Saturday, May 31, 2008
The Second Circuit has affirmed a lower court's decision to deny an injunction in the Doninger case, in which a teen posted a misleading and offensively worded message about the cancellation of a school event on her blog and was then denied permission to participate in certain school activities. The teen sued the school, and the the lower court found in favor of the school, ruling that the school had not infringed the teen's First Amendment rights. Here's the Second Circuit's affirmation of the lower court, finding that Ms. Doninger was unlikely to show that she could prevail on the merits.
On this day in 1957, playwright Arthur Miller was convicted of contempt of Congress for failing to answer certain questions before the House Un-American Activites Committee. The conviction was overturned on appeal. The BBC has this story. Mr. Miller died, aged 89, in 2005.
Ok, some fun for a weekend. Stephen Dolan, currently at Trinity College, Dublin, has written software that lets us all play a game he's calling "Six Degrees of Wikipedia", inspired by the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." Mr. Dolan humbly says he's a "lowly student", but the Chronicle of Higher Education has dubbed him a "researcher." Let us quibble not; it's a very cool game, and he must be a very cool fellow to have come up with this code.
The Chronicle explains the game this way,
For example, how many clicks through Wikipedia does it take to get from “Gatorade” to “Genghis Khan”? Three: Start at “Gatorade,” then click to “Connecticut,” then “June 1,” then “Genghis Khan.”
The article "closest" to the center (or centre) is "United Kingdom." What were the odds?
Read more about "Six Degrees" on Mr. Dolan's website here. [Click!]
Friday, May 30, 2008
The BBC Trust is criticizing the BBC's website service, saying it has "failed to act" as a "trusted guide" to the Internet for users. "The trust's review of bbc.co.uk's service licence and remit, published today, has also called for a review of the corporation's external internet search function, questioning its validity in the face of competition from commercial rivals such as Google." Read more here in a Guardian story.
Newly elected mayor of London Boris Johnson has complained to the Press Complaints Commission about photos published of his children, which he said invaded their privacy. The PCC indicated that it would investigate the incident, which involves the London Paper.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Max Mosley, a prominent figure in the world of Formula One racing, and head of Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, is pursuing defamation and invasion of privacy claims in the French courts against News of the World, which has printed a story alleging that he patronized prostitutes and engaged in sexual activities with Nazi "themes". While Mr. Mosley admits visiting the prostitutes, he disputes the "Nazi" implication. The Mosley story has been getting high-profile press for some time.
twIn an effort to deal with perceived deceptive practices within the industry, recurring fines, and viewer complaints, two British broadcasters have come up with a manual designed to guide producers through the "best editorial practices" as they put together their shows. Channels 4 and 5 say their newly written Independent Producer Handbook will aid in upholding both industry standards and explaining the relevant law. Read more here.
MSNBC.com notes that Presidential candidate John McCain may be altering his position on immunity for telecommunications providers in the warrantless surveillance program. According to a statement by Chuck Fish, one of Senator McCain's campaign attorneys, "There would need to be hearings, real hearings, to find out what actually happened, what harms actually occurred, rather than some sort of sweeping of things under the rug.That would be absolutely verboten in a McCain administration." He made the comments at the annual Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference last week.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
AFTRA and AMPTP seem to have come to an agreement over various issues and will sign a three year agreement, ending the possibility of a long strike, such as the one that ensued after the Writers Guild could not reach an agreement last year. AFTRA did not get everything it wanted with regard to DVD royalties, but did get AMPTP to agree that performers will retain control over use of their clips used other than in promotional contexts. Next up: negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild. Read more here in a Hollywood Reporter story.
The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an ad by a bingo company, ruling that it "portray[s] and condon[es] gambling behaviour that [is] socially irresponsible and could lead to financial, social or emotional harm." The William Hill company's ad shows a woman whisking her husband out the door to work using subterfuge in order to rush to her company so she can play online bingo. Several consumers complained to the ASA about the ad. The company responded that "the ad was a humorous look at the everyday scenario of a woman wanting to get on with her day once her husband had left the house, punctuated by taking a break to play bingo. They argued that the woman only moved the clock forward by a few minutes because her husband was taking his time and she wanted to get on with her day. They believed the womans behaviour was light-hearted and did not portray, condone or encourage socially irresponsible behaviour or behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. They argued that the fact the woman was looking forward to playing online bingo when her husband had finished his breakfast was not a depiction of a person for whom gambling was indispensible or whose priorities should be elsewhere. They also believed the ad did not suggest that solitary gambling was preferable to social gambling."
The ASA ruled that "The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 11.10.1(a) and 11.10.1(d) (Gambling). We also investigated the ad under CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 11.10.1(j) (Gambling) but did not find it in breach.
Read the entire adjudication here.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The House of Lords Committee set up to inquire into media ownership will release its findings after hours of inquiry, and Richard Wray of the Guardian wonders what it all means.
Committee supporters believe that when the report is published in a month's time, it will help inform a future communications act as well as showing the power of the second chamber. Few commentators believe that elected representatives with both eyes firmly fixed on the looming election would want to question any of the media bigwigs for fear of becoming the target of their papers.
There has been little questioning of the committee itself, however. Why, for example, was Paul Dacre not called, given his power at the Daily Mail and the savaging of his newspapers by others? Rothermere, the chairman and controlling shareholder in Daily Mail and General Trust, appeared at last week's final session, telling an incredulous committee that Dacre could support the legalisation of cannabis, Britain's entry into the euro and the Labour Party as far as he was concerned, without getting fired.
To media watchers next month's report and the committee's attempt to pull the disparate strands together will make for an enjoyable read. But in the run-up to a general election, that may be all it remains. Its first investigation, which was sparked by the shock departure of the first BBC Trust chairman Michael Grade to ITV in November 2006, made a series of proposals. Its report - published last August - recommended that the chairman of the BBC Trust should be subject to a six-month notice period, a non-compete clause and a parliamentary pre-appointment hearing. Two months later the government rejected these ideas outright. Fowler, however, believes next month's report will form part of the ongoing debate about media ownership and could one day inform a rethink of the Communications Act.
"If you look at the concentration of ownership that there now is in newspapers, TV, radio, there's no question ... there's a lot of influence and a lot of power in the hands of a small number of owners ... People are going to become more and more interested and more and more concerned about this. Our new report is not realistically going to be the last word on the issue."
Read the entire article here.
Monday, May 26, 2008
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is pushing for more legislation on the state level to combat piracy. Lawyer Barry Robinson was in the Lone Star State this month to push for a bill that would make educational institutions responsible for tracking illegal student downloading. Read more here.
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied a summary judgment motion on a defamation claim for a media defendant in a case in which the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant broadcasters had sent reporters undercover with a camera onto its premises (a clinic) to pose as patients and to interview other patients. The plaintiffs alleged trespass and defamation, and pointed out that the reporters (as patients) signed a form with a "no recording" clause although that footage was not used. The Michigan court further ruled that New Jersey law must be applied since the alleged harm occurred in New Jersey. Read a summary here. [The E.D. Mich. website currently links incorrectly to the Vincent Crockett case].
The case is LL NJ Inc. v. NBC Subsidiary (WCAU-TV) L.P., E.D. Mich., No. 06-14312, 4/28/08.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Kathleen Firrantello, the daughter of jazz musician Joe Farrell, is suing rapper Kanye West and other musicians for copyright infringement for using a bit of her father's song Upon This Rock in their works. In her suit, Ms. Firrantello requests damages and injunctions against further uses of the song. Read more here.
Craig McTaggart, TELUS Communication Company, has published "Net Neutrality and Canada's Telecommunications Act." Here is the abstract.
The ongoing policy debate under the banner of "net neutrality" engages fundamental questions regarding the form of governance that best protects the interests of Internet stakeholders and advances the development of the Internet itself. While incidents sparking net neutrality concerns in North America have been isolated, often misunderstood, and rarely repeated, the attention that they have attracted is indicative of the level of interest in this issue. There are a variety of legitimate concerns on all sides. While some are calling for new legislation or regulation of Internet access to address net neutrality concerns, this paper seeks to demonstrate that, unlike in the United States, Canada's existing Telecommunications Act provides the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the authority it needs to address any problems that may arise. I propose certain general public policy principles regarding residential wireline Internet access, followed by a set of specific interpretive principles using which the Telecommunications Act may usefully be applied to Canada's competitive Internet access marketplace.
Download the paper from SSRN here.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Time Warner and Time Warner Cable are splitting up. Here's a press release.
Time Warner President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said: "This is the right step for Time Warner and Time Warner Cable stockholders. After the transaction, each company will have greater strategic, financial and operational flexibility and will be better positioned to compete. Separating the two companies also will help their management teams focus on realizing the full potential of the respective businesses and will provide investors with greater choice in how they own this portfolio of assets. We're bullish on Time Warner Cable's prospects, but its strategic goals and capital needs are increasingly different from those of our other businesses."
Mr. Bewkes continued: "Once the transaction is completed, Time Warner will have a streamlined portfolio of leading businesses focused on creating and distributing our branded content across traditional and digital platforms worldwide. Our company will also have increased flexibility in its capital structure. We'll continue to balance investment opportunities against the benefits of returning capital directly to our stockholders, within a disciplined financial framework intended to maintain solid investment-grade credit ratings."
Time Warner Cable President and Chief Executive Officer Glenn Britt said: "Today's announcement marks the next important step in Time Warner Cable's evolution as a stand-alone, public company. In a single transaction we increase our strategic and financial flexibility, simplify our capital structure, enhance the public float and liquidity of our stock and return substantial capital to our stockholders. Importantly, we expect to accomplish all of this while maintaining solid investment-grade credit ratings. Paying a sizeable, one-time dividend is a reflection of our continued confidence in our growth prospects. Our separation from Time Warner also enhances our ability to compete aggressively and perform well in a highly competitive environment by delivering the innovative telecommunications services that our customers need, while making prudent investments to deliver continued value for our stockholders."
The transaction will include the following steps:
- Time Warner exchanges its 12.4% interest in TW NY Cable Holding Inc., a subsidiary of Time Warner Cable, for 80 million newly issued shares of Time Warner Cable's Class A common stock – increasing Time Warner's ownership stake in Time Warner Cable's common stock from 84% to 85.2%;
- Time Warner Cable declares a one-time dividend to all of its stockholders of $10.27 per Time Warner Cable common share – a total of approximately $10.9 billion – payable immediately prior to completion of the separation;
- Time Warner receives $9.25 billion from this dividend;
- Time Warner converts its Time Warner Cable Class B common shares (each Class B common share has the voting power equivalent to 10 Class A common shares) into Time Warner Cable common shares on a one-for-one basis in a recapitalization that results in Time Warner Cable having one class of common stock; and
- Time Warner distributes its entire ownership stake in Time Warner Cable to Time Warner stockholders in a tax-efficient manner. The exact form of the distribution will be determined shortly before the closing of the transaction, based on market conditions.
Time Warner Cable expects to fund the one-time dividend through its existing revolving credit facility and $9 billion from a new, committed two-year bridge term financing from a syndicate of banks. In addition, Time Warner has agreed to provide a commitment for a supplemental two-year term loan of up to $3.5 billion to enable Time Warner Cable to repay the bridge financing at its maturity, in the unlikely event Time Warner Cable has not replaced the bridge financing with long-term financing. At the completion of the transaction, Time Warner and Time Warner Cable both expect to have solid investment-grade credit ratings.
The transaction is contingent on a favorable IRS ruling on its tax treatment as well as customary regulatory reviews and local franchise approvals. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
The Time Warner Cable board of directors approved the transactions following a unanimous recommendation by the members of the Special Committee of Independent Directors that was formed for the purpose of reviewing, considering, evaluating and participating in the negotiations concerning the transactions.
Citigroup Global Markets Inc. and Goldman, Sachs & Co. are serving as lead financial advisers to Time Warner. Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP is serving as legal adviser to Time Warner. Additionally, BNP Paribas Securities Corp., Banc of America Securities LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Wachovia Capital Markets, LLC are providing financial advice to the management of Time Warner. Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated is serving as financial adviser to Time Warner Cable, and Evercore Group L.L.C. is serving as financial adviser to the Special Committee of Time Warner Cable's board of directors. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP is serving as legal adviser to Time Warner Cable, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is serving as legal adviser to the Special Committee.
Read more here.