A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Archive for October, 2011

Toyota Punk’d You!

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By Sarah Berent and Mercedes Hobson

The world of advertising has changed drastically since the days of Don Draper. Fast forwarding through commercials combined with the steady decline of the print medium has forced advertisers to engage consumers in more creative and interactive ways. Still, you’d think there’d be a way to create innovative ad campaigns without scaring the living daylights out of people.

Well, maybe not.  In 2008, when car giant Toyota hired advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, to promote the launch of its Matrix model, ad execs (maybe they were true “mad” men) came up with the “Your Other You” campaign which created elaborate pranks to be played on the unsuspecting.

Visitors to a website specifically created for the Toyota campaign were able to secretly sign up a friend to be pranked. A questionnaire was emailed to the “victim” disguised as a personality test. In actuality the autobiographical answers provided the basic framework to initiate the stunt.

Enter the case of Amanda Duick. After a friend signed her up for what she thought was an online personality test, our innocent bystander began to be stalked via e-mail by a stranger named “Sebastian Bowler”, who identified himself as a 25- year-old Englishman.

For five days straight, he emailed and texted the poor girl, claiming to be on a cross-country road trip and heading to her house to hide out from police. The clever people at Saatchi & Saatchi painstakingly created a fake MySpace profile for this Sebastian with artful detail to give their stalker character an air of legitimacy. The prank went so far as to convince Ms. Duick that she was going to be held liable for her stalker’s damaged motel room after receiving an angry email from someone purporting to be the motel manager.

Ms. Duick’s reaction?  As expected, a major freak out. She panicked to all her friends and relatives and even slept with mace and a baseball bat next to her bed.

Then, surprise! She received a message directing her to a video explaining she had been punk’d by Toyota as part of its exciting new campaign! Yay?   (more…)

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Watching “Kramer vs. Kramer” and Discussing Law

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By Jason Rindenau

Last week I was fortunate to attend a screening and panel discussion at Fordham Law School’s Forum on Law, Culture, and Society.

Hosted by essayist, writer, and Fordham Law professor Thane Rosenbaum, the sixth annual Forum served up a timely collection of law-related films and post-screening discussions with the talented individuals who made them possible. This year’s selections included HBO’s film about the 2008 financial meltdown, Too Big To Fail, with featured appearances by the New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker; the 1983 film, Daniel, which brought to Fordham Law the real-life sons of the film’s subjects, accused spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg; and Wall Street, with special guests director Oliver Stone and film producer Edward Pressman.

I went to Wednesday evening’s screening of 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer, starring Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman, because I hadn’t seen the film; I chose well. It is a classic that has held up beautifully since its release over 30 years ago,  and a must-see for anyone interested in family law. After the screening, the panelists, writer/director Robert Benton, the author of the novel on which the film was based, Avery Corman, and famed divorce attorney Raoul Felder participated in a panel discussion moderated by Professor Rosenbaum.   (more…)

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In God We Trust…and Hold Office

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By Asher Hawkins

A casual aside in Wednesday’s op-ed column by Gail Collins of The New York Times sent us here at LASIS scurrying for our constitutional-law thinking caps.

In the piece, which poked fun at Tuesday night’s feisty Republican debate in Las Vegas, Ms. Collins made the following assertion about Texas governor Rick Perry: “The whole First Amendment thing might be a little complicated for a governor whose State Constitution prohibits anyone who doesn’t believe in God from holding public office. This is not a joke.”

Not a joke? It must be. Surely some form of federal law must prevent a state from including such a blatantly pro-religion requirement in its constitution, right? Just to be safe, we decided to look into what Ms. Collins was possibly referring to.

Lo and behold, her statement is essentially accurate (if somewhat imperfectly worded): Section 4 of Article I of the Texas Constitution forbids excluding anyone “from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” (Article I of the Texas Constitution comprises the Lone Star State’s Bill of Rights.)

How does such a requirement not violate numerous provisions of the U.S. Constitution? And is Texas the only state whose constitution contains such language, or are there corresponding clauses in other states’ foundational documents? A look at federal case law on so-called religious test oaths helps answer those questions.   (more…)

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Will Usher Have to Pay Up For Stealing Hit Song?

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By Nadia-Elysse Harris

2004 was a fantastic year for R&B superstar Usher Raymond.  His album, Confessions, was certified ten times platinum.  His love life was the topic of discussion on every entertainment news and blog site.  And his hit song “Yeah” was played at every high school senior’s prom…at least three times.

In many ways Confessions was the peak of Usher’s career. Seven years and a couple of not as successful albums later, a little known group filed suit alleging that “Burn,” the second single on Usher’s hit album, was so similar to a song on their not-so-hit album that it had to have been stolen – a claim that could leave the famous singer’s pockets burning.

Ernest L. Straughter claims that a 1998 song he penned for the group “Reel Tight” entitled “No More Pain” shares considerable similarities with “Burn” including the song’s introduction, repeated melodic sequence and harmonic progressions.  Mr. Straughter is suing for copyright infringement and in September, a California judge ruled that the case holds enough weight to go forward to trial.

Billboard.com did a great job of outlining the specific claims in the suit, but didn’t take the extra step of analyzing Mr. Straughter’s likelihood of success.  Lucky for you, that’s where LASIS comes in.   (more…)

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More Legal Trouble for Reebok

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By LASIS Staff

On October 16, LASIS reported on a pricey settlement agreement between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Reebok.

Reebok agreed to pull certain advertisements for its EasyTone and RunTone toning shoes and issue $25 million in refunds to customers who bought the shoes. What sparked the FTC’s investigation were Reebok’s claims that the shoes will strengthen your muscles by a certain percentage just by wearing them. According to the FTC, Reebok has no hard data to back up these promises.

But customers in other countries, like Canada, do not benefit from this agreement and according to Canada Newswire, Consumer Law Group, Inc. is now suing Reebok for false advertising as part of a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Canadian residents who purchased the shoes.

It will not be surprising if more foreign firms follow in the footsteps of the FTC and Canada’s consumer group. Unfortunately for Reebok, that means the settlement agreement with the FTC will not the be last time the company is hit with a near universal truth of advertising law…if you’re going to advertise using hard facts, you’d better have some.

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