Category Archives: Media Law Case of the Week

Chilling piece on copyright legislation must read

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Demand Progress and at least one academic are sounding the alarm about a copyright infringement bill that could cost some of us our free speech.

Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media and director of the Knight Center of Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, wrote a chilling article about the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” in Salon. Simply put, he calls it “yet another dishonest conflating of infringement and counterfeiting, but that’s standard for lawmakers.”

In essence, the law would allow sites that are deemed to be infringing on copyright to be blocked by Internet Service Providers. The problem is the legislation is currently written very broadly. Demand Progess, a Progressive campaigning site founded by Aaron Swartz, has an excellent fact sheet on the legislation here. That means that sites the courts have already deemed as not violating copyright could be blocked under the new legislation.

Gillmor argues that most of us haven’t heard of the bill because corporate media has a vested interest in its passage.

Quite frankly, the fact that Gillmor is concerned about the impact of this legislation is enough for me. I have great respect for him and his work. If he’s worried, I’m worried.

For more on the debate, see Gillmor’s piece. To look at the legislation, go here.

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I Guess My Dad is NOT The Stig …

The Media Law Case of the Week involves a secret identity and international intrigue.

Fans of the BBC‘s “Top Gear” show have been wondering for years who The Stig is. The Stig races cars on the popular British show that showcases and tests automobiles in a variety of unique and humorous ways. The Stig is covered from head to toe, including a visored helmet.

Now, despite “Top Gear”‘s court efforts to stop the revelation, The Stig’s identity is known, according to the Telegraph. “Top Gear” wanted to keep The Stig’s identity a secret, but a court has ruled the show cannot stop the publication of The Stig’s book.

So who is The Stig? Check it out here.

I guess it’s not my dad after all …

Media Law Musings

Here are a few gems related to media law that I’ve run into lately. These are the kind of finds I love to mention in media law classes because everyone has heard of the parties involved or because, quite frankly, of the “strange” factor.

  • Droid: Did you know that Lucasfilm Ltd. of Star Wars fame owns the trademark to the word Droid, the name of the Verizon Wireless phone you see advertised everywhere? I noticed at the end of one such ad a disclaimer that “Droid” was the trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. Verizon Wireless licenses it. Wikipedia tells more.
  • The Naked Cowboy versus The Naked Cowgirl: The Naked Cowboy says he trademarked the Naked Cowboy brand and she is violating it. I don’t know what’s better: the fact the CNN anchor refers to Robert Burck, a.k.a. the Naked Cowboy, repeatedly as “Naked” as if that were his name or the fact the cowboy sings an answer. Trust me, it’s worth your time to watch.
  • “Barbie, Political Philosopher”: Tom W. Bell writes on The Technology Liberation Front blog about a great line the Barbie character in Toy Story 3 had. He put the quote on a T-shirt (pictured in his post) and carefully notes why he does not think he is violating any copyright or trademark. Good luck, Mr. Bell. I’d love one of those shirts, but I can’t see the companies not asking you to stop.

Adult web site claims trademark infringement

A Las Vegas adult escort web site has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a company that provides background checks for use of the term “date check,” according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Here are the dirty details:

DCAEV Inc., which runs the escort site date-check.com, argues that Intelius is violating its trademark with “DateCheck,” a mobile app that does a background search on, well, your date.

“With DateCheck you know longer have to rely on your intuition or what the guy tells you,” a YouTube ad for the mobile app DateCheck says. “Look up before you hook up.”

DCAEV also claims Intelius is cybersquatting and using deceptive trade practices.

The Las Vegas Sun offers a PDF of the court filing here.

Only in Vegas, baby.

Times media law article enlightens

Here’s the good news: Some news organizations are not letting up on legal cases to get records and information.

Here’s the bad news: Some are.

Tim Arango of the New York Times wrote an excellent piece about how Hearst and the Associated Press are continuing to fight for legal records, even if it costs them.

Unfortunately, he also writes that smaller news organizations — regional and local — have had to cut legal costs along with other costs. And the head of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told him that she’s hearing about hard times for media lawyers.

I hope the Times continues to follow up on this issue. At a time when cost-cutting is the norm in the news industry, we must monitor how this cost-cutting is impacting journalism’s watchdog role.

Kudos to the Times for doing just that.

Photo on escort site leads to lawsuit

I love it when truth is stranger than fiction.

This little gem of a case comes out of the Sunshine State.

Self-proclaimed porn star Justin Krueger’s photos have shown up on a male escort site called men4rentnow.com, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

But the angry party in the lawsuit is not Krueger. It’s Liberty Media, which says it owns the copyright to the photos and the trademark to a name in the photos. Liberty filed suit in federal court in Orlando.

For more on the case, see the story.

Nudity, copyright and accusations, oh my!

It’s hard to resist choosing Tiger Woods’s British court injunction to stop publication of nude photos of him as the Media Law Case of the Week, but because of the proliferation of Tiger coverage, I will abstain.

I’m also tempted to focus on the interesting debate in the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee about who is — and is not — a journalist.You can watch it for yourself here. (Start at 135 minutes in to get to this particular focus.)

But instead a copyright infringement case that comes on the heels of strangulation accusations is the Media Law Case of the Week.

Shawne Merriman, who plays for the San Diego Chargers, has accused MTV reality show star Tila Tequila of copyright and trademark infringement. The lawsuit claims that Tequila is using his image and the trademark of his company on her web site without his permission.

Last month, Tequila filed a lawsuit against Merriman, whom she claims imprisoned and tried to strangle her. (Merriman was never charged, reportedly due to lack of evidence.)

Tequila hosted a show called “A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila” in which MTV says “16 luscious lesbians and 16 sexy straight guys” compete to be with Tila, a bisexual. Yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds.

And, yes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.