Friday, April 11, 2008
The New Mexico Human Rights Commission has that found an Albuquerque photographer studio unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing her services and has fined her more than $6500. The Commission says that Elaine Huguenin's First Amendment defense is not enough to overcome her obligation under law to photograph the commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock and her partner, held in 2006. Ms. Huguenin, backed by the Alliance Defense Fund, plans to appeal. Read more here. The Volokh Conspiracy has a post here.
Members of the European Parliament have refused to ban serial file sharers from the Internet in spite of demands that they do so to support the rights both of both Internet industries and artists. One spokesperson for the EP said, ""The vote shows that MEPs want to strike a balance between the interests of rights holders and those of consumers, and that big measures like cutting off internet access shouldn't be used." Read more here.
The video game "Bully" is now banned for sale and distribution through any outlet in Brazil , based on a decision by a Brazilian judge, who ruled it unacceptable for children since it takes place inside a school. Rockstar Games makes the title, and JPF Maggazine imports it into Brazil. Read more here and here.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror have apologized and agreed to pay legal costs to tv anchor Kate Garraway for implying that she and dance partner Anton Du Beke had an affair. The two appeared on the fifth season of the British reality show "Strictly Come Dancing" (an equivalent of the U.S.'s "Dancing With the Stars"). Read more here. Here's background on the suit.
Watchdog agency Ofcom informed the BBC that it should have toned down the language of some of the celebrities who appeared on the Live Earth concert broadcast last summer. Madonna, Phil Collins and others used the F word, which is taboo, and the Beeb is now in deeper trouble since Ofcom had already censured the network after a similar infraction in 2005 that it would need to be vigilant about such occurrences. The network must now read the news of the sanction to its audience on April 12 (on BBC1 and BBC2). Read more in a Guardian story here.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Indonesian companies which make the Internet available to users have blocked access in order to make Geert Wilders' anti-Islamic film Fitna unavailable, following a government demand that they do so. The film, which Mr. Wilders has made accessible on the net, has been widely criticized for its portrayal of the religion and its holy book, the Koran. The most popular sites affected include YouTube and MySpace, but blocked access necessarily poses a problem for anyone in the country who makes a living from the Internet. Read more here.
Zimbabwean officials have released two foreign journalists, New York Times reporter Barry Bearak, and a second, unidentified British man, on bail after they were detained for some time for reporting on the recent Zimbabwean elections without official permission. Both must still remain in the country to appear in court, which will probably happen tomorrow for Mr. Bearak, according to his attorney. Read more here.
The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an ad campaign for the XBox which it deems to be "graphic and too shocking to be seen in an untargeted medium." Said the ASA,
We noted the TV ad demonstrated the action of the game using animated graphic sequences taken from it. We considered, however, that there were some scenes; including that in which a 'crunch' sound was heard as the butt of a rifle was brought down on what was suggested to be a victim's head and another in which a man with a bloodied face appeared to have his throat cut; which we considered were likely to cause offense and distress to viewers despite the animated treatment.
In addition, we considered that the voice-over, which included the statement from one of the characters "I should regret it all, all the pain I've caused", in conjunction with acts of violence and intimidation, which were prevalent throughout the ad, were likely to be seen by viewers as condoning real violence and cruelty.
We acknowledged that efforts had been made by Clearcast and the broadcasters in scheduling the ad to reduce the likelihood of offence being caused, but considered that, with particular reference to the scenes outlined above, it was likely to offend or distress some viewers whatever time it was shown.
We concluded that the complaints could not be resolved with a timing restriction and that the ad should be withdrawn from transmission completely.
On this point, the TV ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 6.1 (Harm and offence), 6.2 (Harm and offence - Violence and cruelty) and 6.4 (Harm and offence - Personal distress).
The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a ninth instance of false advertising against the low budget airline Ryanair, this time in conjunction with the company's offers of flights for ten pounds over a four day period last fall. The ASA has now referred the matter to the Office of Fair Trading for further investigation. Ryanair itself has also complained to the OFT over bias which it perceives in ASA's attitude toward it. Read more here in an article in the Guardian. Read the ASA's ruling in the Ryanair matter here.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
In a piece in the Hollywood Reporter, James Hibberd suggests that the FCC "needs to face reality" concerning broadcast indecency and stop trying to encase the networks in a "morality bubble."
At a time when broadcasters face unprecedented financial challenges amid increasing competition from new media, the FCC's pursuit of fines for more than 5-year-old semi-naughty clips make broadcasters and their government watchdog seem archaic.
Any lurid video imaginable is freely available online. Cable and satellite providers offer programming ranging from G-rated to X. The FCC's complaints represent a throwback to the delivery universe of yesteryear, when government-monitored public airwaves were the only way Americans could receive video programming in their home.
The notion that the FCC still is somehow protecting civic virtue by attacking five broadcasters amid an increasingly interconnected digital media landscape that's exploding with video content is downright nostalgic.
Read the rest of his piece here.
Rob and Sheryl Lowe have filed a breach of contract, IIED, and defamation suit against former nanny Laura Boyce, claiming that she is spreading stories about them and is engaging in a conspiracy with another Lowe employee to damage the couple's reputation. Mr. Lowe has also blogged about the issue at the Huffington Post. Here's part of what he says.
A former employee is demanding my wife Sheryl and I pay her $1.5 million by the end of the week or she will accuse us both of a vicious laundry list of false terribles. It is an attempt to damage and humiliate not only my wife and me, but our two young sons as well. My family is devastated at this betrayal; this woman worked in our home and traveled with us off and on for seven years, without complaint. In fact, she left other jobs to return to work for us three different times. Several weeks ago she quit abruptly, leaving us without a replacement.
Everyone knows we live in a time where public figures are targets. But I also know of many people in everyday life who are paying the price of a climate where anyone can accuse anybody of anything, anytime, and hope for a big cash pay-off at the end. "Hush money" to just go away. Well I won't go away. No one intimidates my family. My wife and I have many former and long term employees, all of whom know this woman, who can and will refute any claims of anything inappropriate in our home, or anywhere else. We will defend ourselves with vigor and without fear.
The Weinstein Company's designer reality show Project Runway will be strutting its stuff on the Lifetime Network beginning this fall, but one of the first assignments for the new crop of fashion fabulous might be lawyer suits for the attorneys it needs: NBC Universal has filed an action over the defection, claiming that it's been denied a right of first refusal. The Weinsteins allege there's no such right in the contract and that after the show's initial (and very successful) five year run, they can shop it elsewhere. To quote Tim Gunn: "Make it work, people." Let's have more successful seasons of fashion fun.
Monday, April 7, 2008
A Dutch judge has refused to ban Fitna, a film that criticizes the Koran, saying that the filmmaker, Geert Wilders, a Dutch member of Parliament, has the right to free speech and his film does not incite hatred. The MP had already released the film via the Internet. Meanwhile, many worldwide continue to object to the movie and Mr. Wilders' views. Read more here and here.
A jury convened to inquire into the causes for the deaths of Princess Diana and her companion Dodi al-Fayed has found that they died as a result of unlawful killing through the actions of their driver, Henri Paul, and of other vehicles driven by the paparazzi which pursued their automobile on the night of their deaths. The jury rejected other options before it, including accidental death. The coroner in charge of the inquest told the jury that it could not decide that the ex-wife of the heir to the British throne died as a result of any conspiracy, for which, he said there "not a shred of evidence." Diana, Mr. al-Fayed, and Mr. Paul died August 31, 1997. Read more here from the BBC and from the Press Association.
Corporate giant Tesco is suing the Guardian for defamation over a series of articles and a podcast that allege that the retailer has engaged in tax fraud. Said Tesco's executive director of corporate and legal affairs, "It is very regrettable that we have had to take this step. We had hoped that the Guardian would be able to accept that it had made a mistake and apologise for what it had written, but despite our requests to them to set the record straight this has not happened." However, the Guardian stands behind its stories and called Tesco's lawsuit "bullying." "This looks like a deliberate tactic by Britain's largest retailer to shut down perfectly legitimate inquiries into their methods of tax avoidance. At the same time that two Tesco directors are reported to have lobbied the government in private on matters of taxation, the company is now seeking to chill public debate on the same issues."
Tesco has also sued other critics of its policies. See here.
Read more here in a Guardian article.
In a new report, the trade group British Music Rights (BMR) says more than fifty percent of British teens violate the law by illegally downloading music or copying music from friends' CDs, even though they seem to understand that their behavior is proscribed. Even making backup copies is technically illegal under British law, notes the group. The study is the first academic research study of its kind. Read more here.
The Office of the Nebraska Governor has gotten snarky with the Daily Nebraskan, the official outlet at the University of Nebraska, because of what a student reporter wrote about who was giving tours of the Governor's mansion. Initially, the story was apparently supposed to be a puff piece about the mansion and its entry on the National Register of Historic Places; it turned into a report on the prison work-release program since an inmate on work-release is giving the tours of the home. Said the Governor's Office, "We feel very deceived, very deceived." Responded the Daily Nebraskan's editor, "I think it is an ethically sound and very good story."
The Governor's office toyed briefly with banning Daily Nebraskan reporters from future press conferences, but is now simply eliminating them from its email lists. Read more here in a story from the Omaha World-Herald.