MICHIGAN STATE ORDERED TO DISCLOSE SUSPECT’S INFORMATION REDACTED FROM UNIVERSITY POLICE INCIDENT REPORTS

redactEarlier this month, a Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s order that Michigan State disclose the names of suspects redacted from university police incident reports.   ESPN, Inc. v. Michigan State University, No. 326773 (Mich. App. Ct. Aug. 18, 2015). The appellate court found that the public’s interest in government accountability took priority over any student-athlete’s expectation of privacy.

In ESPN, the University appealed the trial court’s ruling based on the privacy exception to the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), MCL 15.231, et seq. In September 2014, ESPN submitted a FOIA request to the University seeking incident reports involving several student-athletes. The University produced certain records, but redacted names and identifying information of the suspects, victims, and witnesses, pursuant to MCL 15.243(1)(a) and (1)(b)(iii). Specifically, subsection 15.243(1)(b)(iii) prohibits disclosure of certain investigating records that would constitute an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The trial court ordered disclosure of the suspects’ names, but not the names and information of the victims and witnesses, “even if the victims or witnesses were one of the student-athletes identified in the request.” The University appealed. (ESPN did not challenge the trial court’s determination that the privacy exemption applied to the victims’ and witnesses’ respective information.)

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Posted by Erin Rhinehart
Advertising and Media
August 31, 2015

Is Footage of City Council Meetings Protected by Copyright Laws?

public records4Not according to one federal judge in California. In City of Inglewood v. Joseph Teixeira, et. al., No. 2:15-cv-01815 (C.D. Ca. Aug. 20, 2015), United Stated District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald found that California state law bars the city from claiming copyright over the public-access footage of city council meetings and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

In Teixeira, the City of Inglewood filed a lawsuit against Joseph Teixeira. Teixeira used footage from the city council meetings to make his own videos that criticized the city and its elected officials. Teixeira posted his videos to You Tube. The city alleged claims of copyright infringement based on Teixeira’s use of the public-access footage in his videos.

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Posted by Erin Rhinehart
Advertising and Media
August 28, 2015

Doe v. Gangland: Why Breaking a Confidentiality Agreement with a Former Gang-Member is a Bad Idea

confidentiality_ganglandFor those of you into true-crime documentaries, have you ever wondered how producers get criminals and accused criminals to talk on the record?  In rare instances, some subjects of a documentary will agree to talk because they want to tell what they think is their exculpatory story.  (Case in point:  Robert Durst.  If you have HBO On Demand, then there is a fair chance you may have binge-watched The Jinx:  The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst earlier this year.  If you have not, then you need to stop reading this blog and go watch it now.)  More often, however, the producer will agree to conceal the identity or identifying characteristics of interviewees.   All of us have seen those blurred face and altered voices before.  What happens, though, when a producer breaks such a confidentiality agreement?  Doe v. Gangland, a Ninth Circuit case from 2013, is one of the few cases to address the pre-interview deals that are struck, and the legal fallout that occurs when the deal is broken.

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Posted by Jade Smarda
Advertising and Media
August 26, 2015

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