John Doe A v. Penn State
First Penn State scandal lawsuit says Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a boy more than 100 times and the abuse was enabled by the school's "negligent oversight."
Bradley v. Lohan
Former Betty Ford Center employee sues Lindsay Lohan for assault, alleging the actress threw a phone at her and yanked her wrist while refusing to be breathalzyed.
N.D. v. New York Post
Hotel maid allegedly raped by French politician sues the New York Post for falsely reporting that she is a prostitute who "routinely traded sex for money" with male guests.
Reinhart v. Mortenson
Two Montana residents allege the author of "Three Cups of Tea" "fabricated material about his activities and work in Pakistan and Afghanistan" to sell the book.
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• Maryland appeals court says dog owners can be held strictly liable for pit bull attacks. "Because of its aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous." Tracey v. Solesky

• Woman who has been diagnosed as a sex addict sues a school district for failing to prevent her from having sex with male students on the school bus when she was in 11th grade.
Barksdale v. Egg Harbor Township Bd. of Ed.

• Civil rights activist challenges Georgia's "stand your ground law." "By not defining what actions create a reasonable perception justifying the use of deadly force, the Act[] potentially deprives all Georgia[n]s of the right to life without due process of law." Hutchins v. Deal

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Lisnoff v. Stein

• Class action alleges the YMCA deceives consumers by representing that it practices "Christian" values while allowing its gyms to be used for gay sex trysts. "YMCAs around the country ... are currently being used as brothels for cruising, with the YMCA's knowledge and implicit consent."
Keister v. YMCA

• Social workers are not liable for a sexual assault on a 5-year-old boy by a 16-year-old male placed in an adoptive home. "To rule against the individual defendants in this case would definitely break new ground."
Doe v. Braddy

• Student sues college for refusing to grant her the "reasonable accommodation" of a single room after she complained about her roommate's exhibitionist behavior.
Blankmeyer v. Stonehill College

• School district can be sued over a guidance counselor's sexual relationship with a student who was over the age of consent. "The inherent imbalance of power between a guidance counselor in a public school and a student may render opportunistic sexual predation sufficiently shocking, even with a 'consenting' student over sixteen, to form the basis of a substantive due process claim."
Doe v. Fournier

• Utah judge finds a "credible threat" that Utah County officials will prosecute a polygamist and his wives for bigamy. The officials' acts "suggest that an actual prosecution of Plaintiffs is forthcoming."
Brown v. Herbert

• Louisville, Ky., strip club sues a competitor for displaying an electronic sign outside a convention center that said "Don't go to Godfathers, their girls are ugly and have crabs."
The Godfather v. Trixie's Lounge

• A lawyer cannot sue two women he dated for posting derogatory comments about him on liarscheatersrus.com. "[W]hen viewed within the larger context of the website on which they were posted, there can be no doubt that a reasonable reader would understand the comments to be opinion." Coulotte v. Ryncarz

• Oglala Sioux tribe sues beer makers and Whiteclay, Neb., bars for enabling alcohol abuse on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The illegal trade in alcohol has "caused devastating injuries to the Lakota people and massive financial damages to the [tribe]."
Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Schwarting




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Tyson Tattoo Creates Legal Headache for 'Hangover 2' Print

The creator of a distinctive “tribal”  tattoo on the side of Mike Tyson's face has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit that may hinge on whether a reproduction of the tattoo in the movie “The Hangover Part II” is a parody of the original.

Victor Whitmill's suit appears to be only the second in which a tattoo artist has claimed copyright protection for a work of body art. He alleges Warner Bros. infringed on his copyright in “one of the most distinctive tattoos in the nation” by reproducing it in “Hangover 2” on the face of a character played by actor Ed Helms.

Tyson sported the tattoo when he appeared as himself in the first “Hangover” movie. According to Whitmill, the tattoo cannot be reproduced on someone else's body without his permission.

“For Mr. Whitmill, this case is not about Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson’s likeness, or Mike Tyson’s right to use or control his identity,” the complaint says. “This case is about Warner Bros. appropriation of Mr. Whitmill’s art and Warner Bros. unauthorized use of that art, separate and apart from Mr. Tyson.”

Whitmill, who registered his copyright in April, is seeking unspecified damages and an injunction on the release of “Hangover 2,” which is scheduled for the Memorial Day weekend.

In a somewhat similar case, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was not a “fair use” for a clothing retailer to have a model wear a copyrighted eyeglass design in a print ad. The design of the glasses was “strikingly bizarre,” it noted in Davis v. The Gap, Inc., 246 F.3d 152 (2001).

But a fair use defense based on parody could still apply to Whitmill's case if Warners can show that Ed Helms's tattoo in “Hangover 2” is “a new art work that makes ridiculous the style and expression of the original.” Rogers v. Koons, 960 F. 2d 301 (1992).

According to an article by scholar Christopher A. Harkins, copyright protection for tattoos had been a non-issue because artists have wanted “any and all available exposure for their work.” But in 2005, Matthew Reed, a Portland, Ore., tattooist, sued Nike after it featured a design he had created for NBA star Rasheed Wallace in an ad campaign.

The case settled before a judge addressed its merits but Harkins predicted it would have “a potentially far-reaching impact on any would-be celebrity with a reasonable expectation of fame and on any present-day athlete, actor or actress, as well as advertising agencies and product purveyors and service providers.”

Whitmill, of Waynesville, Mo., created the tattoo for Tyson in 2003, apparently using New Zealand Maori facial art as his inspiration. The former heavyweight champion signed a release form acknowledging that Whitmill owns all intellectual property rights in the design.

“Plaintiff has never copied the [tattoo] onto anyone else and has never licensed or otherwise authorized anyone else to copy, distribute, or publicly disseminate the [tattoo] or make derivative works based upon it,” Whitmill says.

The tattoo may well, as an initial matter, be copyrightable since it is “fixed” on Tyson's body and the standard for originality is relatively low. In Carell v. Shubert Organization, 104 F.Supp.2d 236 (2000), a New York judge granted copyright protection to makeup designs created for the theatrical musical “Cats.”

But there was no parody defense in either Davis or Carell. The makers of “Hangover 2” should have a strong argument that by recreating the Tyson tattoo on Ed Helms's face, they were making an ironic or comic reference to Tyson's appearance in the original movie.

Such a use is clearly as “transformative” as, for example, Monty Python's animations of the Mona Lisa. And as the Rogers decision requires, “Hangover 2's” audience would “be aware that underlying the parody there is an original and separate expression, attributable to a different artist.”

UPDATE

  • As On Point reports here, U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry denied Whitmill's motion for a preliminary injunction at a May 23, 2011 hearing but indicated he would prevail on the merits.


  • This story linked by:


    By Matthew Heller
    5/1/11


     

    Editor's note: On Point's RSS feed has moved to this link.

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