Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

NBC, Dick Wolf In Lawsuit Over Meaning of 2004 Agreement

The WGA strike may have caused some additional fallout. Dick Wolf and NBC Universal are going to court over a 2004 agreement, which is now causing disagreement. Mr. Wolf claims that the pact provides him with a "kill fee", 2 years' worth of pay for a "Law & Order" series if it is cancelled. NBC, however, says it's a "pay or play" contract, requiring a particular commitment from the network (a one or two year pickup on a series). NBC is not seeking damages, but wants an interpretation from the court. Read more here or here.

January 29, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

California Supreme Court: Single Publication Rule Applies To Publications Not Widely Distributed

In Hebrew Academy v. Goldman (Ct.App. 1/2 A106618, filed 12/24/07), the California Supreme Court holds that the single publication rule applies both to publications that are widely and are not widely distributed, extending its holding in Shively v. Bozanich, 31 Cal. 4th 1230 (2003).

We recognized in Shively that the single-publication rule also indirectly addresses the second concern that would be raised by applying to publications the general rule that a new cause of action for defamation arises upon each republication—that the statute of limitations would begin to run anew upon each republication—by observing that “[u]nder the single-publication rule, with respect to the statute of limitations, publication generally is said to occur on the ‘first general distribution of the publication to the public.’ [Citations.]”... The single-publication rule as described in our opinion in Shively and as codified in Civil Code section 3425.3 applies without limitation to all publications. Civil Code section 3425.3 applies to tort claims “founded upon any single publication or exhibition or utterance, such as any one issue of a newspaper or book or magazine . . . .” Thus, the single-publication rule applies in the present case, even though the transcript of the oral history at issue was published with only limited circulation."directly prevents a multiplicity of suits by declaring that there can be only one cause of action for defamation based upon a single publication, and indirectly limits the extension of the statute of limitations through the judicial interpretation that this single cause of action accrues upon the first general distribution of the work to the public.

With regard to the tolling of the statute, the Court held that "[P]ublication is generally said to occur on the `first general distribution of the publication to the public.'"

In this case, the defamatory statements were not "hidden" from the public, although there were not a large number of copies available.

The transcript at issue here was not published in an inherently secretive manner as was the letter in Manguso; although not widely distributed, the transcript was available to the public. Rabbi Lipner became aware of the transcript when a colleague discovered it while conducting research for a book about him....In the present case, as noted above, the parties agree that plaintiffs’ cause of action for defamation accrued under the single-publication rule no later than 1993, when the Goldman interview was published. And, as explained above, the discovery rule does not delay the accrual of the cause of action, even though the interview received only limited circulation.

Read the entire opinion here.

January 29, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Turkish Academic Sentenced To Fifteen Months For "Insulting Turkishness"

In what is one of a number of similar proceedings in which academics and other intellectuals have been charged under Turkish Penal Code article 301 with "insulting Turkishness," Professor Atilla Yayla has been sentenced to fifteen months in prison for that crime, for suggesting that the country's secular founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was not as progressive as he has been portrayed in official writings. Prosecutors had asked for a maximum of five years. The court suspended the sentence. Professor Yayla's attorneys will appeal. Defendants in such proceedings and their supports charge that these cases are attempts by the government to stifle freedom of speech and thought. Read more here in a BBC report.

January 29, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sky Told To Sell Most of Its Holding in ITV

The UK government has ordered Sky (BSkyB), which owns nearly 18 percent of ITV, to sell most of its holdings in the network, but rumors are that Rupert Murdoch may fight the government's ruling, which came after complaints by ITV and Virgin Media to the Competition Commission. ITV's share price has dipped since Sky became a shareholder late in 2006. Read more here.

January 29, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ofcom: Satiric Show Not in Breach of Broadcasting Code Over Reference To Madeleine McCann

Ofcom has okayed a Channel 4 satire that poked fun at British politicians, saying the point was the lengths to which they might go to win an election, not the unsolved disappearance of four-year-old Madeleine McCann. The sketch, which aired on the long-running Bremner, Bird, and Fortune television show, shocked some viewers.

January 28, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Music Downloads With No Copy Protection? Not Quite Yet

In spite of an announcement from Qtrax saying that it has clinched agreements with three major labels to do so, Warner, EMI, and Universal say they have no plans to allow the company to permit users to download their music for free through its service. Meanwhile, Amazon.com is proceeding with its digital music store, which lets customers download music without worrying about copy protection. Read more here and here. Meanwhile, music sales continue to fall, a result, says the industry, of continuing piracy.

January 28, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Judge Reinstates Defamation Lawsuit Against Professor

The judge who dismissed a defamation lawsuit against a University of California, Irvine professor has now reinstated the suit, based on new evidence presented to the court. One of the authors of a study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine objected to statements published by Dr. Bruce Flamm in the journal OB/GYN News. The court originally dismissed the suit under California's SLAPP statute in November 2007. Read more here and here in a previous post. See also here (Citizen Media Law Project listing).

January 25, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Dating Game" With Drew Peterson Not in the Cards For Radio Station

Radio station WJMK-FM won't sponsor a competition to find Drew Peterson a date. The former Bolingbroke, Illinois police officer, whose fourth wife Stacy disappeared last October, apparently suggested to the station that this "dating game" event would be a good idea. Station manager Peter Bowen and radio host Steve Dahl say they never seriously considered it, however. Read more here.

January 24, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Afghan Journalist Sentenced To Death For Blasphemy

An Afghan court has sentenced a twenty-three year old journalist to death for blasphemy after a trial which was conducted in secret and at which he apparently was not represented by counsel. Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh was accused by others of writing articles in which he claimed that the Prophet Muhammed did not respect women's rights. He denied having written the pieces. He has the right to appeal. An NGO, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), says the case against Mr. Kaambakhsh is "a fabrication." Read more here.

January 24, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

No Walkout At BBC

The BBC and its unions have signed a deal, averting a walkout. Read more here.

January 24, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

BBC, Popular Drama, Under Fire For Episode Showing Violent Attack on Character

A scene in the long-running BBC drama "Eastenders" has caused a ruckus, and several viewers have complained to Ofcom, the government agency charged with overseeing radio and television in the UK. The episode shows an attack on one of the main characters. The BBC itself received two hundred complaints. The network defended itself with this statement: "The BBC has a strict set of editorial guidelines which all programmes must adhere to, to ensure that the violence portrayed was suitable for pre-watershed viewing." Read more here.

January 24, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Media and Counter-Terrorism Laws: The View From Australia

Lawrence McNamara, University of Reading School of Law, has published "Australian Counter-Terrorism Laws and Limits on Media Freedom: Working Paper No. 1". Here is the abstract.

This paper is the first working paper in a project that aims to identify and evaluate the actual and potential effects that Australian counter-terrorism laws have on public discussion and access to information. The project explores limits on media freedom and their implications for the nature and quality of public debate on matters of public interest. It does so by analyzing how the laws affect the media's ability to investigate and report on matters of public interest, and exploring how democratic commitments to media freedom might best be balanced against contemporary demands of national security. This paper explains how the research has been conducted; identifies some of the main elements of the legal framework and the way that those elements may and sometimes have affected the media; and offers some tentative conclusions about the ways that the media have been affected some of which are not directly, causally attributable to the suite of counter-terrorism laws but which are important to understanding the contemporary relationship between media freedom and public discussion of matters of public interest where national security is concerned.

Download the entire paper from SSRN here.

January 24, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

More on Australian Defamation Law From David Rolph

David Rolph, University of Sydney Faculty of Law, has published "Preparing for a Full-Scale Invasion? Truth, Privacy and Defamation" at 25 Communications Law Bulletin 5 (2007). Here is the abstract.

One feature of the national, uniform defamation laws, which came into force across Australia in 2006, was that truth alone became a defence to defamation. Prior to their introduction, the defence of justification in four Australian jurisdictions required not only proof of substantial truth but also satisfaction of an element of public interest or benefit. Following the reforms, there was public debate about whether the removal of the element of public interest or benefit from the defence of justification would have the effect of allowing the media to invade privacy with greater impunity than previously. This article examines the public debate on this issue. It argues that more invasive media practices cannot be attributed solely or substantially to the removal of the element of public interest or benefit from the defence of justification. It further contends that, given that reputation and privacy are conceptually distinct interests, it is inappropriate to use defamation law, which seeks to protect reputation, as an indirect means to protect privacy. The article then notes recent attempts in Australia to develop a direct form of privacy protection.

Download the entire article from SSRN here.

January 24, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (2)

Australian Copyright Law and Infringement

Jason John Bosland, and Robin W. Wright, both of the University of Melbourne Centre for Media and Communications Law, have published "Australia: Copyright - Secondary Infringement by Authorization - Hyper-Linking," in volume 18 of the Entertainment Law Review (2007). Here is the abstract.

Comments on the Australian Full Federal Court judgment in Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd v. Cooper on whether a website proprietor committed secondary copyright infringement by authorizing infringement, if the website contained hyper-links to copyright recorded music, which the website users downloaded without the copyright proprietor's consent. Discusses whether the website proprietor had the power to prevent copyright infringement. Considers whether the website was designed specifically to facilitate the unlawful downloading of music.

Download the article from SSRN here.

January 24, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

AT&T and Piracy

AT&T says it may begin checking out the traffic on P2P networks to see if copyright infringement is going on, and if so, if the company can do anything to counter it. Read more here. Here's an article by

Thomas Mennecke which discusses the AT&T proposal, floated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, and some reaction to it. 

January 23, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

MPAA Says Downloading Study Was Wrong; College Students Don't Pirate As Much as Previously Reported

In 2005, the Motion Picture Association of America reported that college students were pirating like mad, at a rate that accounted for forty-four percent of the "industry's domestic losses." Now, it seems that "human error" caused a miscalculation--those rogue downloaders only account for fifteen percent of the industry's losses. But some say that number's still too high, suggesting that three percent is more likely. Read more here.

January 23, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One Year After Hrant Dink's Murder

A year after he was assassinated, journalist Hrant Dink was memoralized by those who wished to honor his efforts on behalf of freedom of speech. Meanwhile nineteen people charged with complicity in his death are on trial in Istanbul. Read more here.

January 19, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Publisher Sentenced To Three Years for Reproducing "Prophet Mohammed" Cartoons

Alexander Sdvizhkov, the editor of the Belarus newspaper Zgoda (Consensus), has received a three year sentence for publication of the cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed that first appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2005. Many in the country have condemned the sentence, and Mr. Sdvizhkov's attorney says an appeal is planned. Read more here.

January 19, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 18, 2008

DGA, AMPTP To Ink Deal

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has apparently reached an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), averting a walkout that might have rivaled that of the WGA, which has now now hit the two month mark. Read more here.

Here's the announcement from the DGA website.

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) announced today that it has concluded a tentative agreement on the terms of a new 3-year collective bargaining agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Highlights of the new agreement include:

  • Increases both wages and residual bases for each year of the contract.
  • Establishes DGA jurisdiction over programs produced for distribution on the Internet.
  • Establishes new residuals formula for paid Internet downloads (electronic sell-through) that essentially doubles the rate currently paid by employers.
  • Establishes residual rates for ad-supported streaming and use of clips on the Internet.

Here's the announcement from the AMTPT website (a joint statement).

The agreement between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Directors Guild of America establishes an important precedent:  Our industry’s creative talent will now participate financially in every emerging area of new media.  The agreement demonstrates beyond any doubt that our industry’s producers are willing and able to work with the creators of entertainment content to establish fair and flexible rules for this fast-changing marketplace.

We hope that this agreement with DGA will signal the beginning of the end of this extremely difficult period for our industry.  Today, we invite the Writers Guild of America to engage with us in a series of informal discussions similar to the productive process that led us to a deal with the DGA to determine whether there is a reasonable basis for returning to formal bargaining.  We look forward to these discussions, and to the day when our entire industry gets back to work.

Peter Chernin, Chairman and CEO, the Fox Group
Brad Grey, Chairman & CEO, Paramount Pictures Corp.
Robert A. Iger, President & CEO, The Walt Disney Company
Michael Lynton, Chairman & CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Barry M. Meyer, Chairman & CEO, Warner Bros.
Leslie Moonves, President & CEO, CBS Corp.
Harry Sloan, Chairman & CEO, MGM
Jeff Zucker, President & CEO, NBC Universal

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

French Journalists On Trial in Niger

Two French journalists have been detained for attempting to report on the escalating level of violence in the northern part of the country of Niger. The government says the journalists were permitted to report only on the outbreak of bird flu in the southern part of the country. The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has been monitoring the reporters' situation since they were detained on December 17th. The reporters work for the tv channel Arce and are on trial this week, charged with "involvement with armed gangs." If found guilty, they could be executed. Read more here.

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (1)