Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Penguin Yanks Book, Citing Defamation Concerns

Penguin Publishers has removed Norman Lebrecht's new book, Maestros, Masterpieces, and Madness, from sale, because of some passages discussing Naxos' Klaus Heymann. Mr. Heymann objected to the material, which essentially accused him of dishonest dealings. Penguin apologized, and will pay damages and some of Mr. Heymann's legal fees. It will issue a paperback edition next year with revisions. The settlement does not affect the U. S. edition, which appeared under a different name and which was published by a division of Random House. Read more here in a Guardian article. The New York Times has more.

October 27, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Right of Publicity and the Commercial Use of Photos: Is "Nothing for a Nobody" Over?

FindLaw's Anita Ramasastry writes about the invasion of privacy/right of publicity lawsuit Alison Chang has filed against Virgin Mobile Australia and Creative Commons for using her photograph in an ad campaign without her permission. She thinks Ms. Chang has a good case against Virgin Mobile Australia, but not against Creative Commons. Read her essay here.

October 25, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Real World Money For Virtual World Harm?

Bettina Chin, editor of the Brooklyn Law Review, has published "Regulating Your Second Life: Defamation in Virtual Worlds," in volume 72 of the Brooklyn Law Review (2007). Here is the abstract.

Although the issue of virtual harm has never been raised in real-world courts, virtual worlds like Second Life have become increasingly significant in terms of both time and money for their users. As such, it is important to develop theories of how the law may apply to and resolve disputes that originate in these worlds. This Note will therefore argue that because users have imported real-world concepts, specifically currency and economy, into the metaverse, it would behoove brick and mortar societies to provide for redress if a user suffers pecuniary loss in these worlds. This Note will also explore certain ambiguities inherent and unique to the virtual environment when traditional elements of defamation law are applied to it. Moreover, this Note will argue that real-world courts should be the proper forum in which to litigate defamation actions, where victims suffer pecuniary loss due to the fall of their reputations.

Download the entire article from SSRN here.

October 25, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Composer Takes Defamation Case To ECHR

Composer Keith Burstein is taking his defamation suit over an unfavorable review of his recent opera, Manifest Destiny, to the European Court of Human Rights after the House of Lords refused to hear his appeal. The Evening Standard won a reversal in the lower court with a fair comment defense. Mr. Burstein regards a 2005 review by the Evening Standard's Veronica Lee as libelous. She said in part of his work, "I found the tone depressingly anti-American, and the idea that there is anything heroic about suicide bombers is, frankly, a grievous insult." She also called it "trite." He complained that her review amounted to an "`unwarranted attack' on his `motives and beliefs'."  The Law Lords, however, ruled that Mr. Burstein did "raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the House." Mr. Burstein says he is concerned that Ms. Lee's review amounts to an allegation that through his presentation of his characters, he supports terrorism.

Read the lower court's ruling here.

October 24, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

ASA Shuts Down Two Ads, Ruling Them Misleading

The British watchdog agency ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) which regulates advertising, has ruled that a Sky TV advertisement comparing its installation costs with Virgin Media's costs is misleading and has banned the ad. And it has banned a television ad for Dettol Surface Cleanser, ruling that the company's claims that cutting boards contain "50 times more bacteria than your toilet seat" are misleading.

Read the ASA's ruling on the Sky TV complaint here.  Read the ASA's ruling on the Dettol complaint here.

October 24, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

British Police Shut Down Illegal File-Sharing Site After Long Investigation

British police, aided by an Interpol investigation, have successfully shut down a private website called Oink, which permitted invitation-only users to find and share music downloads. The website had been in operation for several years and had nearly 200,000 users. Oink aided users in obtaining access to music that had not been released publicly. Read more here in a Guardian article.

October 24, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Call for Applications--Staff Attorney/Graduate Teaching Fellow in First Amendment and Media Law/Institute for Public Representation, Georgetown University Law Center

The Institute for Public Representation invites applications for a two-year position starting in August 2008 as a Staff Attorney/Graduate Teaching Fellow in First Amendment and Media Law. Read more about this opportunity here.

Applications must be postmarked no later than December 1, 2007. Send all materials to:

Angela J. Campbell

Institute for Public Representation

Georgetown University Law Center

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW

Washington DC 20001

RE: Fellowship Program

October 24, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Author of Prayer Study Sues Researcher/Reviewer For Defamation

Dr. Kwang Cha, first author on a controversial study on the power of prayer to influence fertility, published by the Journal of Reproductive Medicine in 2001, has sued Dr. Bruce L. Flamm for defamation over Dr. Flamm's comments on the study. Since the study was originally published, it has been heavily and consistently criticized by some members of the scientific community. The JRM finally withdrew the study from its website.

Read a summary of Dr. Flamm's objections to the original paper here.

Dr. Cha objects to one particular statement that Dr. Flamm made in a March 15, 2007 opinion piece he wrote for Ob-Gyn News. "This may be the first time in history that all three authors of a randomized, controlled study have been found guilty of fraud, deception, and/or plagiarism." Here's a review of the situation up to now by Bob Grant of The Scientist. He quotes Hastings constitutional law professor David Faigman as pointing to the chilling effect of lawsuits such as the one Dr. Cha has filed. "It's the nature of this kind of lawsuit that it potentially chills other people from making strong statements....The existence of the lawsuit alone is likely to chill scientific discussion."

The problem, however, is that the plagiarism referred to here is not connected to the fertility study, but to another of Dr. Cha's publications, which appeared in 2005, and which was subsequently found to be extremely similar to a previously published article by another author. Dr. Flamm has now asked the court to dismiss Dr. Cha's lawsuit against him.

October 24, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Time Team" Re-enactor Dies; Investigation Ongoing

A man involved in a September filming for the British TV series "Time Team" died as a result of injuries sustained during the activity, a re-enactment of a joust. A government agency is investigating. Channel 4, which broadcasts the popular program, still plans to show the episode, without the re-enactment, and will dedicate the episode to the participant who passed away, identified as Paul Allen by an Australian website. Read more here.

October 23, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Defamation and Anonymity in Cyberspace, UK Style

Two recent UK cases suggest that website owners may have to disgorge the names of anonymous individuals who post defamatory comments. In one case, John Finn, owner of a development company, had admitted to posting anonymous comments about a rival firm. He and his organization are now liable for thousands of pounds in legal fees, some payable immediately. In another, unhappy sports fans had made derogatory comments about the team owners and shareholders. The judge had determined that some comments could be understood as "abusive" or jokes, but some could "reasonably be understood to allege greed, selfishness, untrustworthiness and dishonest behaviour"--that is, they fell within the traditional categories of defamatory statements. Therefore, the website operator must reveal the posters' names since the plaintiffs' interests outweighed the posters' right to anonymity. Read more in a Guardian article here.

October 22, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The FCC, Wireless Access and an Upcoming Auction

Yesterday's New York Times includes an article by Judith Chevalier of the Yale School of Management on "open access" rules and the wireless spectrum. Read it here.

October 22, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

House Passes Reporter Shield Measure

Last week the House passed the Pence/Boucher sponsored Free Flow of Information Act 2007 (reporter shield bill) by a veto-proof margin of 398-21. The measure now proceeds to the Senate, which is considering its own piece of legislation (S. 2035); that bill passed out of committee on October 4. President Bush has already suggested he will veto a federal reporter shield law.

October 22, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Call For Papers: Administrative Law Symposium at American University College of Law

Anthony E. Varona, Associate Professor of Law, American University College of Law, has notified me of the following call for papers and upcoming event at American University College of Law.


Attn:    Interested Panelists and Speakers

On April 18, 2008, the Administrative Law Review will hold its annual symposium at American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. 

This year’s symposium is tentatively entitled:

“Does Red Lion Still Roar? Exploring Public Interest Regulation of Media in Commemoration of the Fortieth Anniversary of Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC.” 

This symposium will include three panels: 

1.                  The first panel will focus on the conceptualization of the symposium topic.  Panelists will discuss Red Lion, its history, significance, ramifications, and its effects on today’s broadcast regulation landscape (in terms of media diversity, fairness, democratic deliberation and engagement, political programming, local news and public affairs coverage, children’s educational television, etc.)

2.                  The second panel will feature a discussion/debate between prominent communications industry representatives, policymakers, and theorists on the need for public interest regulation of media, the effectiveness of government efforts to articulate and enforce public interest requirements, and the success of media players in complying with their public interest mandates.  It will discuss the politicization of the topic and will explore both market and regulatory philosophies in this field.

3.                  The third panel will discuss public interest regulation in regard to converged and converging 21st century technologies.  Topics may include affirmative government regulation of the Internet, network neutrality, digital television, and the ensuing debate around the need for reinstitution of the fairness doctrine.

University of Chicago Law School Professor Cass Sunstein will be serving as our luncheon speaker.  Additional invitees include FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein. 

The Executive Board is requesting proposals for papers, as well as talk proposals regarding any of these topic areas.  Please note that papers need not be full-length academic articles and may be specific in scope.  Please email proposals to Brian M. Stanford, Senior Symposia Editor, at:   

Proposals are to be received no later than December 15, 2007.  Fully completed pieces will be due for submission to the Executive Board by July 1, 2008.

October 22, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)