Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oh Pooh!: Epic Disney/Slesinger Lawsuit Ends With a Winnie for Disney

Original Winnie the Pooh stuffed toys. Clockwi...Image via Wikipedia
If only the Walt Disney Co. and the Slesinger family got along as well as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood denizens.

Last week, the titanic 18-year struggle between Stephen Slesinger, Inc. and Disney came to an end in the Los Angeles courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California where Judge Florence-Marie Cooper allowed Disney's summary judgment motion to dismiss Slesinger's outstanding trademark infringement, copyright infringement, trade dress, and violation of Calif. Bus. and Prof. Code sec.17200 claims concerning the former Edward Bear a/k/a Winnie the Pooh (Claire Milne, by and through Michael Joseph Coyne, Receiver & Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. Stephen Slesinger, Inc., Case No. 2:02-cv-08508).

The Slesinger brood, which acquired the merchandising rights to Pooh and the rest of author  A.A. Milne's  characters in 1930, first sued Disney in 1991. Disney has registered at least 15  Pooh-related trademarks in the U.S and has registered 59 works featuring Pooh characters with the U.S. Copyright Office.  Slesinger's widow transferred Pooh rights to Disney in 1961 in exchange for royalties.

Over the years, the Slesinger family claimed Disney shortchanged them on royalties, first claiming they were owed $700 million, and in a subsequent suit, alleged $2 billion in damages and royalties were due them. 

Judge Cooper found the transfer of rights by Slesinger to Disney to be complete, thereby foreclosing any trademark or copyright infringement assertions.  The end result of the long-time courtroom fracas is that Disney and Slesinger will continue to do business, with the latter receiving payment of royalties from the former.

Silly old litigants.

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Ex-Consumer Scribe Sues Hartford Courant for Suppressing Free Speech

A pillowtop mattress (U.S.Image via Wikipedia
For more than four decades, reporter George Gombossy toiled at The Hartford Courant, the last two years as a consumer watchdog columnist.

Now Gombossy, who was ousted by the Tribune Co-owned daily this past summer, has sued his former employer for allegedly violating his free speech rights after he allegedly told his editors that he planned to write a column about a state probe of Sleepy's mattress company, a Courant advertiser.

The case filed in Hartfrod County Superior Court (Gombossy v. Hartford Courant Communications et al, HHD-cv09-5033169-S) seeks attorneys' fees and punitive damages, along with past and future economic damages, including retirement benefits. Gombossy contends that management pressured him when he blogged or wrote columns that were critical of Courant advertisers.

The defendants have not responded to the Complaint, but previously have said Gombossy's job loss was a business decision. Gombossy presently runs his own consumer-oriented Web site.

To update the old adage, the Courant should know better than to argue with someone who buys bytes by the barrel.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

UPDATE: Court to Dan Rather: 'Courage-Your CBS Lawsuit Is Toast'

NEW YORK - JULY 23:  Former CBS Evening News a...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
The appellate division of the New York Supreme Court has tossed 75-year-old former anchor Dan Rather's $70 million lawsuit against CBS Corp and others. arising from Rather's participation in a  controveresial, ill-fated "60 Minutes II" story about former President George W. Bush's National Guard service.

In a unanimous seven-page decision written by Judge James Catterson, the appellate division held that Supreme Court Judge Ira Gammerman wrongly denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty claims in Rather's Complaint (Dan Rather v. CBS Corp., Viacom, Inc., et al., Case No. 603121/07). Rather sued in  Sept. 2007, alleging fraud, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, along with the contract and fiduciary duty counts.  In July, Judge Gammerman restored the fraud count he had previously dismissed in September 2008 (see "TUOL" 7/22/09).

Writing for the Court, Judge Catterson concluded that CBS did not owe Rather a fiduciary duty and had not breached his contract by warehousing him after the error-laden Bush story ran, because Rather continued to be paid by CBS. Likewise, the Court ruled that Rather failed to prove fraud or that CBS had hindered his future business opportunities in its treatment of him.

Rather's counsel said Rather, who now works at HDNet, would appeal the ruling. A complete victory for the denizens of Black Rock.  As Rather's late colleague Walter Cronkite was wont to say: "That's the way it is."
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Facebook Pulls Obama Assassination Poll--Federal Probe Launched

Facebook, Inc.Image via Wikipedia
The online survey appeared on Facebook Sept. 26, posing the following question and possible responses: "Should Obama be killed? ...No, Maybe, Yes, Yes if he cuts my health care."

The add-on application used by the still unidentified poll poster has been suspended by Facebook. As if the survey weren't unsettling enough, according to The Los Angeles Times, the poll purportedly elicited 730 responses.

Pursuant to federal law (18 U.S.C. sec. 871), threatening the President subjects an individual to a fine and up to five years' imprisonment.  Criminal defense attorneys and First Amendment scholars will doubtless weigh in on whether the poll constitutes an imminent threat that violates the law or is merely a distasteful exercise of free speech.

For now, the Facebook freak who posted the poll should prepare to be "poked" by the U.S. Secret Service, which has begun an investigation. More chilling than the "surveying shut-in" are the 730 individuals who participated in the poll. Did they think they were going to win a prize, or is there something more sinister here?

"TUOL" has watched gun-toting Town Hall protestors compare President Obama to Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot in the same breath, and is afraid of the answer to the above question.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Magazine Clearance at Time-Warner?

NEW YORK - AUGUST 06:  People walk past the Ti...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
At a recent seminar on the future makeover of media conglomerates, the managing director of Time Warner, Inc.'s largest shareholder foresaw Time Warner jettisoning its magazine unit and shoring up its entertainment holdings.

Speaking at a program entitled "The Art of the Long View: The Media Company of 2020, sponsored by the Annenberg School for Communication at the Univ. of Southern California, Gordon Crawford of the Capital Group, which owns 7 or 8 percent of Time Warner's stock according to various media accounts, anticipates Time Warner will divest itself of its print unit, just as it has spun off its cable division and dumped America Online (AOL).

Time, Inc.'s stable of 23 magazines published in the U.S. include Sports Illustrated, People and Time. The media giant has not been spared the recession-induced misery enshrouding the print media, as mass layoffs last year trimmed 6 percent of its employees. Second quarter revenues for the magazine unit declined 22 percent because of a 26 percent drop in advertising resvenues.

Time, Inc., is the nation's largest publisher of periodicals. Time Warner has not responded to Crawford's speculation.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Will the Real Elmer Fudd Please Stand Up?

Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in "The Wabbit ...Image via Wikipedia
The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, S.C., plans to out Elmer Fudd on October 2, unless he comes forward.

This is not a post about the sexual orientation of cartoon characters about which "TUOL" cares little (though admittedly has some doubts about Pepe Le Pew), but rather, a bona fide defamation case brought in the Horry County Court of Common Pleas by the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce against a John Doe blogging under the pseudonym (presumably) of Elmer Fudd.

According to the Web site of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (, the Chamber sued on Sept. 4 after alleged false postings by Fudd on, claiming that the Horry County Sheriff's Office had raided the Chamber office and seized computers, which the Sheriff's office has denied. The newspaper is not a party to the suit, but received a subpoena from the Chamber's attorneys seeking the identity of Elmer Fudd. The newspaper will produce the screen name and Internet provider address to Chamber counsel unless it receives a response to its Email to Fudd notifying him of the subpoena that indicates Fudd's intent to contest the subpoena on First Amendment grounds.

Some free legal advice from "TUOL to Elmer Fudd: "Be vewwwwy qwiet, huh, huh, huh..."
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'Goal'-Oriented Newspaper Coverage?

A football (soccer ball) with full icosahedral...Image via Wikipedia
The economic wreckage that is the newspaper industry, with its circulation drop-offs and advertising lineage freefall strewn about, has also been devastating to fledgling Major League Soccer(MLS) franchises.

After The Chicago Tribune, in a cost-saving measure, shifted its full-time reporter from following the MLS Chicago Fire to the entertainment beat, team coverage was reduced to a blogger on the Tribune's ChicagoNow Web site. Little solace for the MLS, already struggling to gain ground in the U.S., which, unlike the rest of the planet, has not elevated soccer to the status of a religion.

But the league is fighting back, following the lead of other sports, such as the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball, which have begun to hire journalists to cover their teams and fill the void created by decimated newspaper staffs. For example, the NHL LA Kings hired a former Los Angeles Daily News reporter to travel with the team and report on home and away games. Similarly, generates much of its content from former newspaper reporters.

Already, journalist Kent McDill is generating articles for  Not to blow the whistle and assess penalties against this uneasy alliance, but what happens when  sports reporters unleash criticism of the play of the team that is signing their paychecks? Also, the recession has caused Americans to monitor their entertainment expenses more closely, which means lower attendance at professional sports events and economic hardship for teams in certain markets. Can these franchises afford to shell out the money to pay the salary and travel expenses of reporters?

"TUOL" is just askin'. Before MLS teams begin paying for news coverage en masse, they need to look at the "net" results.
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Kraft-ESPN Relationship Too Pat?

New Englands Patriots cheerleaders Briana Lee,...Image via Wikipedia
The Kraft Sports Group, owners of the NFL New England Patriots and New England Revolution soccer franchises, has lent its sales force to sports broadcasting giant ESPN, which is promoting its new Web site,

ESPN has launched Web sites in Chicago and Boston and plans to enter other major metro markets, including Los Angeles, Dallas and New York. Kraft selling local advertising to benefit ESPN, which often broadcasts games involving the NFL powerhouse Patriots and their photogenic QB Tom Brady, has inspired a blitz by media analysts and journalism profs. screaming "conflict of interest."

Time to call an audible on this partnership.
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Holder: No More State Secrets Privilege, Unless...

WASHINGTON - APRIL 22:  U.S. Attorney General ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Invoking the State Secrets Privilege, a favorite mechanism of the Bush Adminstration to derail lawsuits challenging torture and warrantless wiretapping practices, has been consigned to "in case of emergency, break glass" status by the Obama Administration, and if used, will be employed narrowly, Attorney General Eric Holder promised yesterday.

The AG's office issued a memorandum this week to federal agency and executive department heads advising that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will not defend assertions of the privilege if used to conceal violations of the law, inefficiency or administrative error; to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization or agency of the U.S. government; restrain competition; or prevent or delay release of information that would not reasonably be expected to cause harm to national security. Conversely, the DOJ will invoke the privilege in matters in which unauthorzied disclosure of information could cause significant harm to national security or foreign relations.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Survey Affirms Viewers' Love/Hate Relationship with Fox News

Foxnewslogo.Image via Wikipedia
The third annual "Trust and Satisfaction with the National News Media" survey conducted by Fairfield, Conn-based Sacred Heart University has yielded the most-trusted and least-trusted news media organizations--and they're both Fox News.

Fox's slogan, "fair & balanced" resonated with 30 percent of those surveyed, but 26.2 percent of  those polled might substitute "unfair & off-kilter" to describe the fourth network.  CNN, despite its slogan, "the most trusted name in news," had to settle for second place with 19.5 percent of survey participants giving the cable network a favorable rating. NBC and ABC tied for third with 7.5 percent.

On the unfavorable side of the street, NBC trailed Fox with a 9.9 percent untrustworthy rating, followed closely by MSNBC at 9.4 percent. ABC's Charlie Gibson, who will soon hand over his anchor reins to Diane Sawyer, was considered the most trusted anchor by 19.8 percent of those polled, followed by NBC's Brian Williams, CBS's Katie Couric and Fox talkmeister Bill O'Reilly.

What does it all mean?  "TUOL" reports, you decide. (Hint: it means nothing.)

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Magazines Beaten to Pulp

A typical newsstand in New York City.Image via Wikipedia
The Media Industry Newsletter (MIN) reports a precipitous decline in  magazine ad pages of more than 20 percent in the last month.  Of  155 publications being followed by MIN, 143 experienced a drop-off in ads for the current year.

Among the hardest hit segments in the industry are the "luxury" titles, such as Gourmet, down more than 42 percent; Architectural Digest, off nearly 50 percent; Town & Country, down 45 percent; and Conde Nast Traveler, 45 percent. Equally distressing is the 37 percent decline in newsstand sales of magazines dating back to 2001, according to MediaPost.

A dark periodical for magazines, indeed.
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Brace Yourself: Tomorrow is National Punctuation Day

irony mark – a punctuation mark to indic...Image via Wikipedia
Looking for a chance to make your mark? The Chicago Tribune today reminds readers that Thursday, Sept. 24 is "National Punctuation Day." If you don't believe "TUOL," look it up in Chase's Calendar of Events.

The observance was the brainchild of former copy editor Jeff Rubin, who along with his spouse, maintains a good grammar Web  The grammarian duo in the past has cooked a question mark-shaped meat loaf and promises to observe the holiday this year by promoting a baking contest inviting pastry cooks to create an edible version of their favorite punctuation symbol.

For the kitchen-averse celebrants, "TUOL" suggests undergoing a "colon-oscopy" or becoming "comma-tose." Sorry, have to dash.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NY Post to Satirists: Drop Dead

Logo of New York Post of New York, USA.Image via Wikipedia
The New York Post, which,  like many of its print brethren, has lost advertising revenue and circulation during the economic downturn, apparently has also lost its sense of humor.

As a warm-up, so to speak, to tomorrow's United Nations symposium on climate change, activists involved with a group called "The Yes Men" distributed a 32-page parody edition of the tabloid  focusing on climate change. Last year, The Yes Men published a faux edition of The New York Times calling attention to the Iraq War.

According to  The Daily Finance, when volunteers tried to hand out copies of the phony Post outside the newspaper's headquarters, their papers were confiscated and the volunteers detained by police. Purportedly, an unidentified donor paid the freight of $50,000 for a print run of 1 miillion copies of the Post parody.  The tabloid was targeted because of past articles calling the legitimacy of climate change into question.

Let "TUOL" get this straight: The New York Post, famous for headlines such as: "Headless Body in Topless Bar," gets its nose for news out of joint over a 32-page mock edition of itself?  Lighten up--imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Calif. Judge Allows Mask of Anonymous Bloggers to Slip a Little

MasksImage by Rickydavid via Flickr
Sacramento County (Calif.) Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang last week upheld the right of bloggers who comment anonymously to protect their identities, barely.

In  Calvin Chang v. Regents of University of California, Judge Chang largely accepted the First Amendment argument of counsel for blogger David Greenwald of The People's Vanguard of Davis blog regarding unnamed commenters, but carved out an exception that would allow the bloggers' identities to become known if  the plaintiff were to retain an independent third party to conduct an Internet address trace to confirm whether those who posted were the individuals whom the plaintiff thought they were.

In an article entitled "Former UC Davis Officer Claims Violation of Settlement Agreement," Greenwald chronicled a dispute by the plaintiff, a former UC Davis police officer, against his ex-employer that alleges harassment and breach of the settlement accord. The article was followed by a series of  comments by readers, some of whom did not disclose their identity.

Plaintiff's counsel subpoenaed Google, the Vanguard's former host, concerning seven anonymous postings that the plaintiff believed may have originated from his former supervisor and were, therefore, arguably relevant to his client's case. The subpoena sought names, email addresses, and log-in data. Greenwald's counsel accused the plaintiff of engaging in a "fishing expedition" intended to intimidate critics of the plaintiff and/or his lawsuit.

Judge Chang (no relation to plaintiff) refused to order Greenwald to unmask the anonymous commenters. With some exceptions, such as in defamation cases, courts to date generally have supported efforts of speakers, writers and bloggers to remain anonymous.  The U.S. Supreme Court, in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334, 341-42 (1995), said authors were free to decide whether to reveal their true identities.

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Get Me Rewrite..Er, Re-train

NEW YORK - APRIL 02:  People wait on line to s...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
According to a report by Unity: Journalists of Color appearing in Editor & Publisher, from September 2008, through August 2009, journalism positions were lost at three times the rate of other jobs in the sluggish economy.

The organization claims the number of journalism jobs lost increased at an average rate of 22 percent a month during the period cited, compared to the 8 percent average rate of increase in evaporating employment for the general economy.  Print journalists bore the brunt of the reduction in jobs, 24,511 out of 35,885 jobs lost by the news media since September 15, 2008.

Unity: Journalists of Color compiled its data from SEC filings and information reported by 1,101 news media outlets. The report includes jobs lost by attrition, along with buyouts and layoffs.

News space in publications may be tight, but it sounds as if there is space to stretch out in  newsrooms.
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Friday, September 18, 2009

'Wausaumatter?' Don't Know the Meaning of 'Anonymous'?

Wisconsin Welcome SignImage via Wikipedia
The Wausau Daily Herald,  a Gannett Co.-owned 20,000 circulation Wisconsin daily newspaper, can look on the bright side--at least it provided a "teaching moment" for journalism professors everywhere on the subject of anonymous bloggers.

The newspaper selected as its "Person of the Year,"  one Dean Zuleger, administrator of the town of Weston, population 12,000. The choice generated controversy and online vitriol, with postings criticizing everything from Zuleger's temperament to his weight.

This was irksome to Zuleger, who wanted to know the identity of the anonymous online negative commenter. Ask and ye shall receive. The Daily Herald provided Zuleger with the Email address of his critic. Before he knew it, businessperson Paul Klocko received a letter at his home on official town stationery from Zuleger telling him to stop the personal attacks and inviting him to "come out from behind the cloak" and meet him.

The Daily Herald has since apologized and said henceforth, it will only provide the type of information Zuleger sought if subject to a court order or if an anonymous posting includes a threat of imminent harm.

It seems as if each week brings  another lawsuit or other anonymous-blogger-related grief to a news organization. What do you think the future holds for faceless commenters, dear readers? [Note: "TUOL" reserves the right to hunt down and "tag" any anonymous respondents.]

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Moody's Gives GateHouse Media the Gate--Downgrades Credit Rating

GatehouseImage by lildude via Flickr
GateHouse Media Operating, Inc., the Fairport, N.Y.-based media conglomerate's holdings include 90 daily newspapers, 289 weeklies and 115 "shoppers," but Moody's Investors Service is unimpressed.

Characterizing GateHouse's overleveraged capital structure as "unsustainable," Moody's downgraded the company's credit ratings, dropping the "corporate family rating" to Ca from Caa1 and its "probability of default" rating to Ca from Caa2. Citing  GateHouse's $1.2 billion debt, Moody's suggested a pre-packaged bankruptcy filing or a distressed exchange (debt buy-back at way below face value) may be in the offing in 2010.

GateHouse, which is principally owned by the Fortress Investments Group private equity firm, has dropped its dividend and earlier this year was delisted by the New York Stock Exchange.
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UPDATE: Senate Version of Federal Shield Law 'Stonewalled'

WASHINGTON - JULY 21:  Senate Judiciary Commit...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Yesterday's anticipated vote by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on S.B. 448, the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2009" [see "TUOL" 9/17/09] was derailed as members from both sides of the aisle complained the proposed shield law protecting journalists' confidential sources in federal courts  endangered national security as written.

The measure was endorsed by 70 journalism organizations, but lacked the backing of key senators, including ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), who questioned the need for a shield law given that the Justice Dept. had subpoenaed reporters in only 19 instances from 1992-2006. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D.-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, complained the bill's  balancing test, which considers the news media's First Amendment interests on one hand, and national security concerns on the other, was too open to subjective application by judges.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) issued a press release angrily condemning the Judiciary Committee's inability to report the legislation that would create a qualified privilege for journalists, blaming the seven Republicans on the 19-member committee for "stonewalling" any consideration of amendments to SB 448 that might have resulted in its passage. The amendments were introduced by the bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) based on his meeting with Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, whom he claimed voiced a willingness to compromise on the national security balancing test.

The bill has been on the Judiciary Committee's executive agenda for five months, but back and forth negotiatons and debate in the end yielded nothing for the full Senate to consider.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fox News Sued for Continuing to Air Madoff Video

Foxnewslogo.Image via Wikipedia
Footage of  Bernie on a boat could prove costly to Fox News.

Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York will hear claims of copyright infringement and breach of license agreement in the case of Kenneth Stadt v. Fox News Network, LLC (Case No. 1:2009cv07910) filed this week.  Stadt owns the video at issue, which shows convicted scammer Bernard Madoff and his wife frolicking on a yacht (Note: even if you're standing still, if it's aboard a yacht, it's frolicking).

Fox paid Stadt $10,000 on January 8, 2009, for the exclusive rights to air the Madoff footage over a period of 45 days. Fox ponied up another $50,000 to extend its exclusive rights another 45 days, which has since expired.  Stadt is suing for $500,000 over Fox's alleged continued use of the purportedly copyrighted video.

Fox News: We infringe, you decide? That's for Judge Chin to decide.
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End in Sight for Wardrobe Malfunction Saga

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 16:  Host Justin Timber...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit last week heard arguments in the two-and-a-half-year-old titanic struggle between the FCC and CBS, Corp. over the broadcast of  Janet Jackson's bare breast for nine-sixteenths of a second during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.

In May 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the FCC's petition for writ of certiorari and vacated the judgment in favor of CBS, remanding the case to the Third Circuit for further review based on the High Court's ruling  in FCC v. Fox Television Stations (Case No. 07-582; 556 U.S. __ (2009)).

CBS initially was fined $550,000 by the FCC for broadcasting the "indecent" exposure of Jackson's breast during her performance of "Rock Your Body" with Justin Timberlake in violation of 18 U.S.C. sec.1464 and 47 C.F.R. sec. 73.39999. CBS prevailed in its appeal to the Third Circuit, which vacated the FCC orders, finding that the agency "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act  5 U.S.C. sec. 706. The appeals court was unpersuaded by the FCC's claim that CBS was vicariously liable for the performers' conduct (CBS v. FCC, Case No. 06-3575). CBS had a five-second audio delay in place to repel profanity but no corresponding safeguard against naughty video images.

In the sequel before the Third Circuit last week, the FCC argued that CBS was vicariously liable for not having preventative measures in place to shield against a foreseeable flashing by Jackson. For its part, CBS countered that it had no prior knowledge that Jackson would take her boob tube appearance literally, and had implemented measures that any reasonable broadcaster could have taken to guard against such an unpredictable occurrence.

Five years after the 90 million viewers who watched the Halftime Show caught a split-second glimpse of Janet Jackson's breast, the FCC has stayed firm and its interest in the matter has held up, which is more than can be said for Janet Jackson's breasts.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Texas High Court Lets Blogger Retain Hard Drive in Libel Suit

The Texas Supreme Court has stayed a lower court order that would require freelancer Art Harris to surrender his computer hard drive in a defamation suit filed by Virgie Arthur, mother of the late model/actress Anna Nicole Smith.

The Lone Star State's highest court granted Harris' emergency motion Sept. 11th in In re Art Harris (Case No. 09-0761). Besides Harris, Arthur sued an entertainment Web site, Smith's former attorney, and a couple of bloggers, alleging they defamed her reputation through libelous E-mails, blogs, and Web site postings. The case is Virgie Arthur v. Howard K. Stern, Bonnie Stern, Lyndal Harrington, Art Harris, Nelda Turner, Teresa Stephens, Larry Birkhead, Harvey Levin, and TMZ Productions, Inc (Case No. 2008-24181).

TMZ was named for purportedly posting a since-removed article entitled "Virgie has son with her stepbrother." Harris is alleged to have defamed Arthur on his blog, The Bald Truth. Special Master Craig Ball will receive Harris' hard drive if the Court ultimately rules against the Atlanta-based freelancer. Harris contends that Ball is a paid consultant of the Plaintiff.

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Senate Committee to Vote on Federal Shield Law Thursday

Jeff SessionsImage via Wikipedia
Senate Bill 448, the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2009," that would move the federal government closer toward adopting a shield law to protect journalists' confidential sources, is expected to be voted on tomorrow by the 19-member Senate Judiciary Committee.
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is the ranking member of the committee, which consists of 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans. Except for Wyoming, every state either has enacted a shield law or by virtue of court decisions, accorded journalists the privilege to protect the identity of confidential sources.
Under the proposed measure, the federal government could not compel a shielded individual to testify or provide documents without first demonstrating by a "preponderance of the evidence," the need for such information. 
The federal shield law would require journalists to identify confidential sources if a court finds disclosure necessary to prevent "terrorist activity or harm to the national security," or "death, kidnapping or substantial bodily harm."
The federal bill does not explicitly shield bloggers, as it defines being engaged in journalism as  "the regular gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public."
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The Atlantic's Prize Pundit Playlist Puzzling

What do Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Karl Rove, and Charles Krauthammer have in common?

True, they are all annoying, but that's not what "TUOL" meant.  These print and/or broadcast pundits, along with The New York Times' columnists Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, and Thomas Friedman, The Washington Post's George Will, and The Atlantic's hometown favorite Andrew Sullivan comprise the top 10 members of "The Atlantic 50"--the nation's most influential commentators who shape national debate, in the lofty estimation of the magazine (

To arrive at the list, the magazine surveyed 250 Washington "insiders," compiled and analyzed data gauging each commentator's audience, and partnered with Postrank, a company that filters social media data. There's political balance on the list. What's troubling, however, is the expanded view toward what constitutes a journalist/commentator/pundit.  Karl Rove, who occasionally seeks sanctuary in the editorial pages of  The Wall St. Journal when not dodging Grand Jury subpoenas? Glenn Beck, the weepy, self-professed "rodeo clown" who besmirches the good name of rodeo jesters everywhere?

When did the "best and the brightest" get supplanted by the "loudest and the dumbest"?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't Bum Out Wash Post Mag With Sad Stories

The Washington PostImage via Wikipedia
Katherine Weymouth, publisher of The Washington Post and granddaughter of  Post icon Katherine Graham, denies that she deliberately exerted editorial influence to kill a Post Magazine story about the triumphs and tribulations of a quadruple amputee because she found it "depressing."

Freelance writer Matt Mendelsohn devoted a year to the story that chronicled the struggles of  26-year-old Richmond, Virginia, resident Lindsay Ess, who survived a brush with death after quadruple amputation of her arms and legs and was about to receive prosthetics. Weymouth reportedly told Mendelsohn at a brunch that the paper's advertisers favored "happier stories, not 'depressing' ones."  Both Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and then acting magazine editor Sydney Trent claim Weymouth did not interfere with any newsroom decision about the story, though Trent conceded the "handwriting was on the wall" and that stories similar to the Ess piece were spiked because they apparently rated too high on the grim index.

Last July, the Post suffered a self-inflicted black eye after Weymouth planned a series of private dinners at her home that would draw lobbyists, business leaders, pols and other shakers and movers willing to ante up $25,000 for eats and a chance to rub shoulders with each other and Post editors and reporters. The idea was canned after Politico exposed the dinners that were closed to the press and public.

So Weymouth may eschew stories about a gutsy individual's battle to overcome lost appendages, but is more than willing to go out on a limb, so to speak, to compromise her paper's journalistic principles.
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ABC Reporter Moran's Tweet Lays an Egg

LOS ANGELES - MAY 9:  Hip-hop performer Kanye ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Ranking ABC News reporter Terry Moran's journalistic transgressions regarding his tweet last night about President Obama calling rapper Kanye West a "jackass" could  fill an entire "Reporting 101" class period.

For those of you who were trapped in a mine cave-in yesterday and may not have heard, Moran was reporting on CNBC's interview with President Obama when the controlled Chief Executive called Kanye West a "jackass" based on the singer wresting the microphone from 19-year-old songstress Taylor Swift at the VMA awards show to declare that Beyonce should have won the award that Swift had just garnered.

The infamous tweet was: "@TerryMoran: Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a 'jackass' for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT'S presidential."  Politico blogger Patric Gavin "RT'd" Moran's tweet and then his site discovered that the "jackass" remark occurred during an off-the-record segment of the interview with the President.

ABC News apologized to the White House and CNBC for the premature post, but the proverbial toothpaste had already been squeezed out of the tube as  Nightline co-anchor Moran has 1,066,391followers who got the message. 

President Obama deserves some blame for making the incendiary (if accurate) assessment of West within earshot of the press, thereby injecting himself into another less-than-monumental event (he called Cambridge, Mass. police conduct "stupid" for arresting friend and Harvard Prof. Henry Gates, which led to the famous White House beerfest) that will dominate the 24-hour news cycle pedaled by the brain-dead mainstream news media and divert attention from health care reform, the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, the recession, and other "unsexy" matters of state.

Still, Moran, who was ABC chief White House correspondent for six years, and is a Peabody Award winner who followed President Obama's 2008 campaign and has previously interviewed Kanye West (a "TUOL" shout-out to " Kevin Bacon Six Degrees of Separation " fans), should know better.  Repeating an off-the-record comment, engaging in lazy second-hand reporting of CNBC's story, and ignoring his obligation to his employer, ABC News (and its editorial vetting process) in favor of  reporting his "exclusive" on his own personal social media outlet. Readers, you decide which of Moran's missteps was the most serious.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Disney Eyes Indian Comics Publisher of Hindu Myths

Image representing The Walt Disney Company as ...Image via CrunchBase
Now that Marvel Entertainment has joined its stable, The Walt Disney Co. has set its sights on a start-up comics publisher in India that specializes in stories drawn from Hindu Mythology.

The Times of London reports that Disney is in talks with Vimanika Comics, which publishes in English and Hindi.

Can't wait for the theme park in Calcutta featuring "Jiminy Krishna"  and piping in "When You Vishnu Upon a Star."
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Triple Crown Loser

The Albany HeraldImage via Wikipedia
Triple Crown Media, Inc., publisher of one weekly and six daily newspapers in Georgia, including the Gwinnett Daily Post and The Albany Herald, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Under the debt restructuring plan, Triple Crown would shave nearly a third of the $35 million owed to second-lien lenders. The Lawrenceville, Georgia-based media conglomerate filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. (Case No. 09-13181).

The news comes the same day as The Atlanta Constitution, Georgia's largest daily newspaper, hiked its newstand price to $1 for Monday through Saturday editions to offset sagging advertising revenues and declining circulation.
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