Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Piers Morgan interviews plaintiff in "fiction libel" case about "The Wolf of Wall Street"; but this show is soon to be cancelled by CNN

Piers Morgan’s interview show is reported to have been cancelled by CNN, and may end as soon as March, according to this report
  
The show has reported low ratings, and some viewers have been irritated by his “moralistic” harping on gun control, with constant comparisons to Britain and Australia.

Nevertheless, his recent interviews regarding the film “The Wolf of Wall Street”, first of a somewhat humbled and plain Jordan Belfort, and now with Andrew Greene, who is suing Paramount and parties associated with the film for libel and defamation.

Greene says that the character Nicky Koskoff is based on him.  He was played by P.J. Byrne in the film and called “Rugrat” but was called “Wigwam” in real life.
  
Greene says that he never joined in on the wild behavior show in the film, and that the film greatly exaggerates what went on.  He was an IT and business lead analyst with largely technical responsibilities as were common in the information technology workplace in large financial companies in the 1990s.
  
  
The full post is here.  It’s interesting that Rugrat holds the shears while a woman’s head is shaved in one scene.
  
Greene says that his reputation and relationships were ruined, but some have suggested that it is the publicity over the suit that would affect his reputation.
   

It is possible to libel someone in fiction, even when names are changed.  There is a practical question as to whether people are likely to recognize someone who seems to resemble a character who is unfavorably portrayed, in a way that the person’s life is affected.  That may me more likely today in the world of online reputation, although even a name change reduces the risk that the person can be searched.  (Remember, truth is an absolute defense to libel in the US, but not always in the UK.) In the word-of-mouth pre-Internet days, the problem became well known with lawyers.   There was a famous case in California, “Bindrim v. Mitchell” in 1979, based on the novel “Touching”.  There was one case where someone was almost prosecuted for a “threat” made in “fiction”.  The “Bill Boushka” blog, label “fiction legal risks” accounts for a number of these cases.  New York State may not be as friendly to plaintiffs in this sort of case as is California (with a more sensitive idea of reputation), as in the case Springer v. Viking Press.  Some of the older cases are discussed in “The Writer’s Lawyer” by Ronald L. Goldfarb and Gail E. Ross (Times books, 1989).  

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