Thursday, May 31, 2012

Appeals Court Finds Constitutionally Protected Privacy Right Over Autopsy Pix

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a mother's privacy right of control over autopsy photos of her two-year-old son is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

In Marsh v. County of San Diego et al. (Case No. 11-55395), 2012 WL 1922193 (9th Cir. 5/29/12), Chief Judge Alex Kozinski's opinion marks the first time a federal court has recognized the U.S. Constitution as conferring a privacy right over death images.

Two-year-old Phillip Buell died of severe head trauma in 1983 while being cared for by Kenneth Marsh, then-boyfriend of the toddler's mother. Marsh served nearly 20 years on a second-degree murder conviction, but subsequently was released when it could not be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the youth was a victim of child abuse.

Jay S. Coulter, a former deputy district attorney in San Diego whose office prosecuted Kenneth Marsh, took autopsy photos of the toddler as a memento of his years in public service. Ultimately, he distributed one of the photos to the news media along with a memo he wrote entitled "What Really Happened to Phillip Buell?"

The child's mother, Brenda Marsh (who had since married Kenneth Marsh), sued San Diego County and Coulter under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, alleging her 14th Amendment Substantive Due Process Rights were violated by the former government official's copying and dissemination of the toddler's autopsy photos.

The appellate court found a constitutionally protected right of privacy for the plaintiff, but said the defendant was not liable because of qualified immunity, a doctrine that balances citizens' constitutional rights and the interest in public officials effectively being able to perform their duties.

Additionally, the court found that the defendants violated the plaintiff's procedural due process rights by their actions, which ran afoul of Calif. Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 129, which limits the use of autopsy photos to criminal proceedings absent permission from the court.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Federal Court Tells Drug Makers to Take Their Libel Dispute Elsewhere

English: Aerial view of Buffalo, New York, USA... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Laboratories, scientific journals and classrooms, not courtrooms, are sometimes better venues to resolve disputes.

That's the message sent by United States District Court for the Western District of New York Chief Judge William M. Skretny in his 25-page decision this month granting defendants' motion to dismiss in ONY, Inc. v. Cornerstone Therapeutics, Inc. et al. (Case No. 1:11-cv-01027-WMS), a defamation suit in which competing drug manufacturers battled it out.

Plaintiff ONY, Inc. produces Infasurf, a calfactant that treats Respiratory Distress Syndrome ("RDS") in premature infants. The plaintiff initiated a libel suit over an article that appeared in the Journal of Perinatology whose findings regarding a study of Infasurf were negative.

The study underlying the article was funded by Chiesi Farmaceutici, a competitor of ONY, Inc. that makes a rival drug that also treats RDS. The Journal of Perinatology piece concluded Infasurf treatment carried "a 49.6 percent greater likelihood of death" than did the Chiesi drug.

ONY's trade libel claim alleged the study was scientifically flawed and contained actionable false assertions of fact, but Judge Skretny disagreed. "The average reader would perceive these statements as debatable hypothesis rather than assertions of unassailable fact," Judge Skretny wrote. "TUOL" questions whether the average reader is taking the Journal of Perinatology to the beach as summer reading, but that's not the point.

Essentially, the Buffalo, N.Y.-based court said the allegedly defamable statements in the article were neither true nor false, but pure opinion, and thus, incapable of causing injury to ONY's reputation. The scientific community, not the legal community, is the better outlet for resolving such disagreements, the court ruled.

(Tip of the hat to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for its coverage of this esoteric libel matter.)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Postmedia or Postmortem?: Canada Media Conglom's Layoffs, Cutbacks & Paywalls

Postmedia Network's logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Reacting to paltry ad revenues and an $11 million quarterly net loss, Postmedia, which owns 11 Canadian dailies and numerous community weeklies, will erect paywalls, publish less frequently, consolidate locations and lay off staff.

According to reports by Reuters and, Postmedia, which was created in 2010 to acquire bankrupt CanWest's newspaper assets, will eliminate Sunday editions in Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton, and for a fourth year running, suspend Monday publication of The National Post during the summer months.

Pink slips will continue to fly at Canada's largest newspaper chain. Postmedia cut loose 25 news wire staff this month and reportedly, The Montreal Gazette will trim its editorial personnel by 20. Additionally, plans are afoot to unload Postmedia's Toronto headquarters and to centralize copy editing at its metro dailies in Hamilton, Ontario.

Paywalls will be erected to combat foreign competition and generate income to offset advertising revenue losses.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fed Judge Pares Utah Law Protecting Minors Online on First Amendment Grounds

The state quarter representing Utah, depicting...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)In Florence v. Shurtleff (Case No. 2:05-cv-00495-DB), United States District Court for the District of Utah Judge Dee Benson this week issued a five-page declaratory judgment and order holding that portions of a Utah Statute intended to shield minors from offensive Internet content violates the First Amendment.

Utah Code Secs. 76-10-1206 and 76-10-1233 were the focus of Judge Benson's Order. Regarding the former, the declaratory judgment states that persons cannot be prosecuted for posting electronic content on generally accessible Web sites unless the individuals negligently directly send inappropriate language or images "harmful to minors" to minors via Email, text message or instant message.  Regarding Sec. 76-10-1233, the Order said persons cannot be subject to civil proceedings or a fine for failing to restrict access to material harmful to minors provided the material in question contains words or images that can be identified by reasonably priced, commercially available software in the public domain. The law had provided for daily fines of up to $10,000 to Internet Service Providers who didn't rate objectionable content for software filtering.

Mandating that Web site operators tag content they deem harmful to children is a First Amendment violation of free speech, Judge Benson ruled. The Order assessed attorneys' fees against the State of Utah to be paid to the various organizations that challenged the law, including Nathan Florence, a Utah artist and Web site operator, the Utah ACLU, the Freedom to Read Foundation and the American Booksellers Freedom Foundation for Free Expression.

Since Utah Gov. John Huntsman signed H.B. 260 into law in 2005, technological advances have been made in software that rendered the need for tags to block Web site images and words moot. The effect of the declaratory judgment is that adult-to-adult constitutionally protected electronic communications (which excludes, for instance, child pornography) on the Internet and other platforms  cannot be restricted merely because minors can access the same platforms.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, May 24, 2012

UPDATE: Federal Court Knocks Out Facebook Trademark Suit Against Foreign Porn SIte

English: Seal of the en:United States District...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)As noted in the previous post, Facebook has been going through a tough stretch. Let it never be said that The Unruly of Law is above piling on and kicking a litigant when it's down.

United States District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Jeffrey White last week dismissed Facebook's trademark infringement suit against a Norwegian adult Web site for want of personal jurisdiction. In Facebook, Inc. v. Thomas Pedersen & Retro Invent (Case No. 3:10-cv-04673), Facebook sought entry of a default judgment, attorneys' fees of more than $80,000, litigation costs exceeding $13,000 and a permanent injunction against the defendants, operators of Faceporn, the self-described "number one socializing porn and sex network."

In October 2010, Facebook initially sued Faceporn in a 10-count complaint, alleging, among other claims, trademark infringement and trademark dilution. [See "TUOL" post 11/3/10.] According to the Web site, Facebook, which owns 10 trademarks and has another 17 pending, is dogged in its pursuit of companies that deign to use face or book in their names.

Judge White adopted the recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins's 10-page ruling that Norway, not California, would be the proper forum for Facebook to pursue its claims because the defendants were not subject to personal jurisdiction by the court. The court relied on the three-pronged "effects" test to determine personal jurisdiction as set forth in the Supreme Court decision in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984), which requires the plaintiff to show the defendant: 1)committed an intentional act, 2)expressly aimed at the forum state, 3)causing harm the nonresident defendant knew would likely be suffered in the forum state.
Applying Calder, Judge White said Facebook failed to show Faceporn's California viewer base (an estimated 250 users) was an integral part of the defendant's business model and profitability and thereby, establish personal jurisdiction. The court did not see Faceporn as being in direct competition with Facebook.

At times such as these, at least Facebook has millions of "friends" on whom it can lean.

Enhanced by Zemanta

UPDATE: Sponsored Story Suit Put to Rest by Facebook?

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)It hasn't been the best of weeks for social media leviathan Facebook. Its stock has performed poorly since its IPO ("It's Probably Over-valued"), shareholder suits already have been filed, and inquiries into the launching itself are underway.

Now comes word, via the Wall St. Journal Law Blog ( that Facebook is on board with a "settlement agreement in principle" with users who allege Facebook commercially exploited them without their consent.

United States District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Luch H. Koh revealed in a Case Management Order that a resolution may be imminent in the case of Fraley v. Facebook (Case No. 11-cv-01726-LKH). Last December, Judge Koh refused to dismiss the putative class action suit against Facebook based on its "Sponsored Story" ads [see "TUOL" post 12/22/11].

A Sponsored Story ad is created when a user "likes" a product or service, which is then transmitted to that user's friends. The plaintiffs contend the Sponsored Story ads run afoul of California's right to publicity statute that guards against the unauthorized use of an individual's image, name or voice for a commercial purpose.

Neither side has confirmed the existence of a settlement or disclosed terms.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Media Outlets Sue to View Executions

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Despite a decade-old precedential ruling by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Idaho and four other Western states have denied uninterrupted access to witnesses to the execution of  inmates.

That is the claim of the Associated Press and 16 other news media outlets that have sued Idaho for access, following last November when authorities prevented journalists from observing the first part of the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades by lethal injection, according to the ABA Journal Law News Now blog. Washington, Montana, Arizona and Nevada are also being taken to task for denying witnesses the opportunity to observe the entire execution of 15 inmates over the past decade.

In California First Amendment Coalition v. Woodford, 299 F.3d 868 (9th Cir. 2002), an appellate court panel voted 3-0 to affirm a trial judge's permanent injunction barring defendants from prohibiting uninterrupted viewing of executions from the moment the condemned enters the execution chamber until he or she is declared dead from lethal injection. "Independent public scrutiny--made possible by the public and media witnesses to an execution--plays a significant role in the proper functioning of capital punishment," the Ninth Circuit wrote.

Authorities have argued that protecting the identity of executioners for safety reasons is paramount. The Woodford court, however, said blocking access is an exaggerated response to those concerns, which could be satisfied, for example, by having the executioners wear masks.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NY Bill Would Unmask Anonymous Bloggers

ALBANY, NY - JUNE 16: The New York State Senat...Getty Images via @daylifeBills introduced in the New York Senate and Assembly would pressure Web site administrators to delete anonymous posts and shine a light on unnamed bloggers whose comments elicited complaints, Web site reports.

Republican solons Thomas O'Mara and Dean Murray are sponsoring, respectively, S.6779 and A.8688, which would regulate the Internet insofar as New York Web sites are concerned. The measures would require Web site administrators to provide an Email address or toll-free phone number that could receive public complaints about online anonymous comments.

If a complaint were filed, the anonymous poster would have 48 hours after being notified within which to identify himself as the author of the comment by IP address, name and home address. Failure to do so would require the Web site administrator to delete the comment.

Passage of the bills is unlikely, and in any case, would almost certainly be struck down by the courts as being violative of the First Amendment.
Enhanced by Zemanta

UPDATE: Anchor Weekly Suspended Based on Publisher's Plagiarism

English: Alberta Province within Canada. Españ...English: Alberta Province within Canada. Español: Provincia de Alberta en Canadá. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association ("AWNA") has suspended for one year the membership of the Anchor Weekly following serial plagiarism by the weekly's former editor/publisher Steve Jeffrey.

According to reports by the and iMediaEthics Web sites, the AWNA, of which Jeffrey was a member, said in a press release that Jeffrey wrote a May 3 piece entitled "No More Lighthouse," alluding to the name of his former column, in which he named and apologized to writers whose work he had used without attribution.

Jeffrey resigned from the Anchor Weekly on March 27 amid allegations that more than 40 of his Lighthouse columns had filched material from 14 writers (see "TUOL" post 3/27/12). Jeffrey blamed poor judgment and his busy schedule for the multiple instances of plagiarism.  He reportedly financially settled with at least one of the writers from whom he pilfered material.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Bloomberg Use of Corporate Conference Call 'Fair Use'

English: Swatch Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)In The Swatch Group Management Services Ltd. v. Bloomberg LP (Case No. 1:11-cv-01006), the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York last week granted summary judgment to the business news publisher on the plaintiff's copyright infringement claim.

Bloomberg published contents of a conference call between the plaintiff's executives and securities analysts by making  the call available to its subscribers without authorization. Participants in the conference call were aware it was being recorded, but were told by Swatch not to publish or broadcast the contents.

Noting that the heavily facts-based conference call at best had "thin copyright" protection, the court, in a 12-page Memorandum of Decision, allowed Bloomberg's motion dismissing the suit based on the Fair Use defense to copyright infringement [17 U.S.C. sec. 107]. Although acknowledging Bloomberg made a commercial use of the Swatch conference call, the Court said its use "served an important public interest in disseminating business-related information promptly and fully." The court found Bloomberg's publication of the conference call was an exercise of its First Amendment rights and did not adversely affect the market value of the copyrighted aspects of the call to Swatch.

(Tip of the hat to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press,, for its reporting on the case.)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Hits Keep Coming to CNN Prime-Time Audience

English: The CNN Center in Atlanta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The devoted staff of "TUOL" has dutifully tracked viewers' migration away from CNN's slate of evening programming over the years (see "TUOL" posts 5/3/12, 3/30/10, 12/17/09), but rock-bottom may have been reached by the cable giant as a New York Times article today reveals the network's prime-time ratings for the week ending May 14 were its lowest since September 1991.

CNN ("Collapsing Nobody Notices") drew on average only 395,000 prime-time viewers for the week in question. Not to pile on, but among the demographic group advertisers  crave--25 to 54 year olds--CNN yakker Piers Morgan could muster only 39,000 watchers.  A cat coughing up a fur ball on You Tube could draw that many viewers within 10 minutes, even without a British accent.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Burberry Scores a Bogie in Federal Suit

Cropped screenshot of Humphrey Bogart from the...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Courtroom lawyers are accustomed to fighting in the trenches, but battling over trenchcoats is unusal.

In the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Paul G. Gardephe is presiding over Burberry Ltd. & Burberry Group, PLC v. Bogart, LLC (Case No. 1:2012-cv-03491) in which the clothier is seeking declaratory judgment in a right of publicity and trademark infringement [15 U.S.C. sec. 1125] action involving the entity that owns the rights to Hollywood screen legend Humphrey Bogart.

As with seemingly every legal dispute nowadays, it all begins with Facebook. Burberry's Facebook page includes an historical timeline featuring famous people wearing its line of clothing, including actor Robert Mitchum, decked out in a trenchcoat worn in his tough-guy role from Out of the Past (1947) and actor Tyrone Power similarly attired from Razor's Edge (1946).

Currently missing is Humphrey Bogart wearing a trenchcoat that no doubt set Ingrid Bergman's heart aflame in Casablanca (1942). According to the plaintiffs' complaint, Bogart LLC allegedly fired off a cease & desist letter and sought damages for common law claims, right to publicity, a cousin of an invasion of privacy appropriation claim; and trademark infringement.

Presumably, the defendant's position would be that the clothier is capitalizing on Bogie's image without permission and that consumers would be confused over whether the since-removed image of the actor from the timeline constituted an endorsement of the product. As there is no specific line of "Bogiecoats" or ads marketing the actor, it would appear Burberry is asking the court for a ruling that it is within its First Amendment rights to acknowledge on its Web site that Bogart wore a trenchcoat in films, including Casablanca.

Under New York's right to publicity law, the nation's oldest, dating back as far as the Roberson case in 1902, a famous individual's image and persona may only be exploited commercially as a commodity during the famous person's lifetime. In California, however, where Bogart LLC is based, the right of publicity protection extends beyond the celebrity's death, so the case is no cakewalk for Judge Gardephe.  Fun fact: both Mitchum and Bogart donned their trenchcoats to play Raymond Chandler's detective creation Philip Marlowe in screen versions of The Big Sleep, though some 32 years apart. You're welcome.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Chi-Town Business Weekly Erects a Paywall

Crain Communications building near the Chicago...Crain Communications building  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Beginning June 14, weekly business newspaper Crain's Chicago Business will go the metered paywall route on its Web site, the journal announced today.

Online visitors can view 12 articles a month for free, after which they will be asked to dole out $59 for an annual subscription that will  also offer access to videos, blogs and 15 years worth of archived editions. Subscribers to both the Web site and print edition will pay $99 annually, though for a limited period, print subscribers can get free digital access.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, May 21, 2012

UPDATE: O, Tenenbaum, O, Tenenbaum, the High Court Says It's Over

The United States Supreme Court, the highest c...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)The United States Supreme Court today denied certiorari in Tenenbaum v. Sony BMG Music et al. (Docket No. 11-1019), leaving former Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum of Providence, Rhode Island, on the hook for a $675,000 copyright infringement jury award to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Justice Stephen Breyer and Chief Justice John Roberts did not participate in the ruling, according to the Associated Press. Harvard Law School Prof. Charles Nesson filed a petition for certiorari on February 13, 2012, seeking to overturn a jury verdict that awarded the RIAA $22,500 for each of 30 songs Tenenbaum unlawfully downloaded and shared from the now-defunct peer-to-peer network KaZaA in 2004.

The petitioner had asked the High Court to address whether the damages provision of the U.S. Copyright Act [17 U.S.C. sec. 504] "applied to noncommercial individuals without requirement of nexus with actual damages." U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts Judge Nancy Gertner reduced the damages award as excessive, but the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reinstated the jury verdict last year. (See "TUOL" posts 9/19/11, 7/9/10, 8/3/09 & 7/28/09.)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Linebacker Tackles NFL Commish in Defamation Suit

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive coordi...Linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma last week filed an 11-count defamation suit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana arising from the league's response to the Saints' "Bounty Rule" scandal.

In Vilma v. Goodell (Case No. 12-cv-1283), Vilma, an 8-year NFL veteran, alleges in a 16-page Complaint that his personal and professional reputation was sullied by a March 2, 2011, NFL Club Report that states: "[P]rior to a Saints playoff game in January 2010, defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 in cash to any player who knocked [opposing quarterback Brett] Favre out of the game." Vilma has been suspended by the league for the entire 2012-2013 season for his alleged involvement in the Saints' Bountygate scandal that purportedly occurred over the 2009 through 2011 seasons.

The plaintiff's Complaint, which includes multiple accounts alleging slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress, faults the defendant and the NFL for allegedly not being forthcoming in producing corroborating evidence concerning the bounty scandal. The league fined the Saints $500,000, suspended Head Coach Sean Payton without pay for the upcoming NFL season, suspended General Manager Mickey Loomis for half the 2012-2013 season, indefinitely suspended ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from the NFL and suspended Asst. Coach Joe Vitt for the first half-dozen regular season games in 2012, among other disciplinary action. Vilma was one of four players suspended for their alleged involvement in the bounty program.

The scandal allegedly involved assigning cash rewards from a pool in which Saints players purportedly participated for various injuries inflicted on opponents, including "cart-offs" in which a player is carried off the field and "knockouts" in which an opposing player is forced from the game because of a hit inflicted by a Saints player. "TUOL" doubts the Vegas line would give odds that Vilma's suit ever goes to trial, but if it were to, the public no doubt would be shocked at the revelation that professional football is a contact sport.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, May 18, 2012

Billionaire Buys a King

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld answers a... Larry King (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Ora.TV, a digital network startup owned by 72-year-old Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, CEO of Telmex and America Movil telcom companies and the world's richest man, is set to debut what is expected to be a stable of talk shows this summer, through streaming and apps on its Web site and elsewhere.

And the "fresh" face that will launch Ora.TV? That would be 78-year-old Larry King, whose Larry King Now will be posted online daily at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. for watching by viewers at their leisure, according to an Associated Press story today.

King hosted Larry King Live for 25 years on CNN before being less-than-gently ushered out the door to make room for Piers Morgan Tonight. No, really.  Unlike his hour-long CNN gabfest, Larry King Now will air for 30 minutes, though may run shorter or longer depending on the person being interviewed and presumably, King's bladder control.

The energetic, suspenders-wearing Brooklynite aims to attract A-listers to his new Ora.TV project, telling AP that he hopes to interview President Barack Obama and  prospective GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

As the saying goes, "you can't keep a good man down."  Or, apparently, Larry King either.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, May 17, 2012

N.H. High Court Rules Public Meeting Discussion Exempt from Right-to-Know Laws Disclosure

New Hampshire Supreme Court BuildingNew Hampshire Supreme Court Building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)"If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" is a golden oldie that has been pondered by Philosophy 101 students since time immemorial.

Perhaps the New Hampshire Supreme Court should tackle the question, having just ruled in Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire ("PFFNH") v. The New Hampshire Local Government Center ("NHLGC") (Case No. 2011-550) that just because communications by public officials may occur during a public meeting in a public place, it doesn't mean the communications are not confidential if no member of the public actually heard them.

The PFFNH sought minutes of 14 public local government meetings that occurred during 2000-2009 under the Granite State's Right to Know law [RSA Chapter 91-A], but received redacted documents in response under a claim that the excluded portions were exempt as privileged attorney-client communications. Pursuant to RSA 91-A:5 IV, "confidential information" is exempt from the general disclosure requirement, and the burden of proving that information is confidential is on the party seeking to prevent disclosure.

The plaintiff contended the redacted portions should be made available because the interactions with counsel occurred in public and the defendant made no effort to protect the privacy of the communications at issue by, for example, voting to meet in executive session. The N.H. High Court, however, sided with the lower court decision that: "The fact that the meeting occurs in a public place does not destroy the privilege, if no one hears the conversation." In other words, if the utterer of a communication reasonably believes that only privileged persons will hear the content of a communication, the communication can be confidential.

(Tip of the hat to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press [] for shining a spotlight on this decision.)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Buffetting the News

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30:  Berkshire Hathaw...Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)Richmond, Va.-based media conglomerate Media General, Inc. expects to close a deal on June 25 in which it will unload 63 newspapers to the BH Media Group, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., for a cool $142 million in cash.

In a company press release reported on, Media General said its dailies and weeklies in the southeastern U.S., except for its Florida holdings, along with Web sites and tablet and mobile apps, are part of the deal. The media outlets will be managed by World Media Enterprises, Inc., a sister company of the Omaha World Herald Co., which also is part of the BH Media Group newspaper stable.

Media General, which has concentrated on its digital and broadcast holdings in recent years, owns 18 network-affiliated television stations and their Web sites. A $400 million term loan and a $45 million revolving line of credit from Berkshire Hathaway to Media General was also finalized in a separate credit agreement, according to the press release.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

UPDATE: Appeals Court Says Google & NSA Can Stay Mum About Alleged Relationship

DC Court of Appeals court seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Agreeing with a lower court ruling last year (see "TUOL" post 7/19/11), the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week ruled the National Security Agency need not respond to a Freedom of Information Act request [5 U.S.C. sec. 552 et seq.] regarding an agreement that the NSA may or may not have forged with Google.

The decision in Electronic Privacy Information Center v. National Security Agency (Case No. 11-5233) said the NSA need not respond at all to the FOIA request by EPIC, a public interest watchdog group, as even a refusal to comply could provide information about a possible relationship between NSA and Google.  In the parlance of the security arena, to neither confirm nor deny the existence of requested documents is a so-called Glomar response, named after a past case involving a journalist's efforts to obtain data from the CIA about an underwater vessel.

The appellate court ruled the NSA could properly invoke Exemption No. 1 of the nine FOIA exemptions, which allows a government agency to withhold: "Those documents properly classified as secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy."

No word as yet about whether EPIC plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday Los Angeles Times Becomes a Shorter Read as LA Folds

The Fox Plaza, in Century City a major financi...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)LA, the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine, will disappear after its June 3 issue, and Editor Nancie Clare and six other staffers are out, the LA and Web sites report.

In a staff memo, Times President Kathy Thomson blamed the same issues that have plagued the magazine industry generally--declining readership and shrinking ad pages--for the move. LA has had a checkered recent history, in which it was placed under the aegis of the advertising department in 2008, only to have the editorial department regain control a year later when Clare was brought on as editor.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fair Use Derails Publishers' Copyright Suit Against University

Georgia State University LogoGeorgia State University Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)In what may be a precedent-setting 350-page ruling in Cambridge University Press et al. v. Patton et al. (Case No. 1:2008-cv-01425), Senior United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Judge Orinda Evans ruled that Georgia State University was protected by the fair use doctrine against copyright infringement claims by SAGE Publications, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press.

As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Associated Press and elsewhere, Judge Evans's decision, which some legal experts believe may be the first of its kind in the nation, rejected the plaintiffs' allegations that GSU sanctioned copyright infringement by permitting professors to download and copy excerpts from course materials. Judge Evans ruled in favor of GSU on 69 counts of copyright infringement, but found against the defendant on five counts in which she determined publishers suffered monetary damages where students had unrestricted access to complete textbook chapters; specifically, five excerpts from four different texts.

The plaintiffs filed sued in April 2008. In her ruling, Judge Evans concluded reproducing one chapter in a book that contained more than 10 chapters was permissible without constituting copyright infringement. Under the fair use doctrine [17 U.S.C. sec. 107], a copyright holder need not consent to publication of his or her material depending on the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole and the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Judge Evans wrote her decision would "further the spread of knowledge."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, May 14, 2012

CIA Bay of Pigs History Volume Remains Under Wraps

Map of Cuba, showing the Bay of PigsMap of Cuba, showing the Bay of Pigs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)United States District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Gladys Kessler last week ruled against a research institute's Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA")[5 U.S.C. sec. 552] request to gain access to Volume 5 of the CIA's exhaustive history of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.

The National Security Archive, a 27-year-old nongovernmental research institute and library, filed a 6-page Complaint for Injunctive Relief, National Security Archive v. Central Intelligence Agency (Case No. 1:06-cv-01080-GK) to get a peak at Vol. 5, the CIA's Internal Investigation Report, a purported rebuttal by CIA chief historian Jack Pfeiffer against a critical report by the CIA's inspector general that blamed the agency for the unsuccessful April 1961 Bay of Pigs operations.

The CIA successfully withheld the requested data pursuant to Exemption 5 of the FOIA, which is invoked to exclude "A privileged inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letter." More specifically, the so-called deliberative process privilege is intended to "prevent injury to the quality of agency decisions," by encouraging candid discussions of policy matters between superiors and subordinates and protecting against premature disclosure of proposed, but not yet adopted, policies.

Judge Kessler agreed with lawyers for the CIA who argued the release of Vol. 5 to the NSA could yield inaccurate historical information that could lead to self-censorship by CIA historians. Judge Kessler concurred that the material sought was a draft, not a completed work, from a subordinate that Pfeiffer allegedly rejected.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ecdysiast/Journalist Sues Daily for Stripping Her of Her Job

Houston Chronicle headquarters Español: La sed... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Short-time society reporter and part-time exotic dancer Sarah Tressler has filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against The Houston Chronicle, which she claims terminated her after learning about her second job.

According to accounts by The New York Daily News and Associated Press, Tressler, a New York University journalism graduate who is represented by attorney to the stars Gloria Allred, worked for the Chronicle, for whom she previously freelanced, from January until March of this year as a society reporter.  She alleges that after a weekly newspaper reported that she worked as a stripper, the Chronicle dismissed her.

According to the news articles, Tressler said she did not include her dancing experience on her resume or Chronicle job application because it was never a full-time job. Tressler maintains a Facebook page titled "Diary of an Angry Stripper," and has both a "DAS" app and a book in the works.

Attorney Allred was quick to note that her 30-year-old client was not engaged in any unlawful activity and that her clothes shedding to music did not interfere with her duties as a journalist. It remains to be seen whether the EEOC will reconcile Tressler writing about polls as a journalist and writhing around poles as a stripper.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, May 10, 2012

UPDATE: Sun-Times Owner Set to Acquire Weekly Chicago Reader

Chicago Sun-Times building in Chicago, IL - in... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Crain's Chicago Business ( reports that Wrapports, LLC, owner of the daily Chicago Sun-Times tabloid, expects to complete its acquisition of the free weekly Chicago Reader  for roughly $3 million next week.

According to Crain's, Wrapports, which forked up $23 million last December to buy Sun-Times Media, publisher of The Chicago Sun-Times, along with seven suburban dailies and 30 suburban weekly newspapers, is close to tying up the deal to land the Reader. As previously reported here (see "TUOL" post 3/13/12), Texas-based Bulkey Capital LP was retained to oversee the unloading of the Reader, which presently is owned by New York investment banker Atalaya Capital Management L.P.

The Atalaya hedge fund came into the Reader in 2009 when it purchased it out of bankruptcy, along with The Washington City Weekly and Creative Loafing Atlanta, from an insolvent Florida company, Creative Loafing, Inc., for $5 million. The Reader, which distributes about 90,000 copies weekly through newspaper boxes, restaurants, bars and retail shops, is expected to compete against the Chicago Tribune-published RedEye for Chicago's younger audience.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Salt Lake Tribune Jettisons Nine Newsroom Staffers

SLTrib Liberal victory full(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Utah's largest daily, The Salt Lake Tribune, has announced layoffs of nine editorial employees, a 7.5 percent reduction in newsroom personnel, leaving an editorial staff of 119.

The Trib, owned by Denver-based MediaNews Group, blamed sagging circulation and declining ad pages for the staff reduction, which largely affected the copy desk.

More's the pity to the pink-slipped journalists who are unable to drown their sorrows at the pub past 1 a.m. in Salt Lake City.
Enhanced by Zemanta