March 3, 2006
School Administrators, Police Investigate Postings on MySpace.com
Twenty students have completed a two-day suspension and one boy faces expulsion after a teacher found a posting on MySpace.com that seemed to threaten a female classmate. The boy had created a group and named it "I hate [the girl's name]." He then posted a message that asked members of the group, ""Who here in the (group name) wants to take a shotgun and blast her in the head over a thousand times?" The teacher apparently then raised the alarm. The problem arises, however, because the activity took place off school grounds, on non-school computers, and during non-school hours. Read more here and here.
Playboy Magazine Sues For Copyright Infringement, May Be Sued Over Jessica Alba Cover
According to papers filed in U. S. District Court in early February, two Miami area nightclubs used photographs of actress Bai Ling and later Playboy Playmates Nicole Lenz and Colleen Shannon to advertise their businesses, even after Playboy Enterprises had refused permission to reproduce the material. Playboy says anyone viewing the images, which clearly have the nightclubs' names imprinted on them, would think Playboy is associated with the clubs and their activities. So, the company went to court. Read more here. Meanwhile, actress Jessica Alba says she did not pose for Playboy's cover--what appears is a promotional shot, and that she doesn't appear inside the mag. Sony Pictures, which owns the image, wrote to Playboy objecting to the use of the image and requesting an apology on behalf of Sony and Ms. Alba.
National Archives To Declassify Reclassified Documents
The New York Times reports that Allen Weinstein, the U. S.' head archivist, has told the National Archives to stop re-classifying documents until the agency can establish why these documents are being re-classified, and has asked other agencies to consider returning documents they have yanked from the Archives' open shelves. He released a statement that explained initatives to prevent further reclassification that would prevent access to non-sensitive material. These include "[t]he imposition of a moratorium on other agency personnel identifying for withdrawal for classification purposes any declassified records currently on the public shelves at the National Archives until the audit, conducted by the National Archives Information Security Oversight Office, is complete"; "[a] “summit” with national security agencies involved with these withdrawal efforts within the next week. The purpose of this meeting is to ensure the proper balance of agency authority to restore classification controls where appropriate and the Archivist’s obligation to ensure maximum access to archival records consistent with law, regulation and common sense"; and "[d]irecting the Information Security Oversight Office to develop, in consultation with affected agencies, clear and concise standardized guidance, with an appropriately high threshold, that will govern the withdrawal of records from the open shelves for classification purposes. This guidance will be promulgated prior to allowing future removal of any records from the open shelves for classification purposes and will be publicly available."
Read the Archivist's entire statement here.
"Crash" In Court; Independent Producer Sues Others, Academy Over Credit for Film
Bob Yari, Cathy Schulman and Tom Nunan have ended up in court over who should get producer credit for Academy Award Best Picture nominee "Crash". Schulman and Nunan allege that Yari has withheld profits at Bulls Eye Entertainment, their joint venture--Yari says the other two aren't handling finances properly at the company. What makes matters worse is that the Producers Guild of America decided that of the six people listed as producers on the film, only Schulman and Paul Haggis should actually get credit (and walk to the stage) should "Crash" win an Oscar on Sunday night. Read more here and here. Finally, Yari has now sued the American Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences over his omission from the list of "Crash" producers. Meanwhile, "Crash" has surpassed several other nominees (and Best Picture Oscar winners) for the number of curse words used in a film--according to Familymediaguide.com. The tally? 182. Read more here.
March 2, 2006
Photographer Thomas Dallal's Case Against New York Times Remanded to Lower Court
The U. S. Second Circuit has vacated a lower court's award of summary judgment in the case of Dallal v. New York Times. The plaintiff, a freelance photographer, claimed that the defendant had infringed his copyright in his photographs by continuing to use them on its website without express authorization. "Dallal submits that the district court erred in concluding that he was equitably estopped from asserting his copyright infringement claim. Because we conclude that the question of estoppel cannot be decided as a matter of law on the present record, we vacate the challenged judgment and remand the case to the district court. Equitable estoppel "`is properly invoked when the enforcement of rights of one party would work an injustice on the other party due to the other's justifiable reliance upon the former's words or conduct.'".... "
[Thanks to Thomas Dallal for alerting me to this ruling].
March 1, 2006
Addressing the "Nuremberg Files"
William Funk, Lewis and Clark Law School, is publishing "Intimidation and the Internet" in the Penn State Law Review. Here is the abstract.
In 2002, in the case of Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette, Inc. v. American Coalition of Life Activists, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, upheld the district court's decision that the American Coalition of Life Activists, and several individuals associated with it, had violated the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act (FACE) by maintaining a website entitled the Nuremberg Files. The Nuremberg Files was a website that contained a list of names including those of doctors who performed abortions. Some names on these lists were crossed out, while others were in light grey rather than black. A legend on the website explained that the persons whose names were listed in black were working, while those listed in grey were wounded, and those whose names were struck out were fatalities. A major issue in the case was whether it was a violation of the First Amendment to restrain the defendants from maintaining this website. Of the eleven judges on the panel, six found that the website was not protected speech under the First Amendment, while five found that it was. Commentary on the decision in both the press and the academy was generally negative, viewing the decision as a setback for First Amendment values.
This article argues that while the Nuremberg Files site was not protected by the First Amendment, the reasons given by the judges in the majority on the Ninth Circuit were not the correct reasons for that conclusion. Rather, this article suggests that current First Amendment doctrine does not directly address the problem raised by the Nuremberg Files site: speech that is neither a direct threat nor an incitement, but nevertheless—because of its particular character, including its publication on the Internet—is intended to and does have the immediate effect of intimidating persons from engaging in lawful, even constitutionally protected, behavior.
In reaching this conclusion, this article will try to make three points. First, fear is a social evil that the state may protect against, an evil distinct from the actual danger of an event occurring. Second, the Internet is special; it is not "like" any other traditional media. Third, First Amendment analysis should not be limited to categorizing particular activities in certain predetermined boxes, such as true threats, incitement, defamation, fighting words, etc.; rather, it should be governed more by principles that take account of the balancing implicit in current First Amendment doctrine and categories.
The piece is also available from the SSRN here.
February 28, 2006
Part II of Julie Hilden's Commentary on the Cartoon Controversy
Findlaw's Julie Hilden ontinues her commentary on the Danish cartoon controversy. Read Part II here.
Da Vinci Lawsuit Opens in London
The infringement lawsuit over Dan Brown's bestseller The DaVinci Code has begun in London. Authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh claim that Brown improperly relied on the research in their book Holy Blood, Holy Grail in writing his novel. Random House published both works, which puts Baigent and Leigh in the odd position of suing their own publishers. Brown is not a defendant in the suit, but plans to testify for Random House. Sony Pictures indicated that it did not plan to delay release of the film, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, and based on Brown's book. Read more here, here, and here.
February 27, 2006
Three Photographers Fined One Euro For Taking Photos of Diana, Dodi Al-Fayed on Night of Fatal Crash
Three photographers have been fined one Euro for taking photographs of Dodi Al-Fayed and Princess Diana on the night of their fatal automobile crash. They, along with six other photographers, had originally been charged with manslaughter in 2002, but those charges were dropped. Later, the three were charged with breach of privacy. Lower courts had acquitted them, but Mohammed Al-Fayed, the father of Dodi Al-Fayed, had appealed to the Cour de Cassation, which reversed the acquittals. Read more here and here.
Otis Chandler, former Los Angeles Times Publisher, Dies at 78
Otis Chandler, who served as the publisher of the Los Angeles Times for 20 years, stepping down in 1980, and continuing to serve as chairman of the board and editor in chief until 1985, has died at the age of 78. Read more here.
Cartoon Controversy Continues
Canadian prosecutors have decided not to press charges against a Canadian paper that reprinted Danish cartoons that have caused a worldwide controversy. They said that under Canadian law, an intent to incite hatred was necessary, and that intent was not present. Read more in a Globe and Mail article here. Meanwhile, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf says he will press the United Nations to recognize blasphemy as an international crime. Read more here.