Explorologist v. Sapient

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

06/12/2007

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Pennsylvania

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Settled (total)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
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.... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Brian Sapient

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • United Kingdom

Location of Party: 

  • Pennsylvania

Legal Counsel: 

Chad Cooper, Samuel W. Silver
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.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Video

Publication Medium: 

Website

Subject Area: 

  • Copyright
  • Right of Publicity
  • Trade Libel
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • Pennsylvania

Source of Law: 

  • Pennsylvania
  • United Kingdom

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Court Type: 

Federal

Case Number: 

07-1848

Relevant Documents: 

CMLP Information (Private)

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)