Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, August 22, 2008

No More Access To iTunes For PRC Users; Tibet Album May Be To Blame

Chinese listeners can't get access to iTunes, and although it's not clear why, the speculation is that it's because a new album, Songs For Tibet, is now available via the service. Read more here.

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (3)

Former TV Anchor Appears In Court Today

Larry Mendte, who lost his job as a television anchor after he admitted hacking into a co-worker's emails, will appear in a Philadelphia courtroom today to plead guilty. He could get five years in prison but probably will receive a lesser sentence. Read more here and here.

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

John Dean on "Obama Nation"

John Dean indicts both John Corsi and U.S. defamation law in this post about Mr. Corsi's book about Presidential candidate Barack Obama, Obama Nation. Says Mr. Dean in part, "[N]otwithstanding Jerome Corsi's stack of conspicuous false statements about Barack Obama, I doubt that Obama could convince a judge that he has been defamed - unlike John Kerry, who was brutally defamed by Corsi in 2004. (Actually, I was certain Kerry would sue him, given the clear evidence of actual malice the book demonstrated, and amazed when Kerry did not. Had Kerry sued, the costly verdict or settlement might have put Corsi out of business.)" Read more here in this FindLaw column.

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

The Right of Publicity and Free Speech

Mark A. Conrad, Fordham University School of Business, has published "The Right of Publicity in the Digital Age: Doctrinal Tensions, Common Law Theories and Proposals for Solutions, in volume 24 of The Computer Law and Security Report (2008). Here is the abstract.

In the fall of 2007, a Federal appeals court ruled that the use of the names and records of Major League Baseball players without license or permission by an Internet fantasy sports website was protected speech and trumped the property rights of the players. The ruling in by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in CBC v. MLBAM marks the latest skirmish in the long-simmering tension between the scope of the so-called "Right of Publicity" and the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. This issue of where free speech ends and proprietary protection begins is the subject of a long line of cases - with conflicting rulings, different doctrinal approaches and a haphazard state-by-state approach. With the evolution of the Internet as a marketing and commerce tool, the economic implications of digital rights have increased the problem.

The paper would track the development of the right of publicity tort, discuss the leading cases and propose solutions.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (3)

Media Ownership Regulation and the First Amendment

Adam Candeub, Michigan State University Law School, has published "Media Ownership Regulation, the First Amendment, and Democracy's Future," 41 U. Cal. Davis 1547 (2008). I just received my copy of the reprint and look forward to reading it.

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Job Opportunity At the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

Research Fellow and Co-ordinator of the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy

£27,466 - £33,780

The Centre for Socio-Legal Studies wishes to appoint a Research Fellow who will conduct research into issues of media law and policy, and lead the Centre’s Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy.   

As a Research Fellow, the appointee will be expected to conduct research of a socio-legal character in any of the main issues concerning the media, including its place and role in modern society, its regulation and self-regulation.  As Co-ordinator, the appointee will be expected to continue existing projects, to devise new ones, and develop the programme.  This will include making applications for research grants, and attracting money from other sources.

For details of the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy’s current projects, see

The duties and skills required are described in more detail in the further particulars. These are available here

Details of how to apply can be found here

For your application to be considered, please note that applications must include all of the following, as per the stated application process:

* Your curriculum vitae (CV)

* A letter explaining how you meet the requirements of this post (these are described in the further particulars)

* The completed personal details and equal opportunities monitoring forms

The closing date for applications will be 5pm on 29th August 2008.

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Barbie v. Bratz, Round Two

So now the fight in Barbie's Dream House is over exactly how much MGA's Bratz dolls have cost Mattel in sales. Mattel's lawyers say as much as two billion, MGA's attorneys say thirty million.  Mattel's John Quinn argued substantial similarity, saying a child's point of view was as important as the view of a professional doll designer. But MGA's team argues that company innovations including a "prettier doll" and themes that appealed to tween-aged children account for Bratz dolls' high sales. Read more here in an AP story. Read an update from CNBC's Jane Wells here.

August 21, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (2)

Media Coverage of the Constitutional Crisis in Pakistan, 2005-2007

Shoaib A. Ghias, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, has published "Miscarriage of Chief Justice: Lawyers, Media, and the Struggle for Judicial Power in Pakistan, 2005-07." Here is the abstract.

Pakistan is going through a historic constitutional moment and democratic transition. On March 9, 2007, Chief Justice Iftikhar M. Chaudhry was suspended and later manhandled. These events sparked an unprecedented mobilization of lawyers and judges to restore the chief justice. The media coverage of protesting lawyers dressed in black coats, drenched in blood, made headlines not only in Pakistan, but also around the world. On July 20, Chaudhry was reinstated, but not for long. When Musharraf held a presidential election on Oct. 6, the Supreme Court blocked the official result to review his eligibility to run for office while in army service. Before the Court could announce the decision, on Nov. 3, General Musharraf suspended the Constitution, dissolved the Supreme Court, and declared martial law ("emergency rule"). Musharraf cracked down on lawyers and judges, and consolidated his power. After the Feb. 18, 2008 elections, Yousaf Gilani of Bhutto's PPP has taken office as prime minister under Musharraf as president. But the question of restoring the bench remains unresolved.

This paper looks at the rise and fall of the Chaudhry Court (2005-07) from the theoretical perspective of public law, focusing on two questions. First, how did the Court expand judicial power leading to a confrontation with the Musharraf regime? I conclude that the Chaudhry Court intervened in governance (public interest litigation) at a moment when economic liberalization exacerbated corruption. Ecouraged by media and executive compliance, the judicial intervention extended to political questions, and finally produced backlash from the regime. Second, how was the bar and the bench (the legal complex) mobilized in the struggle for judicial power? I find the pre-crisis relationship between the bar and the bench crucial to explaining the extraordinary mobilization of lawyers to restore Chaudhry. The bench not only protected the autonomy of the bar before the crisis, but also played a role in bar elections to ensure a pro-bench/anti-regime bar leadership. The consolidated bar leadership as well as the inability or unwllingness of political parties explains the unprecedented lawyers movement. Finally, the paper explains how the judicialization of politics after Chaudhry's restoration (i.e. Sharif's return, Bhutto's "deal," and Musharraf's reelection) led to the imposition of martial law on Nov. 3. The paper ends with a summary of post-election developments.

Download the paper here.

August 21, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Pandora Problem

What seems like an impasse over internet royalty fees might close down an increasingly popular web service, Pandora, which allows listeners to order up streaming music that suits their tastes. Like show tunes? You can configure your own "radio station" to play nothing but that all day long at Want Schubert and composers like him? Pandora will deliver. But Pandora, which is now paying out about 70% of its income in fees, may shut down unless California Democrat Howard Berman and like-minded legislators can work a compromise. Read more here. Here's some history and discussion of the Pandora experiment. I must say that I listen to Pandora off and on, and I think it's an innovative idea. It's introduced me to artists I didn't know before, and I've purchased their music. I would miss it if it went away.

August 20, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (2)

Press Complaints Commission Upholds Complaint Against Sun Newspaper Regarding Secret Footage on Website

The Press Complaints Commission has criticized the Sun newspaper for posting footage of a supermarket employee on its website; the employee is on the Sex Offenders Registry and the Sun had secretly filmed him at his workplace. The PCC ruled that the Sun had breached Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Code of Practice.

The Commission concluded that there was a considerable public interest justification for the story as a whole, given that the complainant’s son had made a delivery – as part of his job – to a children’s nursery following his conviction for distributing, making and possessing pornographic images of children. The newspaper was entitled to highlight, and comment robustly on, this situation.

It was more difficult, however, to justify the taking and use of the audiovisual footage of the complainant’s son at work in the supermarket, given that the public interest element of the story related only to the delivery to the nursery. The Commission has always said that there must be a powerful public interest justification for the use of undercover filming. On this occasion, there was no dispute that he worked for the supermarket, and the footage was not necessary to prove it. There was therefore insufficient justification for the subterfuge, and the result was a breach of Clause 10 of the Code on this one specific point.

The Commission rejected other points of complaint about the article itself, which also appeared in the newspaper.
Read more here and here in a Guardian story.

August 20, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (2)

In Review...Exhibit A: A Person, Exhibit B, A Computer...

U. S. District Judge George O'Toole is allowing three MIT students, who want to discuss the vulnerabilities in the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's subway card system, to do so, and he has allowed the TRO imposed 10 days ago to expire. Judge O'Toole says he doesn't think that the MIT student presentation is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Instead it's just a "person to person talk." In order to be a violation of the statute, it would have to be a computer to computer communication. The judge based his decision on a close reading of the statute. Obviously the MBTA could appeal, but its lawyers have indicated that their main concern is to avoid widespread abuse of the transit system. Read more here in a CNET news story, here in a Chronicle update, and here in a press release from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which provided legal assistance for the MIT students. Here's a link to documents in the case, courtesy of the EFF.

August 20, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Julie Hilden on the Plea Entered in the Fletcher Obscenity case

FindLaw's Julie Hilden discusses the plea entered in the Fletcher case here.

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Judge Denies WB Motion to Dismiss in Watchmen Rights Squabble

Fox's infringement suit against Warner Brothers over the rights to the film The Watchmen will continue, since a judge has refused to grant WB's motion to dismiss. Rather than share in the profits, Fox is taking the position that it would shut the production down altogether. Really? Read more here. But the movie, starring Patrick Wilson and Jackie Earle Haley, is set for release early next year.

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Bunny Parmigiana

The Olive Garden is running from Kendra Wilkinson's endorsement of its food, even though the Playboy model says her sentiments are genuine. The family friendly restaurant chain's image doesn't quite mesh with what the self-appointed spokesbunny represents. Compare with what the fictional Will & Grace say about the Olive Garden in an episode (think product placement). Here's a CNN video in which Ms. Wilkinson discusses a what if: what if the Olive Garden were to approach her about not endorsing its restaurants? She might be receptive. The reporter also says that Ms. Wilkinson indicated she would donate any money received to charity. Interesting issues....

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Poll Suggests BBC Programming Has Lost Some of Its Luster; Argument For Continued License Fee Will Be More Difficult

A new poll carried out for the MediaGuardian suggests that many people do not support the present BBC licensing fee, finding it not "good value" for the money. While 41% agree that it is an "appropriate" way to pay for the network (meaning a whopping 59% don't or aren't certain), 47% think it isn't a good buy, and 41% told pollsters they thought the programming wasn't all that unique. The BBC is currently arguing that it needs continued public support in order to be more innovative and to bring quality programs to the British viewing public. Read more here. Here's an explanation of the BBC license fee. Anyone who wants to own a TV in Britain must pay it; it's £139.50 for a color set, £47 for a black and white set, free to anyone over 75 years of age, and half price for the blind. Meanwhile, discussions about reallocations of license fee monies are ramping up; see here.

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

ITV Faces Another Fine For Deceptive Practices Over BritCom Awards Show

Ofcom will probably fine ITV over yet another deception, the Guardian has learned. This time, the watchdog agency has been told by its investigator, the law firm Olswang, that the network allowed viewers to continue voting for candidates for the People's Choice awards candidate at the 2004 British Comedy Awards after the prize winner had been determined. Callers were charged for their calls. The fine could go as high as 100,000 pounds. ITV has already been fined for a deceptive practice for the 2005 British Comedy Awards. Read more here.

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Producer Sues "High School Musical" Star

Music producer Johnny Vieira is suing "High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens for fraud and breach of contract, claiming she has not paid him the percentage of earnings due him under a contract agreed to in 2005. He says he got a payment in early 2007 but nothing else. Read more here.

August 18, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Legal Flap Over Political Film

Bradley Blakeman has filed a lawsuit over the new political comedy "Swing Vote", starring Kevin Costner, which he thinks is based on a screenplay which he showed to actor Kelsey Grammer back in 2006. He sees similarities between the movie, which turns on a presidential election that comes down to a single vote and its lady or the tiger ending, and his own script. Disney, which produced "Swing Vote," won't comment. Read more in a New York Times story here.

August 18, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

UN Committee Expresses Concern Over State of British Libel Law

The Guardian reports that a United Nations committee has released a report expressing concerns about the state of libel law in the UK, saying that they promote "libel tourism." The committee pointed specifically to the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, who was sued by Khalid bin Mahfoud for defamation over statements in her book Funding Evil. Here's a link to a JURIST newsreport with more information and links.

August 18, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)