Category Archives: Media Law Case of the Week

The FCC is on MySpace–with censorship?

FCC MySpace Page
I stumbled across an article in The Hill about the Federal Communications Commission launching a MySpace page last week.

Not only is the MySpace page of interest, but so is a question raised by a blogger Adam Thierer at The Technology Liberation Front. Will the FCC censor the comments on its MySpace page?

The Hill writer Kim Hart found out that yes, an FCC spokesperson says it has a policy to remove comments deemed obscene or inappropriate.

If you want a look at some of the comments that were cut, check out Thierer’s blog.

My favorite comment so far, out of the 11 still remaining on the FCC’s MySpace page, is the following by someone identified as “The Ambience Project”: “Thanks for all the years of suppressing creativity and wasting our money in the process. America is a ****** ***** for it.”

So far, the friends of the FCC on the MySpace page far out number the negative comments. As of 4:20 today, the FCC had 73 friends on My Space and 11 comments (not all negative).

It just makes you wonder how many comments might be there without the policy.


Butler drops lawsuit against student blogger

Watch out, student bloggers.

You may think you can freely spout whatever you choose in your blog, but that’s not the case. In fact, even words that you might see as standing up for your dear mom might land you in court.

A Butler University student has learned that the hard way.
Media Law Case of the Week Logo
Butler University has dropped its libel suit against a student blogger after learning his name. But that’s not the end of the story. The university is going to use “internal disciplinary proceedings” instead to punish the student instead.

And what, oh what, did this student say in his blog to cause all this ruckus?

The comments that the university considered defamatory were about administrators who removed the blogger’s stepmother from her job as chair of the music school, according to the IndyStar.

The comments included calling an administrator “power hungry” and saying that administrator “hurts the ability of the school to recruit talented students and faculty members,” according to the Indiana Daily Student.

See The Indiana Daily Student‘s fabulous editorial on the case here.

So when is a Subway a Subway (TM)?

One of the latest lawsuits out of Vegas has nothing to do with gambling, skin shows or even entertainment.

It has to do with subs. The kind you eat.
Media Law Case of the Week Logo
According to the Las Vegas Sun, Gevork Boyadzhyan opened up a sandwich shop in Las Vegas and called it Subway Avenue.

As you might imagine, the owners of the Subway chain of sandwich shops, Doctor’s Associates Inc., were none too amused. They filed suit in U.S. District Court for trademark infringement and cybersquatting (because of the potential confusion about the name).

So now Subway Avenue has reportedly become Sub Avenue.

It’s Vegas, Baby.

Court stymies attempt to limit ringtones

Finally, common sense prevails.

The fact that others can hear copyrighted music when your cell phone rings does not make you a copyright violator. That’s what a federal judge ruled last week in the U.S. District Court (Southern Division of New York State).
Media Law Case of the Week Logo
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was suing Verizon and AT&T and argued that, in essence, when one’s cell phone rings, it creates a “public performance” of the copyrighted work, and THAT was copyright infringement.

Keep in mind that cell phone users already PAY royalty fees when they buy the ring tone.

The decision states, “ASCAP has not shown any infringement of its members’ rights by the playing of ringtones in public from Verizon’s customers’ telephones. The customers are not liable for copyright infringement, and neither is Verizon.”

For an article about the case and a link to the decision, see Wired’s piece here.

Media Law Case of the Week

So I guess Russians can say that Stalin was responsible for thousands of deaths after all.

Russian autocratic leader Josef Stalin’s grandson sued a Russian newspaper for libel after an article referred to Stalin as having sent thousands to their deaths. Today a Russian court ruled against the grandson.

The case had some in the country wondering if the government and courts would try to change history by denying Stalin’s responsibility.

Will the grandson appeal? We will know within five days.

Media Law Case of the Week

“Don’t upset the apple cart …”

Maybe that old saying should be changed to, “Don’t upset Apple Inc.”

Peggy Watt at PC World writes a great piece about Apple Inc.’s attempt to claim that an Australian company is infringing on its trademark with its logo. She mixes humor and good ole’ media law facts to create the interesting piece.

Here, by the way, are the trademarks:


Media Law Case of the Week

When is a libel threat really an attempt to muffle criticism, in particular press criticism?

Journalists at an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, argue that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is trying to use his libel suit against the paper to do just that — shut up opposing voices, according to UK newspaper The Guardian.

And what did this paper do that the Prime Minister did not like?

La Repubblica has asked that Berlusconi answer “10 New Questions” about his relationships with several women — some of whom are reported to be prostitutes and at least one a minor.

The Guardian reports that the Italian newspaper is trying to get 500,000 people to sign an online petition calling for press freedom by Oct. 3 and that newspaper editors in Britain, Germany, Spain and France have signed it.

If you’d like to sign it, click here. To easily translate the petition from Italian to English, you can use Babel Fish.

Media Law Case of the Week

It was bound to happen.

The lawyer for the suspect in the Yale student’s murder is filing a complaint about law enforcement leaks about the case to the media.

Who can blame him?

At this point, even the casual news consumer knows that law enforcement claims Raymond Clark III’s DNA is all over the crime scene. Public Defender Joseph Lopez is laying the groundwork for a claim that it will difficult, if not impossible, for his client to get a fair trial.

Speaking of high profile cases that lead to difficulties in getting a fair trial, the Sam Sheppard case — which inspired “The Fugitive” — was back in the spotlight again on NPR after Sheppard’s son objected to host Scott Simon referring to his father as “the most famous convicted murderer in America.”

You can hear Simon’s interview with the son, Sam Reese Sheppard, here.

Media Law Case of the Week

Poor Annie Leibovitz.

Or perhaps I should say Lucky Annie Leibovitz

The world-famous photographer was in jeopardy of losing her right to the copyrights on some of her famous works because she had not paid off a $24 million loan by the deadline. But now, according to BBC News, she will be able to keep her copyright as long as she sticks to new loan terms.

That is lucky indeed.

Coming Wednesday: An interview with Amy Moritz,  president-elect of the Association for Women in Sports Media and Buffalo News reporter.

Media Law Case of the Week

Sorry Journajunkie has been a way for so long. It’s nice to return and be back in action.

So let’s get right to it with an update to a Media Law Case of the Week from May. Some of you may remember the libel lawsuit of a politician angry that a radio host sent e-mails claiming that said politician was gay. Well, that politician — Tom Fetzer, North Carolina Republican Party chairman — is reportedly getting married next month.

The News & Observer reports that he and his fiance met while she working on a Republican campaign.

But don’t think the glow of love has led to a case of forgive-and-forget. The lawsuit is still on.