Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Los Angeles D. A. Obtains First Guilty Plea Under State's Online Downloading Theft Law

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office has scored its first guilty plea in an Internet "poaching" case. Jed Kobles pled guilty to "conspiracy to commit grand theft in the first criminal Internet file-sharing case brought in California" according to L. A. prosecutors. Kobles apparently allowed users of his file sharing service, called UTB Smokinghouse, to download copyrighted material--movies such as Terminator 3 and A Beautiful Mind, tv shows such as The Simpsons, video games, and music. Read the press release here.

Meanwhile, the recording industry continues to pursue file-swappers. Read more here.

August 31, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

British Government Seeks to Outlaw Internet Pornography

Tony Blair's government is seeking to ban the viewing or downloading of violent pornography from outside the UK via the Internet. Currently, other forms of pornography are regulated through the Obscene Publications Act. Read more here and  here.  Read a BBC story and the government's consultation paper here.

August 31, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Media Coverage of Hurricane Katrina; "Martial Law"

Here's a story about the story: the Hollywood Reporter reports on problems faced by journalists covering the hurricane and its aftermath.

I put the statement about "martial law" in New Orleans in an earlier post in quotation marks. Here's why. Governor Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26, 2005, before the hurricane hit. It extends through September 25, 2005 and confers wide powers upon officials acting in her name to do what is needed to restore order. Some media interpreted the emergency order as martial law. Attorney General Charles Foti's office issued a clarification Tuesday night. See the piece in the Times-Picayune.

August 31, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina, Be Gone

Police allowed media with proper identification to enter New Orleans around 8 a.m. today to cover Katrina's devastation. Residents were and are still prohibited from re-entering the city, and for good reason. This morning's assessments are that eighty percent of the city is underwater. In addition, many bridges and highways are blocked because of damage.  What access there is is being reserved for rescue vehicles. Massive rescue efforts are underway to rescue those trapped by the flooding caused by rain, storm surge, and breached levees. Today, reports are coming in that more than 2000 people have already been rescued. A local tv station tells us that city officials have invoked "martial law" because looting has begun. The head of FEMA told a local tv station last night that apart from the California wildfires, Katrina was the worst natural disaster he had ever witnessed. Read more here, here, and here

August 30, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Tennessee AG Asks Country Singer to Stop "Glamorizing" Use of Smokeless Tobacco

Tennessee AG Paul Summers says Gretchen Wilson may be violating the 1998 settlement between tobacco companies and the state of Tennessee when she uses a tin of Skoal as a prop during her performances of her hit song "Redneck Woman". According to CNN's story, since the tune's lyrics refer to smokeless tobacco, and Wilson is a popular singer, Summers theorizes that young people may be drawn to smokeless tobacco use simply by example. The U. S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, manufacturer of Skoal, apparently denies any link with Wilson. In response Wilson's representatives announced she will no longer use the can as a prop. Read more here and here.

August 28, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dutch Authorities Consider Plans Of Proposed "Big Brother" Spinoffs

John de Mol's new television station Talpa is pushing the envelope in the Netherlands, and the government is pushing back. Some government officials are horrified that de Mol's proposed "Big Brother" spinoffs include pilots for shows in which a woman would give birth, and another couple would choose a sperm donor. Physicians, lawyers, and other experts are at odds over the legal and medical pros and cons of both shows. Still other of de Mol's ideas: a "matchmaker" show, and a show in which former prostitutes open a cafe. Read more here and here.

August 27, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Second Reality Show Suit Filed

Fox Broadcasting and Rocket Science Laboratories are facing a lawsuit over working conditions from a number of writers, filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court. It follows by several weeks a similar proceeding also filed in the LA courts against ABC, CBS, the WB and Turner Broadcasting. Read more here on CNN and in a story from Variety here.

August 26, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Aruban Judge Blocks NBC Interview With Holloway Suspect

The lawyers for detainee Joran van der Sloot have successfully that Aruban law should prevent NBC from airing an interview with van der Sloot in order to preserve the man's privacy rights. The Aruban judge in charge of the case agreed that the interview, which was conducted inside the prison where van der Sloot is currently being held was not held with van der Sloot's permission, although the network maintains that it had the prison's officials' permission to hold the interview. The network says it will respect the Aruban court's order. CNN quotes an NBC statement saying the network is "considering [its]next course of legal action." Read more here.

August 26, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Foreign Intellectuals, Celebs Sign Petition Requesting Judith Miller's Release

A number of novelists, filmmakers, and other celebrities have signed a petition requesting that New York Times journalist Judith Miller be released from jail. They include Guenter Grass, Nobel Prize winner and author of such novels as The Tin Drum, filmmaker Pedro Almodovar (High Heels, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown),and  philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy (Barbarism With a Human Face and the recent Who Killed Daniel Pearl?) so famous in France that he is known by his initials--BHL. The petition was organized by Reporters without Borders: read the entire text here.

August 25, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Talk Show Host Fired Over Comments About Islam

Michael Graham, a popular conservative Washington DC radio talk-show host, has been fired from WMAL-AM after he refused to read a prepared statement on air in which he would have distanced himself from comments he made on a July 25th show likening Islam to "a terrorist organization". Graham made the "terrorist" connection concerning Islam 23 times on the 3 hour show according to the station's management. The station received numerous objections from the Muslim community and from advertisers after Graham's remarks. Read more here in the Washington Post, here on MSNBC's website in an AP story, and listen here to a discussion among Chris Matthews, talk show host Blanquita Cullum and the Reverend Al Sharpton in a segment from Matthews' show Hardball on August 23 (may require the installation of some free software). The ABC radio website is available here.

August 25, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

British ISP Inks Deals With Sony to Provide Legal Filesharing

In a novel deal that may solve some of the problems P2P users have run into with rights holders, UK ISP Playlouder has signed a deal with Sony BMG to provide its subscribers with access to Sony's artists. Tracking mechanisms will allow royalties to be paid appropriately. If things work out, Playlouder says equivalent deals may be forthcoming with other companies such as Universal.  Read more here.

August 24, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

News of the World Will Pay Libel Damages to Justin Timberlake

The Media Guardian reports that model Lucy Clarkson now admits that the story she sold to the tabloid News of the World last year concerning an affair she had with singer Justin Timberlake was completely invented. As a result Timberlake sued the paper for defamation. News of the World has agreed to pay Timberlake an undisclosed amount in damages and Clarkson will give the star her earnings for the story; he plans to donate the money to a charitable cause. At the time pop star Timberlake was romantically linked with actress Cameron Diaz and was touring Britain to promote an album. Read more here and here.

August 24, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Australian Newspaper, Editor Fined Over Story

An Australian newspaper, the West Australian, and its editor pled guilty to publishing the name and photograph, and information about a nine-year-old boy who was in the custody of the state, in violation of the law. The paper also identified the child in a headline as a "suburban terrorist." The court fined the paper and editor a total of $20,000 Australian. Read more here.

August 23, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Two Australian Reporters Probably Headed for Jail

Two (Melbourne) Herald Sun journalists still refuse to reveal their sources in the case of Desmond Kelly, an Australian official accused of revealing information embarrassing to the government. THe pair, Gerald McManus and Michael Harvey, are probably on their way to jail after Kelly's pre-trial hearing. Read more here and here.

August 23, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Ninth Circuit Allows "Terminator II" Copyright Infringement Claim to Proceed

The U. S. Ninth Circuit is allowing Filia and Constantinos Kourtis' copyright infringement lawsuit to proceed against James Cameron and other producers of the film Terminator II. The couple claim that their screenplay, The Minotaur, bears a striking resemblance to the  1991 film starring Arnold Schwartzenegger. Defendants had alleged that the Kourtises were collaterally estopped from the suit because another individual, WIlliam Green, had claimed copyright in the Minotaur screenplay, had sued the Terminator producers, and had lost. The Kourtises were not parties to the suit. The Kourtises then brought suit against Green for infringement in Australian, their country of residence, won, and filed suit in the U.S. against Cameron for copyright infringement. Losing at the trial court level, they appealled.

In a detailed analysis the court examined whether the Kourtises should have participated in the original litigation against Cameron. It found ultimately that "[t]he onus...rested with Cameron to join the Kourtises to the Green litigation. The Kourtises themselves were under no obligation to intervene, and they are free to pursue their copyright infringement claim in this suit because they were neither parties to the Green case nor in privity with a party."

The 9th circuit dismissed the Kourtises' state law claims for statute of limitations reasons. Read the decision here.

August 22, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

U. S. District Court Rules that Da Vinci Code Does Not Infringe on Copyrights

A U. S. District Court Judge has ruled that Dan Brown's work The Da Vinci Code does not infringe on two of Lewis Perdue's books, Daughter of God and The Da Vinci Legacy. After recounting the plots of the works, the court examined other elements of the books, including characters, thematic expression, structure, and "total concept and feel." The court concluded that "[a] reasonable average lay observer would not conclude that The Da Vinci Code is substantially similar to Daughter of God. Any slightly similar elements are on the level of generalized or otherwise unprotectible ideas." The court found for the plaintiffs, Brown and Random House. Read the decision here.

August 22, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Lance Armstrong's Tour de la Cour?

In an article in the July 26th Media Guardian, William Fotheringham lists some of the actions that 7 time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong may be involved in over the next few years. These include several defamation actions over a book, LA Confidentiel: Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong, and articles derived from it, an unfair dismissal claim brought by one of Armstrong's former PA's, and a dispute over a performance bonus left unpaid because of the allegations made in LA Confidentiel. The allegations center on charges that Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs, charges that he has repeatedly denied. Read more here.

August 21, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

IPCC Employee May Have Been Suspended for Leaking Info on de Menezes Death

The Media Guardian reports that ITV's scoop revealing that Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes' July death in a London subway station was unnecessary apparently comes at least partly through leaked info from an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) worker. The IPCC is charged with investigating charges lodged against UK law enforcement and its web site currently carries the following statement. " Our focus is on the search for the truth about the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. Both the IPCC and the Metropolitan Police Service recognise that the unauthorised disclosure of information cannot be ignored and must be addressed. We are in discussion with the MPS on this. In response to media speculation on IPCC staffing issues, we do not comment on personnel matters. We will not be distracted from our thorough, professional and impartial investigation into the death of Mr de Menezes."

Further, the Media Guardian says the employee now seems to have been suspended. The IPCC has refused to comment on whether this is true. Read more about the source of the alleged leak here. Read more about criticism of the investigation after ITV's report here, here, and here.

August 20, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 19, 2005

BBC Under Fire for Providing Programs to Canadian Counterpart During Labor Dispute

Both UK and Canadian unions are blasting the BBC for providing programming to the CBC during its dispute with Canadian labor, reports the Media Guardian. Read more here.

August 19, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Former Chicago Sun-Times Head, Others Indicted Over Schemes

The AP reports that U. S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is proceeding with fraud indictments against former Chicago Sun-Times exec David Radler, attorney Mark Kipnis, and a Canadian holding company. The feds allege that their investigations reveal shareholders may have lost more than thirty million dollars in fraudulent transactions dating back to 1998. Read more here on the MSNBC website, in the Chicago Sun-Times, and here in the Trib itself. Radler, a native of Canada, is reported to be assisting federal authorities.

August 19, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)