United Kingdom

Warning: UK Libel Law May be Hazardous to Your Health

It seems that the American Congress is not the only group enraged by England’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws.  Sense About Science, a British charity that promotes public understanding of science, is lobbying the

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Sethi v. TechCrunch

Date: 

06/28/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

TechCrunch; Michael Arrington

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

International

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On February 19, 2009, lawyers representing Sam Sethi, a former employee of TechCrunch and former CEO of now-defunct BlogNation, sent a letter to TechCrunch co-founder Michael Arrington threatening suit "within the jurisdiction of the High Court of England and Wales, at the Royal Courts of Justice (in London, UK)" for libel. 

The basis for the suit is a series of allegedly defamatory posts on CrunchNotes (the TechCrunch blog) which stated, according to the letter, that:

  • "[S]ome of [Sethi's] former writers have accused him of fraud and other crimes."
  • Sethi "had threatened to kill" one of his former business associates.
  • Sethi was "involved in '. . . usury, fraud even'" (quoting from a blog post by Oliver Starr).
  • Sethi is "predisposed to making threats of violence and making others feel threatened by him and being thoroughly deceitful."

Sethi is also suing based upon the "posting [of] a confidential (and stolen) termsheet from [BlogNations'] VC funders," which, according to Sethi's lawyers, "seriously jeopardize[d]" the BlogNation's funding.  Sethi is asking TechCrunch to remove all posts that include allegedly false accusations about him, publish an apology, undertake "not to repeat the same or similar libels again," pay his legal costs, and donate damages to a charity or "towards fees of those unpaid editors at Blognation who had remained faithful to the end."

Michael Arrington replied to Sethi's letter through his lawyers, asserting that TechCrunch is "not susceptible to the jurisdiction of English courts" and that an English judgment would not be recognized or enforced by US courts.  He also provided evidence, mostly in the form of blog posts and comments by others, that he believes supports the veracity of the statements made in the CrunchNotes posts at issue.  TechCrunch has also offered Sethi the opportunity to submit a reply "concerning the challenged statements" that would be posted "with equal prominence to [TechCrunch's] previous posts about him."

According to TechCrunch, a lawsuit was filed on June 28, 2009. Based on third party reports, the lawsuit appears to have been filed in the United Kingdom.

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

07/07/2009 - LB editing; cannot find court information or documents

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Guinness World Records v. FAIL Blog

Date: 

07/01/2009

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

FAIL Blog

Type of Party: 

Organization

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Material Reinstated

Description: 

Guinness World Records Limited (GWR) sent a cease-and-desist email to FAIL Blog after it published a posting called "Record Breaking Fail," which showed a screenshot from the Guinness World Records website for the entry "most individuals killed in a terrorist attack."  The "fail" captured by the screenshot was a link on the page -- apparently part of the site's template -- encouraging readers to "break this record." The email claimed that FAIL Blog's posting infringed GWR's trademark rights because its "star and pedestal" logo appeared in the screenshot.

FAIL Blog took down the original screenshot came down and replaced it with a slightly altered version with the GWR logo fuzzed out, a copy of GWR's C&D, and a comic yet biting response warning GWR that "douchebaggy cyber-bullying emails will only bring upon you more shame on your house." The FAIL Blog response elaborated:

Since we at FAIL Blog(TM) don’t have a legal defense department, we have complied with your request to remove the trademarked term and logo from the original image. We have used the “naughty bits filter” on the image to secure your naughty, naughty, trademark assertions. However, we have posted your email so that our audience can see why we had to remove the name of the failer from the image. I hope that this is the outcome you have expected as now NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW THAT GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS LIMITED HAS FAILED.

Techdirt reports that it has removed the original world record page from its site.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Bible & Gospel Trust v. Twinam

Date: 

01/25/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Timothy J. Twinam; Sallie Twinam; Peebs.net

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont

Case Number: 

1:07-cv-00017

Legal Counsel: 

Rebecca E. Boucher, Ronald A. Shems - Shems Dunkiel Kassel & Saunders, PLLC (for Defendant Timothy Twinam); Pro se (Defendant Sallie Twinam)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Bible & Gospel Trust, associated with a religious group known as the Exclusive Brethren, sued Sallie and Timothy Twinam claiming that they were the owners and operators of the website Peebs.net, which is critical of the Exclusive Brethren.  

The complaint, which includes claims of copyright infringement, conversion, and tortious interference with a contractual relationship, arises from the alleged posting of materials from the Exclusive Brethren's now-defunct website, exclusivebrethren.net.  Bible & Gospel Trust claims that all interests in exclusivebrethren.net and its contents were transferred to it as part of a settlement agreement in an earlier case, and that the unauthorized posting of the material on Peebs.net constitutes a violation of Bible & Gospel Trust’s copyrights.  

Although Timothy Twinam denied being the owner of Peebs.net in his answer, he later admitted to owning the site during discovery, according to a Peebs.net press release.  Sallie Twinam admits to having been a “nominal owner” of the site only for the period of time between April 5, 2007 and January 25, 2008.  Both deny that the alleged copyrighted material was published on Peebs.net.  

Bible & Gospel Trust is seeking an injunction preventing the publication of its copyrighted material, an order compelling Twinam and Peebs.net to destroy all copies of the copyrighted material in their possession and to publish a retraction and an apology, and compensatory and punitive damages.

Timothy Twinam has filed a special motion to strike under Vermont's Anti-SLAPP statute (12 V.S.A. § 1041).  The court is treating this motion as a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, but has yet to rule on this motion. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

This is the same organization in Bible Gospel Trust v. Wyman

Some of the docs for this are on WL at 2009 WL 1707523

06/25/09 - LB editing

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Oxford Round Table, Inc. v. Mahone

Date: 

06/25/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Sloan Mahone

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky

Case Number: 

3:07CV-330-H

Legal Counsel: 

Charles W. Chapman; Rodger W. Lofton

Publication Medium: 

Email
Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Oxford Round Table, Inc. ("ORT"), a Kentucky corporation that conducts educational conferences at various colleges within Oxford University, sued Oxford lecturer Sloan Mahone for defamation and tortious interference in federal court in Kentucky.  ORT claimed that Mahone posted defamatory statements on a forum on The Chronicle of Higher Education website.  According to court documents, in these postings Mahone criticized ORT's business operations, calling it a "scam" and a "misrepresentation."  Also, Mahone allegedly sent critical emails to a colleague at Oxford and a prospective participant in one of ORT's conferences. 

After ORT filed suit, Mahone moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.  The court granted the motion, finding that Mahone lacked the requisite minimum contacts with the State of Kentucky.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

User Submission Form

Subject Area: 

Duchovny v. Daily Mail

Date: 

10/22/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Daily Mail

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Retraction Issued

Description: 

X-Files star David Duchovny filed a lawsuit against British publication the Daily Mail over an article published on the newspaper's website that accused him of cheating on his wife Tea Leoni with his tennis instructor.  The Daily Mail took down the article shortly after its publication, but other news sites picked it up and republished it, according to Reuters.

The Daily Mail published a retraction in November 2008, indicating that the original story was inaccurate.  This may mean that the parties have settled or are close to a settlement.

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Reuters

Checked 6/18/09; no new info - CMF

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

RSS

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

U.K. Man Sued for Libel over Feedback on eBay

The Telegraph is reporting that a U.K. man has filed a libel lawsuit over negative feedback he received from a buyer on eBay:

Chris Read used the auction website's feedback facility to claim that the device he was sold by Joel Jones, a 26-year-old businessman from Suffolk, did not live up to its billing.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Zwebner v. Doe

Date: 

09/02/2003

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does aka Tobias95; John 1-100 Does

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Case Number: 

1:03-cv-22328

Legal Counsel: 

L. Van Stillman

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Michael J. Zwebner, CEO of penny-stock holding company Universal Communication Systems, sued a number of "Doe" defendants over statements on the Raging Bull financial message board that were critical of him and his company. 

Zwebner's 300+ page complaint seeks damages for harassment, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

On November 18, 2003, one of the anonymous defendants filed a motion to quash plaintiffs' subpoena to Lycos, operator of the Raging Bull forum.  Lycos also refused to comply with the subpoena after reviewing the complaint. 

On February 4, 2004, the court dismissed the case without prejudice due to Zwebner's failure to file a joint scheduling report.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

via cyberslapp

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Public Citizen

Subject Area: 

Obi v. Netcetera

Date: 

01/22/2008

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Netcetera; Andy Lewis a.k.a Le Canard Noir

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Intermediary

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

Dublin-based alternative medicine practitioner Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi sent a cease-and-desist letter through his "adviser" to Netcetera, the web hosting company for Dr. Andy Lewis (a.k.a Le Canard Noir), who provides skeptical commentary on alternative medicine on his Quackometer blog. The letter complainted about two posts -- "Right Royal College of Pompous Quackery" published September 28, 2006, and "Ethical Quackery, the Monarchy and Kate Moss" published October 12, 2006.  These posts were critical of Obi and the Royal College of Alternative Medicine, of which Obi is the provost.

Obi alleged that the posts defamed him and the Royal College. The letter threatened to seek one million pounds per day in damages if Netcetera refused to take the offending posts down. The basis for this large sum of damages was not specified.

Netcetera complied with Obi's demands, but the articles have been reposted by other internet users at various locations, including No Nonsense!  Fellow skeptical blogger Orac is also calling for readers to repost the items.

A similar course of events played out three months earlier, when the Society of Homeopaths successfully demanded that one of Lewis's articles be taken down from Quackometer. See the CMLP database entry, Society of Homeopaths v. Netcetera. Lewis now says that he is looking for a new web hosting company.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Note: This is a low-priority threat entry. {MCS}

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Society of Homeopaths v. Netcetera

Date: 

10/11/2007

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Netcetera; Andy Lewis, a.k.a Le Canard Noir

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Intermediary

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

The UK-based Society of Homeopaths sent a cease-and-desist letter to web host Netcetera demanding that it remove a post from Le Canard Noir's Quackometer blog entitled "The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing."

The Society alleged that the post, which criticized it for refusing to condemn the acts of homeopaths who claimed that they could provide pills that prevent and cure malaria, was defamatory. Netcetera complied with the demand and removed the post on October 11, 2007. Andy Lewis (a.k.a Le Canard Noir), wrote to the Society seeking clarification about which statements in particular were allegedly false and defamatory. The Society refused to provide these details, but apparently again wrote to Netcetera complaining that it had been contacted directly by Lewis.

According to DC's Improbable Science, within 24 hours of the takedown the post had been reposted on scores of blogs and news groups all around the world. The post is still reposted in many of these locations, suggesting that the Society has not attempted to stop these republications.

Netcetera received and complied with a similar letter from Dublin-based alternative medicine practitioner Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi. See the CMLP database entry, Obi v. Netcetera.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Universal Communication Systems v. Lycos

Date: 

07/02/2004

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Universal Communication Systems, Inc.; Michael Zwebner

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Lycos, Inc.; Terra Networks, S.A.; Roberto Villasenor; John Does (1-8)

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida; United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts; United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Case Number: 

1:04-cv-21618 (first Fla. action), 1:05-cv-20149 (second Fla. action), 1:05-cv-10435 (first Mass. action), 1:05-cv-11172 (second Mass. action); 06-1826 (appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

Daniel Cloherty, David Bunis, Rachel Zoob-Hill (Dwyer & Collora) (for Lycos); Thomas Rohback, James Reardon (LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae) (Terra Networks)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Injunction Denied

Description: 

Universal Communication Systems ("UCS") and its CEO, Michael Zwebner, sued Lycos, its Spanish parent company Terra Networks, and several anonymous users of Lycos's Raging Bull forum after the anonymous users created a forum about UCS and criticized the company there. UCS sought an injunction requiring Lycos to delete the UCS forum and to prevent it from ever being recreated.

In its original complaint, filed in federal court in Florida, UCS invoked claims of consumer fraud under Massachusetts law, dilution of trade name under Florida law, and a federal "cyberstalking" statute. Lycos moved to dismiss UCS's claims or, alternatively, to transfer the case to Massachusetts federal court.  UCS moved for a preliminary injunction, which the court denied.  UCS amended and resubmitted its motion for a preliminary injunction.

Before ruling on the motions before it, the court stayed discovery in the case.  UCS, however, initiated a new, second action in Florida federal court, which made largely identical claims. Lycos moved to consolidate the two cases.  The court instead granted Lycos' earlier motion to transfer the venue of the first action to Massachusetts.  The court hearing the second action soon transferred it to Massachusetts as well, and the Massachusetts court consolidated the two cases. 

At this point, UCS's complaint alleged four causes of action: (1) violation of Florida securities laws; (2) violation of a federal criminal statute prohibiting harassing communications (47 U.S.C. § 223); (3) trademark dilution under Florida law; and (4) violation of a Florida "cyberstalking" statute. In Massachusetts, Lycos moved to dismiss the claims against it, arguing that it was protected from liability for third party content under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA 230"). Terra also moved to dismiss, claiming that the Massachusetts federal court had no jurisdiction over it, but even if it did, UCS had not shown Terra liable for the acts of its subsidiary.

The Massachusetts district court granted both motions, ruling that CDA 230 barred the Florida securities and cyberstalking claims, that the Florida dilution claim was a defamation claim in disguise and thus also barred by CDA 230, and that 47 U.S.C. § 223 did not create a private cause of action.

UCS moved to file an amended complaint against Lycos and Terra, but the court denied the motion, ruling that the defendants would still be immune from the claims in the proposed amended complaint.  The court, however, did allow UCS to add the anonymous forum users to the lawsuit.  UCS filed its amended complaint with claims of fraud against the users, and moved for entry of separate and final judgment, so that it might withdraw its claims against Lycos and Terra while retaining its new claims against the anonymous posters.  One of the anonymous posters, Roberto Villasenor, answered UCS's complaint and filed counterclaims against UCS, as well as crossclaims against the other posters. The Massachusetts court denied UCS's motion for entry of separate and final judgment, finding that it lacked jurisdiction over Villasenor and the other anonymous posters.

UCS appealed these decisions to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  The First Circuit affirmed the lower courts rulings and dismissed the case.  It decided that CDA 230 granted immunity to Lycos and Terra on the Florida securities and cyberstalking claims.  It also affirmed that 47 U.S.C. § 223 did not create and private cause of action and that use of UCS's name in the Raging Bull forum did not create trademark liability. Finally, it agreed that, without the claims against Lycos and Terra, the court lacked jurisdiction to hear UCS's claims against the anonymous users.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Max Mosley's S&M Party Not A Matter of Legitimate Public Concern, Says English Court

Admittedly, Max Mosley's lawsuit against an English tabloid is not the heartland of citizen media, but who can resist posting about a story that involves "sadomasochistic orgies, car racing, and Nazis," as Bill McGeveran puts it.  Mosley, the head of the governing body for Formula One racing, sued the News of the World for reporting in March 2008 that he organized a “sick Nazi orgy” with five prostitute

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Holding Government Accountable One Click at a Time

“Laws are like sausages. You should never watch them being made.” This adage, generally attributed to Otto von Bismarck, rings true to anyone who has had the opportunity to watch Congress make public policy. Just tune into C-SPAN sometime for a taste.

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Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Metallica v. The Quietus

Date: 

06/01/2008

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Quietus.com; MetalHammer.co.uk; Rock-Sound.net; Bob Mulhouse

Type of Party: 

Organization
Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Representatives of rock band Metallica demanded that websites and blogs take down reviews of unreleased songs from the band's forthcoming album. The band's management had played six songs from the album for a group of U.K. music journalists and bloggers, including writers for Metal Hammer, Rock Sound, The Quietus, Classic Rock, and others, at a listening party in London on June 04, 2008. According to one attendee, those invited were not asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Following contact from a third party representing QPrime, Metallica's management, at least three sites – Metal Hammer, Rock Sound, and The Quietus – removed their reviews. Classic Rock edited their review to remove any specific information about the songs or the album's sound. The Listening Post cites sources as saying the band's management wanted the reviews pulled because they were based upon an early mix of the album.

On June 11, 2008, Metallica posted a message to their website stating that the takedowns had been instigated by QPrime without the band's permission. The message included links to reviews from Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, and The Quietus. Following the June 11 posting, all of the reviews were placed back online.

 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

English Libel Law's Pernicious Impact on First Amendment Speech

Floyd Abrams published an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal that highlights the impact of foreign law, especially English libel law, on speech in the United States. Abrams notes:

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Geller v. Sapient (Letter)

Date: 

10/02/2007

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Brian Sapient

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

US District Court for the Northern District of California

Case Number: 

3:07-cv-02478 VRW

Legal Counsel: 

Corynne Mcsherry, Jason Schultz, Marcia Hofmann (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Description: 

Brian Sapient, a member of the "Rational Response Squad," a group which seeks to debunk what it considers irrational beliefs, posted a video on YouTube from the NOVA television program "Secrets of the Psychics," in which magician James Randi challenges the performance techniques of famous spoon-bender Uri Geller. The clip allegedly incorporated images from a film of Geller performing at a charity event in England, the copyrights to which were assigned by the film-maker to Geller's company, Explorologist. According to Sapient, this portion of the NOVA clip lasts only eight seconds.

Geller sent a DMCA takedown notice to YouTube, alleging that the NOVA clip infringed his copyrights in the charity performance film. As a result,
YouTube removed the video from its website and suspended Sapient's account.

On May 8, 2007, Sapient, with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, filed a lawsuit alleging that Geller's takedown notice knowingly, materially misrepresented a claim of copyright infringement in violation of section 512(f) of the DMCA because no reasonable person could believe that the NOVA clip's use of the excerpted footage was not fair use. Sapient seeks damages, a declaratory judgment the video does not infringe Geller's copyrights, and an order restraining Geller from bringing further actions against Sapient in respect of the video.

(See also CMLP's entry for the related case, Explorologist v. Sapient, a suit brought by Geller's company against Sapient in Pennsylvania alleging that the publication of the footage breaches Explorologist's copyrights under UK law.)

UPDATE: Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, and insufficiency of allegations surrounding the content of the takedown notice. The defendants also moved to change venue to the Eastern District Pennsylvania, where the Explorogist v. Sapient case is being heard. On Feb. 4, 2008, the court granted the motion to dismiss as to personal jurisdiction, primarily because the DMCA takedown notice was sent from outside the United States. The court noted that Sapient may now bring his misrepresentation claim against Geller as a counterclaim in the Explorologist case.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Comparative Analysis of Copyright Fair Use in Canada, United Kingdom, and United States

Giuseppina D'Agostino, a law professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, has a new paper coming out entitled "Healing Fair Dealing? A Comparative Copyright Analysis of Canadian Fair Dealing to UK Fair Dealing and US Fair Use." Here is the abstract:

As a result of the March 4, 2004 Supreme Court of Canada decision in CCH Canadian Ltd v Law Society of Upper Canada for the first time in Canadian copyright history, the court determined that Canadian law must recognize a "user right" to carry on exceptions generally and fair dealing in particular. This paper compares the Canadian fair dealing legislation and jurisprudence to that of the UK and the US. It is observed that because of CCH, the Canadian common law fair dealing factors are more flexible than those entrenched in the US. For the UK, certain criteria have emerged from the caselaw consonant to Canada's pre-CCH framework and in many ways there is now a hierarchy of factors with market considerations at the fore.
The real differences, however, ultimately lie in the policy preoccupations held by the respective courts, with Canada's top court alone concerned in championing user rights above all other rights. The paper concludes that Canadian fair dealing does not require too much healing but would benefit from some remedies outside (and complimentary to) the law and the courts. While doing nothing does not seem to be the appropriate response, legal intervention as many advocate may not be warranted either. Rather than, or at the very least together with, reforming the law, establishing fair dealing best practices is most promising. The parties directly affected in a specific industry can together develop these guidelines to ultimately aid in clearer and ongoing fairer fair dealing decision-making in the courts. It is here that US initiatives can serve as most fruitful to emulate.

It's nice to see some scholarly attention paid to the differences between the Canadian, U.K., and U.S. approaches to this important subject.

You can download the entire article from the Social Science Research Network.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Explorologist v. Sapient

Date: 

06/12/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Brian Sapient

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

07-1848

Legal Counsel: 

Chad Cooper, Samuel W. Silver

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Settled (total)

Description: 

In May 200, Explorologist Limited, a company incorporated in the United Kingdown by paranormalist Uri Geller, brought a lawsuit against Brian Sapient, a member of the Rational Response Squad. The dispute revolved around two videos posted by Sapient on YouTube. One video was a clip from a NOVA television program "Secrets of Psychics," in which magician James Randi challenges the performance techniques of Geller ("NOVA clip"). The NOVA clip allegedly incorporates images from a film of Geller performing at a charity event in England, the copyrights to which were assigned by the film-maker to Explorologist. According to Sapient, this portion of the NOVA clip lasts only eight seconds. The second video showed Sapient himself discussing Geller's performances ("Sapient clip").

Explorologist sued Sapient in federal court in Pennsylvania, alleging that posting the NOVA clip violated its UK copyright in the charity performance film, and that Sapient defamed the company and Geller in their trade (commercial disparagement) and misapproriated Geller's name and likeness "for his own benefit and commercial purpose." Sapient moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and in October 2007 the court dismissed the commercial disparagement claim for failure to properly plead damages with specificity. The court refused to dismiss the other claims, but expresed its initial reservations about whether the claim against Sapient is actionable under UK copyright law, because it is derivative on a claim against YouTube, whose server is located outside the UK.

Update:

2/15/2008 - Explorologist moved to dismiss the case due to its inability to produce a foreign witness for a deposition in Philadelphia.

2/22/2008 - Sapient moved for leave to file an amended answer and counterclaims against Explorologist.

6/3/2008 - Court ruled that Explorologist's motion to dismiss and Sapient's motion to file an amended answer will be heard, if necessary, after settlement negotiations are completed.

8/4/08 -  The parties settled the lawsuit.  As part of the settlement, Explorologist agreed to license the disputed footage under a non-commercial CC license, to avoid future disputes about fair use of the material. A montetary settlement was reached, but the terms are not public.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Status updated on 6/4/2008. It sounds like the parties may be settling, though Sapient's got several counterclaims in the works. (AAB)

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Pages