered into an agreement with custom swimwear manufacturer Agon Sports to allow his photograph to be used in its 2004 catalogue. Agon, however, used the photo in its 2005 catalogue, whereupon Schoeman's attorney asked Agon to desist from further use of Schoeman's image. Schoeman sued under New York Civil Rights Law [sections] 50 and 51 claiming violation of his right of privacy.

According to the court, "In order to establish liability for invasion of the right to privacy under New York's Civil Rights Law, the Plaintiff must demonstrate four elements; to wit: the defendant (1) used the plaintiff's picture for advertising or trade purposes (2) within New York (3) without Plaintiff's consent and (4) there was a direct and substantial connection between the appearance of plaintiff's name or likeness and the main purpose and subject of the work....The purpose of using Schoeman's picture was indisputably for advertising or trade. Schoeman, an Olympic gold and silver medalist swimmer, is well recognized within the international swimming community as a result of his great success and prowess in his sport. Defendant's catalogue is a publication used for the sole purpose of selling swimming apparel. Agon has admitted using Plaintiff's picture in its 2005 catalogue. Thus, Plaintiff's picture was directly and substantially used to increase sales of Agon's swimming apparel and, ultimately, generate profits. The fact that the product being sold is swimming apparel and that Plaintiff is a world renowned swimmer establishes that there is a direct and substantial connection between the use of Plaintiff's picture and the main purpose of the work....Civil Rights Law §§ 50 and 51 apply to any use of a person's picture or likeness for advertising or trade purposes whenever the Defendant has not obtained the person's written consent to do so. It would, therefore, apply in cases where the plaintiff generally seeks publicity, for commercial purposes but has not given written consent for a particular use....Schoenman, who has consciously sought to establish publicity value for his persona and likeness cannot be exploited by Agon without his consent or due compensation....It is undisputed that Plaintiff did not give Defendant consent to use his image or likeness in the Agon 2005 catalogue. Originally, in 2003, he did give his consent for the 2004 catalogue but nothing more. Plaintiff's consent expired in 2004. On or about February 14, 2005, Plaintiff's attorney sent a letter to Jennifer Escalas of Agon, demanding that Defendant cease and desist from any further use of his image in any manner whatsoever. Thus, it was patently clear to Agon that Plaintiff did not consent to Defendant's continued use of his image beyond the 2004 catalogue....The use of Plaintiff's picture was not "incidental" or "isolated". Schoeman's picture was directly related to the purpose of the catalogue. Even after written demand was made to cease and desist its unauthorized use, Agon used Plaintiff's picture for the purpose of selling its sports apparel. Therefore, under Civil Rights Law §§ 50 and 51, Schoeman has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of the case."

However, the court limited the scope of the injunction. "It is undisputed that Schoeman's identity was impermissibly misappropriated for the purposes of trade and advertising. Therefore, he has suffered harm. However, the relief cannot be as broad as he seeks. Advertisements that have already been published are not subject to recall as a form of relief based on a violation of Civil Rights Law §51....Agon has already distributed the 2005 catalogues with Schoeman's picture in it. The recall of all of the catalogues distributed, many of which have been delivered to private residences, would be nearly impossible. Directing and enforcing a recall and retraction will place an unacceptable financial burden on Defendant, especially where Plaintiff can be fully compensated monetarily. Therefore, this branch of injunctive relief, seeking the recall of the 2005 Agon catalogue, must be denied. With respect to Agon's prospective use of Schoeman's picture, an injunction barring its further use must be granted....To allow Agon to continue to use Schoeman's picture in the future would violate his right to privacy. There can be no doubt but that as a world class athlete, Schoeman has a limited amount of the time in which he will remain an elite competitor and in the public eye. Thus, he has an absolute right to determine how to best exploit his talent and renown. Neither Agon nor anyone else should be permitted to deprive Schoeman of this well-earned right...."


"In the face of Agon's admitted knowledge that Schoeman withdrew his consent to the use of his image and likeness, it seems unlikely that the injunctive relief granted herein will be found to be improvident. However, since establishing an undertaking is mandatory to prevent an injunction from being voidable...the Court sets an undertaking in the sum of $1,000. "

Read the entire ruling here.

April 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dan Tench, Colleagues, Crack "Smithy Code"

Dan Tench and his colleagues from the London branch of Olswang have cracked Mr. Justice Smith's code, imbedded in the "Da Vinci Code" ruling handed down earlier this month. It's only fitting--Tench was the attorney who first paid serious attention to the strange font scattered throughout Smith's decision. What does the deciphered message say? "Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought." What does it signify? Possibly that if you look hard enough that you can find meaning anywhere.

April 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Publisher Withdraws Novel

Little, Brown is withdrawing copies of Kaavya Viswanathan's book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life from sale. The author has admitted reading author Megan McCafferty's novels several times and has explained how she wrote her own novel. Her publisher indicated it will not sue her for breach of contract, but said nothing about the additional book she was signed to write. Dreamworks had acquired film rights for HOMGKGWGAL. Perhaps it should approach McCafferty instead? Her new novel, Charmed Thirds, will hit one of the NYT Fiction Best Seller lists at number 30 on May 7th.

April 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Canadian Government Bans Media From Covering Ceremonies Honoring War Dead; Who Made Decision Unclear

The Canadian media haven't been invited to cover ceremonies honoring the six citizens killed so far in the fighting abroad, but it's unclear who in the government made the decision to ban press and television. Some suggest the idea came from the Prime Minister's Director of Communications Sandra Harper, but she denies it. Officials say the ban protects the families' privacy. Critics say it limits the public's exposure to controversial photos of returning coffins. Read more in the Globe and Mail here.

April 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 27, 2006


The judge who handed down the ruling in the "Da Vinci Code" litigation has left behind some code of his own, according to reporters who have since studied the opinion. First to be clued in was a New York Times reporter. Next on the trail was Dan Tench, a UK media lawyer, who noticed something weird about the judge's choice of font. The judge confirms that digging deeper is a good idea. Beyond that, 'tis still a puzzlement.

[Cross posted to The Seamless Web].

April 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Digital Downloading

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on the contentious issue of digital downloading. Some members of Congress have told members of the industry to come to a consensus about royalty payments for such downloads before Congress does it for them.

April 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sharon Stone Wins Libel Lawsuit

Actress Sharon Stone has won her defamation suit against England's Daily Mail. The paper had printed a story in which it alleged that she had dined with a "mystery male companion" while her small son was left behind in her car. Stone denied the allegations. The newspaper has withdrawn the story, is paying the actress' court costs and an unnamed amount in damages, which Stone will donate to a charity. Read more here and here.

April 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Unions Reach Agreement Over "Lost" Broadcasts

The Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild of America West and the Directors Guild of America have reached agreements over compensation and benefits for cell phone broadcasts of portions of the ABC hit "Lost". Who would be entitled to profits from such products has been a source of much discussion over the past few months. Read more here.

April 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Harvard Plagiarism Flap Continues

Crown Publishing, which published Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, the novels Harvard undergrad and novelist phenom Kaavya Viswanathan is alleged to have copied, says it doesn't believe she did so unintentionally. A spokesperson for the publishing house says the similarities between Viswanathan's novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, published by Little, Brown, and the two earlier books by Megan McCafferty are too numerous to be explained as accidental. Little, Brown says it stands by the younger author and plans to give Viswanathan time to rewrite her novel, after which it will re-issue the revised version. Read more here. Meanwhile, Harvard has announced it will investigate the issue.

April 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Networks, Local Affiliates Ponder Their Relationship In the Age of the Internet

One of the hot topics being discussed at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention this year is how local affiliates can continue to hold local viewership, compete for advertising dollars, and avoid the specter of FCC fines. The networks are moving quickly to offer their products to the Internet and other outlets. Affiliates would like to share in the profits likely to accrue from those deals. Meanwhile, those locals who agree to broadcast network products find themselves open to the prospect of paying fines imposed by an FCC angry over indecent or lewd behavior or speech. One solution is to impose a broadcast delay. Read more here.

April 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 24, 2006

District Court Transfers Website Case; No Jurisdiction

In Bell v. Shah, Joel Bell and Bell Management alleged that Jonathan Givony, "a writer for a website entitled ""...directed false and defamatory accusations against them on the Website on several occasions. Defendant has moved to dismiss...under Rule 12(b)(2)...for lack of personal jurisdiction...I agree...."

"Plaintiffs contend that the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant under Connecticut's long-arm statute because he was a partner in a de facto Connecticut transacted business in this state....The plaintiffs' submissions, viewed fully and most favorably to them, are insufficient to sustain their burden of smowing that the defendant has transacted business in Connecticut....Maintaining a website does not constitute transacting business under the long-arm statute unless the website specifically targets COnnecticut consumers, which is not alleged here.


"Plaintiffs contend that the court has personal jurisdiction...under another section of the long-arm statute...which applies to a person who "uses a computer...". Defendant did not use a computer in Connecticut--he only sent emails to Shah, some of which were read on Shah's Connecticut computer. And his use of the Website, which was accessible by computer in Connecticut, does not constitute use of a computer network....If the legislature had meant "internet" instead of "computer network" it would have said so...."

Read the court's entire ruling here.

April 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

CIA Fires Analyst Over Leak

The CIA has fired a senior analyst, identified as Mary O. McCarthy, allegedly for leaking information to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, about secret prisons abroad that hold or have held suspected terrorists. (See another story from Reuters here.) The firing has re-ignited accusations that the Bush Administration is attempting to silence media critics, this time from within by preventing disaffected members of the bureaucracy from talking to the press. Meanwhile, Priest won a Pulitzer Prize last week for her reporting. Did McCarthy go to the press rather than use internal means to object to policies with which she disagreed? Were such effective means available to her? Is what she did (if she did it) whistleblowing or treason? The blogosphere is already out in force discussing the question. Does all this mean there is a new meaning for "McCarthyism"?

April 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)