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July 2021

MediaLawLetter July 2021

in this issue

Going Forward with the MLRC Media Law Conference: A Behind the Scenes Look

George Freeman

During the pandemic, nothing was easy and everything was somewhat different. That was certainly true of our planning of our Media Law Conference, which will be held in-person at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va. September 29-October 1.


“Cursing Cheerleader” Decision Leaves Unanswered Questions About Public Schools’ Authority Over Students’ Digital Free Speech Rights

Michael J. Grygiel

The Court affirmed that a student’s suspension from her high school’s cheerleading squad for vulgar Snapchat postings made outside of school on a weekend violated the First Amendment.


SCOTUS Strikes Down California’s Disclosure Requirement for Charitable Donors: Decision Lowers the Bar for Facial Challenges to Disclosure Laws

Brian Hauss

Justice Roberts held that California’s donor-disclosure requirement fails exacting scrutiny, and facially violates the First Amendment, because it is not narrowly tailored to California’s asserted interest in policing charitable misconduct.


Supreme Court Denies Cert Petition Asking Court to Overrule Public Figure Doctrine

Matthew Schafer and Jack Browning

For the media bar and defamation plaintiffs, Berisha’s implications reach beyond a single book and signify challenges ahead for the Court’s libel doctrine.


Donald Trump Tries to Hold Social Media Platforms Liable for Politicians’ Exercise of Soft Power

Jeff Hermes

Trump’s complaints assert that the platforms were coerced into deplatforming Trump and others by Democratic lawmakers and other government officials, rendering the platforms’ decisions state action in violation of the First Amendment.

Ferguson Civil Rights Case by Journalists Settles for More Than a Quarter Million Dollars

Bernie Rhodes

The county paid the three journalists $180,000 and paid another $100,000 in legal fees.

Obfuscating Mercy: How The California Supreme Court Finally Addressed Secretive Pardons

Selina MacLaren and Thomas R. Burke

The new rule rejects the governor’s decades-old practice of automatically sealing clemency files, but places the onus on the public to move for unsealing.

DC Circuit Provides Expansive Interpretation of FOIA’s ‘Foreseeable Harm’ Standard

Adam A. Marshall

Although the foreseeable harm provision is more than five years old, the D.C. Circuit’s opinion in Reporters Committee v. Federal Bureau of Investigation is only the court’s second opportunity to address the standard, and it is the first time it has offered a robust description of what the provision requires.


Tips on Managing Content Risk for Small, Mid-Sized, and Non-Media Organizations

Aaron Tilley

An overview intended to demystify the risk management process of these risks for small, mid-sized and non-media organizations.

District Court of Colorado Adopts Meta-Film’s “Access Through an Intermediary” Test in Copyright Case

David Aronoff, Michael Beylkin, and Joshua Bornstein

The decision is the first case in the Tenth Circuit to adopt the “access through an intermediary” test of the highly influential and widely-cited decision Meta-Film Assocs v. MCA.

Forum Selection Clause Blows Case West of the Windy City

George Desh

While 2Pac may have had California love and Tony Bennet left his heart in San Francisco, Windy City Rehab television personality Donovan Eckhardt hoped to keep his recently-filed suit in Illinois.

Court Dismisses Roy Moore’s Claims Against Sacha Baron Cohen Satire

Carl Mazurek

Judge Cronan of the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment of defendants Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime, and ViacomCBS, dismissing with prejudice the defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud claims brought against them by Roy and Kayla Moore. Moore v. Cohen.

Alan Dershowitz’s Libel Suit Against CNN Survives Motion to Dismiss

Amanda Levine

Judge Singhal's decision has potentially far-reaching implications for media organizations reporting on issues of public concern.

Preferred Pronouns and Compelled Speech

Ross Ufberg

Forcing a professor to refer to a transgender student using the student’s preferred pronoun, when that professor has strongly and sincerely held religious beliefs which counsel otherwise, is a plausible violation of First Amendment free speech rights, the 6th Circuit ruled earlier this year.