Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Trio of Italian Journalists Jailed for Criminal Libel

ChietiImage via WikipediaTwo reporters for Il Centro, an Italian daily newspaper, and the paper's former editor, were convicted of criminal libel and jailed, according to the International Press Institute (IPI).

Walter Nerone and Claudio Lattanzio each received one-year jail terms, and former editor Luigi Vicinanza eight months in jail after a court in Chieti, Italy, found the three men defamed Franco La Civita, the former Mayor of  Sulmona, by writing in 2007 that he allegedly was being investigated concerning purported overseas bank accounts in his name. The court considered the allegations unfounded and further ordered the journalists to compensate La Civita 12,000 euros ($17,253).

Journalism organizations, including the Italian National Press Federation and the Journalists' Syndicate in Abruzzo,  were quick to condemn the "chilling effect" on free speech by the jailing of the reporters.
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Appeals Court Orders Internal Affairs Cop Probe Be Produced to TV Station

Colorado Route MarkerImage via WikipediaIn Romero v. City of Fountain et al. (Case No. 11CA0690), the Colorado Court of Appeals this month ordered the Fountain Police Dept. to turn over  to ABC affiliate KRDO-TV a redacted disciplinary investigatory probe of a police officer who subsequently resigned.

As initially reported by the Website of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (www.rcfp.org), the appellate court declined former police officer Frank Romero's motion for a preliminary injunction, ruling that a "lengthy delay of the disclosure [of the report] may disserve the public interest." The television station initially sought a summary of the internal affairs inquiry through the Colorado Open Records Act [C.R.S. 24-72-201 to 24-72-309], but the court held the records at issue were covered under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act [C.R.S. 24-72-301 et seq.].

The department's investigation recommended terminating Romero, but he resigned instead.  The officer was targeted by several women, who complained about his behavior toward them.  Romero fought the release of the internal affairs document on the grounds that it contained personal information that would irreparably injure him if it were released. The document at issue was redacted to protect the identity of the female complainant.

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Crossing the Pond by Subpoena to Get Brit Twitterer's Personal Data

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 26:  A chimpanze...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThe Herald Scotland reports that the South Tyneside Council of the coastal town of South Shields, England, has brought a California legal action against San Francisco-based Twitter to ferret out the identity of Mr. Monkey.

What sounds like a prolonged Monty Python sketch may have profound implications for social media users in the U.K. A pseudonymous microblogger, "Mr. Monkey," has been posting allegedly false and defamatory remarks about South Tyneside councillors and staffers. Suit was instituted in California and a subpoena sent to Twitter seeking personal information concerning the Mr. Monkey account.  Twitter did not comment in The Herald Scotland article.

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Ranks of Facebook Users Swelling Toward Three-Quarters of a Billion

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 06:  Facebook founder ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeSocialbakers, a blog whose focus is Facebook, claims that 700 million people are using the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social networking service, according to an article on www.BusinessInsider.com.

The boost in Facebook users has been fueled by skyrocketing growth in Indonesia, Brazil and India, BusinessInsider reports. The news is sure to press Mark Zuckerberg's "like" button, though from "TUOL"'s standpoint, never have so many with so much done so little.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Montreal Gazette Erects Paywall for Online Edition

The Gazette (Montreal)Image via WikipediaThe Montreal Gazette, which claims its online edition attracts a million unique North American visitors monthly, has announced that it is implementing a  metered payment system (or for those, like the "TUOL" staff who mastered high school French--paiement mesuree) similar to The New York Times.

Gazette online visitors will get 20 free views of premium content monthly before the paywall kicks in.  Non-subscribers to the print version of the paper will be asked to fork over $69.95 a year or $6.95 a month. Those who receive the paper edition receive free access after entering identifying information.  Hockeyinsideout.com and westislandgazette.com will not be subject to metering, because the Montreal Gazette knows better than to try to get in the way of online Canadian hockey fans looking for puck news gratis.

Montrealgazette.com boasts that it received 11 million page views last month. Whether online visitors are willing to part with their hard-earned Canadian Dollars remains to be seen.
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'Anti-Social Media': Courtney Love Faces Another Online Defamation Suit

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 05:  (Exclusive Coverage) ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Two months after actress and "Hole" chanteuse Courtney Love agreed to dole out $430,000 to settle a libel claim involving impolitic comments she Tweeted about a fashion designer (Dawn Simorangkir a/k/a Dawn Younger-Smith v. Courtney Michelle Love et al. (Case No. BC41059)) [see "TUOL" posts 3/4/11, 8/25/09], Kurt Cobain's widow again finds herself a defendant in a Los Angeles Superior Court libel suit, this time, filed by her former attorneys, Frederic Gordon and Rhonda Holmes.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter's THR, Esq. blog and the ABA Journal Law News Now blog, the San Diego-based Holmes & Gordon law firm, which represented Love in 2008-2009 in litigation seeking to recover assets allegedly filched from Cobain's Estate, has sued its former client for defamation, false light invasion of privacy and intentional interference with advantageous economic relations.

The plaintiffs contends that Love fired them as counsel after they purportedly urged her not to engage in substance abuse during the existence of their attorney-client relationship. After the firm allegedly resisted Love's efforts to rehire it, the Complaint alleges that Love Tweeted that Attorney Holmes was "bought off." The plaintiff also alleges that in a subsequent July 2010, online interview, Love said "they got to her [Holmes]" in explaining why her former attorney had stopped taking her calls.

Holmes & Gordon is seeking punitive damages against the Hole vocalist. "TUOL" recommends that Love purchase an electric typewriter because she doesn't seem to handle social media platforms all that well.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

'Hockeyton Post': News Aggregator Storms Canada, Eh?

A map of Canada exhibiting its ten provinces a...Image via WikipediaThe Huffington Post, backed by advertising launch partner Scotiabank, went live in Canada today, the AOL Huffington Post Media Group announced in a press release.

More than 1.5 million Canadians visited the U.S. version of the news aggregator in March, according to Arianna Huffington.  The Canadian HuffPost raided the Globeandmail.com for talent, hiring Kenny Yum and Brodie Fenlon as managing editor and senior news editor, respectively.

The Canadian Huffington Post, like its U.S. counterpart, will offer the same combination of repackaged news, original content, commentary and titillating photos, only more politely.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

UPDATE: Lawsuit Not Going Off in a Huff

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 23:  Co-Founder/...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeNew York Supreme Court Justice Charles F. Ramos yesterday denied defendants' motion to dismiss, allowing two former political consultants' lawsuit against Huffington Post co-founders Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer to proceed to discovery, the Associated Press reports.

Peter Daou and James Boyce sued last year, claiming Huffington and Lerer stole their idea for an online news aggregating site (see "TUOL" post 11/17/10). Their 26-page Complaint includes counts alleging idea appropriation, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment. 

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NBC News Taps Guthrie as Chief Legal Analyst

NBC NewsImage via WikipediaThirty-nine-year-old Savannah Guthrie is the Today Show's new chief legal analyst.

Guthrie, who joined NBC News in 2007 and is the former co-host of MSNBC's  Daily Rundown.  She is a former litigator and a magna cum laude graduate of  the Georgetown University Law Center.

She succeeds ABC Legal Analyst and Mediaite mogul Dan Abrams.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

'Botox Brittney' Story Needs an Injection of Media Ethics

The controversial front page of the Sun.Image via WikipediaIt's hard to find anyone to root for as the saga of "Botox Brittney" Upton, the 8-year-old girl who allegedly received Botox injections and virgin waxes, and purportedly was in line for a nose job and breast enhancement surgery, continues to unfold, or more accurately, unravel.

The stinkyjournalism.org Website today chronicles the depressing saga, which began with a March 23 story in the U.K. tabloid The Sun about 34-year-old Sheena Upton, a Birmingham, England, native residing in San Francisco with her daughter Brittney. The article, which included a photo of Sheena purportedly injecting her moppet's forehead with Botox, triggered a hailstorm of criticism and condemnation, which naturally, led to television appearances by Mom & daughter on ABC News' Good Morning America and CBS News" Inside Edition.

Sometimes, however, publicity is not such a good thing, as Mom learned when child protective services took Brittney away from needle-happy Sheena. Suddenly, Sheena Upton was calling herself Kerry Campbell and telling TMZ (not to be confused with The New York Times) that the whole saga was a hoax. She told the gossip site that she didn't even know what Botox was and that the whole story was staged.

If it's true that it's not true (so to speak), then the tv news organizations and the newspaper should be admonished for being so easily pranked and for not investigating the story thoroughly before it went viral. But as long as the media outlets already are at the proverbial woodshed, they also should be taken to task for engaging in mindless checkbook journalism, which is no substitute for real journalism.

According to Stinkyjournalism.org, The Sun allegedly gave Upton $200 for the story, fake name and faux photo. Inside Edition allegedly doled out $9,500 to Upton/Campbell and GMA was prepared to pay $10k to a British booker for the story. Rather than characterize the payment as checkbook journalism, GMA considered the $10k a photo licensing fee.

The sensationalism-hungry morning show viewers, eager to be outraged at the drop of a heat or needle-pricking of a pre-teen forehead, should be having some mea culpas with their morning coffee. The devoted staff of "TUOL" was angered by the distraction of the Botox story, which interrupted journalists and caused them to lose count of the number of Schwarzenegger love children.

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Alaska Corp. Drops Libel Suit Against Nonprofit Investigative Reporting Group

The Napa Valley Wine Train 1Image via WikipediaSuuluutaaq, Inc. and its CEO Samuel Boyle have abandoned their defamation action against the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting's CaliforniaWatch.org, according to a CaliforniaWatch article.

The case, Suuluutaaq, Inc. & Samuel Boyle v. Lance Williams, Center for Investigative Reporting & San Francisco Chronicle (Case No. 3:10-cv-00048), filed March 10, 2010, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, claimed an article written by California Watch senior reporter Lance Williams and published in the San Francisco Chronicle January 30, 2010, contained 11 offensive statements that defamed the company and its chief executive.

Suuluutaaq, an Alaskan corporation, received a $54 million federal stimulus contract to relocate the Napa Valley Wine Train tracks. The company had sought $24 million in damages, and Boyle, $8 million in damages from the defendants. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess last December dismissed much of the plaintiffs' claims as legally insuficient, according to California Watch.

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Sandal's Resort to Pre-Litigation Discovery to ID Anonymous E=mailer Snubbed by Judge

Appellate Division of the New York State Supre...Image via WikipediaIn Sandals Resorts International Ltd. v. Google (Case No.100628/10), a unanimous New York Appellate Division, First Department panel this week refused a potential defamation plaintiff's pre-litigation request for information identifying the pseudonymous sender of the allegedly libelous email.

The New York Law Journal reports that the appellate court's decision, written by Justice David B. Saxe, said taken as a whole, the allegedly defamatory online post constituted opinion and was not actionable. The offending email criticized the resort operator's treatment of Jamaicans, alleging they were hired only for low-paying menial jobs, but the Court refused to compel Google to produce to Sandals information concerning email account asjft3092@gmail.com.

The Court cautioned against companies employing subpoenas to "enlist the help of (ISPs) via court orders to silence their online critics (which) threatens to stifle the free exchange of ideas."  Judge Saxe said Sandals failed to show it was harmed by the email in question. 

"To the extent the email suggests that Sandals' hiring of native Jamaicans is limited to menial and low-paying jobs, Judge Saxe wrote, "a reasonable reader would understand that as an allegation to be investigated, rather than as a fact."

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Sacramento Bee Stung By More Staff Layoffs

This is a picture of the Sacramento Riverfront...Image via WikipediaThe McClatchy Co.-owned Sacramento Bee has slashed its work force by 6 percent, including nine newsroom slots among the 44 eliminated positions, according to The Sacramento Business Journal.

Bee management blamed lagging circulation and diminished advertising revenues for the latest round of cutbacks. First Quarter results in April reflected a 9.5 percent decline in  revenues and an 11 percent decrease in advertising revenues compared to corresponding figures in 2010. (See "TUOL" posts 5/4/11 & 2/1/11.)

The Sacramento Business Journal reported that the Bee has shed roughly 400 jobs over the past three years, halving its staff from 1,400 to 700 since March 2008. Those receiving pink slips are eligible for severance pay commensurate with their length of service.

The Bee is one of 30 dailies owned by McClatchy Co, the nation's third-largest newspaper chain, which overall, has eliminated more than 4,300 staff positions from its stable of newspapers dating back to June 2008, according to the Journal article.
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Monday, May 23, 2011

Ariz. Reporter Fired for Tweets Gets the Bird in NLRB Ruling

Color logo of the National Labor Relations Boa...Image via WikipediaIn an 8-page Advice Memorandum in Lee Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a The Arizona Star (Case No. 28-CA-23267), the National Labor Relations Board ruled against a 10-year veteran police reporter for The Arizona Star whose Tweets resulted in his termination.

As reported by the American Bar Assn. Journal's Law News Now blog and the Delaware Employment Law Blog, the Star reporter was discharged because his superiors deemed his Tweets unprofessional and inappropriate. Influential in the NLRB's adverse ruling was that both a human resources official and the Star's managing editor had warned the reporter about his tweeting in 2010 that included a critique of one of the daily's headlines.

The reporter subsequently changed his Twitter id, removed some supervisors from his "followers" list and restricted access to his Tweets.  Still, he was fired after further complaints about his Tweets, including one from a local tv news station that the reporter ridiculed by noting a misspelling in a Retweet of a message from the station.

In ruling against him, the NLRB said the reporter "was terminated for writing inappropriate and offensive Twitter postings that did not involve protected concerted activity."

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Ky. High Court Rules Press Entitled Access to Criminal Contempt Hearings

The Courier-Journal DispenserImage via WikipediaIn its 16-page decision last week in Jason Riley & The Courier-Journal, Inc. v. The Hon. Susan Schultz & Com. of Kentucky (Case No. 2010-SC-0006-MR), the Kentucky Supreme Court held that state court contempt hearings are open to the news media and public.

As reported by the Associated Press, The Louisville Courier-Journal and its public safety beat reporter Jason Riley brought a court action based on Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Susan Schultz's holding of a contempt hearing involving possible juror misconduct in her chambers in May 2010. Judge Schultz met with three jurors in closed session as a prelude to denying a prosecution's motion for a mistrial.

Kentucky's High Court reversed the Commonwealth's Court of Appeals' denial of a writ of mandamus or prohibition requiring media access to a juror contempt hearing. "Because the public's interest in a criminal contempt proceeding is essentially the same as its interest in any criminal trial, criminal contempt proceedings must be open to the public, including the media," the Kentucky Supreme Court opinion stated.

Conceding the matter was moot for the case in question, the High Court wrote: "It is not sufficient to hold the hearing first, and then determine what it is. The media and the public have the right to rely on what the docket says in pursuing their right to access."
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N.Y. Newsday Management Bonuses & Raises Draw Union's Ire

NewsdayImage via WikipediaLess than a year after Local 406, the union that represents editorial staffers at Long Island's Newsday, accepted a three-year wage-freeze and pay cuts of 5 to 10 percent, management at the daily are the beneficiaries of "generous wage increases and bonuses," according to Union President Michael LaSpina.

As reported by Poynter.org's  Romanesko media gossip blog, LaSpina fired off a letter to Newsday mucky-mucks expressing his dissatisfaction concerning the compensation boost for management and non-union employees. "TUOL"'s non-union staff wonders why Newsday management would be rewarded for its bold leadership that included the decision to erect a paywall for its online edition that initially yield a whopping 35 subscribers (see "TUOL" post 1/28/10).
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Facebook Sues Adult Networking Co. in Trademark Case

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 06:  Facebook founder ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeIn Facebook, Inc. v. Various, Inc. et al (Case No. 4:2011-cv-01805), filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, social networking giant Facebook sued an adult networking service for trademark infringement, unfair competition and cybersquatting.

Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong will hear the case in which Facebook is alleging that Various, Inc., and subsidiaries, including Traffic Cat, Inc. and GMCI Internet Operations, Inc., are capitalizing on the plaintiff's brand with its Facebookofsex.com Website.  Facebook claims the defendants' Website includes a blue "Like" button and a blue band at the top of each page, which creates confusion among site visitors and tarnishes Facebook's reputation, according to the Complaint.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

West Virginia High Court Waylays Judge's Order that Newspaper Reveal Sources

Supreme Court of Appeals of West VirginiaImage via WikipediaThe West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals this week in State of West Virginia ex rel. The Lincoln Journal, Inc. et al. v. Hon. F. Jane Hustead (Case No. 35734) granted a writ of petition preventing enforcement of Cabell County Circuit Judge Jane Hustead's order compelling The Lincoln Journal to reveal confidential sources used in 11 articles that underlie defamation lawsuits brought against the daily by Bobby Adkins and Timothy Butcher in December 2008.

As reported by The State Journal and Associated Press, the High Court determined Judge Hustead exceeded her authority when she ordered The Lincoln Journal to divulge its sources to plaintiffs Butcher and Adkins. The two men sued for defamation, invasion of privacy, false light and emotional distress based on a series of articles published by the defendant in April and May 2008, regarding a county prosecutor's probe into alleged campaign violations during the 2008 primary involving individuals who allegedly funneled or  received thousands of dollars to back candidates purportedly endorsed by Butcher. The articles in question were replete with references to "courthouse sources", "unnamed sources" and other anonymous monikers.

The West Virginia Supreme Court faulted Judge Hustead for not applying the test set forth in the state's seminal reporter's privilege case, Hudok v. Henry, 182 W. Va. 500, 389 S.E.2d 188 (1989), holding that a journalist's sources and notes could not be compelled absent a showing that the information sought is highly material and relevant, critical to maintaining a legal claim and unavailable from other sources.

The High Court said Judge Hustead must apply the Hudok factors and "separately identify each alleged defamatory article with specificity, identify each source therein that the respondents seek, and thereupon conduct a separate Hudok analysis for each."

Further complicating the case is that the West Virginia legislature passed  H.B. 2159, a reporter's privilege law, on March 12, 2011, that takes effect 90 days from its passage (see "TUOL" post 4/7/11). When Judge Hustead conducts the hearing ordered by the Supreme Court could raise the issue of whether the state's new shield law is controlling.

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Will Barnes & Noble Say: 'Give Me Liberty (Media) & $1 Billion?

TCU's Barnes and Noble Bookstore.Image via WikipediaBillionaire John Malone's Liberty Media, whose holdings include the Atlanta Braves baseball team and interests in Sirius XM Radio, Inc. and the Starz Group media company, has offered $1 billion to acquire the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain, according to Bloomberg News and The Wall St. Journal.

A board committee of  B&N, which controls 28 percent of the e-book market with its Nook e-reader (see "TUOL" posts 4/25/11, 2/9/10), will review the proposal, which would require shareholder and regulatory acceptance. Credit Suisse gave its thumbs-up to the offering, saying that B&N would strongly compete with digital competitors Amazon (which makes the Kindle e-reader) and Apple with the financial backing of Liberty Media.

Liberty Media's $17 a share offer to B&N represents a 20 percent premium to shareholders based on the bookstore chain's closing stock price yesterday. The Englewood, Colo.-based Liberty would control 70 percent of B&N and current B&N chair Leonard Riggio would have a 30 percent equity stake in the enterprise under Liberty's proposed acquistion, according to Bloomberg News.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Federal Judge Throws the 'Book' at Facebook in Trademark Suit

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBaseU.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Ronald M. Whyte has dismissed Palo Alto, Calif.-based social networking colossus Facebook's trademark infringement suit against Illinois company Teachbook for lack of personal jurisdiction.

The case, Facebook, Inc. v. Teachbook.com, LLC (Case No. 10-cv-03654-RMW) was brought Aug. 12, 2010, by Facebook, which alleged trademark infringment and trademark dilution by Teachbook, a social and professional networking site for teachers. Facebook claimed the use of the generic "BOOK" by a competitor social networking site would confuse consumers and dilute its brand. Facebook alleged jurisdiction and venue were proper because the defendant intentionally infringed on its trademark, causing it to suffer injury in its district.

The court noted that Teachbook's trademark clearance search produced 31 entities using "BOOK" formative marks for interactive computer services, including 10 companies that pre-dated Facebook. In concluding Teachbook neither permits California residents to register on its site nor competes with Facebook for the hearts and minds of Californians, Judge Whyte relied on the three-pronged "effects test" developed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984). Under Calder, the court gauges whether the defendant: 1)committed an intentional act, 2)expressly aimed at the forum state,  3)causing harm that the defendant knows is likely to be suffered in the forum state.

Judge Whyte ruled against Facebook because it failed to show Teachbook's conduct was "expressly aimed" at California. A tip of the hat to the always informative Internetcases.com Website for reporting on this case, which seems more about hubris than trademark.

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Press Freedom Not 'Peachy' in Ga. as Gritty Guv Denies Access to TV Station

Nathan DealImage via WikipediaAtlanta Fox affiliate WAGA-TV became station non grata with Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal after it aired a story on April 12 alleging the guv's daughter-in-law Denise Deal's fundraising company, which received hearty payments from the Deal campaign fund, may be a sham enterprise, according to Website www.stinkyjournalism.org.

State troopers barred access to a WAGA photographer and reporter during an April 13 bill-signing in the governor's office, and Gov. Deal's press secretary purportedly said the station is unwelcome until it retracts the story about Denise Deal's enterprise, the stinkyjournalism Website reports. The media ban prompted the Atlanta Press Club to fire off a letter of protest to the governor's office.

If only the First Amendment to the Constitution applied to the states; oh wait, in Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925), the U.S. Supreme Court said it did.
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'Bunny-Surfing' for $60 a Year

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 12:  Publisher Hugh He...Image by Getty Images via @daylifei.Playboy is not the title of Arnold Schwarzenegger's autobiography. Rather, it's the new Web-based subscription service that will enable readers to view 57 years or 682 issues worth of the men's magazine Playboy for $8 a month, or $60 a year, according to Associated Press.

Interviews with celebrities and politicians, fiction by authors the likes of Norman Mailer and John Updike, and pictorials of pneumatic nymphets who enjoy horseback riding and find rude people a "turn-off," will await online subscribers who no longer can access the dog-eared copies of  their Playboy stash in the back of their cluttered garages. The magazine, whose circulation has declined over the years from 3.1 million to 1.5 million in 2006, according to the AP article, has tried to reach out to  techno-savvy younger readers in recent years by, for example, selling a 250GB USB hard drive of every issue from 1953-2010 for $300 (see "TUOL" post 11/30/10).

It's questionable whether this latest marketing move by Hef's staff will have any impact on the raunchy relic. Maybe if they offered free instruction in one-handed keyboarding?

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Out-of-Control 'Situation' in Florida Court 'Confrontation'

LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 23:  Paul 'DJ Pauly D' Del...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThe "reality" facing U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Judge Paul C. Huck is that he must preside over a trademark infringement case involving an awful "Situation" certain to lead to a horrible "Confrontation."

The case, MPS Entertainment, LLC v. Robert M. Fletcher & Frank Sorrentino (Case No. 1:11-cv-21765), was brought by 29-year-old Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino, a cast member of MTV's Jersey Shore reality series since 2009, against his dear old Dad, Frank "The Confrontation" Sorrentino, concerning TheConfrontationSite.com, poppa's Website. As dutifully reported by E!News and NBC, among other media outlets, the plaintiff  alleges the defendants are exploiting his fame, appropriating his image and likeness on their Website without his permission, and engaging in unfair competition, all of which is disparaging his reputation, if such a thing is possible.

The elder Sorrentino's Website is rife with rants about his son's alleged financial abandonment of his family and contains profanity-laced tirades against junior. Sorrentino senior is threatening to write a tell-all book about his son's behavior entitled Confrontation with Situation (don't look for it in the Great Books series).

The case is more likely grist for the publicity mill than bound for the legal annals.  The staff of "TUOL" is withholding judgment until it hears from the spouse/mother, Mrs. Frank "The Mortified" Sorrentino.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

English Court Upholds Soccer Star's Goal of Anonymity in Press Coverage of Extramarital Affair

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 16: Former Big Brother c...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeAn English judge has denied efforts by News Group Newspapers-owned The Sun to lift his injunction barring the release of the name of a married soccer star who allegedly engaged in an extramarital dalliance with former Miss Wales and Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas.

According to an article in The Guardian and posts by the www.stinkyjournalism.org and www.mediabistro.com/sportsnewser blogs, Mr. Justice (David) Eady issued a temporary injunction that barred The Sun and other U.K. press outlets from disclosing the name of the soccer player who purportedly was Ms. Thomas' lover during a six-month affair. The justice found the soccer player had a reasonable expectation of privacy and that there was "no legitimate public interest" in allowing him to be identified in press accounts.  Thomas said she had no intent to divulge his name, nor did she seek notoriety, but lacked 50,000 pounds ($80,718) to pursue an injunction against her name being used.

Mr. Justice Eady's decision has no bearing on foreign press coverage of the scandal, as the Spanish daily Sport and Argentina's La Republica newspapers and www.mediabistro.com/sportsnewer blog used to their advantage. Less in the interest of journalism than out of fairness to Ms. Thomas, "TUOL" notes that Manchester United's left winger, Ryan Giggs, of Wales, is the married footballer who allegedly went beyond on-field scoring.
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Fifth Circuit Holds Press Entitled Access to Sentencing Hearings

Mug shot of Antonio Cárdenas Guillén, lider of...Image via WikipediaThe United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit this week in Oziel Cardenas-Guillen v. Hearst Newspapers LLC (Case No. 10-40221) held that the press and public have a First Amendment right to attend criminal sentencing hearings.

Former Mexican drug cartel head Oziel Cardenas-Guillen was arrested by Mexican police in 2003 and U.S. authorities took custody of him in 2007. Security concerns prompted a change of venue from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville, near the Mexican border, to federal court in Houston. (See "TUOL" post 12/13/10.)

The defendant pleaded guilty to drug, conspiracy and threat charges in February 2010, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison and forfeiture of $50 million. Citing public safety issues, the prosecution successfully moved to close the sentencing hearing to the press and public, with the presiding judge sealing both the government's petition for closure and his order granting the motion.

The Houston Chronicle, by its owner, Hearst Newspapers, LLC, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, specifically, the trial court's  post-hearing rulings that the news organization's challenge of the closure of the courtroom during the sentencing hearing and its request to be heard on the issue before the closure were moot and its denial of the newspaper's request for public notice of all future hearings and a chance to be heard if the court decided to exclude the press and public from further hearings.

The appellate court reiterated its support of the collateral order doctrine that permits the news media to intervene, though not parties to a litigation, and seek appellate review when confidentiality or closure orders are involved. The court cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Press-Enterprise v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1986) that articulated the two-pronged test for whether the First Amendment mandated access to a particular criminal proceeding: 1)whether such proceedings historically have been open to the press and public; and 2)whether public access to the proceeding in question plays a significant positive role in the functioning of that proceeding. The standard is often referred to as the "experience & logic test" because of the High Court's reference to the institutional value of an open criminal trial being recognized in both experience and logic.

The 5th Circuit decision stated: "We also conclude that the press and the public, including the Chronicle, have a First Amendment right of access to sentencing proceedings,..[and] the district court deprived the Chronicle of its First Amendment right of access, without due process, in refusing to give the press and  public notice and an opportunity to be heard before sealing the sentencing proceeding."

Although the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on the issue of press access to sentencing hearings, by its ruling in this case, the 5th Circuit joins the 2d, 4th, 7th and 9th Circuits in recognizing such a right.

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