Court resurrects a killer’s privacy suit over film

He’s the real-life ax murderer who keeps acting like a terrifying character in a Hollywood slasher movie, popping up repeatedly at inopportune times in scary fashion. Yes, he’s baaack: Christopher Porco, convicted of murdering his father and attempting to murder his mother with an ax while the victims were at home asleep in their bed, has just won from prison a New York court ruling that may send some shivers up the spines of movie makers whose works are rooted in reality.

A New York Court of Appeals judge recently reversed the dismissal of Porco’s suit against Lifetime Networks over claims of statutory privacy violations (a tip of the hat to the Hollywood Reporter for posting may key documents in this case online). Four years ago, he sued Lifetime after it produced a made-for-television film based on the public story of his heinous crime. A furious court battle erupted and threatened to prevent the airing of Lifetime’s Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story, starring Eric McCormack, Matt Barr and Lolita Davidovitch. It didn’t.

But, cue the screechy Psycho violins as the soundtrack, and let’s see how this case, some say, menaces the movie business all over again.

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New Calif. law captures some of the burning anger about ageism, sexism in Hollywood

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Amy Schumer’s parody of Hollywood gender and age bias

Although the adage holds that “it’s never polite to ask a lady her age,” in Hollywood, the very point of view captured in that aphorism has itself become a new flashpoint. That’s because women, unions, politicians, industry executives, and those who run online sites are struggling with the unhappy reality that in Tinsel Town “leading men age but their love interests don’t.”

For many actresses, age isn’t simply a number— it is leading reason why some will be passed up for a role. Just ask Maggie Gyllenhall, who recently was  told that “37 is ‘too old’ for a 55-year-old love interest.” Ageism, as industry critics have decried, is widespread and rampant for actresses, especially for those older than 34.

As more headlines detail Hollywood’s woes with ageism and sexism,  in anecdotal tales from the industry’s leading ladies, in infamous corporate hacks, and in comedy sketches parodying the situation, the movie industry is showing how hard it is grappling for solutions to its long-accepted issues with biases.

But is the right response to these incendiary issues to be found in California laws? There’s a new one that will require select websites, starting in Jaunuary, to pull down performer’s ages upon request. Gov. Jerry Brown supported and recently signed AB 1687. Since its enactment, the Internet has been abuzz over this bill. Why? (more…)

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A problematic ruling on password sharing

9th sigThis guest post was contributed by a blog alumna, and a newly graduated Southwestern juris doctor, who notes that she would have weighed in on this topic sooner, except she was studying and sitting for the most recent California Bar exam.

The Internet went into a tizzy early last month when United States v. Nosal came down from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Blog after blog (after blog) proclaimed that this opinion made it illegal to use another person’s Netflix account. Earlier this year, this blog posted on this topic so how did the situation change?

Bottom line: the court found that defendant David Nosal violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) when he used a former co-worker’s password to access trade-secret information belonging to Korn Ferry, an executive recruiting and human relations company that also was his former employer. He then took this information and used it to set up his own firm in direct competition to Korn Ferry. This would lend credence to the idea that mere password-sharing is illegal.

But it is important to remember that the court made a distinction, differentiating according to the situation. “The circumstance here – former employees whose computer access was categorically revoked and who surreptitiously accessed data owned by their former employer – bears little resemblance to asking a spouse to log into an email account to print a boarding pass,” the appellate judges said. (more…)

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Prenda firm’s ‘trolling’ draws appellate fire

Have the pernicious copyright-related practices of the Prenda law firm finally come to an end? Judges on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have bench-slapped  the firm as sternly as can be, with a recent decision affirming U.S. District Judge Otis copyright-trollWright’s sanctions against the Prenda lawyers.

This tawdry tale includes some strange twists: Wright, a Southwestern Law alum and Star Trek fan, wrote a scathing decision  that was one of several decisions from judges nationwide, calling out the Prenda lawyers for their copyright trolling. Judges have termed firm actions to be “legal shakedowns,” and abusive of the judicial system.

Just to remind: The now infamous Prenda lawyers created a commercial business targeting those who liked to download adult videos. The lawyers had, TechDirt says, “sketchy copyright trolling practices that appeared to include Team Prenda uploading their own content to torrent sites, [and] tracking who downloaded them.” Then the firm, on behalf of its dummy corporation that “owned” copyrights on the blue videos,  would sue rafts of down-loaders claiming infringement; rather than risk the embarrassment of public exposure of their naughty hobby, defendants agreed to relatively small settlements that soon added up to significant sums. (more…)

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Drone drama: FAA fines operator $1.9 million

FAAThis guest post was written by Jason D. Knight, a Southwestern 2016 juris doctorate candidate.

As a previous post here has discussed, bad actors have complicated the efforts by regulators and lawmakers to provide their pledged rules for what has become one of Hollywood film and television shooters’ hottest technologies: unmanned aerial systems or drones. The FAA has deployed its ”file-and-fly”’ system for them and now 1,800 plus Section 333 exemptions have been granted to lawful operators.

But the clamor to deal with the aerial cowboys also has lassoed what the feds deem a significant offender: SkyPan International, Inc., a Chicago based drone service that provides aerial photography services. The FAA issued a proposed $1.9 million civil penalty against the operator on Oct. 6 for continued and flagrant violations of federal aviation rules. This is the highest penalty to date against a drone operator. If the FAA is successful in collecting this fine, it could set off a series of enforcement actions by the agency against unauthorized drone flights in the national airspace. (more…)

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What’s up with drones in skies over Hollywood?

DroneFilm1This guest post was written by Jason D. Knight, a Southwestern 2016 juris doctorate candidate.

Hollywood was sky high just six months ago when federal regulators recognized the need to support the industry’s global leadership by allowing select firms to fly unmanned aerial systems, aka drones, to shoot movies. Regulators promised to follow quickly with new rules for all drones and their flights but the months since have only proven to be full of ups-and-downs for policy-makers trying to figure how to deal with this fast-growing and novel technology.

It’s been nothing less than a bumpy ride, especially in the Golden State: Fire fighters battling record blazes have had to curtail their work due to illegal drone incursions; airports and commercial aviators are reporting illegal drone flights in regulated air space nationwide with frightening regularity; Los Angeles police say an illegal drone flight interfered with one of their investigations; and only the intervention of Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto has kept state lawmakers from stepping in a trying to impose their own rules about drone flights.

Is this technology dangerous, innovative, useful, or a nuisance? What, in short, is up with drones now? Let’s take off with some key information about them….. (more…)

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Privacy event to address celebrity issues, rights

Neville_L_Johnson_JJLLPLAW_2015DroozDeborahGary_BostwickProminent scholars, lawyers and government officials will gather on April 17 at Southwestern for the Second Annual Online Privacy Conference, presented by the law school’s Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute. Participants will explore a spectrum of privacy issues, including, notably for Entertainment Law practitioners, a session on  Celebrity and Privacy/Publicity Rights. (more…)

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In EU, anti-terrorism act runs afoul of privacy

metadataThe European Court of Justice has ruled that the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, which required all telecommunications providers to retain telephone and Internet metadata, violated the privacy rights of individuals. The court, the European Union’s highest judicial body, sought to balance the act’s legitimate law enforcement and anti-terrorism purposes against the fundamental privacy rights of individuals; the judges said the act violated the principle of proportionality and was insufficiently circumscribed to ensure interference was limited to the strictly necessary. (more…)

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Sony exec sees need for audience engagement

Leah Weil, Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Image Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Hollywood has no choice but to engage with its audiences as part of its efforts to confront intellectual property piracy and to figure how to make user-generated content work for rather than against industry interests, Leah Weil, senior executive vice president and general counsel of Sony Pictures Entertainment, told an audience at the law school recent.

Weil, who oversees all legal matters relating to Sony Pictures divisions worldwide, including motion pictures, television, and home and digital entertainment, spoke recently with Steve Krone, director of the Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Institute as part of Southwestern’s “Conversation with…” speaker series. (more…)

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Hulk adds bulk to legal cases on sex tapes

Hulk_HoganWell, yeah, it’s Friday, and the most overpowering issue to be dealt with may be tamping down the urge to hit that door to flee for the weekend. But here’s something legal and a little strong — or at least the visual may stick in the head in not exactly pleasant fashion: How much exactly do we all need to see one-time champion wrestler, sometime reality TV dad and sixty-something Floridian Terry Gene Bollea romping around the bedroom, sans even that teeny-tiny Speedo he pranced around in when he was a ring star known as Hulk Hogan? Grab a strong cup of java, brace for a little eeew factor and let’s confront that, while Hulk Hogan may be strong, he’s not mighty enough to win a pre-publication restraint on the First Amendment right to free speech:  a Florida appellate court has lifted a temporary injunction Bollea had won to prevent that all-important press outlet gawker.com (slogan: Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news) for posting about him in yet another celebrity sex tape. Counselors, are these kerfuffles about these kinds of vids becoming their own closet industry? (more…)

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