6:10pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Judge SLAPPs Down Vincent Gallo's Lawsuit Against Reporter
An audio clip of Vincent Gallo's unflattering comments about the Coppola family, Julia Roberts and others will remain posted online after a judge granted a motion to strike his invasion of privacy lawsuit filed against the man who recorded him.
Gallo sued Hikari Takano in May, stemming from a decade-old interview about the indie multihyphenate's controversial film The Brown Bunny for a Japanese magazine. He claims Takano recorded him without his consent and posted the audio on a for-profit website in violation of his right of publicity and of his privacy.
In June, Takano's attorney Jeffrey Lewis filed a special motion to strike the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP statute, which prohibits legal action on issues arising from constitutionally protected activity.
To beat an anti-SLAPP motion, Gallo would have to prove that the dispute didn't arise from protected activity and establish the probability of prevailing on his claim.
Judge William Fahey found he did neither and granted the motion to strike the complaint.
"The Court specifically finds that plaintiff is and has been a public figure for many years, defendant is a journalist and his interviews of plaintiff dealt with matters of public interest," states Fahey's order.
That Gallo is accusing Takano of criminal activity — recording him without consent — is no help, as the court found "[Takano] does not concede and the evidence does not conclusively establish any violation of law."
Fahey finds Gallo can't establish the probability of prevailing on the second prong of the analysis because the "single publication rule" applies to websites, which means his complaint wasn't timely.
"A cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitations begins to run, at the time the offending statement is first distributed to the general public, regardless of when the plaintiff becomes aware of publication," the judge writes.
During a Monday hearing, Gallo's attorney Joseph Costa had argued that his client complained to Takano and his website hosting company when he learned the recordings were posted online in 2010. The posts were removed, Takano says, because he temporarily changed hosts and his URL, and Gallo understood the matter to be over — though he intermittently checked to see if the recordings had resurfaced.
Fahey finds the admissible evidence shows the materials in question were posted "almost continuously from April 2010 to the present day" and Gallo's admission that he checked chat rooms and websites only "'up through portions of 2012' is fatal to his argument."
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Takano's lawyer Jeffrey Lewis echoes the court's finding that Gallo is a public figure and his client's interview was a matter of public interest.
"Journalists should not have to look over their shoulders in fear of civil lawsuits for simply doing their job," Lewis says. "We are grateful that the court took the time to read the voluminous materials submitted by the attorneys, applied the law correctly and disregarded the inadmissible and speculative evidence offered by Mr. Gallo."
Costa has not yet responded to a request for comment.