Media Law

Butzel Long's media team is an active force in media law on the state and national levels. We routinely handle all aspects of the legal challenges faced by the media industry, and we advise a variety of media organizations as they seek to serve the public interest. Our clients are traditional media outlets with traditional media issues, along with emerging technology groups and digital businesses needing advice on data protection and cybercrimes. We also advise clients with respect to publishing and royalty disputes, representing both publishers and authors.

Our team has extensive experience in the traditional areas of libel and privacy, newsroom counseling, state and federal Freedom of Information Acts, Open Meetings Act disputes, entry into courtrooms and other public proceedings, and access to public records. We advise on the gamut of newsgathering issues, subpoena, and access litigation. We are also experienced in digital media including the areas of advertising clearance, the Communications Decency Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, user agreements including terms of use and privacy policies, international privacy protection, endorsement issues, content licensing, branding, website and software development, PCI compliance and cybersquatting. We dedicate ourselves to helping clients avoid litigation by regularly counseling on legal issues throughout content development. We conduct, for example, pre-publication reviews and seminars to help avoid costly litigation. Yet, when the need arises, our attorneys bring to bear a rich history of successfully litigating traditional and digital media issues at the trial and appellate levels as we actively participate in the development of First Amendment theory and practice.

Our clients are diverse and sophisticated, conducting their business both on and offline. Our digital media clients range from bloggers and social media boards to internet start-up companies. Representative clients include AWeber Communications, Bank on Yourself, Fluency Media, Scambusters, and This Is True. Our press and publishing clients include Advance Magazine Publishers, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Anteebo Publishers Inc., the Battle Creek Enquirer, BusinessWeek, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), CBS Broadcasting Inc., Crain Communications, the Detroit News, E!, the Flint Journal, Gannett Co., Inc., Holt Rinehart & Winston, Digital First Media, Journal Register Company, the Lansing State Journal, the Macomb Daily, Media Networks, Inc., the Michigan Press Association, the Monroe Evening News, E!, Discovery Communications, NBCUniversal,Newsweek, the Oakland Press, the Ogemaw County Herald, Petoskey News Review, Random House Inc., the Readers Digest Association, Scripps Media, Inc., Simon & Schuster, Sports Illustrated, the Traverse City Record Eagle, U.S.A. Today, the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company (Group W), WJRT ABC 12, WWJ Radio, and WXYZ-TV Channel 7.

Experience

  • Koczenasz v. The Flint Journal. Represented newspaper in defending defamation/privacy/intentional infliction of emotional distress suit. Successfully obtained summary judgment in favor of defendants
  • Detroit News v. City of Detroit. Represented newspaper in lawsuit under Michigan Freedom of Information Act for release of text messages involving Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick and his Chief of Staff. Michigan Supreme Court Docket No. 135841
  • Represented a regional news publishing company in connection with a defamation against one of its newspapers
  • Kevorkian v. American Medical Association, 237 Mich. App. 1, 602 N.W.2d 233; 28 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 1532 (1999) (libel claim by Dr. Jack Kevorkian)
  • Johnson v. McGraw-Hill, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10148, 44 Fed. R. Serv. 3d 1192 (E.D. Mich. 1999) and Erwin v McGraw-Hill, No. 97-CV-72704, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7109 (E.D. Mich. 1998) (libel/privacy by NBA star’s agent)
  • Garvelink v. Detroit News, 206 Mich. App. 604 (1994). Represented newspaper in defending defamation suit. Successfully obtained summary judgment
  • Fewins v. Grand Traverse Record Eagle, Case No. 08-8223-NO (Benzie County Circuit Court) (defamation case brought by county sheriff)
  • Defending newspaper against defamation and related tort action.
  • In re DaimlerChrysler AG Sec. Litig., 216 F.R.D. 395, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15145 (E.D. Mich. 2003) (reporters’ privilege arising out of publication of book on the Daimler/Chrysler merger)
  • Defended music company in copyright action
  • Successful defense of Benjamin Spock in breach of contract action
  • Represented a national cable entertainment news show in connection with a defamation action
  • Farrell and Detroit News v. City of Detroit, 209 Mich. App. 7; 530 N.W.2d 105 (1995) (FOIA case involving production of computer tapes)
  • Northland Wheels Skating Center, Inc. v. Detroit News et al, 213 Mich. App 317 (1995). Represented newspaper in defending defamation suit. Successfully obtained summary judgment
  • Represented church group in successful challenge on First Amendment grounds to charitable solicitation ordinance
  • Fronning v. Jenny Jones Show, 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 5725 (6th Cir. 1996) (invasion of privacy claim by stripper who appeared on Jenny Jones show)
  • Represented CBS Sixty Minutes in multi-year libel litigation culminating in a "no cause" verdict.
  • Represented a radio station in lawsuit brought over advertisement
  • Represented a major motion picture studio in one of the leading "substantial similarity" literary copyright infringement cases in the Sixth Circuit
  • Television and Newspaper Publiser Litigation
  • Represented a promotion and sign company in challenge to application of zoning resolution to accessory signs on First Amendment and other grounds
  • Successfully obtained summary disposition in defamation action.
  • Cecil Fielder v. Greater Media, Inc., No. 267495 (Mich. App. July 25, 2006) (unpublished) (libel lawsuit by former Detroit Tigers All-Star)
  • Represented international advertising agency in overturning a $44 million judgment.
  • Rahn v. The Detroit News. Represented newspaper in defending defamation suit. Successfully obtained summary judgment in favor of defendants.
  • Stratton v. WJRT et al, 2005 Mich. App. LEXIS 23 (2005) (libel/privacy involving media ride-along)
  • Cross v. Detroit News, 29 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 2439 (Mich. App. 2001) (libel claim by business owner)
  • Defended music company in copyright action
  • Shumake v. WJBK. Successfully obtained dismissal of defamation/privacy claims against defendant broadcasters
  • Successfully obtained summary disposition in defamation action.
  • Defended television station in trademark/copyright action
  • Defense of libel suit. Case dismissed and sanctions imposed against plaintiff.
  • Pesta v. CBS, Inc. (60 Minutes), 653 F. Supp. 350 (E.D. Mich. 1986); 686 F. Supp. 166 (E.D. Mich. 1988); 837 F.2d 1091 (6th Cir. 1988). Represented defendants and ultimately obtained jury verdict of no-cause after multi-week trial.
  • Johnson v. Herald-Palladium. Obtained dismissal of defamation lawsuit prior to start of discovery
  • Represented a boxing promoter in libel and contract litigation
  • Newspaper Publisher Litigation
  • The Detroit News v. Wayne County, Docket #235831 (Mich App 2002) (unpublished) (FOIA case involving wage and other information)
  • Represented Newspaper in acquisition of government files
  • Teamsters Local 372 v. Detroit Newspaper Agency. Defended employer in § 1983 suit brought by unions and bringing RICO counterclaim. Successful survived multiple motions to dismiss RICO counterclaim. 956 F. Supp. 753 (1997); 993 F. Supp. 1052 (1998)
  • Erwin v. Detroit News, 29 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 1863 (Mich. App. 2001) (libel claim by sports agent)
  • Submitted multiple amicus briefs in various courts on media issues for multiple clients, including media associations, newspapers and broadcasters
  • Booth Newspapers v. 12th District Court Judge, 172 Mich. App. 688 (1988). Successful challenge to statute barring access to preliminary examination in rape case.
  • Pesta v. CBS Inc., 686 F. Supp. 166; 15 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 1798 (E.D. Mich. 1988), on remand from 837 F.2d 1091 (6th Cir. 1988) (libel action by doctor arising out “60 Minutes” Broadcast)
  • Successfully obtained summary disposition in defamation action.
  • Incorporated new Michigan corporation for media purchase
  • Detroit Newspaper Agency v. Local 372. Represented employer in successfully obtaining injunction against picket line violence.
  • Duran v The Detroit News, 200 Mich. App.622 (1993). Represented newspaper in defending defamation/privacy/intentional infliction of emotional distress suit. Successfully obtained summary judgment.
  • Detroit News, Inc. v. Recorder's Court Judge, 202 Mich. App. 595 (1993) (access to court records)
  • Locricchio v. Evening News Ass’n, 438 Mich. 84; 476 N.W.2d 112 (1991); cert. denied, 503 U.S. 907 (1992) (libel case involving reporting on mafia connections to Pine Knob)
  • Successfly represented newspaper in Freedom of Information lawsuit involving (now former) Mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick
  • People v. Pastor (In re March 1999 MSU Riots), 463 Mich. 378, 617 N.W.2d 310, 2000 Mich. LEXIS 1493, 28 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 2398 (2000) (reporter’s privilege arising out of riots at MSU following NCAA “March Madness” game)
  • Represented the Prime Minister of Greece in libel litigation in London. Case successfully settled prior to trial.
  • Curtis v Evening News Association, 135 Mich. App.101, 103 (1984). Represented newspaper in defending defamation suit. Successfully obtained summary judgment
  • The Detroit News v. Wayne County. Successfully represented newspaper in lawsuit under Michigan Freedom of Information Act for release of salary information. Michigan Court of Appeals Docket No. 235831.
  • Represented a reporter for a nationally recognized media paper who was subpoenaed as a witness in a criminal pedophilia trial in Washtenaw County based on his award -winning reporting on the inside world of internet pedophilia.
  • International Sports Marketing v. Saatchi & Saatchi North America, Inc. Obtained reversal of trial court’s imposition of default judgment in excess of $20M against client. 2002 Mich. App. LEXIS 1877, December 3, 2002
  • McIntosh v. The Detroit News, 2009 Mich. App. LEXIS 128; 37 Media L. Rep. 1193 (2009) (unpublished) (libel/fair report privilege)
  • Represented employer in successfully obtaining injunction against picket line violence.
  • Challenge by group of journalists to ban on travel to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to report on refugees detained there
  • Detroit News, Inc. v. Policemen & Firemen Ret. Sys., 252 Mich. App. 59; 651 N.W.2d 127 (2002) (FOIA)
  • Hamilton v. Detroit News, 2008 Mich. App. LEXIS 1729 (Mich. App. Aug. 26, 2008) (unpublished) (libel/privacy by prominent club owner)
  • Lifestyle Lift v. Merideth Corp., Case No. 08 096448 NO (Oakland County Circuit Court) (defamation case arising out of news broadcast on company that promotes a 24-hour recovery after its mini-facelift procedure)
  • American Transmission v. Channel 7 of Detroit, 239 Mich. App. 695; 609 N.W.2d 607; 28 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 1823 (2000) (libel/other torts involving “Call for Action” investigation)
  • Defended music company in copyright action
  • Michigan v. Schmitz, 24 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 2535 (Mich. App. 1996) (court access involving murder trial arising out of “same sex-crush” Jenny Jones show)
  • Tomkiewicz v. Detroit News, 246 Mich. App. 662 (2001). Represented newspaper in defending defamation and privacy suit. Successfully obtained summary judgment in favor of defendant
  • Litigation over First Amendment rights of musicians to perform in the subway system
  • Represented numerous media entities in defamation and invasion of privacy cases.
  • Olympia Entertainment Inc. v. Brass Ring Productions. Represented plaintiff in series of commercial disputes, successfully obtaining partial summary disposition and injunctive relief. 467 Mich. 855 (2002); 2002 Mich. App. LEXIS 621.
  • Lins v Evening News Association, 129 Mich. App.419, 426 (1983). Represented newspaper in defending defamation suit. Successfully obtained summary judgment
  • Defended movie studio in copyright action
  • Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, 303 F.3d 681, 30 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 2313 (6th Cir. 2002) (closure of immigration proceedings)
  • Defended record publisher in copyright litigation
  • United States v. Koubriti, 252 F. Supp. 2d 424, 31 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 1940 (E.D. Mich. 2003) (closure of voir dire in first post 9-11 terrorism trial)
  • Licensing/Transactions: Drafted license/transaction agreements for a media/entertainment entity

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