Close-Ups

Entertainment and Media News

Lauded as the “the most important law protecting free speech”[1] and the law that “gave us the modern internet,”[2] Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (Section 230) has been a fixture of recent internet policy debates and blamed for everything from the proliferation of sex trafficking[3] to enabling anti-conservative social media bias[4]. Section 230 says, “[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the…
The District of Columbia Circuit Court recently dismissed attorney John Szymkowicz’s defamation lawsuit against the author of the website “Legal Profession Blog,” finding that Szymkowicz failed to demonstrate that his potential damages met the $75,000 threshold required to establish federal jurisdiction. In Szymkowicz v. Frisch, No. CV 19-3329 (BAH), 2020 WL 4432240 (D.D.C. July 31, 2020), Georgetown University Law Center professor Szymkowicz brought a claim for defamation, invasion of privacy—false light, and intentional infliction…
In a now famous Oscar speech from 2018, Frances McDormand encouraged more diverse hiring in the film industry. “I have two words to leave you with tonight,” she told the audience as she accepted her Best Actress trophy,—“Inclusion Rider.” Most viewers had no idea what she meant, prompting immediate online searches of the term. Prior to this, April Reign had created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in response to the lack of diversity at the 2015 Oscars,…
On July 27, Melissane Velyvis successfully argued that a Domestic Violence Protective Order (the Order) was an unconstitutional prior restraint on her freedom of expression. Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus sustained Velyvis’ demurrer to a misdemeanor complaint brought against her for violating the Order in People v. Velyvis, Case No. CR211376A. The Order prohibited Ms. Velyvis from posting anything on social media, blogs, or the internet regarding her ex-husband, Dr. John…
This summer, the United States Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In a 6-3 opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch found that “homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex,” and as a result, “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” Bostock v. Clayton…
In a published opinion, the Fourth Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s ruling that CBS News did not defame a pharmacist in its reporting on the opioid crisis, agreeing that the statements at issue were substantially true. See Ballengee v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc., No. 18-2018 (4th Cir. Aug. 3, 2020). The ruling protects CBS’s award-winning investigative reporting on the opioid crisis.  It also demonstrates the enduring need for defamation law’s “substantial truth doctrine,” which…
With the rise of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, the demand for online content has increased exponentially. Given this new reality, online content creators must take steps to ensure that their online creations don’t land them in legal hot water. One of the most prevalent cross-industry issues is music licensing. Music is everywhere in online content and often plays an integral part in the overall experience. From video game players streaming music as they show…
Although many businesses providing services in the field of performing arts are not eligible for the qualified business income (QBI) deduction, some entertainment businesses that do not fall in this category have taken the position that they do qualify.  Recent indicators from the IRS, however, suggest that taxpayers claiming the QBI deduction may be subject to increased audit risk in the near future.…
The California Court of Appeal (the Court) has affirmed a trial court’s grant of preliminary injunction, enjoining HomeAdvisor’s use of allegedly misleading language in advertisements.  See People ex rel. Gascon v. HomeAdvisor, Inc., No. A154960 (Cal. Ct. App. June 5, 2020). The lawsuit was brought by the People of the State of California (the People), acting by and through the San Francisco District Attorney.  Specifically, the People claimed that HomeAdvisor’s advertisements were “false and…
Among the countless casualties of COVID-19, many much-anticipated events had to be canceled. Instead, some of the world’s largest entertainment industry events are becoming virtual experiences. Comic Con, which boasts over 135,000 annual attendees, announced that its in-person convention will be replaced in 2020 by a virtual experience. Lollapalooza, an annual music festival in Chicago, will also be virtual this summer. Even the venerable Cannes Film Festival has moved online. These virtual formats…