Monday, November 30, 2009

Hasselbeck Hassle-free After Plagiarism Claim Dismissed

A federal judge in Boston has tossed the plagiarism suit against "The View" co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck brought by Cape Cod author Susan Hassett, who claimed her self-published book, Living with Celiac Disease, was the food source, so to speak, for Hasselbeck's best-selling tome, The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide.

The case, Hassett v. Hasselbeck & Center Street Hachette Book Group (Case No. 1:2009cv11063) was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro after Hassett's counsel declined to pursue the claim, raising doubts that the alleged infringement was serious enough to merit monetary damages for Ms. Hassett. See "TUOL" post 6/24/09.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do Not Adjust Your Computer...

The devoted staff of "TUOL" has been sidetracked by computer woes, so posts may be spotty the next few days.  Do not talk to strangers while we're away.

Monday, November 16, 2009

U. Wisc. Needs FERPA Guide to Navigate Student Paper Flap

Seal of the University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeImage via Wikipedia
Student journalists at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee Post have sued the university for allegedly violating the state's public records law (Wis. Stat. sec. 19.31-19.39).

The suit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court involves the university's refusal to identify a student whose voice was recorded at a public committee meeting in reliance on the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") [20 U.S.C. sec.1232g; 34 C.F.R. Pt. 99], commonly known as the Buckley Amendment.  The school declined to provide Post staff with minutes, audio recordings or agendas of the Union Policy Board, the policy arm of the UWM Student Union, although the board's meetings are open to the public.

In the past, the college's administration has cited FERPA as the basis for its refusal to provide to the Post the identity of school employees who sit on student disciplinary hearing panels or taxpayer-funded university-related travel records of student government officers. Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center ("SPLC") criticized UWM for not using common sense in pursuing a stringent, literal interpretation of FERPA.

The Buckley Amendment is intended to protect the privacy of student education records, such as grades, rather than a public body such as the Union Policy Board, even though it is comprised of students.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Gets Funky, Dog

Thanks to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, nobody but Funkadelic singer George Clinton can ever again lay claim to the lyric: "Bow, wow, wow, yippee, yo, yippee yea."

In Bridgeport Music, Inc. & Southport Music, Inc. v. UMG Recordings, Inc. & Universal Music Investments, Inc. (Case No. 07-5596), the appellate court upheld the trial court decision awarding $89,000 damages to Bridgeport Music, Inc., for Universal's appropriation of Clinton's lyric in Public Announcement's "D.O.G. in Me," a 1998 hip hop tune.

Bridgeport, which administers Clinton's musical opuses, sued to protect the lyrics introduced by Clinton and two other songwriters in the 1982 tune "Atomic Dog." The appellate court arrived at the damages amount based on sales of Public Annoucement's album, "All Work, No Play," that included "D.O.G. in Me."

As for "bow, wow, wow, yippee, yo, yippee,yea," Yo Yo Ma, Bow Wow, and other artists--you're on notice.
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UPDATE: Clemens Moves to Pickoff McNamee Libel Suit

Roger Clemens pitching for the Houston Astros,...Image via Wikipedia
Lawyers for seven-time Cy Young Award-winner Roger Clemens this week filed a motion to dismiss the defamation claim of his former trainer Brian McNamee in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (McNamee v. Clemens, Case No. 1:2009cv01647, filed 4/22/09).

Rocket Roger's attorneys claim the N.Y. federal district court presiding Senior Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. lacks personal jurisdiction over the former ace because he was neither living in, nor working in New York when the suit was brought, and describe the ongoing annual payments Clemens receives from the World Champion Yankees as emanating from an Ohio limited partnership headquartered in Tampa, Fla.

McNamee's suit alleges that he was defamed by purported statements from Clemens and his spokespeople of manufacturing evidence--used needles and bloody gauze pads--turned over to federal investigators after the Mitchell Report was released that allegedly corroborated steroid use by the power pitcher. The motion to dismiss argues the statements are not defamatory because of the use of the word "apparently" before "manufactured evidence" and because the underlying accusation that Clemens used steroids and human growth hormones isn't true. The complaint also cites alleged comments by Clemens' spokespeople suggesting McNamee was mentally unstable and attempting to shake down Clemens.  In the motion to dismiss, Clemens' attorneys counter that the statements were not made seriously. Moreover, the motion contends that McNamee gave permission for Clemens to attack his credibility just before the Mitchell Report went public.

Earlier this year, Clemens' defamation suit against McNamee was dismissed by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Judge Keith P. Ellison (William Roger Clemens v. Brian McNamee, Case No. 4:08cv00471) [see "TUOL" posts 9/7/09, 8/13/09, 7/2/09.]

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Separation of Church & State on South Carolina's 'Plate'

Honk if you believe in the First Amendment!

"TUOL" admits this post has nothing to do with media law or journalism, but couldn't resist as  it does involve the 1st Amendment and another politician going off the rails in South Carolina, where "Laughingstock" has supplanted Democrat and Republican as state leaders' party affiliation of choice.

The Associated Press today reports on the decision of U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina Judge Cameron Currie in Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Summers et al. v. Marcia S. Adams et al (Civil Action No. 3:08-2265-CMC), which held as unconstitutional  South Carolina's issuance of license plates depicting a cross in front of a stained glass window with the phrase: "I Believe." In his 57-page opinion on the Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, Judge Currie found the plate a violation of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment that prohibits the government from endorsing a particular religion.

South Carolina's Lt. Gov. Andrew Bauer, who shepherded the specialty plate bill through the legislature in 2008, decried the decision by "a liberal judge who was appointed by Bill Clinton." The case was brought by a handful of religious leaders of various denominations against the directors of the state's Division of Motor Vehicles  and Department of Corrections. The motto that appears on South Carolina's official license plates is "Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places," which not only doesn't offend anyone, but also rhymes.

Lt. Gov. Bauer at least temporarily trumps Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson and Gov. Mark "Argentina Wanderer" Sanford as the Palmetto State's most embarrassing elected official.  "TUOL" wonders if the now-banned "I Believe" license plate only fits vehicles manufactured in the 1950s that could only drive in Reverse.

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Fired Latina Editor Sues NY Post for Civil Rights Breach

The Post Apologizes - Or Do They? (4 of 4)Image by Tony the Misfit via Flickr
Former New York Post associate editor Sandra Guzman, whose six-year tenure at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid ended  when she was fired Sept. 29, has sued, accusing the Post of pervasive sexist and racist behavior, and claiming her dismissal was based on her objection to a controversial editorial cartoon that critics argue depicted President Obama as a chimpanzee.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Sandra Guzman v. News Corp., NYP Holdings, Inc. d/b/a New York Post, & Col Allan, Case No. 09-cv-9323), along with a separate claim filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), includes counts alleging discrimination and harassment, retaliation, and aiding and abetting under the Civil Rights Act of 1966 [42 U.S.C. sec. 1981] and the New York Human Rights law.

According to the 38-page complaint, Guzman, a black Puerto Rican and purportedly the only female editor of color at the Post,  objected to a Sean Delonas editorial cartoon that appeared Feb. 18, 2009,  and was based on an actual news incident in Connecticut, in which a police officer shoots and kills a crazed chimpanzee. The caption read: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," an allusion to the $787 billion economic stimulus package that President Obama had signed on Feb. 17.

Guzman's complaint alleges that the Post's Australian editor, Col Allan, showed a lewd full-frontal nude image of a naked male on his blackberry to Guzman and three female colleagues who were sharing drinks at an after-work function. The complaint further alleges that a Post  senior executive referred to Guzman as "Cha Cha #1."

The Post denied Guzman's allegations, and claimed her dismissal was because "Tempo," a monthly insert that Guzman edited, was being eliminated because of  the tabloid's declining advertising revenues.
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Monday, November 9, 2009

Readers to NY Post: Drop Dead

Logo of New York Post of New York, USA.Image via Wikipedia
Circulation at the tabloid New York Post has plummeted nearly 30 percent over the past two-and-a-half years to 508,000, lagging behind the 544,000 copies sold by its tabloid competitor New York Daily News.

Media pundits ascribe some of the loss in  Post readers to gossip Web sites such as TMZ and Gawker, which have put a dent in the Post's Page Six gossip factory. The Post, which was founded in 1801 and has published longer than any other U.S. daily, is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire. Murdoch bought the Post in 1976, unloaded it in 1988, and repurchased it in 1993.

If Post founder and Founding Father Alexander Hamilton had known the fate that awaited his newspaper, he might have spared Aaron Burr the trouble and shot himself.
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U.K. Fears Domestic Newsstands Outcome of Liberal Libel Laws

The British Houses of Parliament, LondonImage via Wikipedia
Members of Parliament are concerned that England's favorable climate for libel plaintiffs against media defendants could prompt U.S. and other foreign newspaper and magazine outlets to block access to their Web sites and stop selling their publications in the United Kingdom.

A memorandum submitted to MPs on behalf of several media organizations, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and MacMillan Publishers, warns that foreign newspapers may abandon the nominal sale of 200-plus copies of their publications in London, rather than risk exposure to "libel tourism," or forum-shopping by plaintiffs who seek out jurisdictions, such as the U.K., where defamation actions may be brought based on speech that would be protected in less libel-friendly nations, such as the United States. A meeting between U.S. Publishers and the House of Commons is upcoming.
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Moon Eclipses Washington Times Management

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Jonathan Slevin is the new Acting President and Publisher of The Washington Times, replacing Thomas P. McDevitt, who, along with CFO Keith Copperrider and Chairmain Dong Moon Joo, has been booted by the Times and its parent company, News World Communications, LLC. Slevin is a former Times Veep and one-time managing editor of The New York City Tribune.

Rumors continue to swirl that Editor John Solomon may soon part ways with the Times. The Washington Times is among the holdings of the Unification Church and its 89-year-old Korean founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.  Known for performing mass weddings, the Rev. Moon apparently is adding mass firings to his repertoire.
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Covering the Guarantor

Claremont, New HampshireImage via Wikipedia
It's hard to be a watchdog over government, when the government is paying the kennel fees.

The (Claremont, N.H.) Eagle Times is expected to close on a $250,000 loan this week from Connecticut River Bank, 75 percent of which is being guaranteed by the State of New Hampshire and administered through the state's Business Finance Authority. The loan has a first-year fixed rate of 4.99 percent and thereafter becomes a monthly adjustable rate loan matching the prime rate plus 1.25 percent

Sixty-six full-time, and 29 part-time staffers lost their jobs in July when the Eagle Times entered Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The paper was purchased in September and its staff is back up to 25 full-timers. It remains to be seen how aggressively in its coverage the Eagle Times will assess the fault to state government, when the government can bring default to the Eagle Times.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

UPDATE: Senate Committee Tables Shield Law Again

Main part of the medieval shield, reconstructionImage via Wikipedia
Despite a letter signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair endorsing a revised S.B. 448, the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday tabled consideration of the bill, which would protect journalists against being compelled to reveal confidential sources in federal court.

The Senate Committee has been grappling with the measure since April 2009 (see "TUOL" posts 11/2/09, 10/1/09, 9/18/09, 9/16/09). Both Democratic and Republican members of the Committee said more time was needed to consider the compromise bill, which besides White House support, has been endorsed by 70 journalism organizations. The House of Representatives passed its version of the shield law in March 2009.

The failure of the Committee to take up the shield law comes on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hinting that solons may not finalize health reform legislation before 2010.

Apparently, the nation over which the Senate presides is stagnation.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wall St. West

Aerial view of the Golden Gate and the central...Image via Wikipedia
The Wall Street Journal comes out today in San Francisco.

The West Coast edition will report on business, technology, economics, politics, sports, education and culture. It will appear in the "A" section of Thursday's Journal, and, initially, is being officially sponsored by NASDAQ OMX.

The Wall Street Journal, according to 2007 figures, has a worldwide circulation of more than two million and an online readership of more than 930,000.  The New York-based Dow Jones publication produces European and Asian editions. In August 2007, Dow Jones merged with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., a move that shareholders approved in December 2007.

Montgomery Street, in San Francisco's financial district, is known as the "Wall St. of the West," so the nation's largest daily newspaper should feel at home.  "TUOL" congratulates the Journal as it "Embarcaderos" on its new adventure.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kate Winslet Exercised at Daily Mail, Accepts Libel Payment

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11:  Actress Kate ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet, 34, has accepted an apology from Daily Mail owner Associated Newspapers, which was sugar-coated with a 25,000 pound ($41,012.00) settlement of her defamation claim  that was reached in the London High Court.

Winslet was incensed over an article that appeared in the Daily Mail Jan. 30, 2009, entitled: "Should Kate Winslet win an Oscar for the World's most irritating actress?" The article, according to Winslet's attorney, was offensive in tone, featured  nude photos of the actress taken from scenes in various films and accused Winslet of lying about her exercise regimen.  Besides apologizing for any "distress" caused the actress who appeared most recently in "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader," Associated Newspapers agreed to pay her attorneys' fess and damages and published an apology in September.  In 2007, Winslet received an undisclosed sum in settlement of a suit she brought against Grazia magazine, which alleged she had visited a diet doctor.

No announcement concerning what Winslet intends to do with her "Titanic" settlement, but one can buy considerable "Romance & Cigarettes" with $40,000.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

UPDATE: Senate Committee Tackles Modified Federal Shield Law Bill This Week

Pennsylvania Avenue is now closed to all traff...Image via Wikipedia
The White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee have hashed out their differences concerning S.B. 448, the Free Flow Information Act of 2009, which would create a federal shield law to insulate reporters from having to disclose confidential sources in federal court.

The 19-member committee consisting of 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans is expected to take up the revised measure later this week. The House passed its version of the shield law in March, but the measure has languished in the Senate as the White House sought to limit the instances and scope in which journalists could invoke the protection (see "TUOL" posts 10/1/09, 9/18/09, 9/16/09). Roughly 70 journalism organizations have backed a federal shield law and are being urged to endorse the compromise measure. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have enacted shield laws.

The latest version of S.B. 448 offers protection to  freelance journalists and online journalists, along with news organizations' salaried workers and independent contractors. The proposed legislation also includes a balancing test that would enable a judge to weigh the public interest in forcing disclosure of the identity of a confidential source against the public interest in preserving the confidentiality of the news source.  However, the balancing test would not apply in confidential leak situations provided that the government can demonstrate that removing the protective cloak from a source is vital to prevent or mitigate an act of terrorism or substantial harm to national security. Still, the government could not just make a blanket statement, but would have to reveal specific facts to compel disclosure of the confidential source.

The pressure on journalists to reveal their confidential sources varies depending on whether the underlying case is civil or criminal in nature or involves national security. Roughly 20 reporters have been subpoenaed in federal cases over the past eight years to testify about sources and four have been jailed for refusing to do so.

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