June 22, 2007
Heather Mills McCartney Testifies Against Photographer
Heather Mills McCartney testified yesterday that a photographer assaulted her in a subway last year by "grabbing" her and turning her around so that he could get a photo of her. She testified that at the time she was trying to escape other journalists who were trying to get photos of her. However, the defendant's attorney suggested that the journalist's series of photographs, all timestamped and dated and introduced into evidence, did not allow for the sequence of events that Ms. Mills McCartney alleged. The photographer, Jay Kaycappa, is standing trial for the assault in Brighton. Read more here in a story in the Evening Standard.
June 21, 2007
Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Media Has Right To Names, But Not Addresses, Of Jurors in Criminal Trial
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has decided that, in order to ensure openness, the press has the right to obtain the names of jurors in a criminal trial, but not their addresses. "we believe that revealing impaneled jurors’ names is sufficient. Openness is fostered by the public knowledge of who is on the impaneled jury. Armed with such knowledge, the public can confirm the impartiality of the jury, which acts as an additional check upon the prosecutorial and judicial process....Similarly, prospective jurors would be less inclined to lie during voir dire “by inducing the fear of exposure of subsequent falsities through disclosure by informed persons who may chance to be present or to hear of the testimony from others present.” ...Accordingly, disclosing jurors’ names allows the public to participate in the judicial process and furthers the fairness and the appearance of fairness of the criminal trial, since the public can confirm the impartiality of the proceedings and the prospective jurors are more likely to tell the truth....On the other hand, disclosing jurors’ addresses is not a constitutional imperative. Revealing jurors’ names is sufficient for the public to determine the identity of the jurors’ and to provide an additional check on ensuring the impartiality of the jury. Disclosure of jurors’ addresses does not advance these important functions, but merely makes these functions easier. The First Amendment is not a rule of convenience. Indeed, disclosing jurors’ addresses may ultimately hamper the operation of the jury system as a whole. Turning to the need to encourage jury service, all of the important functions served by the jury are meaningless unless there are twelve qualified citizens willing to serve as jurors. The average citizen has expressed discomfort at the prospect of being harassed by the press during or after the case is over....Similarly, jurors have expressed fear of physical harm related to serving on criminal juries....Either of these factors may make the average citizen less willing to serve on a jury, especially if he or she believes that the media, the defendant, or the defendant’s family and friends know where he or she lives. Taking in mind the tradition of accessibility, as well as the competing values of openness versus the promotion of jury service, the conclusion is inescapable. We believe the First Amendment provides a qualified right of access to jurors’ names, but not addresses."
The case is Commonwealth v. Long (J-15A&B-2006), decided May 31, 2007).
Regulating Violence on TV
Adam Thierer, Progress & Freedom Foundation, has published "The RIght Way to Regulate Violent TV." Here is the abstract.
Use of the wide variety of available technological controls, household media rules and other private sector efforts are a much better alternative to government regulation to address concerns about children's exposure to violence on television. Lawmakers should be wary of policies that could be struck down in court as unconstitutional, considering recent decisions that have ruled in favor of a least restrictive alternative and away from broad, government-imposed censorship.
Numerous tools and methods, both technical and non-technical, which can be used to control what media content children are exposed to in the home, include private ratings systems, V-chips, personal video recorders, controls provided by cable and satellite providers, and formal or informal household media consumption rules.
Concerned parents and others can work with third parties to gather information and even work within the media marketplace to influence what fare is shown on broadcast and cable television, by making use of ratings and reviews provided by independent organizations and the many educational efforts aimed at teaching adults about parental controls available for all types of media, including television, movies and games.
But if, for whatever reason, some parents are not taking advantage of these tools and options, their inaction should not be used to justify government regulation of programming as a surrogate for household/parental choice.
Download the entire article from SSRN here.
June 20, 2007
Republic of Ireland Bans Video Game
The Republic of Ireland has banned a video game for its violence. The game, Manhunt 2, is made by Take Two Interactive Software. Read more here.
Christina Applegate's New TV Series Changes Name After Infringement Lawsuit Threat
Christina Applegate's new fall series was originally called "Sam I Am," but has changed its name to "Samantha Be Good," not quite so catchy, but also not quite so likely to catch a lawsuit from Dr. Seuss Enterprises, holders of the rights to the famous book Green Eggs and Ham, in which the character Sam-I-Am appears. Attorneys for the company sent out a cease-and-desist notice, they claim, to protect the brand. Read more here in a San Jose Mercury News story and in a Variety story here.
June 19, 2007
New Hampshire Supreme Court Adopts Issue-Specific Version of Libel-Proof Plaintiff Doctrine
In Thomas v. Telegraph Publishing, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that "[t]o justify applying the doctrine, the evidence of record must show not only that the plaintiff engaged in criminal or anti-social behavior in the past, but also that his activities were widely reported to the public. The evidence on the nature of the conduct, the number of offenses, and the degree and range of publicity received must make it clear, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff's reputation could not have suffered from the publication of the false and libelous statement." The plaintiff had alleged that an article in the Nashua Telegraph had defamed him by printing that he "“is suspected in more than 1,000 home burglaries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire since the mid-1970's, according to police and court records.” Read the entire ruling here. The case is Thomas v. Telegraph Publishing, 35 Med. L. Rptr. 1769 (2007).
June 18, 2007
BBC Criticizes Programs; Issues Report Suggesting They May Be Editorializing Inappropriately
The BBC has released a report criticizing programs, including some popular BBC shows, and suggesting that it may have violated guidelines concerning content and point of view. Among the programs singled out for criticism was the comedy "The Vicar of Dibley", which starred Dawn French. Said the report writers, "2005 began with an edition of The Vicar of Dibley on BBC One on New Year’s Day. Make Poverty History formally launched its campaign to coincide with this transmission. The episode, ‘Happy New Year’, featured a storyline about Geraldine’s keenness to ‘make extreme poverty history for ever’. After her crusade has been mocked by her parishioners, she finally gathers them round her laptop to look at campaign material on the internet. The Make Poverty History website is clearly shown, and she then plays them a Make Poverty History video which runs full screen, without any other dialogue, for one minute 24 seconds. Having earlier handed round white armbands (a Make Poverty History campaign accessory), she ends the programme by turning round to find they have all put one on, in thrall to the video’s message. And then, in place of the normal credits, the signature tune accompanies unsmiling portraits of each cast member wearing the armband – an unspoken appeal for audience support. Nowhere did the BBC acknowledge that the scriptwriter, Richard Curtis, was himself spearheading the Make Poverty History campaign. The implication was that the cause was universal and uncontroversial, whereas the Make Poverty History website made clear that it had contentious political goals. One view was that this was a laudable attempt to use the BBC’s most popular comedy show to harness public interest for a worthwhile cause. Another (admittedly less widespread) was that the unsuspecting comedy audience had been ambushed."
The writers continued with analysis of more instances in which the propounders of the Make Poverty History campaign manifested an agenda in other BBC programs. Read the entire report and appendices here. Read an article about the report here.