September 2, 2011
James Murdoch Refuses Bonus
From the Hollywood Reporter: James Murdoch has turned down the bonus offered him this year (amount given in this story as $6 million, the same as in an earlier story). But he's keeping his salary (amount given in this story as $11.9 million, up from the $3 million given in an earlier story). Mr. Murdoch gave as the reason for refusing the bonus the current phone hacking controversy, but said he might revisit accepting the bonus should it be offered to him again.
South Korean Supreme Court Reverses Ruling In TV Broadcaster "Mad Cow" Case
The South Korean Supreme Court has ruled that a television broadcaster was "not guilty" of defaming the South Korean Minister of Agriculture when it suggested that eating imported U.S. beef might expose the consumer to "mad cow" disease. The South Korean government decided to resume importing U.S. beef in 2008. The Court also set aside the order to the network to publish an apology and correct the information in the program. It is unclear from the news reports whether the tv network had originally been charged under the criminal or civil code. Here is a link to a discussion of defamation law in South Korea.
Hat tip to Bill Kovarik.
Rupert, James Murdoch See Total Compensation Increase This Year
In spite of the phone hacking scandal, Rupert Murdoch's take home pay is increasing this year. From the Hollywood Reporter: although Mr. Murdoch's salary stayed the same ($8.1 million) bonuses and stock pushed his total compensation up by more than 46 percent. Son James Murdoch's compensation package increased by nearly 74 percent. Although his salary dropped by 200,000 dollars, his bonus jumped more than $4 million and he also received stock awards. Other executives with the conglomerate also received good news in their pay envelopes.
Two Journalists Murdered In Mexico City
Two female Mexican journalists have been found dead in Mexico City. The police have not speculated on any reason for their killings. One of the journalists, Marcela Yarce Viveros, was the founder of the magazine, Contralinea, and the other, Rocio González Trápaga, had worked as a television reporter. More here in a press release from Fundalex (the Foundation for Freedom of Expression (text in Spanish)), here from the Guardian, and here from the Los Angeles Times.
September 1, 2011
"Doom" Now For Sale In Germany
The video game "Doom" is no longer doomed in Germany. The German government banned the game in 1994, considering it harmful to young people, but has lifted the ban, except for the U.S. version which has references to the Nazis. The move may not matter; other games, far more exciting and trendy, may have outstripped "Doom"'s attractions, and the product is still only available to those aged 16 and older. But, little victories count.
Corporations and the Right to Sue for Defamation in Australia
David Rolph, University of Sydney Faculty of Law, has published Corporations’ Right to Sue for Defamation: An Australian Perspective at 22 Entertainment Law Review 195 (2011). Here is the abstract.
As the United Kingdom undergoes defamation law reform, it might be useful to consider recent Australian developments. Across Australia, since 2006, corporations have had the right to sue for defamation severely curtailed. After five years of operation, it is possible to make an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of this reform. This article analyses recent cases in which corporations have been forced to rely on alternative causes of action, which previously would have been dealt with as defamation claims. It argues that the reform is sound as a matter of principle and policy but that the particular form of the legislative provision requires refinement. In addition, this article points out that there have been unintended and undesirable consequences to this reform.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.
August 31, 2011
First Circuit Recognizes First Amendment Right To Videotape Police In Performance of Their Duties
The First Circuit has upheld an individual's right to videotape police "engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilies," under the First Amendment, in Glik v. Cunniffe. Simon Glik, a Boston attorney, taped police arresting a man on Boston Common. When officers saw Mr. Glik taping them, one of them said to him, "I think you have taken enough pictures." He did not stop, and eventually they took him into custody as well. After the Commonwealth dismissed several charges against him, and a court dismissed other charges. Mr. Glik filed a complaint with the Police Department, and eventually filed a suit against the department. The District Court found in his favor. The Department appealed.
Said the First Circuit,
The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame it, fairly narrow: is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.
It is firmly established that the First Amendment's aegis extends further than the text's proscription on laws "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," and encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of information. As the Supreme Court has observed, "the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw." ... An important corollary to this interest in protecting the stock of public information is that "[t]here is an undoubted right to gather news 'from any source by means within the law.'"...
The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles. Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting "the free discussion of governmental affairs." Moreover, as the Court has noted, "[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because '[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.'" ... This is particularly true of law enforcement officials, who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties.
In line with these principles, we have previously recognized that the videotaping of public officials is an exercise of First Amendment liberties. In Iacobucci v. Boulter, 193 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 1999), a local journalist brought a § 1983 claim arising from his arrest in the course of filming officials in the hallway outside a public meeting of a historic district commission. The commissioners had objected to the plaintiff's filming.... When the plaintiff refused to desist, a police officer on the scene arrested him for disorderly conduct. ...The charges were later dismissed.... Although the plaintiff's subsequent § 1983 suit against the arresting police officer was grounded largely in the Fourth Amendment and did not include a First Amendment claim, we explicitly noted, in rejecting the officer's appeal from a denial of qualified immunity, that because the plaintiff's journalistic activities "were peaceful, not performed in derogation of any law, and done in the exercise of his First Amendment rights, [the officer] lacked the authority to stop them." ...
Our recognition that the First Amendment protects the filming of government officials in public spaces accords with the decisions of numerous circuit and district courts.
It is of no significance that the present case, unlike Iacobucci and many of those cited above, involves a private individual, and not a reporter, gathering information about public officials. The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public's right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press. ...Indeed, there are several cases involving private individuals among the decisions from other courts recognizing the First Amendment right to film.... Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.
To be sure, the right to film is not without limitations. It may be subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. ... We have no occasion to explore those limitations here, however. On the facts alleged in the complaint, Glik's exercise of his First Amendment rights fell well within the bounds of the Constitution's protections. Glik filmed the defendant police officers in the Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States and the apotheosis of a public forum. In such traditional public spaces, the rights of the state to limit the exercise of First Amendment activity are "sharply circumscribed." ...Moreover, as in Iacobucci, the complaint indicates that Glik "filmed [the officers] from a comfortable remove" and "neither spoke to nor molested them in any way" (except in directly responding to the officers when they addressed him). ... Such peaceful recording of an arrest in a public space that does not interfere with the police officers' performance of their duties is not reasonably subject to limitation.
In our society, police officers are expected to endure significant burdens caused by citizens' exercise of their First Amendment rights.... Indeed, "[t]he freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state." ...
Though the "clearly established" inquiry does "not require a case directly on point,"... we have such a case in Iacobucci. What is particularly notable about Iacobucci is the brevity of the First Amendment discussion, a characteristic found in other circuit opinions that have recognized a right to film government officials or matters of public interest in public space. ...This terseness implicitly speaks to the fundamental and virtually self-evident nature of the First Amendment's protections in this area. ...We thus have no trouble concluding that "the state of the law at the time of the alleged violation gave the defendant[s] fair warning that [their] particular conduct was unconstitutional."
In summary, though not unqualified, a citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment. Accordingly, we hold that the district court did not err in denying qualified immunity to the appellants on Glik's First Amendment claim.
Read the entire opinion here.
DOJ Files Lawsuit To Prevent AT&T Acquisition Of T-Mobile
The Department of Justice has filed a suit to prevent AT&T from acquiring T-Mobile, and thus, according to DOJ's statement, "substantially lessen[ing] competition for mobile wireless telecommunications services across the United States, resulting in higher prices, poorer quality services, fewer choices and fewer innovative products for the millions of American consumers who rely on mobile wireless services in their everyday lives." AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon are the four companies controlling ninety percent of the wireless market in the U.S. Deutsche Telekom presently owns T-Mobile.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole made the announcement at a press conference today. He said in part:
The Department filed its lawsuit because we believe the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would result in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products for their mobile wireless services.
Consumers across the country, including those in rural areas and those with lower incomes, have benefitted from competition among the nation’s wireless carriers, particularly the four remaining national carriers. This lawsuit seeks to ensure that everyone can continue to reap the benefits of that competition.
Right now, four nationwide providers account for more than 90 percent of the mobile wireless connections in America, and preserving competition among them is crucial. For instance, AT&T and T-Mobile currently compete head-to-head in 97 of the nation’s largest 100 cellular marketing areas. They also compete nationwide to attract business and government customers. Were the merger to proceed, there would only be three providers with 90 percent of the market, and competition among the remaining competitors on all dimensions—including price, quality, and innovation—would be diminished.
As can be seen in the Department’s complaint, AT&T felt competitive pressure from T-Mobile. One example cites an AT&T employee observing that “[T-Mobile] was first to have HSPA+ devices in their portfolio…we added them in reaction to potential loss of speed claims.”
So as you can see, a merged AT&T and T-Mobile would combine two of the four largest competitors in the marketplace, and would eliminate T-Mobile, an aggressive competitor, from the market.
More here from Reuters.
August 30, 2011
Conyers On Copyright
Representative John Conyers (D-Michigan) is asking his fellow Representatives and Senators to take action to clear up the copyright regime. More on Rep. Conyers and others' reactions to the "reclaiming their rights" movement here in an article from the New York Times.
August 29, 2011
Missouri Judge Grants Injunction Against Social Media Law
A Missouri judge has issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the State of Missouri from enforcing 162.069.4 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, which forbids a teacher to "establish, maintain, or use a non-work-related internet site which allows exclusive access with a current or former student." Plaintiffs, the Missouri State Teachers Association, had sued to block the law, passed last spring. The judge found that the law would have a "chilling effect" on speech. More here from Reuters.
Reforming Copyright Law in Japan
Souichirou Kozuka, Gakushuin University, has published Reforming Japanese Copyright and Content Distribution Laws: The Commodification of ‘Cool Japan’? Here is the abstract.
Since 2006, a few proposals have been made in Japan for the reform of copyright regime. These proposals have a common aim of promoting the distribution of content and facilitating the entertainment industry. The agenda is very unique to Japan, as most other countries are more concerned about the protection and enforcement of copyright in the digital environment (whether good or bad) than the promoted distribution of copyrighted works. However, a closer look at the entertainment industry in Japan reveals that the problem lies with the structure of the industry, such as the absence of new entrants to the distribution channel and the poor working conditions of the creators. Therefore, it is doubtful that the proposed reform of copyright regime, even if adopted, will successfully facilitate the Japanese entertainment industry.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.