Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Second Circuit Affirms District Court in Employee "Speech of Public Concern" Case

The U. S. Second Circuit has affirmed a lower court's ruling that in the case of an attorney who claimed that his demotion and later firing for a statement made in the course of an interview to New York magazine, "the speaker's motive is not dispositive in determining whether speech is on a matter of public concern....that [the employer] has waived the issue of disruption by agreeing not the include it in the jury charge...[and that the employer] cannot benefit from qualified immunity because it would not have been objectively reasonable for him to believe the speech was unprotected and the jury found that he acted with improper retaliatory motive."

Robert Reuland, a Brooklyn district attorney and budding novelist, had given an interview to New York magazine, during the course of which he stated, "Brooklyn is the best place to be a homicide prosecutor" because "[w]e've got more dead bodies per square inch than anyplace else." "On February 22, 2001, after the article was published, Reuland met with First Assistant District Attorney Amy Feinstein, who told him that prominent politicians were outraged over his description of Brooklyn in the article. Reuland explained that he did not mean the statement to be literally true and was merely trying to explain why he enjoyed his job. He offered to write a letter to the editor explaining his remark. Feinstein and Assistant District Attorney Barry Schreiber edited Reuland's draft letter, and Hynes approved it. The letter explained that while the quote was correct: [T]his was not intended to be, nor is it, literally true. In fact Brooklyn's murder rate has declined more that 66 percent during the past decade. Even with the remarkable reduction, the loss of life remains high and still keeps a homicide prosecutor busy--the point of my hyperbolic remark. The letter was published in the April 2, 2001 issue....On March 9, 2001, Reuland met with Hynes, who told him that his remarks were hurtful, because, as District Attorney, Hynes had actually reduced the crime rate. Reuland explained that from his perspective...there was still a great deal of work to be done....Hynes was not satisfied with this explanation and accused Reuland of lying to him and seeking the promotion to the Homicide Bureau simply to sell books. Hynes told Reuland he could either accept transfer to the Orange Zone...or quit. Ultimately, Reuland accepted the demotion. Reuland did not receive positive reviews...while in the Orange Zone. On July 16, 2001, Reuland wrote to Feinstein to request transfer back....Feinstein denied this request...told Reuland she expected his resignation by the end of the day. Reuland sent her his resignation.

"After his termination, Reuland filed suit...claiming adverse employment actions in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Hynes moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) and on the basis of qualified immunity.....

"A jury trial was held, at which Hynes testified that he met with Reuland after the New York magazine statement was published because he wanted to know why Reuland would say something that was not supported by statistics. Hynes also testified that he decided to demote Reuland during this meeting because he believed Reuland lied to him....Hynes did not express any concern that, because Reuland's statement...had been untrue, Reuland's credibility would be destroyed and he would no longer be able to function effectively as a prosecutor, as Hynes now contends.


"The jury found that Reuland's statement...was a motivating factor in Hynes's decision to demote him, and that, absent this motivation, Reuland would not have been demoted anyway, because Hynes believed Reuland had lied to him. However, the found that the statement was not a motivating factor in Reuland's termination. The jury also found that, in making the statement, Reuland was not motivated by a desire to address a matter of public concern. On the issue of damages, the jury awarded $30,000 for Reuland's demotion and declined to award punitive damages.

"Both Reuland and Hynes sought entry of judgment in their favor based on the jury's findings of fact. Judge Gleeson held that the jury's finding regarding Reuland's motive was not dispositive....He further held that the jury's finding regarding Hynes's motivation precluded Hynes from showing that the reason for the demotion was disruption, and from demonstrating he was entitled to qualified immunity....Therefore, he entered judgment in favor of Reuland...."

The Second Circuit first discussed Reuland's claim that his speech was protected under the First Amendment. "Because Reuland's statement was...hyperbole, to demonstrate that it is not entitled to First Amendment protection Hynes would have to show that the statement (1) would reasonable have been perceived as an assertion of fact, (2) was false, and (3) was made with knowledge or reckless disregard of its falsity....He has not done so. " With regard to analysis of Reuland's claim that he was dismissed for exercising his free speech rights, the court said, "[t]o determine whether an employee's speech rights have been violated by an adverse employment action, we first apply a two-part test....First, the court determines, as a matter of law, whether the speech relates to a matter of public concern...If so, the adverse action nevertheless does not violate the employee's rights "if the employee's speech is reasonably likely to disrupt the effective functioning of the office, and the employee is fired to prevent this disruption." To prevail...the government must show [under Pickering] that the employee's interest in free speech is outweighed by the employer's interest in avoiding disruption....

"A third with causation.  Initially...the employee must show that the speech was a substantial or motivating factor in the adverse action...The burden then shifts to the government to show that "it would have undertaken the same adverse employment action even absent the protected speech." ...Finally..."the employee may still carry the day if he can show that the employer's motivation...was retalilation for the speech itself, rather than for any resulting disruption."

"We first address whether Reuland's statement...constituted a matter of public concern....We hold that the speaker's not dispositive....[A]lthough Reuland's statement does not fit into the citizen-employee distinction discussed in Connick and NTEU, we cannot conclude the fact that his motivation to sell books means his speech does not address a matter of public concern....We join the majority of circuits in finding that the speaker's motive is not dispositive as to whether an employee's speech relates to a matter of public concern. Therefore, the jury's finding that Reuland was not motivated by a desire to address a matter of public concern does not resolve the issue....Reuland's statement addressed the crime rate in Brooklyn. We have previously held that crime rates are inherently a matter of public concern...."

With regard to the Pickering balance, the court said, "Hynes argues on appeal that he demoted Reuland because Reuland's hyperbolic statement made him untrustworthy...Hynes further contends that this disruption of the effectiveness of the district attorney's office outweighed Reuland's interest in the speech....Although this argument is not without merit, we hold that Hynes has waived the agreeing not to submit the underlying facts of his disruption claim to the jury."

On the qualified immunity question, the court said, "[w]e address whether it was objectively reasonable for Hynes to believe Reuland's statement to New York magazine was not a matter of public concern, either because it was false or because Reuland's motive in making the statement was to sell books. In finding that hyperbolic speech is protected by the First Amendment, we rely on well-established precedent from the Supreme Court....Therefore, it would not have been reasonable for Hynes to believe that Reuland's statement was not protected because it was untrue....Although it would have been reasonable for Hynes to believe that Reuland's motive would be relevant in determining whether his statement is a matter of public concern, this is not enought. Connick's command to consider the "content, form, and context" of the speech, as well as the Supreme Court's application of that test, would have suggested to any objectively reasonable government official that the speaker's motive is not dispositive....NTEU also suggested that a financial motive does not mean speech is not a matter of public concern....Finally, the fact that nearly every circuit...has found motive is not dispositive should have alerted Hynes that it would not be reasonable to assume otherwise....Next, we consider whether it would have been objectively reasonable for Hynes to believe that he could prevail on the Pickering balance. Because even if the disruption outweighed the employee's speech interest, "the employee may still carry the day...", Hynes would be entitled to qualified immunity on this basis only if a finder of fact determined that he had no retaliatory motive. Hynes has waived this issue....Therefore he cannot now claim qualified immunity.

"Accordingly...we affirm the district court's entry of judgment in favor of Reuland."

The case is Reuland v. Hynes, Docket no. 04-5521-cv, U. S. C. A. (2d. Cir., Aug. 21, 2006).

Read the entire opinion here.

August 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Croatian Journalist Found Guilty of Contempt by ICTY; Fined 20,000 Euros

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has found journalist Josip Jovic guilty of contempt of the Tribunal for publishing in Slobodna Dalmacija excerpts of written testimony of Stjepan Mesic, President of Croatia, before Trial Chamber I, in direct violation of court orders to keep Mesic's testimony secret. The Tribunal has fined Jovic 20,000 Euros. Read a summary of the judgment here.

August 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

State Department Releases Report on Kenneth Tomlinson, VOA, Radio Free Europe Head

The State Department Office of the Inspector General inquiry into Kenneth Tomlinson's tenure as the person overseeing the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe has been completed. Tomlinson is the former head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting who left that agency after an intensive investigation into his term there. Read some of the State Department investigation conclusions reported here in a New York Times article. Here is an article from the Washington Post about Tomlinson's departure from the CPB. Here is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Office of the Inspector General's Report (2005) regarding Tomlinson's tenure at CPB.

August 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Technology, Journalism and Reader Access

The New York Times decided to cut its British readers off from an article on the London terror plot "on advice of legal counsel". The Times explanation appears here. The Times had already decided not to print the story in its British edition, but withholding the web version was more difficult, according to Times sources. The paper did it using technology already available to advertisers. A link to the omitted article appears on the webpage identified above.

August 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

It Takes a Thief

The BBC's new drama Robin Hood is on hold: someone has filched the master tapes for the series and the production company has no backups. Without backups--no start date for the series, and observers speculate that the thief or thieves may be holding Robin Hood for ransom. Read more here.

August 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 28, 2006

First Amendment Project Auction Underway

The First Amendment Project is again auctioning off naming rights in various authors' novels. High bidders can have a character named for them in any of nineteen upcoming works by Michael Chabon, Amy Tan, Lemony Snicket, Peter Straub, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Ayelet Waldman, and other favorite writers. Proceeds go to the FAP, an organization which protects freedom of expression, information and petition. Read more here at the Project's website.

August 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Liability of ISPs for P2P Traffic

Niva Elkin-Koren, University of Haifa Faculty of Law, has published "Making Technology Visible: Liability of Internet Service Providers for Peer-to-Peer Traffic" in volume 9 of the New York Journal of Legislation and Public Policy. Here is the abstract.

The liability of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for infringing materials posted by their subscribers was highly controversial during the early days of the Internet. The cost of enforcing copyrights increased immensely as mass copying and distribution means became widespread and the volume of infringing materials increased. Copyright holders sought to actively engage ISPs in their efforts to enforce copyright, by making them liable for any infringing material residing on their system. ISPs opted for neutral policies and refused to undertake the role of gatekeepers. The safe harbor regime established by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the late 1990's, provided ISPs with a shield that mostly kept them out of copyright wars. The introduction of peer-to-peer networks destabilized the equilibrium achieved under the DMCA and copyright owners are now trying to draw ISPs back into the legal scene, seeking to engage them in addressing peer-to-peer piracy.

When the DMCA was adopted, the growing Internet industry sought to establish itself as a common carrier, withstanding attempts to hold ISPs directly liable for copyright infringements committed by their users. ISPs' stance helped to preserve the decentralized nature of Internet architecture, which was a key to its success in facilitating innovation, business and political deliberation. Yet, peer-to-peer design brings the interests of ISPs and those of copyright holders closely together. Peer-to-peer technology confronted ISPs with a dilemma: it boosted their business, increasing the demand for broadband and upgraded services, but at the same time created a growing burden of limitless bandwidth consumption. No single ISP can entirely eliminate peer-to-peer without risking its market share. Consequently central management of peer-to-peer traffic becomes an attractive option.

The risk involved in central management of online exchanges was one the reasons for exempting ISPs from liability. It was assumed that liability for injurious materials would induce ISPs to monitor online traffic for the purpose of minimizing their legal exposure. Consequently, liability may come at the cost of losing out on the economic and political benefits generated by peer-to-peer networks. Central management of peer-to-peer systems would turn these distributed networks into giant broadcast systems provided by ISPs, and centrally managed through their gates. Potential liability may also boost the emergence of new managing technologies and shape the design of peer-to-peer networks. Thus, liability of ISPs for peer-to-peer infringing traffic could carry long-term consequences for network architecture. The paper explores the ramifications of liability rules for design choices, focusing on the implications of ISP liability for network architecture.

Download the entire paper from SSRN here.

August 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"I Sue You, You Sue Me...."

Lyons Partnership, which owns the Barney the Purple Dinosaur brand, is suing Stuart Frankel, who parodies Barney, on his website Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation is stepping up to defend Mr. Frankel. The legal lions have emitted their more here.

August 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U. S. Journalist Detained in Sudan

Paul Salopek, a Chicago Tribune journalist on assignment for the National Geographic, has been charged with spying by the Sudanese government. The New York Times reports that Salopek was arrested August 6 but the U. S. Embassy only received word of his detention August 17. His interpreter and a driver are also being held. Read more here. Read an appreciation of Salopek's journalism by Tribune colleagues here.

August 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fox Journalists Freed

CNN and other sources are reporting that two journalists working for the Fox network in Gaza, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, have been freed after nearly two weeks of captivity.  A group called the Holy Jihad Brigades had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Read more on the events leading up to the freeing of the journalists here and here.

August 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Journalist Sentenced to Prison

The New York Times reports that a Chinese court has sentenced one of its researchers to three years in prison for fraud. Read more here. The journalist, Zhao Yan, is likely to appeal the sentence.

August 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How Knight-Ridder Disappeared

Read Katharine Seelye's article in today's New York Times on the relatively rapid disappearance of the Knight-Ridder media empire.

August 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Federal Judge Enjoins Louisiana Video Game Law

U. S. District Court Judge James Brady has enjoined the new Louisiana law banning the sale of violent video games to minors, saying that "[d]epictions of violence are entitled to full constitutional protection" contrary to the language in LRS 14:91.14. The law is similar to statutes that have been blocked in other states including California, Illinois and Michigan. Judge Brady wrote in part that

"...the plaintiffs have sufficiently asserted potential harm to give them standing...." Further the judge found that "Section 91.14(A) of the Louisiana Revised Statutes criminalizes the sale or rental of certain "interactive video or computer games" anyone under the age of 18 in Louisiana....The video games proscribed...are those that meet all of the following criteria: (1) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the video or computer game, taken as a whole, appeals to the minor's morbid interest in violence. (2) The game depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors. (3) The game, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors."

The judge measured the likelihood that the plaintiffs would succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim that the statute was impermissibly burdening speech. In response the state maintained that "the Statute regulate[d] conduct, rather than speech, comparing the Statute's restrictions to laws restricting sales of tobacco or alcohol to minors." Wrote Judge Brady, "The State's argument overlooks a line of cases holding that video games are protected free speech....Indeed, it is the "expressive element" of video games that led to enactment of the Statute....The fact that the Statute applies to video games that "depict violence" makes no difference as a matter of First Amendment scrutiny. Depictions of violence are entitled to full constitutional protection....Indeed, the Supreme Court...has stated that violent expression is "as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature."...For the reasons stated above, the court concludes that the Statute regulates protected free speech."

The court examined the statute using the strict scrutiny standard and evaluated the state's proffered compelling state interests: preventing physical and psychological harm to minors. "Under Brandenburg, the government must prove that the targeted expression "is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."...Thus, the government may not punish speakers based solely on a prediction or suspicion that their words will tend, in the aggregate, to encourage undesirable behavior....The government may not limit minors' exposure to creative works based on a general belief that they may be "psychologically harmful."...Therefore, the State may not restrict video game expression merely because it dislikes the way that expression shapes an individual's thoughts and attitudes....The evidence that was submitted to the Legislature in connection with the bill that became the Statute is sparse and could hardly be called in any sense reliable. Much of the "evidence" presented consisted of newspaper articles on the evils of video games....None of these are conclusive...."

Read the entire ruling here. The case is Entertainment Software Association v. Foti, Civil Action No. 06-431-JJB-CN (U.S.D.C., Middle District of Louisiana)(decided August 24, 2005).

August 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

FCC Denies Petition for Reconsideration Filed by Licensee

The FCC has denied a petition for reconsideration filed by former licensee Paulino Bernal Evangelism, which broadcast as AM Radio KBRN in Boerne, Texas. The FCC had issued a Forfeiture Order on October 19, 2004 after "willful and repeated violation of Sections 73.1125, 11.35(a) and 73.3527(c)(10) of the Commission's Rules....The noted rule violations involve Evangelism's failure to maintain a main studio in its community of license, failure to install and maintain operational Emergency Alert System ("EAS") equipment during the hours of station operation, and failure to make the station's public inspection file available."

In its memorandum opinion and order the FCC notes that in 2003 "an agent from the Commission's inspected [the]station....The agent could find no local or toll free telephone number for station KBRN and was unable to locate its main studio. The agent did locate KBRN's transmitter tower and the shed containing its transmitting equipment but found that they were situated on private property behind locked fences and were inaccessible....[T]he only person working for KBRN in Boerne was an unpaid volunteer who would make KBRN's public inspection file available upon request. The agent contacted the unpaid volunteer and stated he wanted to inspect KBRN's public inspection file. The volunteer provided access to KBRN's transmitted shed, but when asked to provide the station's public inspection file, produced transmitter information and technical manuals, and stated that no other documentation for station KBRN was available.

"On December 19, 2003, the Dallas Office issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture ("NAL", to Evangelism proposing a monetary forfeiture of $25,000.... In its reponse..., Evangelism argued that it did not violated the public inspection file requirement and that the proposed forfeiture should be reduced or cancelled on the basis of its inability to pay and history of overall compliance. In the Bureau Forfeiture Order, we rejected these arguments and imposed a monetary forfeiture order of $25,000 for willful and repeated violation....In its petition for reconsideration, Evangelism argues that it did not violate the main studio and public inspection file requirements; that, if it violated the Rules, there is no evidence that the violations were repeated; that it has a history of overall compliance; that imposition of a forfeiture...would be "contrary to Commission policy" because donors would be the ultimate source of payment; and that payment of a forfeiture would limit its "ability to generate programming in the public interest."

In its memorandum and order, the FCC reexamined the reasons for the Rules, noting the justification for the public file requirement ("important purpose of facilitating citizen monitoring of a station's operations and public interest performance...") and the main studio requirement ("[a]lthough management personnel need not be "chained to their desks" during normal business hours, they must "report at the main studio on a daily basis, spend a substantial amount of time there and ...use the studio as a home base"). It rejected Evangelism's argument that the "unpaid volunteer...had limited facility in speaking and understanding English, and was nervous and did not understand that the agent had requested the public file...and would have provided KBRN's public file if the FCC agent remained at "for a more reasonable period of time" or explained his request..."in a more reasonable fashion." It also rejected the argument that the unpaid volunteer represented a meaningful presence at the studio.

The FCC also considered the claim that Evangelism had an overall record of compliance, and that the forfeiture would be an undue burden on those who must pay it, and rejected both arguments. "First, the ownership report on file...indicates Paulino Bernal owned 100 percent of Evangelism. Second, although SM and Evangelism are legally distinct entities, we find that, having the same owner at the time of the violations, they were so closely related that it is appropriate to consider SM's violation in determining whether Evangelism has a history of overall compliance. Third, offenses need not be "prior" to be considered in determining whether there is a history of overall compliance. Finally, we can consider violations occurring in cases where there has been no final determination....

"Evangelism asserts that its revenues consist of donations by listeners, who would be the ultimate source of any forfeiture payment, and that imposition of a forfeiture...would, therefore, be "contrary to Commission policy." Evangelism provides nothing to support this claim and, in fact, that Commission has no such policy."

Read the entire text of the Memorandum and Order here. The case is In the Matter of Paulino Bernal Evangelism, File No. EB-03-DL-229, adopted August 23, 2006.

August 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Copyrighting Recipes

Christopher Buccafusco, University of Chicago Law School, has made "On the Legal Consequences of Sauces: Should Thomas Keller's Sauces Be Per Se Copyrightable?" available through SSRN. Here is the abstract.

The restaurant industry now takes in over $500 billion a year, but recent courts have been skeptical of the notion that one of its most valuable assets, original recipes, are subject to copyright protection. With more litigation looming and the contours of the debate insufficiently mapped out, this article establishes the appropriate groundwork for analyzing the copyrightability of recipes. I show that, contrary to recent appellate court opinions, recipes meet the statutory requirements for copyrightability. I argue, by analogizing to musical compositions, that written recipes work to satisfy the fixation requirement of copyright law just as musical notation does for compositions. Accordingly, the “dish” is the final work of authorship, the recipe is the fixation medium, and the various cooking techniques - braising, grilling, sous vide - are the potentially patentable processes. In order to meet copyright law's requirement of originality, though, the work must be deemed expressive. To determine whether and how recipes are expressive, I interviewed some of America's best chefs, each of whom claimed to use recipes to express various ideas and emotions.

Since there are no doctrinal limitations to recipes' copyrightability, in Part II, I offer reasons for the late recognition as protectable works. First, I consider the marginalized status of the sense of taste in the history of Western aesthetic philosophy. For many philosophers, only objects that presented themselves to the eyes and ears, such as music, painting, and literature, could be truly beautiful. Partly out of the fear that fancy foods can lead to gluttony, Western, and more specifically Anglo-American writers have often tried to limit cuisine to its fundamentally nutritive components, further isolating it from the realm of creative expression. Furthermore, the producers of cuisine have been treated no better than their products. Throughout history cooking has been the province of lowly household servants and housewives, with only a select few chefs rising to the status of artisan. Chefs rose from the ranks of obscurity far more slowly than did writers, painters, and musicians. Finally, chefs have a long history of directly copying recipes and dishes from their predecessors, suggesting that the norms of Romantic original authorship formed much later in cuisine than in other arts.

In Part III, I return to the law to consider whether the copyright monopoly should be extended to culinary creations. Chefs are not likely to take serious advantage of copyrights, as the time and money necessary for suit would rarely be worth the benefit. The chefs I interviewed were uncomfortable with the idea of owning their recipes, and they all approved of others using their recipes, subject to certain limits. Increased innovation is also unlikely as a more robust intellectual property regime would likely inhibit chefs' willingness to experiment with other chefs' dishes. Furthermore, the public domain would not see any meaningful increase, because few chefs who currently keep their recipes secret will be persuaded to publish them to obtain the limited benefits of copyright. The article concludes by arguing that formal copyright protection is not necessary for culinary creation, because a vibrant system of social norms already exists to sanction plagiarism, encourage attribution, and reward innovation. Thus, although recipes meet the formal doctrinal requirements of copyright law, an extension of the monopoly is neither necessary nor appropriate at this time.

Download the entire paper from SSRN here.

August 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nanjing Massacre Survivor Wins Defamation Lawsuit Against Japanese Historians

A woman who survived the infamous Nanjing Massacre has won a defamation lawsuit against two Japanese historians who wrote in two books about the incident that her account, as well as other eyewitness accounts, were fabricated. Xia Shuqin prevailed in her suit over Shudo Higashinakano and Toshio Matsumura and their Japanese publisher, who have been ordered by a Chinese court to stop publishing the two volumes and to recall copies already distributed. The court awarded her about $200,000 U.S. The defendants claim the ruling is not binding since a Japanese court has not heard the case and that the Chinese courts have no jurisdiction. Read more here in an AP story. According to local press coverage, the Japanese defendants have 30 days to appeal. Read more here in a story from the Xinhua News Agency.

August 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The "Wrong Man" May Have the "Right Stuff" For Movie Deal

Guy Goma, the man who turned up for a job interview at the BBC but was mistaken for an IT expert and interviewed on air, is in talks for a movie deal with Hollywood. Who might play the now famous job seeker on the big screen? Speculation is rampant, but Will Smith, Ving Rhames, and Jamie Foxx have been mentioned. And if the film's a hit, Mr. Goma might not need that position he was looking for at the Beeb, after all. 

August 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Toledo Blade Editorial on Lockout

Here is the text of the Toledo Blade's editorial addressing the lockout of its employees.

August 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

District Court Rules Statements Not Actionable in Kerry Lawsuit

A federal district judge has granted defendants John Kerry and Anthony Podesta's motions to dismiss the complaints of journalist Carlton Sherwood and others that Kerry and Podesta engaged in "defamation, business disparagement, interference with prospective and existing contractual relations, and civil conspiracy". The case stemmed from Sherwood's desire to show a film, "Stolen Honor", during the month of October 2004 in Abington, Pennsylvania. "Senator Kerry's supporters learned of these plans. Umbrage was taken. The Demoncratic National Committee issued press releases. A group of 17 Democratic senators made their displeasure known to Sinclair Broadcasting [a network planning to show the film as well]. Sinclair thereupon decided not to broadcast the entire film...and the owner of the Abington movie theater decided not to permit plaintiffs to show the film there."

The judge determined that in terms of the defamation allegation, "there are several problems. The only specific allegations are that...the Democratic National Committee issued an "action alert" stating that plaintiffs' film "Stolen Honor" was "written, produced and funded by extreme right-wing activists" and was "false." The same press release suggested that Sinclair Broadcasting would be compromising "journalistic integrity" if it showed the film, thus implying that Mr. Sherwood's film fell below the standard....I do not believe that any of these statements are actionable since they constitute expressions of opinion, and must be viewed in the context of a hard-fought political campaign. More importantly, I am not aware of any basis for holding a political candidate personally responsible for statements made in press releases issued by his party's national committee."


"As explained by Judge Bork in his concurring opinion in Ollman v. Evans....the test for determining whether a statement is capable of defamatory meaning "is whether the person alleging defamation has in some real sense placed himself in an arena where he should expect to be jostled and bumped in a way that a private person need not expect. Where politics and ideas about politics contend, there is a First Amendment arena...." There are, of course, limits upon what can be said, even in a political campaign, without risking liability for defamation. Thus, a newspaper article reasonably construed as stating that a public official is in fact a rapist and an obstructor of justice is actionable....None of the statements attributable to the defendant Podesta can reasonably be interpreted as factual assertions of that magnitude.

"To summarize, I conclude that plaintiffs cannot prevail on their defamation claims against either of the defendants....I conclude, further, that plaintiffs cannot prevail on their remaining claims....In the first place, defendants' statuts as targets...does not make them responsible for what their sympathizers may have done to discourage dissemination of the film. The notion that either of the defendants can be rendered liable because of actions taken by a group of United States senators seems farfetched. But, more is clear that the defendants had an absolute right to protect their own interests....Finally, because the statements complained of were not defamatory, and because defendants had a right to protect their own interests, neither defendant can be held liable for conspiracy."

The case is Sherwood v. Kerry, 05-05213-JF, U.S.D.C., E.D. Penn., August 3, 2006.

August 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Strike Imminent at Toledo Blade?

The AP reports that the Toledo Blade has now locked out all nine members of its engravers union, after talks stalled. Read more here.

August 21, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)