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Posts Tagged ‘Kari Ann Peniche’

A Legal Point Of View On The Gawker Sex Tape Lawsuit

gawker media case.jpgThe copyright infringement lawsuit against Gawker Media filed earlier this week by celebrities Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart raised a number of legal questions for bloggers and the media. We wanted answers, so we asked Jonathan D. Reichman, a partner at intellectual property law firm Kenyon & Kenyon specializing in copyright law, to weigh in on the merits of the case.

After reading the suit, which Gawker posted online, Reichman said he was surprised Dane and Gayheart went after the media company for copyright infringement instead of other claims, like invasion of privacy or violation of right of publicity, which is a celebrity’s right to control how his likeness is used commercially.

“The unique thing about this case is that Eric and Rebecca are putting all of their eggs in the copyright infringement basket,” Reichman said. “They could have sued for publicity rights or privacy rights. Usually in these cases you see celebrities alleging defamation or liable or slander. I don’t see any of those claims.”

Reichman said that if he were Dane and Gayheart’s attorney, he would have at least added the additional claims for good measure. What Dane and Gayheart’s attorney Martin Singer did do, however, was register their sex tape with the Library of Congress and obtain a copyright. Reichman said that obtaining a copyright is fairly easy and copyright infringement is “an easy claim to assert, on paper.”

But will it hold up in court? And what defenses does Gawker have against it? Reichman explains, and suggests what Gawker’s next steps should be, after the jump.

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What Will The Gawker Sex Tape Lawsuit Mean For Bloggers?

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First there was the not so scandalous sex tape featuring a three-way romp between married celeb couple Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart and former beauty queen Kari Ann Peniche that Gawker posted online last month.

Then yesterday came reports that Dane and Gayheart had filed suit against Gawker, seeking $1 million in damages.

Responded Gawker chief Nick Denton via Twitter (before seeing the full suit): “To quote the great Marty Singer — Eric Dane’s lawyer — if you don’t want a sex tape on the internet, ‘don’t make one!’”

Today, Denton told The New York Times that he had paid for the tape — which has logged over 3 million views since it was posted on August 17. Will that fact change how Dane and Gayheart’s allegations hold up in court?

According to People.com, the suit alleges that “Gawker was warned that posting the video on its Defamer.com violated the couple’s legal and privacy rights, but that the blog ‘went on to maliciously distribute an uncensored copy’ of the tape.”

Thanks to a little something called the First Amendment, journalists are generally not afraid of lawsuits, especially when they have the power of a media company like Gawker behind them. But the question is, does this instance fall under freedom of the press, or can it be seen as malicious? Will Gawker give in, take the video down or settle out of court? Or will Denton have his day in court? But more importantly: will this suit and its outcome affect journalists and bloggers and what they choose to post in the future? Journalist always have a threat of a lawsuit when making decisions what to publish, so one suit of this kind is not bound to change the face of blogging or journalism too much. But if there’s one thing journalists know, its that celebrity and sex always make for great news. If Dane and Gayheart just wanted this to go away, perhaps filing suit wasn’t the best move.

Listen to more thoughts about the lawsuit on this morning’s podcast.

Update: Gawker has posted a copy of the suit for you to peruse.