Broadway Producers Offer to Perform “To Kill a Mockingbird” in Court to Prove Faithfulness to Novel

In a complaint filed Monday, the producers of a forthcoming Broadway version of To Kill a Mockingbird, with a script written by Aaron Sorkin, are seeking a judicial declaration that the play is consistent with a written agreement to the rights to the play for just these purposes.  An alleged representative of Harper Lee’s estate has objected to the script as unfaithful to the novel.  The complaint makes an unusual offer to prove that this is not so:

Because the “Play” is defined in the Agreement as the “live stage” adaptation of the Novel, and not merely the script therefore, resolution of [plaintiff’s] declaratory judgment action will require the Court to view the Play itself, and not simply read the script. In order to facilitate a speedy resolution, [plaintiff] is willing to arrange for an immediate performance of the Play, by its full cast, for the Court’s benefit in this Courthouse. Upon seeing the Play, it will be apparent that the Play does not impermissibly depart from the spirit of the Novel or alter its characters in any way . . . .

The case is before Judge Torres.

More from the NY Times here.

See here for prior coverage of another SDNY case involving To Kill a Mockingbird

Judge Batts Unseals Bill O’Reilly’s Confidential Settlement Agreements

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Batts unsealed certain confidential settlement agreements (now available here) relating to harassment claims against former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly.  The plaintiffs are parties to those agreements and their suit (see our previous covered here) claims that O’Reilly defamed them by calling them “smear merchants” and otherwise implying that their grievances against him were unfounded.

Judge Batts concluded that the settlements were “judicial documents” that were subject to a presumption of public access.  She rejected O’Reilly’s arguments that there were countervailing considerations that merited keeping the documents under seal:

Defendant first argues that the Agreements are “private agreement[s], which . . . the Parties intended to keep confidential.” . . . . Yet Courts in this District have long held that bargained for confidentiality does not overcome the presumption of access to judicial documents.

Defendant next makes the conclusory assertion that the Agreements concern “embarrassing conduct with no public ramifications.” Defendant does not explain what conduct may, or may not, be embarrassing or the public ramifications of that conduct.

Judge Swain: Discovery Necessary to Determine “Fair Use” of NBA Tattoos in Video Game

In the copyright case over the use of images of real NBA players’ tattoos in the NBA 2K video game (see our prior coverage here), Judge Swain on Friday denied defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings. She concluded that more discovery was needed to determine whether the tattoos were such a “de minimis” part of the game as to fall outside the copyright laws, or whether the depiction of the tattoos was “fair use”: Continue Reading

Judge Failla Again Dismisses Securities Fraud Case Over Food-Borne Illness Outbreaks at Chipotle

In a detailed 74-page opinion yesterday, Judge Failla dismissed a securities fraud complaint against Chipotle arising from its alleged failure to properly disclose to investors various matters relating to the food-borne illness outbreaks that caused its stock to drop.  She had dismissed an earlier version of the complaint last year, as we covered here.

Judge Failla ruled (among other things) that generalized statements in Chipotle’s filings about its commitment to food safety could not be the basis for fraud: Continue Reading

Fox News Sued for Allegedly Peddling Conspiracy Theories About Murdered DNC Staffer

complaint this week alleges that Fox News and two contributors intentionally exploited the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich during the 2016 election season.  Rich was murdered in Washington in what authorities believed was a botched robbery; the complaint alleges that Fox News reported a false story that Rich had been murdered after leaking thousands of DNC emails to Wikileaks.  According to the complaint, Fox News induced Rich’s parents to hire a private investigator to help “solve” the murder without informing them that the information would be used in a “sham story” that would be repeatedly covered in the lead-up to the 2016 election.  Fox News retracted the story in May 2017.

The complaint includes claims for intentional inflection of emotion distress,  aiding and abetting, conspiracy, tortious interference with contract, and negligent supervision.

The case is currently pending before Judge Daniels.

In Trump Twitter Case, Parties Dispute Whether President’s Tweets Are Government Action; Judge Buchwald Floats “Muting” Compromise

Last week, Judge Buchwald heard oral argument (see transcript here) on summary judgment motions in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump (see our previous coverage here). The suit alleges that President Trump and others violated the First Amendment when they blocked Twitter users who wrote tweets critical of the president.  The plaintiffs claim that preventing them from viewing comments, replying to tweets, and participating in comment threads denies access to an important public forum in the 21st century.

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Judge Rakoff Bemoans “Factual and Legal Fictions” Underlying Enforcement of Consumer Arbitration Clauses

In an opinion today in the Uber antitrust case, which was on remand from the Second Circuit (see our prior coverage here), Judge Rakoff sent the case to arbitration based on the “Terms of Service” within Uber’s phone application.  Before doing so, however, he complained of having to enforce terms that “everyone recognizes” are “totally coerced”: Continue Reading

Second Circuit: Searchable Database of TV Clips Is Not “Fair Use”

In an opinion today, the Second Circuit held that the “fair use” defense under copyright law did not apply to a service called “TVEyes” that allows users to search transcripts of cable news and other TV shows, and then watch clips up to 10 minutes long (called the “Watch” function).  The decision was a reversal of an earlier ruling by Judge Hellerstein (see our prior coverage here).

The Second Circuit first concluded that TVEyes’ Watch service was “transformative,” a key component of a fair use defense, insofar as it allows users to isolate clips based on their searches: Continue Reading