Sunday, December 8, 2013

Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co. case brief

Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co. case brief summary
433 U.S. 562 (1977)

Petitioner entertainer appealed a judgment from the Supreme Court of Ohio, which reversed a judgment for petitioner and held that respondent television station was constitutionally privileged, under U.S. Constitutional amends. I and XIV, to broadcast petitioner's entire performance on its newscast, in petitioner's action for respondent's infringement of petitioner's right of privacy.

Respondent television station secretly taped petitioner entertainer's performance and broadcast the performance on a newscast. Holding that the free speech privilege afforded respondent under U.S. Constitutional amends. I and XIV did not extend to broadcasting petitioner's entire performance, the Court reversed the judgment, and remanded to the state court.

  • The Court determined that the court below did not rest the judgment on independent and adequate state grounds, and decided therefore that it had jurisdiction. 
  • The Court held that petitioner's "right of publicity" was different from, and accorded more deference than "false light" cases. 
  • The Court noted that "false light" cases were akin to defamation, while petitioner's case was merely one of who obtained the benefit of petitioner's work. 
  • In that regard, the Court held that petitioner's interest was more like a patent or copyright, interests which were not subject to claims of constitutional privilege. 
  • The Court also emphasized that the broadcast of an entire act was categorically different from reporting on an event, in that it posed a substantial threat to the economic value of the performance, and to petitioner's livelihood.
The Court reversed the judgment for respondent television station, because the tort of infringement of right of publicity protected petitioner entertainer's property interest in his act, and where respondent broadcast the act in its entirety, albeit as part of a newscast, the broadcast was not afforded a constitutional free speech privilege as a defense.

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