....LMB: "McLibel II"....

September 20, 2004

Maybe some of you have heard of the McLibel trial of the 1990s. It was Britain's longest court case, between international juggernaut McDonald's Inc. and two British environmentalists. Long story short, when Helen Steel and Dave Morris were distributing "What's Wrong with McDonald's?" leaflets out in front of one of the stores, the company sued the two for libel. The company planned to quickly crush the two and stop the spread of malicious (and truthful) information.

PR backfire of the year. Since British libel laws force defendants to prove that their statements are true (as opposed to the US, where the the plaintiffs have to prove that what the defendants said is false), thus began 2 and a half years of activists airing Mickey D's dirty laundry in public. Thus the leaflet that probably would have been seen by a few dozen locals in London was spread to millions internationally. Whoops.

The two eventually lost their case (the judge found that some of the things that the leaflet had said were indeed true, but did not feel there was enough evidence to support all of the accusations), but Steel and Morris have never paid McDonald's the money.

Now, Phase Two.

Morris and Steel went to the European Court of Human Rights to argue, essentially, that Britain's libel laws violate the rights set out in the European Union's charter. They want to get Britain's libel laws changed for the sake of free speech, and they want corporations banned from suing for libel because it is in the public's interest that such powerful entities are endlessly watched and criticized. If the court finds in their favor, Britiain could be compelled to change its laws.

No idea when we'll hear a verdict on this, but you know who I'm rooting for.

Posted by Jake at 10:38 PM | TrackBack (0)
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I heard, though I may have misheard, that Morris and Steel are getting threatened *again* by McDonald's with another libel suit. Corporations may be heartless, but they sure can be vindicative.

Posted by: Amanda at September 21, 2004 10:24 AM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

Posted by Jake at 04:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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