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January 2021

MediaLawLetter January 2021

in this issue

Biden: How to Deal with the Plight of the Press; Was De-Platforming Trump Warranted; and Choosing Sides in the Dominion Libel Cases

George Freeman

MLRC Executive Director reflects on the challenges facing president Biden, big tech deplatforming former president Trump, and how the media bar might consider a worthy defamation suit.

Federal District Court Dismisses Nunes Defamation Suit Against Washington Post

Suraj Kumar

The lawsuit—one of many filed by Rep. Nunes—concerns a Post article reporting that a senior U.S. intelligence official briefed the House Intelligence Committee that Russia wanted to see President Trump reelected.


Covington Catholic Students’ Cases Dismissed

Jack Greiner and Darren Ford

The Kentucky District Court recently dismissed lawsuits filed against CNN, The Washington Post and NBCUniversal by classmates of Nick Sandmann.


New York Times Wins Dismissal of Libel Suit by Anti-Immigration Writer Peter Brimelow

Dana Green

SDNY Judge dismissed the case in December after finding that many of the statements at issue were non-actionable opinion or not ‘of and concerning’ Brimelow, and that Brimelow could not plausibly show actual malice as to any of the claims.


Nevada Fair Report Privilege Does Not Apply to Citizen Complaints to Police, Absent Some Official Government Action

Mara Gassmann

The Nevada Supreme Court reverses the district court’s dismissal of a defamation claim by billionaire, Republican activist, and casino magnate Steve Wynn against the Associated Press and its reporter.

New York Anti-SLAPP Law Applies Retroactively to Sarah Palin’s Lawsuit Against The New York Times

Al-Amyn Sumar

Judge Rakoff granted a motion for reconsideration by The Times and James Bennet, holding that one provision of the new anti-SLAPP law requires Palin to establish actual malice as a matter of state law.

First Circuit: Secret Recordings of Police in Public Spaces Protected by First Amendment

Michael J. Lambert

In a pair of cases, the First Circuit held that the Commonwealth could not prohibit the secret recording of police officers carrying out their official duties in public places because such recording is a form of newsgathering activity protected by the First Amendment.

UK Court Denies U.S. Request to Extradite Julian Assange

Raymond M. Baldino

According to UK experts, the United States faces an uphill battle on appeal because the Court’s findings of fact regarding Assange’s mental health are unlikely to be reversed.

Exporting the Sullivan Case…to Belgium

Richard Winfield

An amicus curiae brief invites the European Court to consider how the U.S. Supreme Court resolved an issue as to whether a public official who is neither named nor identified in public criticism of government has standing in litigation to punish the authors of the criticism.


CASE Act Signed, Sealed, and Delivered – Copyright Small Claims Court Coming Soon

Scott J. Sholder

The latest amendment to the Copyright Act of 1976 creates a long-awaited new home for the litigation of lower-value copyright cases.

Lessons from the Nicki Minaj Copyright Judgment

Jason Bloom

Tracy Chapman accepted a Rule 68 offer of judgment from Nicki Minaj, in a copyright infringement suit alleging that Minaj copied and distributed Chapman’s song Baby Can I Hold You without a license.

Courier Journal Beats Back Trademark Infringement Lawsuit from Makers of DERBY-PIE®

Michael Abate

The court held that the news articles challenged in the lawsuit do not constitute “trademark use” and therefore the Lanham Act does not even apply.

Copyrights and Constitutional Takings

Leslie Gardner Mason

Is a governmental unit’s use of a copyrighted photo without permission considered a constitutional taking? The Supreme Court of Texas is faced with this question.

Searching a Database Isn’t “Creating” A Record

D. Victoria Baranetsky and Shawn Musgrave

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting was successful in challenging the government’s withholding of firearms data under FOIA.

North Carolina Media Wins Access to Campus Assault Records

Hugh Stevens

The complexity in the case was presented by the core legal issue, which was whether FERPA provided the university with discretion to release or withhold the records through the Supremacy Clause, or whether the discretion afforded by FERPA was overridden by the state’s Public Records Law.


Colorado Adopts Statewide Rule Governing Public Access to Judicial Records in Criminal Cases

Steve Zansberg

The adoption of Rule 55.1 marks a tremendous leap forward for Colorado courts, which heretofore granted unfettered discretion to trial court judges to deny the public’s presumptive right to inspect judicial records.


New Drone Journalism Rules Cause for Excitement, Concern

Chuck Tobin, Emmy Parsons and Mickey Osterreicher

The FAA finally issued a pair of long-awaited final rules that will expand opportunities for aerial journalists, but, at the same time, will permit the government to monitor all drone traffic.


Ten Questions to a Media Lawyer: Dana Green

Dana Green

The New York Times counsel reflects on her legal education, career, COVID living and more.