A Brief Review of Important Matters: Artist Uses Social Media To Fight Infringer, Comcast's Terrible Deal, and James Bond Needs A New Home

Spectre Teaser Poster © MGM & Sony Pictures

Spectre Teaser Poster © MGM & Sony Pictures

It will now be harder for victims of online harassment to pursue criminal actions against their tormentors. In a 7-2 decision that came down this month, the Court ruled in Elonis vs. United States that a person making a threat on social media has to possess an objective intent to threaten a victim. It's not good enough for the victim to believe the threat to be real. No, the threatener must also believe that the threat is real, even if they ultimately decide not to carry it out. While the idea of intent (or mens rea) has forever been a staple of criminal law, the actual effect, mainly on women, is hard to ignore, especially in light of the GamerGate debacle where Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and others have been repeatedly threatened, harassed, doxxed, swatted, and violently insulted.

It's gotten so bad out there that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo publicly admitted that Twitter needs to do something about the harassment pervading the network, and  Rep. Katherine Clark (D - Mass.) introduced new legislation in Congress that would enhance DOJ's ability to enforce action against those making online threats towards women.

This is one of those cases where the law itself is pretty clear, but has some very unfortunate unintended consequences. I just hope Congress and DOJ can do something BEFORE one of these threats is actually acted upon and someone is killed.

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Instagram user Selena Mooney discovered that photographer Richard Prince was selling prints of her company's photographs for $90,000 (yes you read that right) without Mooney's consent. But instead of suing Prince (who is notorious for stunts like this), she got even. She began selling prints of her own work for $90 apiece, drastically undercutting Prince's exorbitant price tag. The response from the online community roundly rejected Prince's infringement, though Mooney herself seems more introspective.

"He thinks he's being clever and maybe he is starting a discussion. But the individuals in his images were genuinely hurt because to them, their Instagram is something personal and they feel they own."

People are urging Mooney to sue Prince, although some legal experts think that Prince's act would be covered by fair use (I don't). But lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming and I often counsel clients to find creative ways to fight back. Mooney's strategy is a good one because she leveraged social media to her advantage without putting herself at risk of a defamation suit. I think more copyright infringement victims should follow her lead.

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Thanks to the combined efforts of the FCC and DOJ, we will never have to find out what horrors awaited most of the country if Time Warner and Comcast merged. Last April, the prospective deal was quashed because federal regulators weren't satisfied with Comcast's argument that the merger wouldn't violated anti-trust laws. As it turns out, the regulators had good reason to doubt Comcast. During the investigation, Comcast tried to sell the government on the deal by citing its adherence to conditions set down when Comcast acquired NBC Universal... conditions that Comcast itself wrote. Well, as it turns out, Comcast repeatedly failed to meet those conditions.

Yes you read that correctly: Comcast couldn't even live up to the favorable conditions it wrote for itself, and then tried to foist that off onto federal regulators as proof that it would follow merger conditions for the Time Warner deal! 

While it's widely known that consumers have a grim view of Comcast in general, according to TechDirt, these lies regarding the NBC deal were the actual death knell for the Time Warner merger. C'mon Comcast! You aren't hated enough?

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When the next James Bond film "Spectre" arrives in theaters this fall, I hope you get comfortable with the idea of not seeing another new Bond film for a while. The new film will mark the end of a co-production deal between MGM and Sony Pictures and the film distribution rights to the franchise will be up for grabs (the actual ownership rests with MGM but MGM does not have a distribution network in place). While the Hollywood chatter indicates that Warner Bros could be the next studio in line for the rights, expect Sony to put up a fight. Bond has been very profitable for them with "Skyfall" especially so. They're not going to give it up easily, which means we could see a lengthy and costly bidding war for the franchise. 

Greg Kanaan

The [Legal] Artist, Boston, MA, USA