A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

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Topless Bust Spills Over Into Suit

By Antonio Mendez

Earlier this month, a fire-eating burlesque dancer filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn Supreme Court against two police officers who arrested her for sunbathing topless at Calvert Vaux Park in Brooklyn.

She is seeking unspecified damages plus attorney fees for assault and battery, malicious prosecution, and violation of her civil-rights.

On July 12, 2012, Jessica Krigsman was hanging out —literally—on a park bench when she was approached by cops and told to put on her shirt. “Haven’t you heard of People v. Santorelli?” she asked the officers. “This has been legal since the ‘90’s,” she added, trying to get the cops abreast of the law. “Call your supervisor!”

Rather than calling, the officers escorted Ms. Krigsman to their supervisor. She was arrested, taken to the 68th precinct stationhouse, and held for five hours. Ms. Krigsman was released only after receiving a summons by NYPD for “obstruction of a sitting area”—a Parks Department code prohibiting the hoarding of benches. The summons was dismissed three months later.

Earlier this year, NYPD reminded its officers in a memo that they “shall not enforce any section of law, including…against female individuals who are simply exposing their breasts in public.” In discussing the memo’s origin, Inspector Kim Royster commented that such memos were “periodically circulated to remind personnel of our policies.” The Inspector added that the memo “comports with the N.Y. Court of Appeals ruling on taking enforcement action against individuals for public nudity.”

That 1992 N.Y. Court of Appeals case is the very one that was cited by Ms. Krigsman. Many media outlets discussed Ms. Krigsman’s lawsuit, but none have peeked into the law books for a legal analysis.

Does Ms. Krigsman have a good case? Will the City lose its shirt in damages on her lawsuit?

LASIS goes after the naked truth.

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Monetizing Mug Shots: A Legal Analysis

By Zachary Edelman

A picture is worth a thousand words. And when that picture is a mug shot it might be worth a whole lot more.

That not so attractive mug shot of you (who are we kidding?) — that godawful shot of you –for a DWI that you prayed nobody would ever see? It’s the first thing that comes up in Google searches of your name, thanks to websites like JustMugshots.com, BustedMugshots.com and FindMugshots.com, which compile mug shots from public records and put them into easy-to-search databases. And they’re getting rich doing it. Some sites charge up to $400 to remove your photo from their database. The problem: Many people don’t have that kind of money. And even if they do, once they pay one site that incriminating photo just pops up on another one.

Some people have decided they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, and are suing the websites purveying the embarrassing pics. After all, people demanding money to delete photographs – or else – is extortion, isn’t it?

A lawyer for BustedMugshots.com and MugshotsOnline.com argues that the First Amendment protects the websites’ practices because mug shots are public records.

But Scott Ciolek, representing Ms. Lashaway and Mr. Kaplan, vehemently disagrees. He says the First Amendment argument is “logically false” adding that, “The law prohibits demanding money to stop embarrassing somebody”.

Many media outlets have reported on the lawsuit, but none have assessed its legal merits.

LASIS zooms in.

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Raising the White Flag to Genericide

By LASIS Staff

Our friend Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. reports that a co-founder of punk band Black Flag can’t stop ex-bandmates from performing as “Flag,” according to a ruling by U.S. district judge Dean Pragerson.

“Defendants have submitted evidence suggesting that even if Plaintiffs own the marks, they have allowed them to fall into generic use,” he wrote.

For more about “genericide,” the bête noir of every trademark owner. see this LASIS classic, which explains how a trademark can fall into general use.

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“High” Fashion Lawsuit

By Nicole Rowlands

Los Angeles designer Brian Lichtenberg exploded on to the fashion scene by spoofing high fashion designer logos like Hermès and Miu Miu with his BLTEE line of graphic tee shirts.  Exclusively designed for and sold by Kitson, these $58 tees mock high fashion designers by using the brands’ colors and logos, but with the lettering spelling words like “Homies” (in place of Hermès) or “Meow Meow” (instead of Miu Miu).

Lately, he’s come up with a new prescription for success by using prescription drug brands like Xanax, Vicodin, and Adderall on his tee shirts.

Mr. Lichtenberg’s idea of satire has had some unpleasant side effects. The three prescription drug brands are threatening to sue for trademark infringement.

The media has been reporting the story for months, but haven’t analyzed whether the prescription drug brands would prevail, or whether they should take a chill pill and let it go.

LASIS will.

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Some Legal Advice for Dr. Phil

By Courtney Weinstein 

When I hear the word “alcohol,” I think of good times, socializing, and letting my hair down. The word “sex” for most of us connotes pleasure, reproduction, and maybe even love. While these associations are all positive, we have to consider the devastating truth of what sometimes happens when alcohol and sex are combined.

Rape.

It has been estimated that 25 percent of American women have experienced sexual assault. That number is astounding. What I was not aware of until recently is that approximately half of those cases involve alcohol consumption, by either the victim, the perpetrator, or both.

In August, one of the best-known television personalities, Dr. Phil, took a poll via Twitter. His tweet: “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teenaccused.” We don’t know the result of the poll because the tweet was deleted after people expressed anger and outrage by his seeming flippancy on a sensitive subject.

As clumsy as the tweet may have been, the question that was raised is an important one. When does the combination of alcohol and sex negate consent?

LASIS goes where the Twitter-sphere feared to venture.

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