Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Imus, CBS Settle Over Dismissal

Just as Don Imus and CBS settled his lawsuit over CBS' dismissal of him back in April over his incautious remarks regarding the Rutgers' women's basketball team, one of the team members has finally filed a lawsuit over those remarks. Kia Vaughn sued the former radio host as well as CBS for defamation in New York state court, alleging damage to her reputation.

August 15, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Journalists Who Give Their Lives in Pursuit of the Story

Ross Howard discusses what it takes to be a journalist in the midst of conflict of Somalia here in an essay exclusive to the Globe and Mail online. He says in part, "What goes unappreciated in the West is how many journalists elsewhere are denied the ordinary freedoms Western media has enjoyed. With corrupt judges and licensing, intimidated regulators and partisan police, the possibilities of retaliation against fair and balanced reporting are endless. With media owners on political, military or gangster payrolls, the job security for impartial reporters is tenuous. There are neither journalists' unions nor civil and criminal laws, let alone political commitment, strong enough to protect even the basics of journalism. In places where I've trained, we inevitably end up discussing this. And yet, in my experience, even in these dire environments, there are journalists who want to sneak balanced reporting into their copy or programming; to make their work a public service rather than political or extremist or purely corporate propaganda. Several of the nearly two-dozen Somali journalists I trained in June (in nearby, safer Djibouti), on behalf of the Danish NGO International Media Support, reminded me of Mahad Ahmed Elmi. They were keen, albeit war-weary. They wanted more training and more handbooks. They believed their work would make a difference, that one day Somalia would recover peace."

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August 15, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Comic Book Storeowner Trial Begins

Gordon Lee, owner of a comic book store in Rome, Georgia, goes on trial this month for distributing material harmful to a minor. As a treat at Halloween, 2004, Mr. Lee handed out free comics to the children visiting his store. One, allegedly featuring Pablo Picasso's genitalia, got into the possession of two small boys. Their mother refused to accept Mr. Lee's apology, and criminal charges followed. Read more here. Here's an audio story from NPR.

August 14, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Reporters Must Testify in Hatfill Lawsuit--Judge Walton

U. S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton has ruled that five reporters--Michael Isikoff, Daniel Klaidman, Allan Lengel, Toni Locy, and James Stewart--must testify in the lawsuit Dr. Steven Hatfill has brought against the U. S Department of Justice. But he quashed the subpoenas Dr. Hatfill brought against various members of the media, including ABC and the Washington Post. Comparing Dr. Hatfill's case to the Wen Ho Lee case, Judge Walton said in part, "...Lee issued subpoenas to the various journalists seeking their testimony and documents relating to the leaks, “reasoning that his other discovery attempts had produced and would continue to produce no results.” Id. The journalists moved to quash the subpoenas, and the District Court denied the motions and ordered the journalist to “appear for [] depositions and ‘truthfully answer questions as to the identity of any officer or agent of defendants, or any of them, who provided information directly about Wen Ho Lee, and as to the nature of the information so provided.’” Id. The District Court concluded “that Lee had met both of [the Zerilli] guidelines to overcome the journalists’ qualified privilege,” finding “that the information was clearly central to the case” and “that Lee had exhausted all reasonable alternatives.” Id. at 57. The Lee Court found that the second Zerilli guideline had been satisfied because the depositions Lee had already taken “showed a pattern of evasion and stonewalling” and because he had used the main discovery devices prescribed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for obtaining the type of information he sought to acquire from the reporters. Id. As noted already, the journalists were required to “appear for depositions and ‘truthfully answer questions as to the identify of any officer or agent of defendants, or any of them, who provided information directly about [Lee], and as to the nature of the information so provided.” Id. at 56. However, “[a]fter the journalists were deposed and refused to answer certain questions, . . . [they] were held in contempt.” Id. at 57. Upon refusing “to reconsider on the privilege issue,” the District Court “fined each [journalist] $500 per day, [but] stayed the fines pending appeal.” Id. Ultimately, the Circuit Court affirmed the District Court’s ruling with respect to four of the five journalists." (footnotes omitted). He also rejected claims of federal common law reporter's privilege.

However, with regard to the media subpoenas, Judge Walton continued, "As to the media companies (and their reporters), from whom no discovery efforts have been directed – The New York Times, the Associated Press, and the Baltimore Sun – the Court has the same view concerning Dr. Hatfill’s failure to satisfy the exhaustion requirement as prescribed by Zerilli and Lee. Enforcing the Rule 30(b)(6) subpoenas served on these companies would, in and of themselves, not provide Dr. Hatfill with admissible evidence that he would be able to use at trial to prove the elements of his Privacy Act claims. Any information the corporate representatives of these entities provided through their depositions concerning the identities of the government sources would in all likelihood constitute inadmissible hearsay, as their knowledge would presumably be based on what they learned from someone other than the sources themselves."

Read the entire opinion here. Read Adam Liptak's article in today's New York Times here.

August 14, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Journalists Charged Under Health Act

Two journalists apparently in pursuit of a story about the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Britain have been charged with breaching the Animal Health Act and are set to appear in court. They face fines or six months in jail if found guilty. Read more here.

August 13, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

No Charges for French Teenager Who Posted Unauthorized Translation of Latest Harry Potter Novel

Eh bien! That French teenager will not be charged with infringement for posting an unauthorized translation of the latest Harry Potter novel, after an agreement was reached with author J. K. Rowling. The young man, apparently an avid fan, only wanted to satisfy the interest of other French readers, not make money. Read more here in a BBC story.

August 13, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

District Court Rules Computer Programmer a Public Figure for Purposes of Defamation Suit

A federal judge has determined that a computer programmer who has spoken and written about QDOS, an early operating software system, is a limited purpose public figure for purposes of a defamation suit which he has filed against a publisher, and must demonstrate actual malice if he wishes to prevail in that suit. Since he is unlikely to be able to demonstrate actual malice, the judge dismissed the suit. The case is Paterson v. Little, Brown, W.D. Wash., No. C05-1719Z, 7/25/07). Here's a link to the original complaint, and a link to the motion to dismiss. Groklaw has much more on this case here.

August 9, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

French Detain Teenager After He Posts Translation of Latest Harry Potter Book On Web

A French prosecutor is deciding what charges to bring against a sixteen-year-old who translated the last Harry Potter novel in an apparent feat of magic and posted the result online within days of the book's appearance on July 21st. The novel's official translator is still working on his version for Gallimard Jeunesse. Aix prosecutor Olivier Rothe said the young man didn't appear to have done the deed for money, but for the love of anxious Francophone Potter-ites everywhere. Read more here.

August 8, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

TRO Issued In Anna Nicole Breast Implant Tape Case

Howard K. Stern, the executor of Anna Nicole Smith's estate, has obtained a temporary restraining order forbidding the physician who performed the late celebrity's breast implant surgery to engage in the "sale,distribution or dissemination of the videotape" showing the surgery. Mr. Stern says the physician did not have Ms. Smith's consent to tape her during the procedure. Dr. Gerald Johnson (or according to the website, his wife) had tried to sell the tape to a dealer in Los Angeles. Read more here. See the documents here.

August 8, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Man Arrested in Shooting of Oakland Journalist

Oakland officials have charged 19-year-old DeVaughndre Broussard, an employee of Your Black Muslim Bakery, in the murder of Chauncey Bailey, the editor of the Oakland Post. Mr. Bailey was reportedly investigating the Bakery; police believe that investigation may have served as the impetus for the murder. Mr. Bailey was killed last week and buried at St. Benedict's Church in Oakland today. Read more here.

August 8, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

FindLaw's Hilden on the Proposed Federal Reporter's Shield Law and the Blogger as Reporter

FindLaw's Julie Hilden discusses why she supports enactment of H.R. 2102, the Free Flow of Information Act (otherwise known as the federal reporter's shield law) but thinks it should also squarely address some crucial questions. She notes that H.R. 2102, as written, seems to omit some important protections. It contains a "national security exception", for example. It also fails to address the question of the individual who does not meet the traditional journalist definition, such as people like video blogger Josh Wolf or instructor Vanessa Leggett, both of whom tried and failed to assert a journalist's privilege. Read more here.

August 8, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Common Carrier Obligations Concerning Roaming

The FCC has issued this clarification concerning automatic roaming on mobile phones.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a Report and Order (Order) and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice) adopted today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) clarified the roaming obligations of Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) providers, stating that automatic roaming is a common carrier obligation for CMRS carriers.  Automatic roaming allows roaming mobile telephone customers to place calls as they do in their home coverage area, by simply entering a phone number and pressing “send.”

The FCC required CMRS carriers to provide roaming services to other carriers upon reasonable request and on a just, reasonable, and non-discriminatory basis under Sections 201 and 202 of the Communications Act.  When a reasonable request is made by a technologically compatible CMRS carrier, a host CMRS carrier must provide automatic roaming to the requesting carrier outside of the requesting carrier’s home market.  The FCC also decided to maintain its existing manual roaming requirement, which requires CMRS providers to permit customers of other carriers to roam manually on their networks, for example by supplying a credit card number, provided that the roamers’ handsets are technically capable of accessing the roamed-on network. 

The common carrier obligation to provide roaming extends to real-time, two-way switched voice or data services that are interconnected with the public switched network and utilize an in-network switching facility that enables the provider to reuse frequencies and accomplish seamless hand-offs of subscriber calls.  The FCC also extended the automatic roaming obligation to “Push-to-Talk” and text messaging services, and sought comment on whether the roaming obligation should be extended to services that are classified as information services or to services that are not CMRS.

In the current wireless marketplace, CMRS consumers increasingly rely on mobile telephony services and reasonably expect to continue their wireless communications even when they are out of their home network area, and today’s decision will provide additional flexibility for consumers. 

Action by the Commission on August 7, 2007, by Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 07-143). Chairman Martin, Commissioners Tate and McDowell,

with Commissioners Copps and Adelstein concurring in part.  Separate statements issued by Chairman Martin and Commissioners Copps, Adelstein, Tate, and McDowell.

For additional information, contact Nese Guendelsberger at (202) 418-0634 or; Won Kim at (202) 418-1368 or; or Christina Clearwater at (202) 418-1893 or

Read the press release here.

August 8, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

J. K. Rowling Loses Invasion of Privacy Claim Against Newspaper, Photography Agency

J. K. "Harry Potter" Rowling has lost an intrusion into seclusion claim against the Sunday Express and the copyright holders of a photo of her and her young son David which the Express published of the two on a London street.  The judge ruled it a depiction of "an area of routine activity which, when conducted in a public place, carries no guarantee of privacy". Ms. Rowling will have to pay costs. However, the judge has allowed an appeal. Read more here in a BBC story.

August 7, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Pedophiles and Free Speech

FindLaw's Sherry Colb discusses the Jack McClellan case and the pedophile's right to free speech here. On Saturday a Los Angeles judge granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting Mr. McClellan from coming within 10 yards of any minor and prohibiting him from photographing or contacting a minor without parental consent. Read more in a Los Angeles Times story here.

August 6, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Fake Steve? Real Steve? Real Fun

The New York Times's Brad Stone writes about the blogger who was the "fake Steve Jobs" for over a year on a blog called The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs here. The "real" "fake Steve" is veteran reporter and writer Daniel Lyons of Forbes magazine, who has a new book coming out, based on his experiences as "Fake Steve."

August 6, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 3, 2007

Venezuelan Supreme Court Suspends Government Order With Regard to Private Cable Channel Registration

The Supreme Court of Venezuela has backed the independence of privately owned station Radio Caracas Television and other similarly situated media, suspending the government's order that they register as "national producers". If the order had gone into effect, Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, would have been able to demand air time from the broadcasters to carry his speeches. Radio Caracas TV had originally been forced off the airwaves and had taken to cable to avoid government interference. Read more here.

August 3, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

NBC Universal and Telemundo Suspend Reporter Involved With L.A. Mayor

NBC and Telemundo have suspended journalist Mirthala Salinas, the woman involved with married Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Ms. Salinas continued to report on Mr. Villaraigosa's domestic situation during the period that she was having the affair with him, behavior that the network and the station have determined violated ethical guidelines. According to statements Ms. Salinas has made previously, some members of the station's management seem to have known of her relationship with Mr. Villaraigosa. Read more here.

August 3, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

In Forthcoming Book, Valerie Plame Can't Publish How Long She Worked For CIA

Even though the information is publicly available, Valerie Plame can't reveal how long she worked for the CIA, according to a judge. U. S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones accepted the agency's argument that if Ms. Plame were to do so, it would "harm national security." The argument, contained in a "classified court filing," according to a New York Times article, is secret.

August 3, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Student Sues Over Suspension, Charges University Violated His Free Speech Rights Over Website

Maciej Murakowski, a University of Delaware student, has filed a lawsuit against the University, claiming that it violated his free speech rights when it suspended him for creating and maintaining a website on university servers which it concluded provided “racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic” materials. Although a psychiatrist concluded that Mr. Murakowski was not a threat, the university still banned him from the campus. According to University officials, Mr. Murakowski may now apply for readmission, but may not enter any residence halls if he is re-admitted. The University concedes it is worried about campus security in the wake of the Virginia Tech situation. Read more in an AP story. The Chronicle of Higher Education has also blogged this story.

August 2, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

British Appellate Court Lifts Gag Order In Official Secrets Act Trial

An appellate court has lifted a gag order, imposed by a lower court, which prevented the British press from printing information about a meeting between then Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush on April 16, 2004, during which President Bush apparently floated a suggestion about bombing the television station al-Jazeera as well as other issues concerning the Iraq war. Two men, David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, are on trial under the Official Secrets Act for their involvement in leaking the contents of the memo that contained that information to the media. Much of the information had already been made public; nevertheless, the trial judge imposed the gag order. However, a number of influential media challenged it, and this week the appellate court ruled that the order was too broad. However, the court did caution the press concerning the manner in which it characterized the defendants' allegations. Read more here in a Media Guardian story.

August 2, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)