Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Syria Media Law 'Reform': No Confusing Assad with James Madison

President Hafez al-Asad with his family in the...Image via WikipediaEmbattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took time out Sunday from unleashing his army against his citizenry to repeal Legislative Decree No. 108 that authorized jailing journalists for "attacking the prestige and dignity of  the state, national unity and the morale of the army," according to a post on the Jurist Website (

The measure also calls for creation of a cabinet-overseen National Council of Information to regulate the information industry. Lest readers include Assad among John Peter Zenger and other press freedom icons, Decree No. 108 does permit censorship of publications whose content "affects national unity and national security, incites sectarian strife, incites crimes or hatred or harms state symbols," or involves armed forces-related news, Jurist reports. Journalists still would be liable for defamation to the tune of $21,000 fines.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general, earlier this summer denounced Syria for repressing journalism and free speech and for its human rights violations, so President Assad's makeover as First Amendment absolutist James Madison may face rough sledding ahead.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Correspondent Out-'Foxed' in Discrimination Lawsuit

Fox News correspondant Catherine Herridge and ...Image via WikipediaIn EEOC v. Fox News Network (Case No. 10-1660(RJL)), U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Richard J. Leon last week granted summary judgment for the defendant against sex and age discrimination claims brought by its Washington, D.C.-based homeland and national security correspondent Catherine Herridge.

Herridge, Fox's highest paid Washington bureau correspondent, sought relief, including punitive damages, alleging she was financially retaliated against during contract negotiations with the news organization, according to McClatchy Co. blog Suits & Sentences. Fox apparently offered Herridge a three-year contract renewal that paid $495,000 in Year 1, followed by annual increases to $530,000 and $570,000, which she countered, initially with a request that started at $621,000 in the first year and grew to $821,000 by year 3 and then subsequently changed to $900,000 in the first year and a request she be assigned anchor duties.

In his 17-page Memorandum of Opinion, Judge Leon ruled Herridge failed to prove financial injury, and branded her salary demand "astronomical."  Judge Leon wrote: "Herridge's allegations of retaliation, and her eagerness to blame Fox News for delays in salary negotiations are belied by persistent and unfeasible demands detailed in the record."

Apparently, the Court found Fox News made a liberal contract offer to Herridge that would ensure her personal security, if not national security.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Slate Lays Off Senior Staffers in Face of Financial Woes

Slate (magazine)Image via WikipediaWashington Post Co.-owned Webzine has hit a financial rough patch that has caused it to cut loose contractors and four full-time staffers, including long-time media writer Jack Shafer and "Chatterbox" columnist Timothy Noah, AdWeek reports.

With Slate's 2011 2Q earnings down 13 percent compared to last year, the Webzine dropped media reporting maven Shafer, an original member of Editor Michael Kinsley's team that debuted Slate in 1996. The 59-year-old Kalamazoo, Michigan, native is the principal reason the devoted "TUOL" staff has visited over the years.

Shafer and Noah will continue to contribute to the site. The "small reduction in full-time staff," according to Slate Editor David Plotz, also includes foreign editor June Thomas and associate editor Juliet Lapidos.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

'Fairness Doctrine' Off the Books

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01:  U.S. Federal Co...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThe Fairness Doctrine, implemented by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949, but declared unconstitutional by the agency in 1987, this week was officially expunged from the agency's books, along with 82 other obsolete rules, The Hill blog reports.

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski offered good riddance to the policy, saying: "The Fairness Doctrine holds the potential to chill free speech and the free flow of ideas and was properly abandoned over two decades ago." The doctrine required broadcasters to set aside airtime to discuss controversial matters of public interest and present contrasting views in a way that the FCC considered fair and balanced.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Spitzer 'Slated' to Defend Two Libel Suits by Ex-Marsh & McClennan Execs

Eliot Spitzer in 2004Image via Wikipedia2011 has not been the best of years for former New York Governor and CNN gabber Elliot Spitzer.

A month after CNN pulled the plug on his low-rated In the Arena (see "TUOL" post 7/6/11) talk show, the successor to the disastrous Prime Time Parker/Spitzer experiment (see "TUOL" posts 1/10/11, 9/8/10), Spitzer finds himself a defendant in  defamation suits brought by two former insurance executives of Marsh & McClennan Cos., once the nation's largest insurance broker, and a target in 2004 of an investigation by Spitzer, then the Empire State's Attorney General, based on a column he posted on the Washington Post-owned on Aug. 22, 2010.

According to a report by Reuters news service, one-time Marsh & McClennan executive marketing director William Gilman sued Spitzer for $60 million in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Gilman v. Spitzer et al., Case No. 11-05843). Not to be outdone, Edward McNenney, ex-Marsh global placement director, headed to the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan to file a $30 million libel claim (McNenney v. Spitzer et al., Case No. 109628/2011).

Combative by nature, Spitzer couldn't resist responding to a Wall St. Journal editorial attacking him, writing a column for entitled "They Still Don't Get It," defending his prosecutorial pursuit of Marsh & McClennan and American Insurance Group Inc. ("AIG"), and calling for a crackdown against corporate malfeasance.

In 2005, Marsh settled a civil suit with New York, agreeing to fork over $850 million, roughly eight months before eight of its executives, including Gilman and McNenney, were indicted based on Spitzer's investigation into alleged kickbacks and other purported wrongdoing by the company. Gilman and McNenney were convicted on felony antitrust claims in 2008, but their convictions were overturned on appeal in July 2010, based on new evidence, and the case against him dismissed altogether in January of this year, according to the Reuters story.

Though neither plaintiff is identified by name in Spitzer's column, each alleges he was identifiable and defamed by Spitzer's statement that "many employees of Marsh" were "convicted and sentenced to jail terms." Additionally, Gilman claims he was defamed by Spitzer writing that "Marsh's behavior was a blatant abuse of law and market power: price-fixing, bid-rigging and kickbacks all designed to harm their customers and the Market while Marsh and its employees pocketed the increased fees and kickbacks."

In June, the plaintiffs sued their former employer, alleging Marsh & McClennan colluded with Spitzer's office to make them scapegoats, Reuters reports.

A viable defamation claim requires a false statement of fact "of or concerning the plaintiff." However, although neither plaintiff is specifically named in the allegedly defamatory column, the law recognizes the concept of group libel, if the group is small enough so that the purported libel impacts its individual members.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

NY Press Drops Print Version, Retains Online Presence

New York PressImage via WikipediaManhattan Media-owned New York Press, the 21-year-old alternative weekly, has ceased its print edition because of sagging ad revenues, but will continue to exist online, The Wall St. Journal reports.

Founded originally to compete against the Village Voice, the Press will soon relaunch its Website, according to the Journal.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Appeals Court Derails Settlement Between Freelancers & New York Times

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...Image via WikipediaRuling that the interests of certain freelance authors were not adequately represented, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit this week overturned a trial-court approved 2005 settlement between The New York Times and freelance writers who accused the Grey Lady of copyright infringement for electronically reproducing and posting their works in databases.

The decision, In re Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation (Case No.05-5943), represented an abuse of discretion by the trial court in certifying the freelance writers as a class and approving the parties' settlement, the appellate court ruled. Bloomberg News reports that neither the Times nor another publisher involved in the suit, Reed Elsevier Inc., had commented on the Second Circuit decision.

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Federal Court Tosses Teen Prostitute Suit Against Village Voice & Backpage,com

Seal of the United States District Court for t...Image via WikipediaCiting a federal statute that protects Internet service providers from lawsuits concerning content posted on their sites, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Thomas C. Mummert III this week dismissed a lawsuit against Village Voice Media Holdings LLC and brought by a teen-aged prostitute who claimed the defendants knowingly permitted her pimp to advertise her sexual services on their Website.

According to accounts in St. Louis Today and by the Associated Press, the lawsuit sought at least $150,000 in damages against, which accepts adult services ads, for allegedly providing a "safe house" for customers and procurers to arrange child prostitution. The plaintiff in the suit was not identified, but claimed she became a prostitute at age 14. Her 27-year-old pimp last December received a five-year sentence after pleading guilty to using interstate commerce to promote prostitution, according to press accounts.

In dismissing the case, Judge Mummert ruled: "Congress has declared such websites to be immune to suits arising from such injuries. It is for Congress to change the policy that gave rise to such immunity." Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

In September 2010, a joint letter was sent to by attorneys general from 21 states urging the site to stop running adult services ads, which the Website declined to do. (See "TUOL" post 9/23/10.)

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

McClatchy Paper Gives New Meaning to "Killing a Story"

Tri-City HeraldImage via WikipediaTip of the hat to Editor & Publisher which reported this past week on a snafu by The McClatchy Co.-owned Tri-City Herald in Kennewick, Washington, which resulted in Cheri (Schumann) Taylor missing her Class of 1971 reunion at Kennewick High School ("KHS").

That's what happened when the local paper reported that Taylor was a homicide victim, which was news to her. According to Taylor, her sister alerted her to a Tri-City Herald story about how eight students would not be attending their 40th reunion at KHS because they were murder victims, including Taylor, who allegedly was killed in 1996.

Apparently, a classmate organizing the class reunion received an Email from another classmate that claimed Taylor (Schumann in her KHS days) was a homicide victim, and the organizer passed along that news nugget to a reporter.

Taylor has since  informed the Herald that to the best of her knowledge, she hadn't been killed, bringing to mind Mark Twain's note in May 1897, in which he wrote: "The report of my death was an exaggeration."

All in all, not a good day for the Tri-City Herald, as one of the other Class of 1971 victims in its macabre article, though deceased, had died of natural causes following a long illness, rather than at the hands of a crazed murderer.

This is why the vigilant staff of "TUOL" always passes along to journalism students the same advice dutifully received many years ago from a crusty newspaper professor:  "If your mother says she loves you, check it out...."

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UPDATE: White House Visitor Records Subject to FOIA Request, Court Rules

The United States Secret Service star logo.Image via WikipediaU.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Beryl A. Howell handed the Secret Service and the Obama Administration a setback this week, ruling that White House visitor logs are agency records subject to being produced under the Freedom of Information Act [5 U.S.C. sec. 552] unless shielded by one of the Act's exemptions.

The issue of public access to visitors lists has  plagued both the Bush and Obama White House occupancies (see "TUOL" posts 9/7/09, 7/23/09), but in Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Secret Service (Case No. 09-2312(BAH)), Judge Howell's 19-page Memorandum of Decision rejected the Secret Service argument that the records at issue belonged to the White House, not the agency, and therefore, were not subject to the FOIA.  Even if some of the records in question might involve national security issues, as the defendant argued, Judge Howell ruled it would be overreaching to withhold all the data requested by the plaintiff conservative watchdog group, the Politico Website reported.

Judicial Watch requested records for the period from January 2009, to September 2009, the point at which President Obama implemented a new policy allowing the release of the names of most visitors to the White House. Visitor records largely are maintained in two databases: WAVES (Workers and Visitors Entry System) and ARCS (Access Control Records System).

Although basically an "inside the Beltway" kerfuffle, the staff of "TUOL" awards a judicial independence gold start to Judge Howell, who was appointed to the bench by President Obama last year.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cigarette Cos. Hack at FDA Regs with 1st Amendment Lawsuit

FdaImage via WikipediaFive tobacco companies have joined forces to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge the constitutionality of Food & Drug Administration regulations set to take effect in September 2012.

In R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al. v. U.S. Food & Drug Administration et al. (Case No. 1:11-cv-01482), Reynolds, Lorillard Inc., Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., Liggett Group LLC and Commonwealth Brands, Inc., claim their First Amendment rights would be violated by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 [H.R. 1256], which would require them to display graphic images of the health dangers of smoking in advertising and on their packaging.

First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, who represents the plaintiffs, told LegalTimes the FDA regs constitute anti-smoking advocacy by the government, rather than merely requiring disclosure of uncontroversial facts. Abrams told LegalTimes his clients' First Amendment rights would be infringed on if they were mandated to include information on their products urging the public not to purchase them.

Under H.R. 1256, the FDA includes nine warnings, including images of diseased lungs, a body on an autopsy table, and a quit-smoking hotline telephone number. Judge Richard J. Leon will hear the case.

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ACLU Challenges Law Restricting Internet Use By Registered Sex Offenders

Bobby JindalImage via WikipediaThe American Civil Liberties Union this week filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, trying to block HB 55, R.S. sec. 14:91.5, legislation effective August 15, that restricts Internet use by registered sex offenders.

In John Doe v. Bobby Jindal & James D. Caldwell (Case No. 3:11-cv-00554-FJP-SCR), the ACLU is asking the court for injunctive relief to prevent the law from taking effect. The ACLU contends the statute is vague and overbroad and violates the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the plaintiff by "criminalizing the use or access of various Internet resources by individuals convicted of certain sex offenses."

As reported by the Jurist Website, the ACLU claims the Louisiana law that bans registered sex offenders from social networking sites, peer-to-peer networks and chat rooms is poorly drafted and would block access to sites such as and Gov. Jindal, who along with state Attorney General Caldwell is a named defendant both in his official capacity and individually, has vowed to fight the ACLU suit "with everything I have."

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Cambodia Suppresses Free Expression: Sword Mightier than (Pnomh) Penh?

Index on CensorshipImage via WikipediaThe Water and Fire News and The World News, two Cambodian daily newspapers, had their licenses to publish revoked by the Southeast Asian nation's government for coverage critical of the Ministry of Information, according to the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

A blog post by the Index on Censorship, a United Kingdom-based activist group centered on freedom of expression, said the newspapers were ordered to cease publication on August 3rd.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

'Rahm-an Holiday'

CHICAGO - MAY 16:   Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThe hard-working staff of "TUOL" is Chicago-bound. Checking up on the non-Daley Mayor, eating ribs and embracing the wondrous architecture and summer excitement of one of the nation's premier cities are on the agenda.

Readers, if anything earth-shattering or of great interest occurs involving the news media or if the courts grapple with an exciting media law case during this blog's hiatus, take notes and we'll discuss it when "TUOL" re-opens for business on August 17.  Until then, try not to get hacked by any foreign tabloids.

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Washington Post's-Apocalyptic Earnings Report

Sign, "Welcome Home From the Crow-Eaters,...Image by The U.S. National Archives via FlickrOwing largely to a calamitous performance by its for-profit Kaplan online education division, The Washington Post reported a 50 percent plunge in Second Quarter earnings compared to a year ago, according to the Romanesko media blog.

The Post reported net income of $45.6 million, down from $91.9 million 2Q 2010 net earnings.  The company's newspaper division experienced a $2.9 million drop-off in revenues, an improvement over the $14.3 million loss suffered during the corresponding quarter last year.

During the first half of 2011, daily circulation at the Post sank 4.5 percent and the Sunday paper, 4.1 percent compared to 2010 first-half figures.

Makes Redford & Hoffman's All the President's Men (1976) seem longer ago than it actually is.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dueling Lawyer/Columnists in Copyright Infringement Suit Over 'How-to' Articles

List of United States federal courthouses in TexasImage via WikipediaIn Flannery v. Poll (1:2011cv00646) filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, attorney William J. Flannery, whose WJF Institute advises lawyers on building a practice, sued California attorney Edward Poll for copyright infringement and unfair competition, alleging the defendant reprinted his articles without permission, according to a report by Courthouse News Service (CNS).

Flannery published Client Development and Relationship Management (1994), which included articles he wrote entitled "20 Questions You Should Ask Current and Prospective Clients" and "It's the Client Stupid," the CNS article noted. In his complaint, Flannery alleges he gave the American Bar Association license to reprint "It's the Client Stupid" in 2000 for an ABA publication edited by Poll.

The plaintiff claims the National Law Journal (NLJ) published a "substantially identical version" of the article in May 2002, identifying Poll as the author. Flannery claimed the NLJ agreed to reprint issues identifying him as the author after he complained and that Poll allegedly wrote him, saying the NLJ piece was his adaptation of Flannery's article and apologizing for not crediting Flannery, though claiming that he, not the ABA, received reprint permission from the plaintiff in 2000.

Flannery alleges in his complaint that the defendant has since twice reproduced the article on his Website and in the ABA online publication Law Practice Today still listing himself as the author and that Poll allegedly included a "substantially identical version" of Flannery's "20 Questions" article in a book Poll wrote entitled Attorney & Law Firm Guide to the Business of Law: Planning and Operating for Survival and Growth.

Besides damages, Flannery is seeking an injunction preventing Poll from using his articles. (Disclosure: "TUOL"'s dedicated scribe worked as an editor for the ABA years ago, during which time Attorney Poll served on the volunteer editorial board of a family law journal edited by "TUOL.")

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Saudi Interior Minister Wins Libel Suit Against U.K. Daily

Front pageImage via Wikipedia
Prince Nayef Bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud, Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister and second in line to the country's throne, has been awarded significant undisclosed damages by England's High Court in his libel suit against The Independent, according to an online article by BBC News.

Both the daily's publisher, Independent Print Ltd. and Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, who wrote the Independent article published April 15, 2011, underlying the defamation claim, apologized in the proceedings presided over by Mrs Justice Nicola Davies. The plaintiff said he will donate the judgment amount to charity.

The Independent article accused al-Saud of ordering police to use deadly force on unarmed protestors. The Prince's counsel said the alleged written order was a fake and contained features that authentic orders from the Ministry of the Interior would not.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Libelous Book Review Nets Author/Sociologist Judgment in U.K. High Court

Cover of "Seven Days in the Art World"Cover of Seven Days in the Art WorldCanadian sociologist Dr. Sarah Thornton, author of Seven Days in the Art World, has been awarded damages of 65,000 pounds ($106,535) and attorneys' fees for a defamatory book review by Lynn Barber in The Daily Telegraph, published by the Telegraph Media Group, according to an article in The Guardian.

Mr. Justice Tugenhadt, the most senior media judge of England's High Court, criticized Barber's review of
Seven Days as "an attack on Dr. Thornton's honesty." Thornton's libel suit focused on two paragraphs that appeared in the November 2008, Telegraph review, one in which Barber alleged she had not been interviewed by the plaintiff for her book in which Barber appears and another suggesting the author gave interviewees in her book "copy approval,' both of which the High Court found to be malicious falsehoods. 

The defendant is expected to appeal, according to The Guardian article.
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ga. App. Ct. Sides with Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Jewell Libel Case

Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, GA, USAImage via WikipediaIn G. Watson Bryant Jr., Executor of the Estate of Richard Jewell v. Cox Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a The Atlanta Journal-Constitution et al. (Case No. A11A0510), the Court of Appeals of Georgia last month upheld the trial court's finding that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did not defame the late Richard Jewell when it reported that anonymous law enforcement officials considered the security guard a suspect in the 1996 bombing of Centennial Olympic Park.

The heirs of Jewell are expected to appeal the ruling.  Jewell, who died in 2007, initially was considered a hero when he notified the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about an unattended knapsack left under a park bench that contained a pipe bomb. Subsequently, the Journal-Constitution wrote articles in which it said unnamed authorities were preliminarily investigating Jewell as a possible suspect in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing that killed two and injured 100. Jewell was exonerated in 1996 and Eric Rudolph was later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the attack.

Jewell sued the Cox Enterprises-owned Atlanta daily in 1997 for defamation, claiming his reputation, career and life were devastated by the paper repeatedly identifying him as "the man who investigators believe may have planted the pipe bomb." In its 29-page decision, the Georgia appellate court said the
defendant's articles were substantially true, and though sympathetic to the ordeal Jewell endured, wrote: "A reasonable reader would have understood the information to be preliminary in nature and published during the very early stages of the ongoing investigation." Georgia courts deemed Jewell a limited-purpose public figure who had to satisfy the higher burden of proof of actual malice to prevail in his defamation claim.

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Lee Online Dailies in Montana & Wyoming Erect Paywalls

The Montana StandardImage via WikipediaDavenport, Iowa-based media conglomerate Lee Enterprises has erected paywalls for six online dailies among its holdings in Montana and Wyoming, reports.

Lee, which owns roughly 50 daily newspapers nationwide, has established metered payment models for online versions of The Billings Gazette, Helena Independent Record, The Missoulian, The Ravalli Republic, The Casper Star Tribune and The Montana Standard, the PaidContent article said.  The number of free views offered before visitors are asked to purchase a digital subscription and the always-free online sections varies depending on the publication.

The Billings (Mont.) Gazette, which boasts roughly 38,400 print subscribers, allows 20 articles to be viewed a month digitally before inviting print edition subscribers to pay $1.95 a month or $19.50 annually and non-subscribers $6.95 a month or $69.50 a year. In contrast, the 13,000 print circulation Helena Independent Record charges kick-in after 15 online articles and impose a subscription rate of $1.99 a month/$19.99 yearly for print subscribers and $4.99 a month/$49.99 annually for nonsubscribers.

A discouraging word may seldom be heard on the range in Montana, but if it's going to be read online, residents are going to have to pay to see it.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Aggregator Aggravated by U.K. High Court Ruling

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07:  In this photo il...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeNews aggregator Meltwater's clients must secure licenses from the Newspaper Licensing Authority("NLA"), England's High Court of Justice has ruled, according to an article in The Telegraph.

Lord Justice Jackson found that headlines could be viewed as copyrightable separate literary works, which means users of aggregation services such as Meltwater who charge for a service must pay for licenses, the Telegraph article reported. The decision, which accords copyright protection to online newspapers, is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, according to the Telegraph article.
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UPDATE: Court Denies Breitbart Motion to Toss Sherrod Defamation Suit

WASHINGTON - APRIL 21:  Conservative activist ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeU.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia Richard J. Leon last week issued orders denying motions to dismiss or alternatively, relocate Shirley Sherrod's defamation suit against Andrew Breitbart and Larry O'Connor, Legal Times reported.

Sherrod, the one-time U.S. Department of Agriculture director for rural development, in her complaint, Sherrod v. Breitbart et al. (Case No. 00015711), alleges she was defamed by conservative blogmeister Brietbart, his associate O'Connor and another whom she accused of "deceptively edit[ing]" a video clip of a speech she delivered in March 2010, that made her appear racist and discriminating against white farmers. (See "TUOL" post 4/20/11).

Though he did not issue a written opinion, Judge Leon denied the defendants' motion to relocate the suit to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California where they reside and work. Judge Leon also refused to dismiss the defamation suit based on the defendants' argument that it violated their First Amendment right to free speech. The defendants unsuccessfully invoked the anti-SLAPP law recently enacted by the District of Columbia on March 31[D.C. Law 18-0351] that allows for dismissal of a lawsuit and a stay of discovery in cases in which parties contend they are being sued over protected speech.

The parties argued the motions before Judge Leon on July 19, according to the Legal Times article.

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UPDATE: Cartoonist's Heirs Can Only Marvel at Disney Copyright Suit Win

The Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961). Cover a...Image via Wikipedia
Comic book heroes may reign at the box office, but in court, corporate ownership trumps the cartoonist every time.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Colleen McMahon last week ruled that Walt Disney Co.-owned Marvel Entertainment, Inc., exclusively owns the copyrights to Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and a stable of superheroes, derailing the case brought by the heirs of Jack Kirby, the cartoonist who helped create the characters, reports (see "TUOL" post 3/18/10).

Judge McMahon held that Kirby inked The Fantastic Four, Spiderman and other comic book creations as works made for hire for then-Marvel domo Stan Lee, making the company the author pursuant to the 1909 U.S. Copyright Act (P.L. 60-349), which still governs works created before 1976, but otherwise has been superseded by the Copyright Act of 1976 (17 U.S.C. sec. 101 et seq.).

Disney paid $4 billion in 2009 to acquire Marvel Worldwide Inc.  Kirby's children are expected to appeal the decision.
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