A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: right of privacy

The Right to Not Have an Abortion

Teen mother

By Nicole Rowlands

There’s a stigma that comes with being a teen mom. You may not graduate high school. In less than a year, you may get pregnant again. And eight out of ten teen pregnancy cases do not end up in marriage. But for a 16-year-old teen from Houston, Texas, none of it matters.

She wants her baby. And she will keep it. Despite the odds against her.

According to the teen, her parents tried coercing her to have an abortion. She told the press that after finding out about her pregnancy, her parents took away her phone and her car, pulled her out of school, and made her get two jobs in an effort to make her miserable so that she’d give up and agree to abort her baby.  Her mother allegedly threatened to “slip her an abortion pill.” And her father told her he was going to “look into canceling her health insurance.”

Her parents gave her two choices: one, she could “live in misery” in their home, or two, she could “have the abortion and tell everyone it was a miscarriage.”

The teen sought the court’s help to sue her parents and was represented by lawyers from the Texas Center for Defense of Life. In the end, she and her parents reached an agreement and she was “allowed” to go through with the pregnancy. But, as a minor, if the case had gone forward, would she have won?

The press didn’t analyze the legal issues involved. We will.

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Reality TV Invades the Hospital Room

NY Med

By Asher Hawkins

These days, some folks are only too happy to have the most intimate moments of their personal lives documented by a reality-television crew.

Others are old-fashioned enough that they don’t relish the thought that highly personal moments would be broadcast – and On-Demanded, Netflix’d, and Hulu’d – for millions to see.

The family of Mark Chanko, a patient at New York-Presbyterian Hospital whose final moments were captured on camera and then used in a scene of ABC’s “NY Med” belongs in this second camp, and has sued  the network, the hospital, and several doctors believed to have been involved in treating the man prior to his death.

The New York Post and the New York Daily News reported that Mr. Chanko’s widow was shocked when she tuned in to the show and saw the scene featuring her late husband; though his face was blurred, she recognized his voice immediately. The media didn’t analyze the strength of the subsequent lawsuit. We will.

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Skating Over Legal Terminology

Oksana Baiul

By Asher Hawkins

Dressing up in spandex and sequins. Strapping on a pair of ice skates. Performing a carefully choreographed routine to the smooth-jazz stylings of Kenny G. Sound embarrassing?

For a professional figure skater, that’s just another day at the office. In fact, the pro-skater would probably object if it were suggested that she had agreed to engage in such a performance, but then pulled a no-show at the last minute. A couple of stunts like that, and suddenly you’re the LiLo of the skating-show world.

Earlier this month, Ukraine-born former Olympian Oksana Baiul sued NBC and a skating-show production company whose events apparently are regularly broadcast by the network, in state court in Manhattan, alleging that her name and likeness were used in promotional campaigns for a pair of recent skate shows, even though she had never officially signed on as a performer for the events.

Reports about Ms. Baiul’s suit by the Associated Press, New York Daily News, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and others described the gist of her allegations, and readers would be forgiven for thinking, after reading these accounts, that Ms. Baiul’s claims primarily involve contract or defamation law.

As it happens, the key doctrine on which her complaint actually relies is a legal concept commonly (and sometimes inaccurately) referred to as “right of publicity.”

Some background:

Do you even remember Ms. Baiul? At the age of 16, she overcame injury during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer to beat out American sweetheart Nancy Kerrigan for the gold. Her unfortunate hairstyle and outfit choices may have made Tonya Harding look like a fashion icon by comparison, but oh, how she could lutz!

Ms. Baiul’s post-Olympic career has had its ups and downs; in the late 1990s, national media regularly reported on her apparent struggles with alcohol abuse. Still, she continues to perform in skating shows.

According to her lawsuit, in mid-2011 skating-show production company Disson Skating contacted an agent with whom she was affiliated and offered to pay Ms. Baiul to star in two upcoming shows. The first show was to take place in December 2011 in Greenville, S.C., and feature the progressive-rock band Styx (of “Mr. Roboto” fame.) The show with Kenny G was to take place in January 2012 in the saxophonist’s hometown of Seattle. Ms. Baiul claims that although she never signed a contract with the production company – and ultimately turned down the offer – the shows’ organizers launched a print-and-radio marketing campaign that included Ms. Baiul’s name and likeness and suggested that she would be appearing in the shows. Because that didn’t happen, and because the defendants never issued a correcting press release, Ms. Baiul was left looking like a two-time no-show, and suffered irreparable damage to her reputation, her lawsuit contends.

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If something disparaging is said about a Z-list celebrity, has any harm been done?

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Lindsay Who?

Milkaholic Lindsay

By Leah Braukman

Maybe you tuned into this year’s Super Bowl because you’re a football fanatic, or maybe you watched for the catchy commercials. This year, some big names were featured in the Super Bowl ads: Howard Stern, David Beckham, and at half time, Jay Leno. And the old stalwarts were back: Coke’s happy polar bears, Go Daddy’s hottie, and E*TRADE’s talking babies.

Chances are, this year’s E*TRADE commercial won’t make quite the splash as the one that debuted during Super Bowl XLIV (that would be 2010). In this particular ad, a baby boy apologizes via Skype to a baby girl who wants to know why he didn’t call last night. He says he was busy on E*TRADE and tries to move on to another subject. She’s not buying it. Suspicious, she presses on. “And that milkaholic Lindsay wasn’t over?” He plays dumb. “Lindsay?” he asks, as if that’s the furthest thing from the truth.

And then, popping into view on his end of the Skype screen a little girl, at his place, and sounding a bit tipsy, asks —: “Milk-a-wha-?”  Poor guy is busted.

Cute ad, I thought, when I first saw it. But Lindsay Lohan (famous for her roles in movies like The Parent Trap and Mean Girls, but nowadays better known for her multiple stints in rehab and court appearances) was sure that the “milkaholic” baby was modeled after her.

Darned sure.

So sure, she sued in New York state court.

As LegalZoom reported, Ms. Lohan sued E*TRADE for $100 million after the ad aired and demanded that it stop running the spot because it violated her right to privacy. In other words, Ms. Lohan alleged, by using the name Lindsay without seeking Ms. Lohan’s permission E*TRADE appropriated — inappropriately — Ms. Lohan’s name, characterization, and personality. This is because, the argument went, that when the public hears “Lindsay”, it thinks Ms. Lohan.

And of course, it’s not just the use of the name Lindsay but that the baby in the ad was addicted to the bottle. An unsubtle reference to Lindsay Lohan’s troubles with the bottle, Ms. Lohan claimed.

We’ll never know how this case might have fared in court because the company settled with the star in September of 2010 for an undisclosed amount.

LegalZoom recently asked if the law was on Ms. Lohan’s side in that case but didn’t venture to answer. We will.   (more…)

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