In an opinion Monday, Judge Castel allowed (in part) defamation claims to proceed against the makers of the film, “When They See Us,” about the “Central Park Five.” The first sentences of the opinion summarize the context: “On the night of April 19, 1989, a young woman was viciously beaten and raped in Central Park. Five young men of color (the ‘Five’), ranging in age from 14 to 16, were arrested, tried and convicted for the attack. They were exonerated in 2002, after the confession of a man whose DNA matched a sample found near the victim.”

The case was brought by one of the prosecutors, Linda Fairstein, who is “portrayed as the central villain” in the film. Judge Castel explained that, while the film dramatized certain of the events, viewers would still understand it as conveying the “essence” of what really happened, and thereby capable of defaming someone if that portrayal were untrue: Continue Reading Judge Castel: “Docudrama” Over Central Park Five Can Be The Subject of Defamation Claims

Last week, the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Schofield’s decision last year to to deny the motion by Donald Trump, the Trump Corporation, and other Trump family members to compel arbitration of claims related to the multi-level marketing scheme ACN (see our previous coverage here).  Defendants argued that, because the plaintiffs had agreed to arbitrate any claims they might have against ACN, the same arbitration clause should force arbitration of any claims against the Trump defendants related to their endorsement of ACN.

The Second Circuit agreed that equitable estoppel did not apply: Continue Reading Second Circuit Affirms Judge Schofield’s Denial of Motion to Compel Arbitration for Trump-Related Multi-Level Marketing Scheme Claims

In an important copyright ruling today, Judge Rakoff ruled that “embedding” material online — in this case, a news organization embedding in an article a video of a polar bear that the plaintiff posted on Instagram — could violate the copyright laws. He rejected the “server rule” by which there could only be infringement in cases where the defendant makes a copy of the image or video to display from its own server.  Under the server rule, merely embedding the material (essentially, displaying the material via the original source) cannot be infringement.

Judge Rakoff found that the server rule was “contrary to the text and legislative history of the Copyright Act”: Continue Reading Judge Rakoff Finds that “Embedding” Photos and Videos Online Can Infringe Copyrights, Rejecting “Server Rule”

In an opinion today, Judge Cronan granted summary judgment to Sacha Baron Cohen (and other defendants) in a case over his interview of Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, that was broadcast as part of the television show “Who is America?“.

Judge Cronan ruled that the claims against Cohen and others were barred by a waiver that Moore had signed, and that, in addition, claims by Moore’s wife — for international infliction of emotional distress — were barred by the First Amendment.

For purposes of the First Amendment analysis, Judge Cronan found that the interview, in which Cohen played the role of an Israeli “Anti-Terrorism Expert” named “Gen. Erran Morad,” was obvious satire, and was not making factual assertions about Moore:

In light of the context of Judge Moore’s interview, the segment was clearly a joke and no reasonable viewer would have seen it otherwise. The segment began with an absurd joke (i.e., “Gen. Erran Morad” boasting about once killing a suicide bomber with an iPad 4, but luckily he had purchased AppleCare), followed soon by footage of numerous news reporters commenting on the accusations brought against Judge Moore.

At this point, it should have been abundantly clear to any reasonable viewer that Defendants were using humor to comment on those accusations, rather than making independent factual assertions or even remarking on the truth or accuracy of the allegations.

The actual interview of Judge Moore then became even more absurd. No reasonable viewer would have interpreted Cohen, in his over-the-top “Erran Morad” character, waving a wand that supposedly detects enzymes emitted by pedophiles in the vicinity of Judge Moore as stating facts about Judge Moore. Nor would a viewer have reasonably believed that this gadget—which “Erran Morad” contended also was able to detect hidden tunnels used by terrorists—doubled as a device that also could detect enzymes secreted by pedophiles.

 

In an opinion Tuesday, Judge Marrero allowed a putative consumer fraud class action to proceed (in part) against Canada Goose.  The plaintiff purchased a jacket that he claims was falsely marketed with a paper hang tag stating that the company supports the “ethical, responsible, and sustainable sourcing and use of real fur.”  Judge Marrero rejected the company’s argument that these statements were “too general and subjective” to be actionable, and instead found that the allegations, though “thin,” were enough to proceed beyond a motion to dismiss: Continue Reading Judge Marrero Allows Consumer Fraud Claims Over Jackets Marketed as Made with Ethically-Sourced Fur

In a pair of opinions Monday, Judge Cote dismissed two putative class actions, one brought by college textbook retailers (opinion here) and another brought by students (opinion here), accusing textbook publishers and on-campus bookstore operators of violating the antitrust laws. The cases alleged an unlawful conspiracy involving a digital program called Inclusive Access that provides students automatic access to course materials when they register for class and bills their bursar account (unless they opt out).

In both cases, Judge Cote found that there were no plausible allegations of an anticompetitive agreement, or conspiracy, among the defendants, because there were ample independent reasons to pursue a digital strategy: Continue Reading Judge Cote: College Textbook Publishers Did Not “Conspire” to Steer Universities to Requiring Digital Books

In an opinion last week, Judge Schofield granted summary judgment, in part, to the restaurant chain Boston Market in case “alleging that Defendants breached the implied warranty of merchantability when they served her a meal containing what she believes to be a baby chicken.”

The dispute boiled down to whether the item of food (depicted below) was a baby chicken, or instead a somewhat unusual looking chicken leg.

Continue Reading Judge Schofield Shrinks Down Case Over Boston Market “Baby Chicken” to $11.63

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Broderick dismissed a putative class action brought by former participants in the Catholic Church’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Programs who had accepted settlements relating to childhood sex abuse claims. The plaintiffs sought to undo the settlements on the theory that the settlement amounts were fraudulently induced, insofar as they were not determined “independently” but instead were the product of interference from the Church itself and subject to an undisclosed cap of $500,000.

Judge Broderick found that the factual allegations supporting these theories, which had been pleaded as based only on “information and belief,” was insufficient: Continue Reading Judge Broderick: Participants in Catholic Church’s “Reconciliation” Program Cannot Unwind Settlements

In an opinion Monday, Judge Kaplan ruled that a plaintiff accusing actor Kevin Spacey of sexual assault could not proceed anonymously. Judge Kaplan began the opinion by observing that the privacy of litigants has changed in the “digital age”:

The days when court records of litigation largely escaped public notice as they languished in countless file rooms largely ended with the advent of electronic case files, the internet, search engines, and other aspects of the information age. And the loss of the earlier practical obscurity of court files no doubt is compounded when a litigant . . .  brings a claim against someone in the public eye, especially if the substance of the claim makes it likely to attract significant media attention.

But the threat of significant media attention – however exacerbated by the modern era – alone does not entitle a plaintiff to the exceptional remedy of anonymity . . . .

Judge Kaplan ultimately found that the prejudice to Spacey outweighed the plaintiff’s interest in anonymity: Continue Reading Judge Kaplan: Kevin Spacey Accuser Cannot Sue Anonymously