Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Maine High Court Upholds Dismissal of Invasion of Privacy Counts Against Man Who Filmed Sex Workers, Customers

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has upheld a trial court's dismissal of invasion of privacy claims against a defendant who surreptitiously filmed encounters between prostitutes and their customers. In State v. Strong, the Court wrote in part,

When first enacted in 1976, section 511 defined a "private place" to mean "a place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from surveillance but does not include a place to which the public or a substantial group has access."
P.L. 1975, ch. 499, § 1. The comment immediately following the text of the bill
as enacted states that the provision was intended "to prevent [the] seeing or
hearing of things that are justifiably expected to be kept private." ... Through amendments in 1999 and 2008, the Legislature revised the definition of "private place" by removing the language excluding "a place to which the public or a substantial group has access" and adding the language, "including, but not limited to, changing or dressing rooms, bathrooms and similar places." See P.L. 2007, ch. 688, §
2; P.L. 1999, ch. 116, § 1.

 ... Thus, the Legislature's overall purpose in criminalizing certain violations of privacy cannot be understood as an effort to broadly protect individuals' subjective expectations of privacy. The purpose is more focused, requiring that certain objective factors be present as well. The place involved must be "a place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from surveillance." ... Further, a person's desire to keep private what transpires within that place must be a justifiable expectation, and, therefore, objectively reasonable. ...

Applying these standards to the unique facts delimited by the counts of the indictment as augmented by the State's offer of proof, the persons who entered and disrobed in the places described in the offer of proof—a residence, studio, and business office where a prostitute conducted her business—may have held a subjective expectation of privacy. Nevertheless, they cannot qualify as "persons entitled to privacy" in those places for purposes of the objective requirements of section 511(1)(B) because, as established by the State's offer of proof, their sole purpose for being present in those places was to engage a prostitute. Places of prostitution and people who knowingly frequent them to engage a prostitute are not sanctioned by society. Accordingly, it is objectively unreasonable for a
person who knowingly enters a place of prostitution for the purpose of engaging a prostitute to expect that society recognizes a right to be safe from surveillance while inside.

March 12, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Google Pays Up in Lawsuit Over Street View Program

Google will pay $7 million to settle allegations brought by a number of states attorney general that it violated the privacy of individuals as it photographed their homes during the Street View Program. The company does not dispute that it acted improperly and says it has since changed its policies. More here from the New York Times.

March 12, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 11, 2013

NY Sugary Drinks Still For Sale; Theater Owners Happy

A New York state judge has issued a ruling barring the New York City "sugary drinks" law from taking effect, and movie theater owners are happy, happy, happy. More here from the Hollywood Reporter. More here from the New York Times. Here's a link to the decision.

March 11, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Resale Of Ditigal Books and Music

The New York Times on the possibilities created if the law allows reselling of digital ebooks and music.

March 8, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Home Improvement" Producers Sue Disney Over Syndication Deal

The writer-producers of the hit 1990s comedy Home Improvement are suing Disney, alleging that the studio improperly allowed the show to be syndicated without regard for its fair market value. Causes of action include breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unfair competition. The Hollywood Reporter provides an account of the lawsuit and a link to the complaint.

March 8, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Defenses to Defamation Lawsuits in the Chinese Legal Regime

Yik Chan Chin, Hong Kong Baptist University, has published Truth, Fair Comments, Immunity and Public Opinion Supervision: Defenses of Freedom of Expression in Chinese Right to Reputation Lawsuits. Here is the abstract.

This paper examines the latest developments in the Chinese law on the protection of reputation and the application of defences to reputation infringement claim, and considers the implications of the different defence approaches for freedom of expression in China. The research shows that the issue for Chinese law and the judiciary is not the lack of legal protections for freedom of expression and press freedom per se, but rather the necessity of establishing a clear, specific and coherent legal framework, which will operate to guide the courts and limit their discretion. Only when this occurs will the Chinese legal system be in a position to ensure that there is no preferential rulings by the courts when attempting to resolve any conflict between the right to freedom of expression and the individual’s right to respect for reputation.


Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

March 8, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Model Famous In the Sixties Sues Over Use of Her Image In Sixties-Era Show "Mad Men"

Former model Gita Hall May is suing Lions Gate Entertainment for infringement of her right of publicity over the use of her image in the television series Mad Men. Ms. May alleges that she agreed to the use of her image in a photograph taken by the celebrated photographer Richard Avedon back in the 1960s for limited uses, and certainly not for the purposes for which the show's producers are putting it (that is, to crop it from the original photo, and to insert it into a montage for use in the opening credits of theirpopular series). Read the complaint here. More here from the Hollywood Reporter, here from the Daily Mail.

March 7, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Consumers and Their Cell Phones

The Obama Administration is taking up the cause of cellphone customers who want to keep their cellphones after their contracts have run out. Some of these customers would like to "unlock" their phones and switch to another mobile phone provider, but current law prohibits them from doing so.  There used to be an exemption that would allow customers to switch to another provider once their contracts had ended, but the Copyright Office, which provides the exemption, did not renew it. 

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski issued the following statement on the issue.

The Copyright Office of the Library of Congress recently reversed its longstanding position and stated it is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for consumers to unlock new mobile phones, even those outside of contract periods, without their wireless providers’ permission, and that consumers are subject to criminal penalties if they do.
From a communications policy perspective, this raises serious competition and innovation concerns, and for wireless consumers, it doesn't pass the common sense test. The FCC is examining this issue, looking into whether the agency, wireless providers, or others should take action to preserve consumers' ability to unlock their mobile phones. I also encourage Congress to take a close look and consider a legislative solution.

March 5, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Publisher Drops Defamation Suit Against Librarian

Edwin Mellen Press, which had instituted a defamation suit against Dale Askey, a librarian at McMaster University, as well as the University, has decided to drop the suit, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. In separate litigation, the Press's founder had also sued Mr. Askey; CHE notes that it's not immediately clear whether that litigation will continue. Many bloggers and academics had criticized the suits, saying they were an attack on academic freedom.

March 4, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 3, 2013


The video tugged at our heartstrings. Well, why wouldn't it? A baby goat was trapped in the water, its little hoof presumably stuck someplace, and it was crying out for help. Where was its mother? Who would come to its rescue? Then, suddenly, out of nowhere (apparently), came Hero Pig, paddling away mightily, to free Baby Goat and lead it to safety! Hooray! As it turns out, the entire thing was staged by the folks at "Nathan for You," a new show airing on Comedy Central. Well, we should have suspected. The thing was too perfect. A pig on the scene that just happened to have goat rescue and survival training? A camera operator on hand? And yet no human around (except that camera person, apparently) to jump into the pond to save The Kid? Yup, smacks of Hollywood all over when you think about it...

March 3, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)