September 14, 2007
No Love Lost
A Chinese court has ordered an Internet web site to pay a text message writer the equivalent of thirteen thousand U.S. dollars for infringing his copyright by selling his "love notes" without his consent. Fu Zhanbei sued the site Sohu.com after it continued selling his messages after their agreement expired a year and a half ago. Read more here.
September 13, 2007
L. A. Judge: CBS, Phil McGraw May Have Access To Documents to Prepare Defense in Defamation, Invasion of Privacy Case
A Los Angeles judge has ruled that the Dr. Phil show and CBS may have access to documents to prepare their defense against two brothers who allege that a 2005 episode of the show defamed them and invaded their privacy, suggesting that they were involved in the disappearance of 18-year-old Natalie Holloway. Aruban authorities questioned Deepak and Satish Kalpoe at one point over Ms. Holloway's disappearance. CBS and Dr. Phil McGraw claim that the documents support the claims made in the show. Read more here.
Ben Affleck Film Release Delayed Because of Madeleine McCann Disappearance
The distributor of the Ben Affleck-directed film Gone Baby Gone has delayed its British release because of the story's similarity to the Madeleine McCann case. The movie, based on a Dennis Lehane book, was due to be released in the UK in late December. Read more here in a BBC story.
September 11, 2007
BBC in More Hot Water For Olympic Logo Footage
Ofcom has sanctioned the BBC for showing some footage of the 2012 Olympic logo that, according to a Media Guardian article "could have triggered epileptic seizures."
According to the Ofcom ruling, "Ofcom received 8 complaints regarding the transmission of the video logo designedfor the 2012 London Olympics during three separate news bulletins on BBC1 on 4and 6 June 2007. The images were broadcast as part of a report on the launch of the 2012 Olympics logo. The complainants included the British Epilepsy Association. The complainants were all concerned that broadcast of part of the animated 2012 logo, as part of the news reports, was harmful because of its likelihood to cause epileptic seizures. Certain types of flashing images may trigger seizures in viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy (“PSE”). The Code therefore contains rules aimed at minimising the risk to viewers who have photosensitive epilepsy. Rule 2.13 of the Code states that “Broadcasters must take precautions to maintain a low level of risk to viewers who have PSE. Where it is not reasonably practicable to follow the Ofcom guidance (see the Ofcom website), and where broadcasters can demonstrate that the broadcasting of flashing lights and/or patterns is editorially justified, viewers should be given an adequate verbal and also, if appropriate, text warning at the start of the programme or programme item”. On 4 June 2007, the BBC transmitted part of the Olympics video with a sequence of images containing rapid flashing images. Therefore the BBC was asked to comment on the compliance of this broadcast with Rule 2.13. While the broadcast of 6 June 2007 contained images from the Olympic video, it did not transmit what appeared to be the more problematic sequence of flashing images."
"The BBC explained that the news item in question covered the launch of the Olympics logo, which was a significant news event, and that the logo was featured as part of that event. It said that whilst the logo had been described in advance as dynamic and moving, no indication had been given to the BBC that it might be problematic. It said that its expectation in this case had been that a major public body launching a promotion such as this to the public would already have taken steps to ensure compliance and that the graphics would have been tested for photosensitivity and be safe for it to broadcast. The BBC said it would not normally expect to test such images before broadcast."
Ofcom ruled that "...In view of the potential harm which certain material can cause to PSE sufferers, broadcasters must exercise care when dealing with sequences which contain. Ofcom tested the excerpt of the promotional video for the 2012 Olympics transmitted in the 4 June 2007 news bulletin. It found that the majority was unproblematic. However, a brief diving sequence of 45 frames (around 2 seconds in length) contained an excessive number of ‘flashes’ that were clearly in breach of the guidelines. The BBC stated that it was not given time to assess the material in advance, and it would not normally expect to test such images before broadcast. However, irrespective of the source, it is the responsibility of the broadcaster to ensure that flashing images. Content which contains rapid scene cuts and/or where there is a change in screen brightness between cuts, should be reviewed with special care material it transmits complies with Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code. This responsibility is particularly important where there is the potential for harm to viewers. The broadcast of this material was therefore in breach of Rule 2.13."
Read the entire ruling here.
Regulating the Blogs
Allison Hayward, George Mason University School of Law, has published "Regulation of Blog Campaign Advocacy on the Internet: Comparing U.S., German and EU Approaches," as George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 07-27. Here is the abstract.
This essay examines how U.S., Germany, and EU cases have treated the regulation of political commentary on the Internet. As political blogging grows in popularity, the reach of these sites, and their influence in political campaigns, may make them a target for regulation by rivals and incumbents, both at home and abroad. Since ordinarily any URL can be reached from anywhere with Internet access, conflicting domestic rules about what can be said (and who can say it) present potential for conflicting rules on blogging.
In brief, U.S. law protects blogging content, but may impose restrictions on the source of political commentary by barring certain funding sources. German law imposes stricter limits on the content of blogging, but does not regulate financial sources to the same degree. European court rulings may offer greater protection than domestic German law, but seem inconsistent and thus add uncertainty and ambiguity to the situation. In the end, bloggers may avoid legal entanglement because they enjoy public sympathy and support, but better still would be an international agreement to spare blogging from prosecution.
Download the entire paper from SSRN here.
Analyzing the Auction
Susan P. Crawford, Cardozo Law School, has written "The Radio and the Internet," as Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 197. Here is the abstract.
The airwaves offer the potential for contributing to enormous economic growth if they are used more efficiently for facilitating high-speed internet access, but recent industry and government actions have failed to follow this path. This Article evaluates the multi-billion-dollar 700 MHz auction regime established by the Federal Communications Commission in August 2007 as a case study in our national approach to this valuable resource, and argues that the public interest would best be served by having ubiquitous access to the internet be the top priority of communications policy. The Article criticizes the nearly exclusive focus of the FCC on the interests of incumbents and law enforcement, and suggests that spectrum policy be focused on enabling unlicensed uses of the airwaves that can assist the nation with online access.
Download the entire paper from SSRN here.
September 10, 2007
Wardrobe Malfunction: The Appeal
Today's Legal Times has an article by Jeff Horwitz discussing the CBS appeal of the FCC ruling regarding the Janet Jackson Super Bowl 2004 halftime "wardrobe malfunction"(subscription required), or you can read it here at Law.com. The Third Circuit has scheduled oral arguments for tomorrow. The media replayed the "malfunction" itself hundreds of times so the public could judge it; now a panel of judges will decide whether Janet's flesh was indecent flash.
Here's a Washington Post article from November of 2006 discussing the case, which generated more than half a million dollars in fines for CBS and its affiliates.