Friday, January 19, 2007
Turkish newspaper editor Hrant Dink, who spoke out about the deaths of Armenians during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, was murdered earlier today outside his office in Istanbul. Mr. Dink was convicted of "insulting Turkishness" in 2005 for writing about the Armenian genocide. Read about Mr. Dink's death and Turkish reaction here and here.
The Media Guardian and other press continue to cover the controversy over Channel 4's "Celebrity Big Brother' show, in which some of the contestants are accused over making racist comments about one of the other participants. Government officials have gotten into the the debate, and viewers have been complaining bitterly to the network about what they have been seeing, and hearing, about the show. The British agency Ofcom has indicated that it would contact Channel 4 soon. Read more here. This page provides additional links to earlier stories.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, the Random House writers who lost their case against Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, have leave to appeal the verdict and pled their case yesterday in the Court of Appeal in London. The two were not optimistic, however, according to Nigel Andrew's January 14 Observer article. They have a two million legal bill pending from their court loss last year. Their attorney claimed in court that the two expended a great deal of effort in writing their book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, and that that effort should be protected. Read more about the opening arguments and the theory of the appeal here.
Both Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, and the Chandler family, which used to own the Los Angeles Times, which has been quite troubled by its own managerial fights with the Tribune Company, have evinced interest in acquiring substantial stakes in the company. The Broad-Burkle bid is a refinancing offer. The Chandler family has not yet made a formal bid. Read more here in a New York Times article published today.
HarperCollins, owned by NewsCorp, which fired Judith Regan after the O. J. Simpson "If I Did It" debacle, has decided to cease the use of the Regan Books imprint. It is also shutting down the publishing house's offices and absorbing Regan Books' operations. Ms. Regan's attorney Bert Fields, an extremely well-known entertainment industry attorney, noted that litigation is likely to follow the company's actions. Read more here in a Hollywood Reporter story. Read more about Ms. Regan's parting of ways with HarperCollins and NewsCorp here in a Wall Street Journal (online) story from December 18, 2006.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Ofcom has ruled that Channel Five's "Britain's Fattest Teenager" is not in breach of the broadcasting code in spite of the on-air use of the word "cunt" just after 9 p.m. The network broadcast an advisory because 9 p.m. is a watershed hour. After receiving complaints, Ofcom investigated the use of the word, twelve minutes into the episode.
"The word was used by him [the subject of the episode--Ed.]in relation to the insults he was subjected to. Five was asked to comment on the use of the word in relation to Rule 2.3 of the Code (generally accepted standards)....
"Five said that this was an observational programme following Jonathan, a teenager with a very serious weight problem. As far as possible and where appropriate, Five stated that it wanted the film to accurately reflect Jonathan’s life, so the viewer understood his lifestyle and attitudes as well as the environment in which he lived, including the adverse comments and abuse to which he was subject.
"Five further stated that in the second half of the programme there was a discussion about the insults Jonathan was subjected to and the abuse he received as a result of his physical appearance. Jonathan recounted the taunts which included “you fat bastard” as a football chant and “there’s that fat cunt off Trisha” (a reference to Jonathan appearing previously on the Trisha programme). Five believed it was important for viewers to understand the way Jonathan was insulted by strangers in the street and the impact it had on him. To this end, Five felt it was inappropriate to ‘bleep’ out the swearing, including the word “cunt”, as they considered it would have considerably undermined the viewers’ understanding of the story.
"Five further stated that whilst the word “cunt” was used as a taunt aimed at Jonathan, the manner in which he recounted the story was not aggressive, and as a result any potential offence caused to viewers associated with the use of the word would have been significantly undermined. Five also pointed out that the programme was preceded by a strong language warning, and the Controller at Five responsible for the programme specifically sanctioned the use of this language which, it was felt, was important in telling Jonathan’s story. They went on to say that given the nature of the programme, the likely adult audience, the warning which preceded the programme and the fact that the swear word complained of appeared later in the first part of the programme (not immediately after the watershed) Five believed its use was justified in the particular context....
"Research into swearing carried out by Ofcom (Language and Sexual Imagery in Broadcasting: A Contextual Investigation, September 2005) indicates that the word “cunt” is amongst those considered the most offensive . The Code states that broadcasters must ensure that its use must be justified by the context.
"Ofcom considered that this was a serious documentary recording the difficulties faced by a teenager with weight problems. The use of the word by Jonathan was not aggressive but used by the teenager when describing the regular abuse he suffered. Ofcom acknowledged Five’s explanation that to bleep out the word might have lessened the impact of such abuse and its effects on the boy. Ofcom also noted that the programme was preceded by a verbal warning, “The programme contains strong language…”. The impact of the word was also lessened as it was not necessarily readily distinguishable.
"Taking the above into account, on this occasion, Ofcom did not consider there was a breach of the Code. However it should be noted that only in exceptional cases will it be acceptable to broadcast the word “cunt” close to the watershed. Further, Ofcom believed that, given the time of broadcast, the warning could have been clearer...."
British watchdog agency Ofcom told ITV it was in breach of the broadcasting code for a question it posed on a recent episode of the popular quiz show, Quizmania. The offending question was intended to elicit answers on the subject of "things you find in a woman's handbag" and included "balaclava" and names for wall plugs. Other items were false teeth, rubber bands, and airplane tickets. After investigation, Ofcom found that "inclusion of these answers was unreasonable and the competition was therefore not conducted fairly" (rule 2.11). Read the Ofcom decision here.
Read more in a Media Guardian story here.
Monday, January 15, 2007
The New York Times has an interesting article on Hollywood's uneasy, and perhaps now changing, relationship with YouTube, newly taken over by Google. YouTube has long been an easy home for pirated movie and music clips, a fact that the entertainment industry has had trouble digesting. But now, Hollywood sees that YouTube might be helpful not just in traditional ways--for creating product buzz--but for the creation and distribution of new content and derivation material.
Today's New York Times has a background article about Judge Jack B. Weinstein's attempt to shut down the sharing of documents originally ordered sealed in the Eli Lilly litigation. Those documents went from a witness in the case, told to produce them by a court in another, unrelated case, to a lawyer in the unrelated case representing one of the parties. Now it seems as though they are sitting everywhere, from the Times' own files to Swedish servers, all apparently far from Judge Weinstein's reach, although he has ordered the attorney in the unrelated case to get all copies of the documents back. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has now taken an lively interest and has filed its own motion. Representing a John Doe who has posted Lilly documents to a Wiki, the EFF alleges that the judge's injunction applies to a non-party and that the injunction amounts to a prior restraint.
My LawProf colleague William Childs has more discussion of the Zyprexa case at his TortsProfBlog here.
Sunday, January 14, 2007