Friday, March 22, 2013

Movie of a Lifetime Draws Judicial Interest

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When you turn on cable tv tomorrow night at 8 p.m. with a bowl of microwave popcorn and tune in Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story on Lifetime Television, take a moment to thank the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division (3rd Department) for your night of entertainment.

Acting on an emergency motion from Lifetime, an A+E Networks subsidiary, the appellate division stayed an injunction issued Tuesday by Supreme Court Judge Robert Muller, who granted convicted killer Christopher Porco's request on the grounds that the true-crime pot-boiler violated Porco's privacy. Specifically, New York Civil Rights Section 51, allows an individual whose right-to-publicity is violated to seek a remedy if his "name, picture, portrait or voice is used...for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade without the written consent first obtained."

Lifetime raised its First Amendment dander over judicial prior restraint and argued it was entitled to show the film starring 29-year-old Matt Barr of House Bunny and American Pie Presents Band Camp fame because of its newsworthy subject--the story of Christopher Porco, a guy who killed his father and attempted to murder his mother. Judge Muller believed the work was too fictionalized an account to warrant such protection.

The THR, Esq. Web site originally reported the story. The appellate court gave Porco until April 10 to show cause why Judge Muller's injunctive order shouldn't be lifted, a bit of a head-scratcher because the two-hour film is airing on March 23.

Meanwhile, Lifetime is making the most of the dust-up, advertising the movie as the "Lifetime Original Movie Chris Porco doesn't want you to see." On its Web site, Lifetime Television claims it is "committed to offering the highest quality entertainment and information programming, and advocating a wide range of issues affecting women and their families." Lifetime's commitment includes airing the series Army Wives, Hoarders and Project Runway.

Generally, when convicted felons initiate invasion of privacy suits over news media outlets reporting on their past crimes in retrospectives, courts are unsympathetic, taking the position that the camera-shy plaintiffs could avoid unwanted attention by not robbing banks or engaging in other socially unacceptable behavior.

On second thought, instead of thanking the New York Appellate Division for upholding the First Amendment, you might want to take stock and address why you're home on a Saturday night eating microwave popcorn and watching half-baked ripped-from-the-headlines tv movies.
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1 comment:

  1. If you are famous enough for a movie to be made about you (with your name in the title and on the main character) then the movie's maker has the right of publicity. If it's "too fictionalized" to justify that, then the movie could be about someone else and your privacy was not violated.

    Also, it seems to me, that if going to prison for life means you lose your right to vote, then your property rights should follow, too.

    Speaking of property rights, doesn't the "Son of Sam" law mean that a criminal can't profit from books/movies based on his/her crime? You can't cheat someone out of something they're not entitled to.