July 16, 2011

Wisconsin Recalls: Lawsuits threatened

Sen. Jim Holperin, Democrat of Eagle River, is threatened with a copyright infringement action by Watchmen Broadcasting of Atlanta. Watchmen is a Christian teevee outfit headed up by Dorothy Spaulding, to whom Jesus Christ Himself awarded the broadcasting license in 1995.

Spaulding alleges Holperin unlawfully used footage of an interview with Kim Simac, one of the Republican challengers to Holperin's incumbency. We took a gander at that interview here. Its nature likely precludes a fair use/parody defense, as the original is already sort of a parody.

I haven't seen — nor heard — the Holperin ad in question but I don't believe there's anything particularly actionable about one candidate for public office using another candidate for public office's own words in support of the former candidate's criticisms of the latter.

In this case, however, it's a third party's material that's allegedly been hijacked. But given the nature and brevity of political ads generally, it's unlikely there would be much to Watchmen Broadcasting's complaint.

All publishers assume the risk, so to speak, of fair use by others.

Holperin was the object of a frivolous lawsuit once before.

Incidentally and on the other hand, one practice which may well be actionable is that of bloggers who capture video segments produced by commercial teevee stations, edit the segments into shorter clips, upload the clips to their own YouTube accounts, and then hotlink to the YouTube account at their blogs. That's out-and-out theft, in my view.

If I was the teevee station I'd go after 'em for sure.

The other prospective legal action issues from David VanderLeest, the Republican challenging Democratic incumbent Senator Dave Hansen. Its text is available here. VanderLeest's counsel is making some nebulous claims against a blogger who has been riding VanderLeest pretty hard.
Use of and transmittal in any form of other than public information will be met with an immediate response in the form of a cause of action if grounded on a solid legal foundation.
Well, anybody can say that. The solid legal foundation is the tricky part.

Personally I'm unconvinced of the utility of digging so deeply into VanderLeest's obviously troubled personal relationships, in particular where it involves his children, because he probably doesn't stand a chance against Hansen anyway, his campaign having raised all of $2K.

But I still find it remarkable that Governor Scott Walker, who labored to keep the white supremacist David Duke off the Republican ballot in 1992, would appear by his continuing silence on the matter to be untroubled by VanderLeest's presence on the Republican ballot Tuesday.

Furthermore, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald "is focused on looming recall elections for nine State senators," one of which involves VanderLeest.

VanderLeest, at minimum, is a troubling dude. Fitz has got to be conflicted over aiding and welcoming him into the WISGOP caucus.

On the other hand, they've already got Sen. Glenn Grothman and they made him the second-in-command of that august upper chamber.

So you never know with this gang.


John Foust said...

Yeah, but Google bought YouTube for $1.65B, and after all that personal expression forward slash theft of property backward slash remixing, there's gold in thar advertising hills.

Mike said...

Hansen and Holperin seem to be in less risk than thought quite recently. Hansen gets VanderLeest for an opponent next Tuesday, a gift from the epicly failing Republicans and John Nygren in particular, who didn't even bother to sign his own petition (he would have been one short if he did). The value in attacking VanderLeest so strongly goes beyond this election, as important as that is - namely, to show the electorate once and for all the lunatic asylum that the Republicans Party has become, and to make it stick. Plus, beat him senseless to show momentum.

And it looks fair to say that Holperin is going to get Simac for an opponent. Democratic voters get to vote for this real Republican, just like Republicans voted for fake Democrats last week.

illusory tenant said...

All valid points. Still, the child abuse incident report, that's a bit much.

Jeremy R. Shown said...

Mike - Dick Nixon didn't permanently harm the GOP, but you think VanderLeest will?

You don't actually believe that do you?

gnarlytrombone said...

bloggers who capture video segments

Especially when almost all teevee outlets now make their clips embeddable. I sure wish Wisconsin Eye would. Bloggingheads has this nifty little feature where you can designate the start and end points in a vid an embed that on a blog. Only problem is there's nothing worth embedding.

Mike said...

Jeremy, interesting you should mention Nixon, because in many respects he is the godfather of the modern GOP and led the way - the ratf*cking, strategic lying about Vietnam, Southern Strategy, and so on. He was not a lunatic like his modern descendants though, and would have been horrified at the specter of holding the country to ransom over the debt ceiling.

The GOP came back after his fall, no doubt, and we are now witnessing the start of another great realignment. The Republicans are at a dead end and will have to adapt. But they have built a system where it is near impossible for moderation to break through, and that is not a winning program in the American political system, long term.

Mike said...

At least he doesn't smoke crack.