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Legal Issues Roundup

We’ve been busy planning a panel discussion for the end of November, and have missed out on sharing interesting news in culture industries law. Here’s a roundup of some of those stories:

  • Streaming: Netflix announced multiple content deals, expansion into the UK, and yet its share price dropped after 800,000 subscribers left the service. Facebook and Universal have joined forces to make ‘Facebook Social Cinema’ available to users in Australia and the UK. Viacom claims copyright infringement by YouTube.
  • Music: Syl Johnson is suing Kanye West and Jay-Z for their illegal sampling of “Different Strokes”.Rihanna has settled with photographer David LaChapelle over the uncleared use of his photographs as an influence in scenes from the video for “S&M”. Four members of the British band UB40 have declared bankruptcy, and their assets, including royalties, will be seized to pay off debts.
  • Occupy Wall Street and the art world.
  • Books: A former marine is suing Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru, claiming defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of nervous distress as a result of his portrayal in the book, “Big Boys Rule: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq.” Barnes and Noble bookstores have stopped selling DC Comics graphic novels after DC Comics made an exclusive deal with Amazon for digital sales.
  • TV: Former “Happy Days” stars claimed fraud by CBS over alleged unpaid royalties, but the Court found in favour of CBS and is only permitting the stars to move forward on a breach of contract claim.
  • Trademarks: The San Francisco Giants are in a battle over their logo, which the team never officially trademarked and is now owned by Gogo Sports Inc. The creator of building-block game “Minecraft” has won an interim injunction in a legal dispute over trademark of the name “Scrolls” for a game.

Linking Isn’t Libel: Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that hyperlinks are not considered publication for the purposes of defamation.  In a unanimous decision, the Court held that hyperlinks alone are not capable of libel.  As Justice Rosalie Abella wrote:

Making reference to the existence and/or location of content by hyperlink or otherwise, without more, is not publication of that content.  Only when a hyperlinker presents content from the hyperlinked material in a way that actually repeats the defamatory content, should that content be considered to be “published” by the hyperlinker.

The Court reasoned that hyperlinks function like footnotes in that they are content neutral.  Further, the author of the hyperlink has no control over the content contained at the end of the link.

The judgment comes out of a case involving a blog post on a B.C. website. The post linked to external articles that allegedly defamed business owner Wayne Crookes. When the website operator, Jon Newton, refused to delete the post, Crookes launched legal action claiming that the hyperlinks to the articles amounted to defamation.

The citation for the case is Crookes v Newton, 2011 SCC 47.