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October 2009

MLRC Bulletin 2009 Issue 4

in this issue

Part III: Criminal Libel Update

 Download PDF Introduction Six years ago MLRC issued a comprehensive report on criminal defamation laws in the United States, including cases and prosecutions from 1965 through 2002.  See 2003 MLRC Bulletin No. 1. This update reports on the status of the criminal defamation laws that are now extant in 16 jurisdictions, and related statutes that…


Part II: New Developments

 Download Publication INTRODUCTION This past year saw a number of interesting legislative and doctrinal developments in media libel and privacy laws.  California and Florida joined the list of states enacting libel tourism laws.  Both states enacted laws making foreign libel judgments unenforceable unless the foreign law provided at least as much protection as the First…

Limitations on Copyright Protection for Format Ideas in Reality Television Programming

 Download PDF By Kent R. Raygor and Edwin Komen* Television networks constantly compete to find and produce the next big hit.  The shifting economic landscape forged by increasing competition between and among ever-proliferating media platforms, however, places extreme pressure on network profit margins.  Fully scripted hour-long dramas and half-hour comedies have become increasingly costly, while…


Opening Doors for Writers While Reducing Frivolous Lawsuits: A Call for Legislative Reform of California’s Law of Idea Theft

 Download PDF By Ben Sheffner* California’s law of “idea theft” is meant to protect writers from having their valuable creations taken without compensation. But the law’s perverse effect has actually been to harm all but the most well-connected and successful scribes. Fear of idea theft lawsuits has erected an artificial barrier between two groups who…


(Not Quite) As Free As the Air: Damages Remedies in Idea Submission Cases

 Download PDF By A. J. Thomas* In Desny v. Wilder, the California Supreme Court in 1956 rejected earlier property-based theories of idea protection by proclaiming famously that “ideas are as free as the air.”  Less frequently noted is the Supreme Court’s quick caveat:  “but there can be circumstances when neither air nor ideas may be…


California’s Anti-SLAPP Statute – Can It Strike Idea Theft Claims

 Download PDF By Stephen G. Contopulos, Bradley H. Ellis, Frank J. Broccolo and J. P. Pecht* I.          Introduction Although courts in California have historically opined that ideas are “free as the air and as speech,” after the California Supreme Court’s decision in Desny v. Wilder in 1956, those very same courts permitted aspiring screenwriters and…

Copyright Preemption and Removal Jurisdiction: Turning Those Pesky State Law Claims Into Copyright Cases and Litigating Them in Federal Court

 Download PDF By Joel M. Tantalo* Whether to avoid the rigors of federal court litigation (including generally easier summary judgment standards and unanimous jury verdicts), to circumvent the stringent elements of the Copyright Act and its defenses, or to try to avail oneself of state law remedies not available under the Copyright Act, most copyright…


Industry Custom in Idea Submission Claims: The Keystone to Implied-in-Fact Contracts

 Download PDF By David J. Bodney and Aaron J. Lockwood* Idea submission plaintiffs have asserted an array of legal theories to varying degrees of success in their efforts to obtain compensation for the use of their ideas.[1]  Since the California Supreme Court’s decision in Desny v. Wilder,[2] however, the claim for breach of an implied-in-fact…


Saving Inglorious Basterds: An Examination of the Role of “Substantial Similarity” in Idea Submission Cases

 Download PDF By David Aronoff and Jeff Grant* I. Introduction Broadly speaking, a plaintiff asserting idea submission claims based on breach of implied-in-fact contract or breach of confidence legal theories must establish a direct contractual or confidential relationship with the defendant and the defendant’s “use” of the plaintiff’s idea in breach of the parties’ contract…


Theft-of-Idea Law In New York and California: The Quality of Bagels Isn’t the Only Difference Between the Two Coasts

 Download PDF By Robyn Aronson* A producer has a great idea for a TV show.  A brilliant idea.  A world-beating idea that will mint money for whichever network has the good judgment to air it.  It is the next Seinfeld.  It is the next American Idol.  It will change the lives of the viewing public….



 Download PDF Litigation of idea submission claims (or, to use the language preferred by plaintiffs, “idea theft claims”) dates back at least to the early years of Hollywood.  Nonetheless, it remains an area of media litigation that is both rapidly bourgeoning and remarkably undeveloped.  Idea submission law is animated by the tension between the general…


MLRC Bulletin 2009 Issue 4 – Report on Significant Developments

 Download Publication Part I: Really Wild Ideas: An Examination of Idea Submission Claims Against Media and Entertainment Works IntroductionBy David Aronoff Theft-of-Idea Law in New York and California: The Quality of Bagels Isn’t the Only Difference Between the Two CoastsBy Robyn Aronson Saving Inglourious Basterds: An Examination of the Role of “Substantial Similarity” in Idea…