Hollywood Docket: Errol Morris Sued; Fox News Settles; TV Academy Re-Ups General Counsel


Two new lawsuits raise the question of whether filmmakers put individuals in a false light and violated the rights to their name and likeness. That and more in our roundup of entertainment law news....

  • An Oregon man is suing Lionsgate over The Next Three Days, starring Russell Crowe, because he says he was depicted four times for several seconds in multiple screen shots as a "criminal fugitive." The plaintiff, Bilal Ahmed, says the movie has damaged his reputation, and that friends and associates immediately recognized him. He's no longer comfortable wearing his facial hair as depicted in the movie for fear it could impair future gainful employment. He's suing makers of the film, which grossed $51 million, for more than $1 million.
  • Joyce McKinney is suing documentary filmmaker Errol Morris for falsely portraying her in the film Tabloid as "crazy, a sex offender, an S&M prostitute, and/or a rapist." McKinney was involved in the 1970s in what's now known as the "Mormon sex in chains case" or the "The case of the Manacled Mom," the story of a missionary allegedly abducted by McKinney, the former Miss Wyoming. McKinney cooperated with Morris during the making of the film, giving an interview. However, she says she believed Morris to be making a Showtime series about paparazzi and was instead "unwittingly tricked" into talking about a "long dead tabloid hoax." She's suing for unspecified damages.
  • The Television Academy has re-upped its outside general counsel Dixon Dern, who has served in that capacity for more than 30 years.
  • A Texas state court has denied Time Warner Cable's motion to have a dispute with Viacom over CMT (Country Music Television) settled in New York, where the two companies are fighting over streamed content on iPad apps. TWC says that CMT violated an affiliate agreement by moving away from country music, and Viacom believes that TWC has breached the contract by failing in its obligations to distribute the channel and interfering with advertisers. A Texas judge has accepted Viacom's arguments that this dispute is unconnected with the controversy over iPad streaming.
  • Fox News has settled a lawsuit by a New York photographer who sued the network for airing a copyrighted work without permission. A photo of Assata Shakur was shown without plaintiff Delphine Fawundu Buford's consent during The O'Reilly Factor. Fox News claimed fair use, but now the dispute has been voluntarily dismissed after the parties came to an undisclosed agreement.
  • The New York Times and The Huffington Post are fighting over a blog name. The Grey Lady filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against AOL, owners of HuffPo, for naming a parenting blog, Parentlode, which allegedly apes the NYT's Motherlode. The author of the HuffPo blog formerly was the lead writer of the NYT one.
  • Morrissey will soon be at a U.K. High Court pursuing a defamation claim against NME for portraying him as a racist. A judge has determined that the singer is making a "very serious" claim, and over the weekend, Morrissey released a lengthy statement describing what happened in detail.