Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

California Newspaper Wins Appeal; May Report On Lawsuit Against It

The Orange County Register has won its appeal of a trial court judge's order that it be banned from reporting on the testimony given during the lawsuit in which the paper is a defendant. Newspaper carriers are suing the Register over its labor practices. Judge David Velasquez had banned the Register's reporters from the courtroom but the 4th District Court of Appeal has ruled that such an order constitutes a prior restraint. Read more here in a story from the AP. Read the opinion here. Read the modification in judgment here.

October 4, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Indian Film Industry Strike Ends Quickly

The BBC reports that that Indian film industry strike is over, as quickly as it began. Strike leaders say that management has agreed to worker demands. Read more here.

October 4, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 3, 2008

FCC Adopts Protective Order In Matter of AT&T v. Cox

The FCC has adopted a protective order in the matter of AT&T v. Cox.

We believe that AT&T has justified its request for enhanced confidential treatment of its documents and also those of Cox.  AT&T has provided adequate justification for its request, explaining with particularity why the information sought to be protected is so competitively sensitive that additional protection is warranted so that such information is closely guarded and not made available publicly.  The information sought to be protected is necessary to the development of a more complete record on which the Commission can base its decision in this proceeding.  Furthermore, the protective order has been negotiated and agreed to between AT&T and Cox.  Accordingly, we will adopt the Protective Order as negotiated and proposed by the parties and attached at Appendix A.  Any party seeking access to highly confidential documents subject to this Protective Order shall request access pursuant to the terms of the Protective Order and must sign the Declaration provided as Attachment A to this Protective Order.

The attached Protective Order reflects AT&T's desire, given the highly confidential nature of the information at issue, to preclude employees of AT&T and Cox from access to such information. This is consistent with past Commission action involving protective orders relating to highly confidential information.  Nevertheless, we do not intend by this Order to prejudge this issue. If either party believes that it is necessary for purposes of effectively adjudicating this proceeding that specific employees be granted access to the highly confidential information subject to the Protective Order, it may file a motion to amend the Protective Order.  At a minimum, such motion should include: (i) the title, name, and job description for each employee for which access to the highly confidential information is sought; (ii) the reason why that employee's access to the highly confidential information is necessary to the effective adjudication of this proceeding; and (iii) why experts and consultants outside of that party's employ cannot perform the same function. In no event will access be granted to employees in a position to use the highly confidential information for competitive commercial or business purposes.

The attached Protective Order reflects AT&T's desire, given the highly confidential nature of the information at issue, to preclude employees of AT&T and Cox from access to such information. This is consistent with past Commission action involving protective orders relating to highly confidential information.  Nevertheless, we do not intend by this Order to prejudge this issue. If either party believes that it is necessary for purposes of effectively adjudicating this proceeding that specific employees be granted access to the highly confidential information subject to the Protective Order, it may file a motion to amend the Protective Order.  At a minimum, such motion should include: (i) the title, name, and job description for each employee for which access to the highly confidential information is sought; (ii) the reason why that employee's access to the highly confidential information is necessary to the effective adjudication of this proceeding; and (iii) why experts and consultants outside of that party's employ cannot perform the same function. In no event will access be granted to employees in a position to use the highly confidential information for competitive commercial or business purposes.

Read the text of the entire Order here.

October 3, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Maggie Brown on Ofcom and the BBC

Maggie Brown critiques Ofcom proposals for the BBC here.

October 3, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sarkozy Tries To Talk French Press Out Of Its Crise

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is starting talks today to try to assist the print media, which has been in crisis mode for some time. Read more here in a Guardian article.

October 3, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

British Consumer Advocacy Group Says Advertising Characters Used To Market Unhealthy Foods To Children, Asks Government To Step In

A British consumer advocacy group is calling for the government to investigate the use of cartoon characters on what it considers unhealthy foods marketed to children. Which? says that Kellogg's, for example, uses the popular Tony the Tiger character on Frosties, which is more than 1/3 sugar, enticing children to ask for it instead of more healthy alternatives. The industry denies the charges. Read more here.

October 3, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Copyright and the Social Contract

Alina Ng, Mississippi College School of Law, has published "The Social Contract and Authorship: Allocating Entitlements in the Copyright System," forthcoming in the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal.

    
Political and moral philosophy teach that there are norms governing how individuals and states ought to behave to ensure a well functioning society. This paper argues that authorship is essentially an activity that can only occur when other individuals in society are constrained by particular moral and ethical norms, and when the copyright system is built on a theoretical framework where individuals in society agree to waive certain rights in order that authors may have the incentive to produce literary and artistic works. The law as it presently stands allocates entitlements without ethical or moral restraints on the exercise of private individual rights. Considerations of fairness and justice ought to be serious considerations in deciding how entitlements in literary and artistic works are allocated, and this paper utilizes theories of moral and political philosophy as a normative model for how individual rights ought to be exercised. This paper concludes that the allocation of entitlements in literary and artistic works ought to be in accordance with the mutual agreement individuals in society enter to provide rewards to authors, and prescribes certain ethical and moral norms that ought to be incorporated into the copyright system to fulfill this agreement.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

October 2, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Vietnamese Journalists Charged With False Reporting, Jailed

The AP reports that two Vietnamese journalists are being charged with "abusing freedom and democracy," for reporting falsely about a 2005 corruption scandal at the country's transportation ministry. Read more here.

October 2, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

SAG Board Urged to Put Strike To a Vote

The BBC reports that SAG member negotiators are asking the governing board to move toward a strike, after talks continue to look unlikely to resume. But is a strike a good idea given the financial and economic turmoil right now? Read more here and more from EW.com.

October 2, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Goodnight, Sun

The New York Times bids farewell to a rival paper.

October 2, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More On India's Film Industry Strike

Here's more on the Bollywood strike from FindLaw.

October 1, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Indian Court To Warner Brothers: "You Are Silly Muggles"

A Delhi court has tossed a Warner Brothers copyright infringement suit against an Indian film company, partly because the U. S. studio waited too long to proceed with its litigation and partly because the court simply didn't buy the argument that consumers would be confused by the Indian film's characters, including "Hari Puttar". WB had claimed that children would think that this "Hari Puttar" was that Harry Potter. The Indian film is about a boy named Hari Prasad Dhoonda whose father nicknames him Hari Puttar (Puttar means "son" in Punjabi and Hindi). Hari helps his father save an invention from thieves. Read more here and here.

October 1, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

India's Film Industry Stalls, Caused By First-Time Strike

Nyay Bhushan writes for the Hollywood Reporter that a first-ever strike has brought the Indian film industry to a halt. Performers and other workers, represented by the Federation of Western India Cine Employees, are demanding higher salaries and better working conditions. Read more here.

October 1, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Ofcom Tells ITV Repeats of Popular Show Are In Inappropriate Timeslot, Too Violent

Ofcom has told ITV that it is repeating episodes of its popular series Taggart too often and some scenes from the series are "too violent."

During the repeat run of the series in an afternoon slot, Ofcom received 13 complaints, across six separate episodes, expressing concern about extremely violent acts being shown at a time when children could be watching. These included: characters being set on fire; self immolation; a man being shot in the head at close range; a bottle smashed in a man’s face to kill him; bleach forced down a struggling victim’s throat; a man beaten up, a murder with a blowtorch and a heavily charred face shown after the attack; and scenes where characters were stabbed or suffered knife wounds. Ofcom noted that there had been little or no programme information regarding the content provided to the audience before the programmes commenced.

Ofcom wrote to STV, who complied this programme for ITV1, for its comments. We asked for comments under Rules 1.3 (children must be protected by appropriate scheduling), 1.11 (violence must be appropriately limited) and 2.3 (material which may cause offence must be justified by the context) of the Code.

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STV replied that when it was asked, at what it described as “short notice”, to provide episodes of Taggart for the afternoon slot on ITV1, it very carefully considered the transmission time, the overall scheduling, likely audience expectations and the subject matter. It said that since ITV1 ceased its weekday children’s programming in 2006, the afternoon timeslot had been filled with programmes aimed at adult viewers, in particular crime drama. Therefore, STV said it believed the audience would be largely aware of the format and style of Taggart, in that every episode contains at least one murder, and parents’ expectations would be informed by the programme title itself.

STV confirmed that some episodes of Taggart were considered unsuitable for an afternoon timeslot because of the subject matter. For the episodes that were shown, the broadcaster said the programme was edited to reduce the levels of violence. Overall, STV considered the low level of the child audience – over the afternoon repeats, an average 2% of viewers to the programme were children – indicated that the programmes had been appropriately scheduled.

STV pointed out that the sequence where a man set himself alight could not be edited out entirely for reasons of continuity. In retrospect, it considered that this episode was inappropriate for broadcast in the afternoon.

STV acknowledged that the scene where a woman was forced to swallow bleach “might have” exceeded audience expectations and that viewers may have been taken by surprise by the amount of blood shown in a sequence where a detective was stabbed in the arm. Overall, however, it believed that the episodes broadcast had been edited to ensure that any scenes of violence were appropriately limited and were suitable for a well-known crime drama.

STV also pointed out that, after being informed of the complaints and even before responding to Ofcom, it decided to cease all broadcasts of Taggart before the watershed.

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In principle, material which has been originally aired after 21:00 can be broadcast during the day and comply with the Code, provided any necessary edits have been made or other necessary measures taken to ensure it is appropriate for a daytime audience, which may include children. Therefore, in accordance with Rule 1.11 , while violence may be shown before 21:00, broadcasters must be mindful that such acts must not be unduly graphic or prolonged.

Taggart is an uncompromising and hard-hitting drama that regularly deals with more challenging adult subject matter and often portrays disturbing murders in a frank and unflinching manner. Given that Taggart is a much “grittier” drama than for example Midsomer Murders, very careful contextualisation and editing were clearly essential to ensure the programme was appropriate for an afternoon timeslot, as STV has acknowledged.

In coming to its decision, Ofcom noted that, whilst the programme on 27 May 2008 gave some information about content before transmission (“it’s a grisly trail of murder for the Taggart team”) other episodes had little (e.g. on 3 June 2008: “DCI Burke’s in mortal danger in Taggart”) or no information provided by the broadcaster.

Whilst noting that STV had sought to make these episodes suitable for afternoon transmission, it is Ofcom’s opinion that the depictions of violence and its after-effects, in the scenes complained of, were too explicit and not appropriately limited. Ofcom notes the acknowledgement by STV that the sequence where a man sets fire to himself was not appropriate for an afternoon slot. However, Ofcom is also of the view that the other scenes featured in the episodes complained about included excessive depictions of violence and its after-effects and were therefore in breach of Rule 1.11.

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Ofcom recognises that these programmes were aimed primarily at an adult audience and that in order to reflect real life they included challenging material. However, given the afternoon scheduled slot, when children were likely to be viewing, the content needed to be treated with particular care. In Ofcom’s view the violence was not appropriately limited for the afternoon slot and contained harrowing and brutal scenes across the six episodes we investigated and it was not justified by the context. It was therefore in breach of Rule 1.11.

Rule 1.3 requires children to be protected from unsuitable content by appropriate scheduling. Broadcasters must make decisions before a programme has been broadcast, as to the number of children likely to watch, to inform their decision as to whether it is appropriately scheduled. In this case, given that Taggart was scheduled to be broadcast at 15:30, it was, in Ofcom’s opinion, likely that a certain number of children would be watching, some unaccompanied by an adult, especially since ITV1 is a flagship general entertainment channel. This has been confirmed by the final audience figures. An average of approximately 15,000 children (under 15 year olds) watched each of these episodes of Taggart. Ofcom further notes that at the times when Taggart was broadcast the total number of children watching all television was about 1 million. Therefore, although children formed a small minority of the audience of Taggart, there were a not inconsiderable number overall who watched the episodes complained of and a large number who were available to view.

Given the violent and often brutal nature of the images shown, Ofcom believes the 15:30 timeslot provided insufficient protection to children. The programmes complained of were in breach of Rule 1.3.

Read the entire ruling here. Read more from the Guardian here.

October 1, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

CNN Show Anchor Gets Restraining Order Against Admirer

CNN's Robin Meade has apparently acted to obtain a restraining order against a man who traveled from Maine to Georgia to meet her, based on signals he thought he discerned from her. Needless to say, the anchor of "Morning Express With Robin Meade" sent Gregory Fitzgerald no such signals, and his family has assured Ms. Meade she won't be hearing from him again. Read more here.

September 30, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

How Much Influence Does the Drudge Report Have?

Read FindLaw's Julie Hilden on Matt Drudge's influence here.

September 30, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Lawsuit Over Spore Hits California Court

NPR's Laura Slydell offers this look at the controversy over the Electronic Arts game "Spore".

September 30, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Judge Dismisses False Light, Defamation Claims Against Washington Post

The U. S. District Court for the D. C. Circuit has dismissed a case against the Washington Post brought by a plaintiff who alleged that the Post's articles mentioning him and his hoarding and discussing a link between hoarding and mental illness defamed him and invaded his privacy (a "false light" claim). The Court held that the Post could avail itself of the common law privilege of substantial truth, that the articles did not imply that the plaintiff is mentally ill, but that the link between hoarding and mental illness is unclear, that in the alternative that the Post could have relied on the "fair report privilege", and that the false light claim failed because the defamation claims failed--the plaintiff failed to show that the statements complained of were false. The case is Shipkovitz v. Washington Post, Civil Action No. 07-1053 (RCL). Read the opinion here.

September 30, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (2)

Sienna Miller Wins Damages From Daily Star

The Daily Star has apologized to and will pay damages to Sienna Miller over a paparazzi photograph which it published of her and which she alleged violated her privacy. The photo was taken in Los Angeles. Read more here.

September 30, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Judge Grants New Trial in Thomas Downloading Case

U. S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis has reversed the verdict in Capital Records v. Thomas, saying that it had erred in instructing the jury, and is therefore granting Ms. Thomas a new trial. The disputed jury instruction, requested by the plaintiffs and accepted by the judge, was the following: "`The act of making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic distribution on a peer-to-peer network, without license from the copyright owners, violates the copyright owners' exclusive right of distribution, regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown.'"

Liability for violation of the exclusive distribution right found in § 106(3) requires actual dissemination. Jury Instruction No. 15 was erroneous and that error substantially prejudiced Thomas’s rights. Based on the Court’s error in instructing the jury, it grants Thomas a new trial. Because the Court grants a new trial on the basis of jury instruction error, it does not reach Thomas’s claim regarding excessive damages set forth in her motion for a new trial. Plaintiffs’ request to amend the judgment is denied because the judgment is vacated.

Read the ruling here.

September 29, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)