Monday, February 28, 2011

Mississippi Burning Violators of Open Meeting Law

"At his press conference today, Governor ...Image via WikipediaMississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has signed S.B. 2289 [Code Sec. A-025-0041-0015, A-025-0061-0015], adding teeth to the state's open meeting and public records laws, the Associated Press reports.

Under the new law, as of July 1, public officials who violate the open meetings law could face penalties of $500 to $1,000. Previously, taxpayers bore the fines for public officials' infractions. The tougher measure, which received praise from the Mississippi Press Assn. and government-watchdog groups, was a response, in part, to critics who complained that a recent $100 fine assessed by the state Ethics Commission, which received a complaint from the Meridien Star newspaper, against Lauderdale County supervisors for improperly closing a meeting, was not enough of a deterrent.
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Seinfeld Calls Author 'Wacko'--Not That There's Anything Wrong With It

Jerry SeinfeldImage via WikipediaCookbook author Missy Chase Lapine has yet to come up with a recipe for beating a Seinfeld in court.

New York Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman last week tossed a defamation suit, Missy Chase Lapine v. Jerry Seinfeld & HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. (Index No. 150051/2010), precipitated by the comic's remarks in 2007 on The David Letterman Show and E! News that the plaintiff, whom Seinfeld didn't specifically identify, was "wacko" and "if you read history, many of the three-named people become assassins." Judge Friedman said Seinfeld's comments were not defamatory as a matter of law as they constituted statements of opinion, which by their nature, are neither true nor false. Judge Friedman said the statements were not presented as factual or intended to be taken literally.

Lapine previously struck out in litigation against Seinfeld and his wife, Jessica, whom she unsuccessfully sued for copyright infringement over a cookbook in Missy Chase Lapine a/k/a The Sneaky Chef  v. Jessica Seinfeld et al (Case No. 09-4423-cv; U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit). [See "TUOL" post 5/6/10.] 

Lapine may be a wizard in the kitchen, but she is not the Master of Her Domain in the courtroom.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Federal Judge Enjoins Co.'s Streaming TV Stations' Programming

Seal of the United States District Court for t...Image via Wikipedia
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald this week issued an injunction against Seattle-based ivi, Inc., preventing the Internet company from streaming programming of New York and Seattle television stations to its subscribers online and to mobile phones.

In the copyright infringement action, WPIX, Inc. et al. v. ivi, Inc. & Todd Weaver (Case No. 10-Civ-7415-(NRB)) Judge Buchwald enjoined the company from directly or indirectly infringing on the plaintiffs' exclusive rights under Sec. 106(1)-(5) of The U.S. Copyright Act [17 U.S.C. secs. 101-810] during the pendency of the litigation.  The defendant, which charges $4.99 a month to subscribers nationwide to stream content from television stations in New York and Seattle, argues it may do so as a "cable system" under the Copyright Act, yet contends it is not a "cable system" as defined by the Communications Act of 1934 [47 U.S.C. sec. 151 et seq.] as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 [P.L. No. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56], which would require the four-year-old company to obtain re-transmission consent from the affected television stations.

Judge Buchwald did not seem impressed by the defendants' tightware-walking argument, ruling it was "extraordinarily unlikely that ivi ultimately will be deemed a cable system" under The Copyright Act. For additional information, read

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NY Judge Says Cops Shooting Incident Reports Not FOIA-Exempt

New York City Police Department headquartersImage via WikipediaIn a 22-page decision released this month, New York Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman ruled that police department shooting incident reports must be produced in compliance with the state's Freedom of Information Law (Pub. Off. Law art. 6, secs. 84-90).

In  In the Matter of the New York Civil Liberties Union v. New York City Police Dept. et al. (Index No. 115928/09), Justice Goodman ordered that redacted reports of shooting incidents be produced when requested.  The NYCLU asked for shooting incident reports dating back to January 1997, focusing on events in which police discharged firearms at civilians. The legal group also sought documents from 1990 onward that broke down individuals involved in shooting incidents by race.

Police officials initially rejected the request, citing exemptions under the FOIA law involving disclosure of information that would "constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy" or "interfere with law enforcement investigations."  But Judge Goodman's opinion concurred with the NYCLU position that the reports requested concerned factual data and were not categorically exempt. New York's statute is modeled after the federal FOIA (5 U.S.C. sec. 552 et seq.).

Another account of the case is available on the always-informative Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web site ( 

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

N.H. High Court Shields Daily from Privacy Suit in Expunged Criminal Recs Case

Rockingham County Court HouseImage by jimmywayne via FlickrThe N.H. Supreme Court this week ruled in Lovejoy v. Linehan et al. (Case No. 2010-343) that RSA 651: 5 XII (2007), which imposes misdemeanor criminal liability on anyone who discloses an annulled arrest or conviction record, cannot support a political candidate's invasion of privacy claim against a daily newspaper and a rival who purportedly leaked information about the candidate's expunged criminal record.

David Lovejoy was an unsuccessful 2009 candidate for Rockingham County Sheriff. He sued then-incumbent Sheriff James Linehan, Deputy Sheriff Mark Peirce and The Portsmouth Herald for invasion of privacy after Herald reporter Karen Dandurant published a story on October 27, 2008, that contained the following statement: "A record provided to the Herald said Lovejoy was involved in a case of simple assault and was convicted in 1989. Lovejoy said the case was annulled and was thrown out of court by the judge." Linehan and Peirce stepped down before any criminal proceedings were initiated against them under the statute.

The N.H. Supreme Court concluded that RSA 51:5 XII does not give rise to a civil remedy to the victim of the disclosure. The Granite State's only appellate court found that Lovejoy's expunged criminal record was a matter of legitimate public concern that could not support a privacy action grounded on public disclosure of private facts.

The Portsmouth Herald escaped liability, consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bartnicki v . Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001), a 6-3 decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens that held a media defendant was shielded from liability by the First Amendment for disclosing illegally intercepted communications where the media defendant itself was not involved in the illegal interception.

Hats off to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web site ( for initially reporting on this decision. In the spirit of full disclosure, "TUOL" more decades ago than "TUOL" is willing to admit covered Rockingham County government for a N.H. daily newspaper, during which time, the then-Sheriff was indicted.  Plus ca change, plus que meme chose, as Granite State law enforcement is wont to say.

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High Court Red Lights Cathouse Ad Ban Case

Shady Lady Ranch brothel, located on U.S. Rout...Image via WikipediaThe U. S. Supreme Court this week denied a petition for writ of certiorari in a case that challenged on First Amendment grounds Nevada regulations that ban newspaper advertising for brothels where prostitution is permitted, whoredom is welcome and harlotry is hunky dory.

In refusing to hear the appeal brought by the plaintiffs, which consisted of newspaper companies, the ACLU and the Shady Lady Ranch bordello, in Coyote Publishing, Inc. d/b/a High Desert Advocate et al. v. Masto (Docket No. 10-564), the High Court let stand a decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Case No. 07-16633) that upheld the constitutionality of Nev. Rev. Stat. secs. 201.430-440, which restrict bawdy house advertising.

The restrictions, among other things, prohibit brothel ads in counties in which the oldest profession is still illegal pursuant to an ordinance or statute, and bars bordello ads in counties recognizing legalized prostitution in "any public theater, on the public streets of any city or town, or on any public highway."  The plaintiffs brought a facial challenge (it's a legal term--stop snickering), alleging the restrictions violate both the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and Art. I, Sec. 9 of the Nevada Constitution.

Ten Nevada counties by ordinance sanction prostitution, but hooking remains against the law in larger counties (population exceeding 400,000), including Las Vegas and Reno, which must depress conventioneers no end.

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Cable Operators Survey: FNC Cable MVP

FOX News Channel newsroomImage via WikipediaSports networks aside, Fox News Channel ("FNC") is the network cable operators crave the most, according to an article in the latest Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

A Beta Research-conducted survey of 110 cable operators between August and November 2010, 42 percent of whose systems boasted more than 200,000 subscribers, estimated FNC's value at 58 cents per subscriber per month. Fox News finished ahead of the Disney Channel and USA Network and was worth a dime more than rival CNN.

The cable operators principally embrace sports outlets, with  ESPN and ESPN2 assigned perceived values of $1.16 and 71 cents per subscriber per month, respectively. The NFL Network and TNT, which hosts NBA contests and will air the NCAA tournament this year, also are considered valuable stations.

In its quest to remain the darling of cable moguls, Fox News coverage will continue to reflect the no-holds barred, bare-knuckle approach of the NFL Network and the fantasy world of the Disney Channel.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Facebook Face-Off With U.K. Daily Over Pedophile Ring Story

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase
The Daily Mail (, the England-based daily owned by Associated Newspapers, Ltd., is in a dust-up with Facebook, which the social network giant threatens may end up in court or before the Press Complaints Commission, according to a story in today's Daily Mail.

Already, at Facebook's urging, the Daily Mail pulled the following headline from its online edition last Friday: "How many more victims of Facebook sex gang?" The headline accompanied a story about an ongoing police probe of a pedophile ring operating in Devon that so far has resulted in the arrest of a 19-year-old man on two sex offense charges. The article detailed warnings issued by authorities to parents of 16,000 students in Torbay about a gang of child abusers who have preyed on as many as 20 victims to date.

Facebook objected to the headline on the grounds that no evidence has yet surfaced that the social network site was in any way involved in facilitating the sexual exploitation of the alleged victims.  Although the Daily Mail changed the headline at issue, it has yet to accede to Facebook's demand for a written apology, instead issuing a statement standing by its story.

The Daily Mail and Facebook also were involved in a tussle last March that resulted in the paper's apology to Facebook, which wrongly was identified in a story as the social networking site on which a man posed as a teen-aged girl and was propositioned by several older men to perform a sex act.

It remains to be seen whether the newspaper will be sued or just "de-friended."
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Prisoner of Love Loses Libel Suit Against Boston Daily

John Adams Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts...Image via WikipediaThe Massachusetts Appeals Court this week in Edmund LaChance Jr. v. The Boston Herald et al. (Docket No. 09-P-2129) upheld the trial court's grant of summary judgment dismissing the libel suit against tabloid daily The Boston Herald and reporter Michelle McPhee brought by a pro se plaintiff, an inmate, who claimed he was defamed by a series of articles in 2005 about online dating by felons.

LaChance placed a personal ad on the Web site Inmate Connections in September 2004, that included a photo, listed his interests (tunneling?), and acknowledged he was in stir, but did not articulate the criminal convictions that put him there. Herald reporter McPhee wrote three articles that the plaintiff alleged contained erroneous, defamatory information about him, including: 1) he was convicted of manslaughter; 2) his online ads said he was incarcerated for manslaughter; and 3) he sexually molested an elderly woman.

The Herald conceded that the above information it printed was factually inaccurate. The Superior Court judge granted judgment without trial to the Herald, finding the alleged defamatory statements about LaChance were substantially true or privileged.

The appellate court upheld the grant of summary judgment, holding that the newspaper articles involved a matter of public concern ("the dangers of interacting with violent felons online"), and that  LaChance was a limited public figure who had failed to prove the statements at issue were defamatory and false and that the Herald published them with actual malice--knowing the information was false or exhibiting reckless disregard about whether the information was true or false.

LaChance was not convicted of manslaughter; rather, he was in prison for rape, aggravated rape, armed robbery and a litany of other offenses that still might make a young woman hesitant to introduce him to her parents.  The Appeals Court ruled the Herald articles were shielded from libel under the fair and accurate report privilege because the inaccurate information that LaChance had sexually attacked an elderly woman was obtained by McPhee from an incorrect court docket entry she reviewed that subsequently was amended, which the Court said could not have been known by the Herald when it accurately reported the docket entry.

The Appeals Court noted that LaChance was "neither a victim nor an unwitting participant" in the Herald's coverage of online convict dating because he voluntarily place an ad on the Inmate Connections site. The Court said the ad at issue was misleading and deceptive because LaChance didn't specify the crimes that put him behind bars and because he said in the ad he was "not a bad man and I treat everyone the way I wish to be treated."

Statements that contain inaccuracies are not necessarily false for purposes of a defamation claim. Summary judgment is a device favored by courts in defamation claims because it weeds out meritless cases without the onerous cost of a trial and limits the restrictions on freedom of expression. In this case, the Appeals Court determined that LaChance's reputation wasn't impugned by erroneously reporting that he was doing time for manslaughter in that his long criminal record and the rape and other crimes he committed for which he was jailed hardly made him a pillar of the community with a stellar reputation in the eyes of the public.

The staff of "TUOL" suggests Inmate Connections undergo a Web site renaming along the lines of successful dating services such as eHarmony and humbly offers "e-Scape."

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

UPDATE: Univ. of Colorado 'Buffaloes' Journalism Majors

University of Colorado at BoulderImage via WikipediaBecoming a journalism major may not be a "Boulder" option if the recommendation of an exploratory panel is adopted by the University of Colorado, the college paper, The Boulder Daily Camera, reports.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano said journalism as a stand-alone major at the school may end after 2012.  Although the school continues to recruit would-be journalists from high school, the evolving media and budget cuts may result in closure of the School of Journalism & Mass Communication ("SJMC"). [See "TUOL" post 8/26/10.]

The exploratory panel advocates creating a school of information, communication and media technology, along with an Institute for the Global Digital Future that would, the panel's report suggested: "engage and advance the transformative potentials generated at the intersections of information, communication, media and technology." The goal, if nothing else, dramatically illustrates the difference between academic prose and journalistic writing.

Although a journalism major may not be available to enrollees after Fall 2012, the course of study may still be pursued as a minor or as part of a double-major, according to the Daily Camera story. Presently, 1 in 6 journalism students at SJMC opts for a double-major.

University of Colorado has never shut down an entire college in its history, though it has abandoned degree programs in the past.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Getting 'Chili' in Cincinnati Enquirer's Newsroom

Cincinnati Enquirer headquarters building at 3...Image via WikipediaThe (Cincinnati) Business Courier reports that the Gannett Co.-owned Cincinnati Enquirer slashed 20 jobs today, including a half-dozen newsroom managerial and administrative slots.

The latest pink slips represent a 2.5 percent reduction in the Enquirer's staff.

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Texas App. Ct. Upholds Dismissal of Neurosurgeon's Libel Suit

KEYE-TV stationImage via WikipediaIn Byron D. Neely v. Nanci Wilson & CBS Stations Group of Texas, LP d/b/a KEYE-TV & Viacom, Inc. (Case No. 03-08-00495-CV), the Texas Court of Appeals for the Third District this week affirmed the dismissal of a neurosurgeon's libel case against a broadcast journalist and a CBS affiliate for airing a report in 2004 in which two individuals allegedly made defamatory statements accusing the plaintiff of committing medical malpractice and of being drug-dependent.

As reported by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web site (, the appellate court, in its 49-page opinion, upheld the trial court and thereby boosted the fair and accurate report privilege asserted by the defendants. Two former patients of the plaintiff were interviewed by investigative reporter Wilson, one of whom alleged the plaintiff misdiagnosed her husband's condition, while the other claimed an adverse surgical result was a product of the plaintiff's purported steroid and opiate dependency.The plaintiff declined Wilson's offer to be interviewed, though his counsel did speak to her and provide information favorable to his position.

The Third District ruling embraced the so-called third-party allegation rule fostered by the defendants, which asserts that a media defendant's reporting that a third party has made allegations is "substantially true" if the allegations were, in fact, made and the content of the allegations is accurately reported.  The appellate court also supported the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants on the basis that the purportedly offensive statements were as a matter of law substantially true or not defamatory.

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Litigation's A Bear for DreamWorks as Panda-monium Reigns in Two Courts

Kung Fu Panda film poster, with Po in the middle.Image via WikipediaIn Jayme Gordon v. DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. et al (Case No. 1:11-cv-10255-JLT), filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, a Boston illustrator has accused  the Glendale, Calif., studio behind megahit Kung Fu Panda of copyright infringement.

In a 28-page complaint, Gordon claims animated characters depicted in the 2008 DreamWorks film distributed by Paramount Pictures are substantially similar to illustrations of characters he created and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2000 that are collectively titled Kung Fu Panda Power. Gordon alleges that DreamWorks rejected illustrations he sent to them in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, as chronicled by The Hollywood Reporter's legal Web site, THR, Esq,, an earlier lawsuit against the makers of Kung Fu Panda is proceeding to the discovery phase in Los Angeles County Superior Court. In the six-page complaint, Terrence Dunn v. DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. et al. (Case No. BC438833), the plaintiff alleges breach of implied contract in fact, for which he is seeking more than $1 million in damages. Dunn claims he presented the idea of a kung-fu battling bear to DreamWorks executives in 2001 during a series of phone conversations.

Kung Fu Panda has grossed more than $215 million domestically and $631 million worldwide, with a sequel scheduled for release this year. Even if the defendants don't fare well in either court, they still won't be "Po."

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Google Tosses 'One Pass' to Online Media Subscribers

Image representing Google Checkout as depicted...Image via CrunchBaseGoogle has unveiled "One Pass," a micropayment service that will enable users to access content on Web sites, tablets and smartphones through a single sign-in.

As reported by The Wall St. Journal and Bloomberg News, One Pass, which presently is available in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, enables uers to purchase articles and subscriptions from participating publications via Google Checkout. The publications are able to authenticate existing subscribers and access the subscribers' name and information.

Publishers participating in One Pass will pay Google 10 percent of the revenue generated. Thus far, German newspaper publisher Axel Springer, Gruner + Jahr, le Nouvel Observateur, U.S. newspaper-owner Rust Communications,  and Prisa are among publishers who have lined up for One Pass.

One Pass will compete against Apple's digital content payment system, also unveiled this week, that accesses content through iPad and iPhone devices, but that seeks a 30 percent cut from the participating publications' revenues.
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Will Newsweekers Take Voluntary Buyouts Before Things Get Too 'Beastly'?

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 12:  The Daily Beast (R) and ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeApproximately 30 Newsweek staffers are weighing generous voluntary buyout packages that offer four months' salary topped off with extra cash, Yahoo blog The Cutline reports.

Four months since the announced blending of Newsweek and The Daily Beast under the leadership of Tina Brown (see "TUOL" post 11/10/10), which involved smoothing out the non-union Beast operation and the newsweekly's collective bargaining agreement, a select class of Newsweek employees yesterday were given the buyout option.

 Staffers under age 40 have 21 days to accept the buyout, while those older than 40 have 45 days to decide, according to The Cutline post.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders Books Turn to Chapter 11

Borders GroupImage via WikipediaBorders Group, Inc., the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based entity behind Borders Bookstore, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (In re Borders Group, Inc., Docket No. 11-10614).

Unable to compete with the online prowess of Amazon or the discounted prices of Walmart, Borders turned to Chapter 11. Its bankruptcy petition shows assets of $1.27 billion as against debts totaling $1.29 billion. Not surprisingly, among the company's largest unsecured creditors are publishing giants Penguin Putnam, Inc., $41.1 million; Hachette Book Group, $36.8 million and Simon & Schuster, Inc., $33.7 million.

While shielded by bankruptcy, Borders plans to reorganize the company and secure financing. Toward that end, the company purportedly already has lined up a $5 million-plus "debtor in possession" loan from GE Capital, according to a Wall St. Journal story. Reportedly, Borders plans to shutter 200 stores in the weeks ahead, roughly 30 percent of its locations.

Service was never Borders' strong suit, and  their limitless supply of animal calendars was disspiriting, but "TUOL" will miss the in-store cafe and occasional live entertainment.

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Press Groups Protest Jailing of Rwanda Journalists

Paul KagameImage via WikipediaThe imprisonment of Agnes Nksui, editor of the Rwandan daily, Umurabyo, and Umurabyo reporter Saidath Mukakibibi by the repressive regime of Rwanda President Paul Kagame has drawn fire from media organizations, Agence France Presse reports.

Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the incarceration of the two female journalists for defamation and inciting a breach of the peace. Nksui received a 17-year jail term and Mukakibibi was sentenced to seven years following their arrest in July 2010. Publication of Umurabyo was halted for six months, according to the AFP story.

The two journalists took President Kagame's government to task over its interpretation of Rwanda's 1994 genocide and also were critical of government officials.  The government pursued criminal prosecution of Nksui and Mukakibibi, rather than institute a disciplinary proceeding before the nation's Media High Council.  Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front party has held tight rein over the nation since 1994.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Knesset Divided on Bill Banning Graphic Photos

Jerusalem Post (Israel)Image by DannySan via FlickrTwo United Torah Judaism members of the Knesset are seeking to have the Israeli parliament amend the Protection of Privacy Law to ban publication of photos of injured or deceased persons without their, or their relatives' consent, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Uri Makley and Moshe Gafni said images of victims of terrorism, violence or accidents in which the victims can be clearly identified are intrusive of those individuals' privacy. Critics of the measure fear censorship. Knesset Member Shelly Yacimovich, herself a former journalist, favors self-regulation by the news media, based on their own professional ethics, over government imposition of restrictions on what can or can't be published.

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Beckham Can't Bend It--Federal Judge Dumps Libel Case

David Beckham, England, own work (by ger1axg).Image via WikipediaCiting the plaintiff's failure to prove In Touch Weekly published allegations of liaisons with a $10,000-a-night call girl with actual malice, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Judge Manuel Real has dismissed Los Angeles Galaxy soccer star David Beckham's libel suit.

Beckham filed the action, David V. Beckham v. Bauer Publishing Co. et al. (Case No. 2:10-cv-07980-R), last September, seeking $25 million from the publisher of In Touch. (See "TUOL" post 1/14/11.) Judge Real also found that the off-field doings of the Galaxy midfielder and spouse of Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham are a matter of public interest.

Beckham's attorneys plan to appeal the decision.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

USA Today--What About Tomorrow?

USA TodayImage via WikipediaCiting rumblings on the Gannett Blog, the Minnesota Post Web site today is reporting that media giant Gannett Company may be looking to unload its flagship national daily, USA Today, or spin the paper off as a separate entity.

Once the nation's largest circulation daily, USA Today's readership has plunged 20 percent over the past decade to 1.8 million readers, from 2.3 million.  Compounding the bad news is an equally precipitous drop in ad pages to 680 in the Fourth Quarter of 2010, compared to 1,045 ad pages during the Fourth Quarter in 2007.

The shrinking editorial staff and the diminished size of the daily have been chronicled by this blog over the past year. (See "TUOL" posts 11/16/10, 8/27/10, 6/24/10 and 2/12/10.)

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Va. Daily Socked with $5m Libel Judgment

The Virginian-PilotImage via WikipediaA 19-year-old former Great Bridge High School athlete last week scored a $5 million libel verdict against The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot, which a jury found defamed him in a December 2009, article that accused him of bullying a classmate, the Associated Press reported.

Chesapeake Circuit Court Judge Randall D. Smith postponed recording the verdict awarded Kevin Webb by the seven-member jury pending argument on the newspaper's attorneys' motion to set aside the verdict as contrary to law. Webb alleged he was wrongly accused by the daily of bullying the classmate based on a report concerning Webb's sentencing for misdemeanor assault and trespassing involving the classmate's father.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

India Ink-Stained Wretches Protest Cabinet-Approved Press Penalties

The Times of IndiaImage via WikipediaThe Times of India  Web site reports that the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has condemned the Cabinet's passage of amendments to the Press and Registration of Books Act (1867) that impose draconian penalties on the press.

The Times article claims the amendments punish technical violations by suspending a publication for 30 days for a first offense, 60 days for a second offense, with a third violation resulting in cancelling registration and possibly, imprisonment of offending press members.

The INS head fears the amendments, which were enacted without consulting media industry representatives, will unduly expand the powers of the Press Registrar of India.

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Journos Worried About Ivory Coast Media Crackdown

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, 2007Image via WikipediaReporters Without Borders warns that press freedom is at risk after Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo last week fired the president and board of governors of  the National Press Council, Bloomberg News reports.

Other disturbing news includes the National Broadcasting Council lifting the permit of ONUCI-FM, the United Nations-controlled radio station, on Feb. 9.  President Gbagbo has targeted U.N. peacekeepers whom he believes support his rival, Alassane Ouattara, the victor in a Nov. 28 election that Gbagbo, who has not ceded power, claims was marred by voter fraud. 

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Is Livestand Yahoo's Last Stand?

Yahoo! Fantasy Sports pageImage via WikipediaSometime during the first half of this year, Yahoo plans to launch Livestand, a tablet news and magazine service that users will be able to follow on their Apple iPad or Google Android, the San Jose Mercury News reported today.

Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Sports will be among the content available to subscribers, along with certain magazine and newspaper offerings, the Mercury News story said. No details on the actual launch date or how Yahoo plans to divvy up revenues with participating newspapers and magazines. The company said Livestand would be personalized to individuals' interests and would take into account the users' location and the time of day.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Appeals Court Saws Through Prison Bar of Publication for Inmates

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitImage via WikipediaThe U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit a week ago or so in Hrdlicka v. Reniff (Case Nos. 09-15768, 09-16956), reversed a district court's grant of summary judgment and restored the First Amendment lawsuits brought by the publisher of Crime, Justice & America ("CJA") against two correctional facilities that barred distribution of unsolicited copies of the publication to inmates.

Hrdlicka, a former bail bondsman, has published 14 editions of CJA since its inception in 2002, distributing more than a million copies to inmates in 13 states, including 32 county jails in California. When sheriffs in Sacramento and Butte Counties balked at circulating the free magazine to inmates for safety reasons, suggesting that the publication could be used by prisoners to clog toilets and start fires, Hrdlicka sued on First Amendment grounds.

In reinstating the lawsuits tossed by a federal trial court judge, the Ninth Circuit relied on a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, that laid out four factors to determine whether correctional facility regulations that impact the First Amendment rights of inmates are reasonably related to legitimate penological concerns, such as security. Those factors include whether the regulation rationally involves a legitimate and neutral government interest; whether alternatives are available to exercise the First Amendment right; whether accommodating the right will affect prison resources and whether regulation alternatives demonstrate the restriction was an exaggerated response by authorities.

The Appeals Court wrote: "We cannot determine as a matter of law that Defendants have justified banning the unsolicited distribution of CJA to county jail inmates under the four-factor Turner test." The appellate court noted that the defendants had not shown they could not work with CJA to establish distribution schedules that would minimize the drain on prison resources.

In the end, the Ninth Circuit noted that the publication is distributed without problems in 60 counties throughout the U.S. and pointed out that publications, such as USA Today and the Sacramento Bee, circulate among inmates in Butte and Sacramento Counties without the safety and security problems about which the defendants expressed concern in the CJA case.

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