Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

U. S. District Court Dismisses Defamation Action Against Newspaper

In Filippo v. Lee Publications, the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana held that in order for the plaintiff to overcome the actual malice standard applying in matters of public interest here (drunk driving) she would need to demonstrate evidence that the defendants entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the publication. The plaintiff was active in anti-drunk driving causes in the area; she  had alleged defamation and invasion of privacy arising from articles and a cartoon published after news of her arrest on drunk driving charges.

"After New York Times and Curtis, it was clear that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution would not protect a publisher by imposing the actual malice requirement on a private citizen bringing a defamation suit. However, the Court left the door open for states to afford publishers extra protection beyond that provided by the First Amendment....In Journal-Gazette Co., Inc. v. Bandido's, Inc., the Indiana Supreme Court did exactly that by holding that if a defendant's speech relates to a matter of public concern or interest, then the speech is qualifiedly privileged and the plaintiff must establish that the defendant speaker acted with “actual malice,” even if the plaintiff is a private individual....The court stated: “‘If a matter is subject [sic] of public or general interest, it cannot suddenly become less so merely because a private individual is involved, or because in some sense the individual did not “voluntarily” choose to become involved.’”

The case is Filippo v. Lee Publications, 35 Med. L. Rptr 1646 (U. S. D. C., N. D. Ind., 2007).

May 31, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Arguments Against Regulating Video Game Content

Adam Thierer of the Progress & Freedom Foundation contends that legislation regulating video game content relies on myth and misconception. He explores this idea in a new paper, ""Fact and Fiction in the Debate Over Video Game Regulation," Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper Number 13.7. Here is the abstract.

Recent federal, state and local proposals to regulate electronic game content are driven by myths that should not serve as the basis for government intervention. Six myths commonly used in support of government regulation of game content are addressed as follows:

Contrary to current misconceptions about voluntary ratings enforcement, the industry's self-imposed ratings system is the most sophisticated, descriptive, and effective ratings system ever devised by any major media sector in America.

Additionally the vast majority of video games sold each year do not contain intense violence or sexual themes, despite what can be perceived otherwise.

The expectation that proposals to restrict the sale of violent video games will be deemed constitutional in the courts is misguided as well, given that state and local laws attempting to regulate video games were struck down as unconstitutional in the past, citing First Amendment concerns, vague legislative language, and lack of scientific evidence of a link between aggressive behavior and video games.

And despite the myth that federal regulation will build on the industry's ratings system, in reality congressional intervention could cause game developers to abandon the industry's voluntary ratings system because of fear of legal liability.

Also opposite what industry critics may have us believe, there is no direct correlation between exposure to violent video games and decline in social and cultural indicators. Moreover, almost every social/cultural indicator of importance, such as juvenile violent crime, has been improving in recent years and decades even as media exposure and video game use among youth has increased.

Finally in contrast to the notion that video games have no social or educational value, video games might have some beneficial effects, especially that of a cathartic nature, that critics often overlook.

Download the entire paper from SSRN here.

May 31, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Diana Documentary Sparks Criticism

Channel 4's planned airing of a new documentary called Princess Diana: The Witnesses in the Tunnel has caused an enormous amount of criticism and calls for the program to be blocked. The program is described as including photos of the car crash and its aftermath. Very little material of this type has previously been available. Channel 4 defends its plans to show such material as in the public interest. Close friends of the princess's sons and family say it would be an invasion of privacy and highly insensitive. Read more here in an ABC News Online story and here in a Reuters story.

May 29, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Write & Wrong" Brings Graylisting to the Small Screen

Kirstie Alley stars in a Lifetime original movie about graylisting on June 3 at 8 EDT, 7 Central time. Here's a link to the synopsis, describing the film.

May 29, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Terminally Ill Woman to Choose Recipient of Kidney on New Reality Show

A terminally ill woman will choose the recipient, one among three contestants, of one of her kidneys on Dutch TV, much to the dismay of many, including some members of the Dutch parliament. Creators of the program, called "The Big Donor Show," said it will highlight problems with the lack of organ donors. Read more here.

May 29, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Opposition Venezuelan Station Goes Off the Air

Radio Caracas Television, a privately owned Venezuelan television station known for its opposition to President Hugo Chavez went off the air late Saturday evening and was replaced by government-owned TVES. Supporters of RCTV protested until the end. Read more here in a Houston Chronicle article.

May 28, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Australian "Big Brother" Criticized For Withholding News of Contestant's Father's Death

The Australian producers of the "Big Brother" spinoff are taking heat for not informing one of the contestants, Emma Cornell, that her father has died from cancer. Read a BBC story about the criticism here. As part of the reality series, she is living in a house with other contestants and isolated from outside information. But her family says that all members discussed the possibility that Raymond Cornell might die during the course of the series. Here is a link to her brother's letter explaining their position.

May 27, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 25, 2007

What's a Copy?

FindLaw's Michael Dorf discusses the Perfect 10 v. Amazon case, recently decided by the 9th Circuit here. Here's more discussion by Orin Kerr, Eric Goldman, and Wendy Seltzer.

May 25, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Keira Knightley Wins Damages From Daily Mail

Actress Keira Knightley has won a damages award of three thousand pounds plus costs against the Daily Mail over its story that she had an eating disorder. In court today the paper's attorney read an apology for the story, published earlier this year. Read more here.

May 25, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Child Director, Investor, Settle Dispute

Eleven-year-old Dominic Scott Kay and and Conroy Kanter have settled their argument over creative control concerning the film "Saving Angelo", which stars Kevin Bacon. Mr. Kay claimed Ms. Kanter had tried to take creative control of the film; Ms. Kanter said she had helped finance the film but was not getting enough credit for her investment. The result? She is getting a producer credit, and he is getting the rights. Read more here.

May 24, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

NYC, New York Civil Liberties Union Settle Dispute Over Filmmaker's Detention, Right to Shoot Footage in Public

The New York Civil Liberties Union and the City of New York have agreed to settle a lawsuit over the city's detention of filmmaker Rakesh Sharma in 2005 while he was shooting footage in Manhattan for a documentary. The NYCLU alleged that the action violated his rights; the city has maintained that law enforcement acted reasonably, particularly in the wake of 9/11 tensions. The city has agreed to create written policies to prevent such situations from occurring in the future. Read more here.

Here's a link to the settlement. Here's a link to the proposed rules.

May 24, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Law Review Devotes Issue To "Televising the Court"

First Impressions, the online law review published by the Michigan Law Review, devotes a symposium issue to the question of "Televising the Supreme Court." Among the contributors are the Honorable Boyce Martin of the 6th Circuit, Professor Christina Whitman of the University of Michigan Law School, Legal Times' Supreme Court Correspondent Tony Mauro, and CSPAN's Bruce D. Collins. Here's a link to the symposium contents. Thanks to editor Scott Wilcox for the info.

May 23, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Whosarat Website: What Price Free Speech

Remember the website "Whosarat", which lists the names of government informants? The New York Times has a feature article about it in today's edition.

May 22, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The IMDB Lawsuit

Findlaw's Julie Hilden writes about a plaintiff's lawsuit against the IMDB database folks for failing to credit him as executive producer for the hit film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and two other films. Attorney David Kronemyer also wanted to be credited for the film "Wishcraft", and a tv movie "Stand and Be Counted."  IMDB responded that it uses the information from the actual screen credits for its database, and Kronemyer wasn't listed. The court ruled in IMDB's favor, primarily on free speech grounds. "Here, the listing of credits on respondent’s Web site is informational rather than directed at sales. According to the evidence submitted in support of the motion, it provides a message board and chat room for members of the public as well as listing of credits for 400,000 movies and television shows. The site is visited by 35 million people
each month. We conclude that the credit listings on respondent’s Web site are not commercial speech and are protected by section 425.16. If appellant’s position that the prospect of some financial benefit from a publication places the material in the area of “commercial speech,” it would include virtually all books, magazines, newspapers, and news broadcasts. There is no authority for so sweeping a definition." He also granted IMDB more than $6000 in attorney's fees.

The case is Kronemyer v. Internet Movie Database, CCA (4th Div.) (decided 4/13/07).

May 22, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

California Supreme Court Allows Intrusion Case to Proceed to Trial

The closely watched case of Taus v. Loftis is apparently proceeding to trial, after the California Supreme Court found that plaintiff Nicole Taus presented  enough evidence to proceed to trial under a common law theory of intrusion into seclusion. Noted expert witness Elizabeth Loftus, who testifies regularly in "false memory" cases, is one of the defendants here.

In this particular case, the plaintiff, Ms. Taus, claims that Dr. Loftus improperly obtained information about Ms. Taus' foster mother, from whom Ms. Taus was estranged, by misrepresenting herself as associated with Ms. Taus' former mental health professional. Dr. Loftus denied that allegation. For many years Ms. Taus had been under the care of a psychiatrist, who had reported on her care in the medical literature. Dr. Loftus had investigated that case and wanted to critique it. Read more about her criticism of Ms. Taus' treatment in a pair of Skeptical Inquirer articles (also mentioned in the opinion) here and here.

"In the present case, Loftus was seeking to obtain from Cantrell, plaintiff's former foster mother, personal information about plaintiff relating both to plaintiff's memory of ostensible sexual abuse to which plaintiff had been subjected as a child by her mother, and to the effect of plaintiff's asserted recovery of that memory on plaintiff's subsequent behavior and emotional well-being — certainly the type of information as to which a person ordinarily would possess a reasonable expectation of privacy. (In this regard, it is relevant to recall that at the time Cantrell agreed to speak to Loftus about these matters, the fact that plaintiff was the “Jane Doe” referred to in Corwin and Olafson's 1997 Child Maltreatment article, or, indeed, the circumstance that plaintiff assertedly had been sexually abused as a child, was not a matter of general or public knowledge.) Furthermore, as revealed by Loftus's declaration, through her questioning of Cantrell, Loftus was able to obtain access to previously undisclosed information concerning plaintiff's alleged promiscuity and drug use following her 1995 session with Corwin — again, the kind of very personal and potentially embarrassing or detrimental information as to which a person ordinarily would possess a reasonable expectation of privacy.

"Of course, unlike some of the hypothetical scenarios described above, in the present case Loftus did not obtain access to this very personal information about plaintiff by breaking into Cantrell's home or by wiretapping her telephone, but instead obtained the information by questioning Cantrell. Because plaintiff had agreed to permit Corwin to use her case study at educational seminars and in an article published in a scientific journal — albeit without identifying plaintiff by name — it may well be that plaintiff could not have had an objectively reasonable expectation that an investigator or academic researcher, like Loftus, would not discover her identity and pose probing questions to Cantrell relating to such personal matters. In any event, because, as explained below, as a matter of law Loftus's simple engagement in such questioning would not constitute “highly offensive” conduct...it is clear that plaintiff would have no cause of action under the intrusion tort if, in response to such questioning by Loftus, Cantrell freely and voluntarily revealed this personal information about plaintiff to Loftus.

"According to Cantrell's declaration, however, Loftus did not simply approach Cantrell with questions about plaintiff, but instead misrepresented her (Loftus's) relationship with Corwin (a psychiatrist with whom plaintiff had a friendly and trusting professional relationship) — stating that she (Loftus) was Corwin's associate or supervisor — in order to persuade Cantrell to disclose personal information about plaintiff to Loftus. If Loftus engaged in such behavior, we cannot say, as a matter of law, that such questionable and unorthodox action constitutes conduct that plaintiff reasonably should have foreseen or anticipated. Instead, we believe a jury could find that plaintiff reasonably expected that an investigator would not seek and obtain access to such personal information about her from a relative or friend by falsely posing as an associate or supervisor of a mental health professional in whom plaintiff had confided."
The case is Taus v. Loftus, 40 Cal. 4th 683; 151 P. 3d 1185; 54 Cal. Rptr 3d 775; 35 Med. L. Rptr. 1657 (2007).

May 22, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 21, 2007

MySpace Shifts Gears, Agrees to Share Data on Sex Offenders

MySpace has decided to share the data on sex offenders requested by the attorneys general of eight states that it had originally deemed was protected by federal and state privacy laws. The company had been voluntarily removing such data in an effort to make its site safer for users. Read more here.

May 21, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Britain Considers Extending Copyright Protection

The British Parliament may extend copyright protection to correspond to what is available in the United States if it follows the recommendation of a legislative committee. The current law allows rights holders to collect royalties for only 50 years, but the House of Commons committee recommends that that period be nearly doubled, to 95 years. Read more here.

May 18, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

FindLaw's Julie Hilden on Blogger Use of Video Excerpts and Photos

Julie Hilden discusses the fair use exception for blogger use of video and photos, something that is becoming more and more common across the web. See her thoughtful analysis here.

May 18, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

There's Something About John Stuart Mill

David O. Brink, University of San Diego, School of Law, has published "Mill's Liberal Principles and Freedom of Expression," to be published in Mill's On Liberty: A Critical Guide (C. L. Ten, ed.; Cambridge University University Press). Here is the abstract.

John Stuart Mill's defense of freedom of expression has proved extremely influential and finds important echoes in First Amendment jurisprudence. Though important in its own right, Mill's defense of freedom of expression also plays an important, though sometimes overlooked, role in his more general defense of individual liberties. Mill turns to freedom of expression in the belief that there is general agreement on the importance of freedom of expression and that, once the grounds for expressive liberties are understood, this agreement can be exploited to support a more general defense of individual liberties. This means that a proper understanding of the significance of Mill's defense of freedom of expression requires not only reconstructing his arguments on behalf of expressive liberties and exploring their bearing on issues of freedom of expression but also seeing how these arguments generalize to other kinds of liberties. In this regard, it is especially instructive to consider how his claims about freedom of expression inform his liberal principles, especially what his discussion of the best grounds for expressive liberties can tell us about the best grounds for opposing paternalism. But it is also worth exploring whether philosophical pressure runs in the other direction as well - whether Mill's discussions of liberalism, in general, and paternalism, in particular, have implications for the proper articulation of principles governing expressive liberties. This perspective requires viewing Mill's defense of freedom of expression in the context of his liberalism.

Download the entire paper from SSRN here .

May 17, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

A Comparison of International and Domestic Copyright Regimes

Graeme W. Austin, University of Arizona College of Law, has published "International Copyright Law & Domestic Constitutional Doctrines" in the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts for 2007. Here is the abstract.

This paper examines emerging constitutional doctrines that emphasize the relevance of international copyright relations to the constitutionality of domestic copyright law. One line of judicial reasoning suggests that legislation that protects the interests of foreign authors is consistent with copyright's quid pro quo bargain. Another suggests that rational basis scrutiny can be satisfied by a sufficient showing that the challenged legislation advances the bargaining position of the United States in negotiations over the content of foreign copyright laws. To put these developments in context, this paper briefly summarizes the doctrine that has been distilled by recent challenges to the constitutionality of various aspects of U.S. copyright law. It then explores the contours of this new "internationalized" approach to constitutional analysis of copyright law in the domestic context.

Download the entire article from SSRN here.

May 17, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)