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US District Judge Rejects Fox Injunction to Block "Liars" Publication
by Mark Huisman (mark_huisman AT yahoo DOT com)
Friday Aug 22nd, 2003 4:54 PM
In a major blow to Fox News Channel's lawsuit to stop publication of Al Franken's book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right", US District Court Judge Denny Chin denied Fox's request for an injunction that would have blocked the books publication.
- <b>US District Court Judge Rejects Fox Injunction</b> -

Mark Huisman, San Francisco IMC

In a major blow to Fox News Channel's lawsuit to stop publication of Al Franken's book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right", US District Court Judge Denny Chin denied Fox's request for an injunction that would have blocked the books publication. In a strongly worded ruling, Judge Chin rejected Fox's claim that Franken's use of the trademarked phrase "Fair and Balanced" would have caused confusion for consumers, saying that not only was the claim "wholly without merit, both factually and legally", but that the trademark itself was "weak". Judge Chin also said of the ruling, which pitted the News Corporation's commercial interest in protecting its trademark against the First Amendment's protection of satirical speech, "There are hard cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case."

Al Franken, in a phone interview with the Associated Press, indicated his belief that the quality of Fox News Channel's legal filing impacted the eventual outcome of the request for an injunction. "In addition to thanking my own lawyers," Franken said, "I'd like to thank Fox's lawyers for filing one of the stupidest briefs I've ever seen in my life." The suit stated that Franken "is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable" and that "His views lack any serious depth or insight."

The legal battle surrounding the Fox v. Franken lawsuit has generated a considerable amount of backlash. In ironic confirmation of the adage, "Any publicity is good publicity," Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them has moved from being a relative unknown to occupy the #2 slot on Amazon.com's bestseller list as of Friday. Penguin Group, the book's publisher, has ordered an extra 50,000 copies to the original run of 270,000. Additionally, various Internet sites have picked up on the controversy. Neal Pollack, musician, author and erstwhile candidate for Governor of California, declared Friday, August 13th "Fair and Balanced Day". The Web Logging (blogging) community responded with a plethora of blogs sporting the Fox trademarked slogan, some going so far as to dare the News Corporation company to sue them as well. The backlash appears to be driven by a desire to protect the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech. Judge Chin's seemed to echo this perception, saying that "It is ironic that a media company, which should be protecting the First Amendment, is seeking to undermine it." Chin continued, saying, "Parody is a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. The keystone to parody is imitation. Mr. Franken is clearly mocking Fox."

Fox News has indicated that it will reserve the right to appeal the injunction and continue with the lawsuit against Franken.