Tag Archives: Legal

Tunisian Court Says No To Persepolis



In a story we have been fol­low­ing closely, a court in Tunisia has has ruled that the head of a pri­vate TV sta­tion is guilty of dis­rupt­ing pub­lic order and vio­lat­ing moral val­ues for air­ing Perse­po­lis.

Nabil Karoui defended the air­ing on free­dom of speech grounds, whereas some reli­gious lead­ers say the ani­mated film say insults Islam. Fly­ing in the face of the Arab Spring, which many hoped would bring new free­doms in the Mid­dle East, the court in Tunis ordered Nabil Karoui to pay a 2,400-dinar (approx. $1,600) fine because his sta­tion, Nessma TV, aired the ani­mated film last Octo­ber 7th. A Nessma tech­ni­cian and another sta­tion offi­cial were both fined 1,200 dinars.

The case has pit­ted lib­er­als and defend­ers of media free­dom against hard-line Islamic groups who say that the film, which includes a depic­tion of God, is sac­ri­le­gious. The legal bat­tle has under­scored a strug­gle between sec­u­lar­ists and Islamists the North African nation after last year’s over­throw of its long­time dic­ta­tor Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first Arab Spring uprising.

In its rul­ing Thurs­day, the court con­victed Karoui of caus­ing “trou­bles to the pub­lic order” and “offense to good morals” but threw out a charge of “offense against a sacred item,” accord­ing to defense lawyer Abada Kefi.

Karoui, who was not in court for the judge­ment, has described his case as a key test for free­dom of expres­sion in Tunisia, which remains in flux fol­low­ing the Jan­u­ary 2011 rev­o­lu­tion that top­pled an entrenched dic­ta­tor­ship and sparked the Arab Spring.

In a state­ment, US Ambas­sador Gor­don Gray said Thursday’s rul­ing raised “seri­ous con­cerns about tol­er­ance and free­dom of expres­sion” in the wake of last year’s rev­o­lu­tion against top­pled Pres­i­dent Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Reuters reports.

I am con­cerned and dis­ap­pointed by the con­vic­tion for Nessma television’s broad­cast of an ani­mated film pre­vi­ously approved for dis­tri­b­u­tion by the Tunisian gov­ern­ment,” Gray said.

We under­stand that Mr. Karoui has the right to appeal his con­vic­tion, and we hope this case will be resolved in a man­ner which guar­an­tees free expres­sion, a basic right denied to Tunisians dur­ing the Ben Ali era,” he added.

Sev­eral peo­ple expressed anger after the announce­ment of the ruling.

It’s appalling, 2,400 dinars for some­body who made a mock­ery of God and offended Mus­lim feel­ings,” said one man, who was in tears.

Peo­ple mock Allah and pre­tend that this is free­dom of expres­sion,” added a veiled woman out­side the cour­t­house, which was guarded by police.

The trial, which opened in Novem­ber 2011 and was twice post­poned, roused strong feel­ings pit­ting those who argued for free­dom of expres­sion against vio­lent extrem­ist Muslims.

The Franco-Iranian film is Iran­ian direc­tor Mar­jane Satrapi’s adap­ta­tion of her graphic novel about grow­ing up dur­ing Iran’s 1979 Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion. It won the jury prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

Persepolis” trial resumes amid heavy security



Tight secu­rity marked Thursday’s resump­tion in the trial of a Tunisian TV sta­tion direc­tor charged with vio­lat­ing sacred val­ues and dis­turb­ing pub­lic order for hav­ing screened the Franco-Iranian ani­mated fea­ture film Perse­po­lis.

Islamists and sup­port­ers of Nessma TV chief Nabil Karoui held rival protests out­side the court in the cap­i­tal, Tunis. Police stood on heavy guard, screen­ing any­one attempt­ing to get into the trial chamber.

Act­ing like spoiled 5 year-olds who don’t get their way, dozens of young hard­line Salafist Mus­lims set up a loud­speaker out­side the cour­t­house, wav­ing black flags inscribed with Islamic verses and plac­ards call­ing for Karoui’s exe­cu­tion. They shouted “Get lost! Shame­ful media get lost!” On the other side of the cour­t­house, Nessma sup­port­ers sang the national anthem and chanted “Free media in Tunisia!”

It’s a deci­sive day for free­dom of speech and of the press,” Karoui told French news ser­vice Agence France-Presse. “The ver­dict will be his­toric and will have an effect on the region.”

Free expres­sion is on trial in Tunisia after the rev­o­lu­tion, and this poses a dan­ger to Tunisians who call for the right to express them­selves with­out per­mis­sion from reli­gious lead­ers,” Karoui told reporters. “I hope that we can turn a page on this once and for all and return calmly to work at Nessma.”

Last Octo­ber 7, Karoui’s sta­tion broad­cast the Oscar-nominated Perse­po­lis (2007), which, through a young girl, tells about the Iran­ian rev­o­lu­tion and its effects. The film infu­ri­ated hard­lin­ers due to a scene depict­ing God, whose rep­re­sen­ta­tion is banned in Islam.

Within two days of the broad­cast, Islamic mil­i­tants held vio­lent demon­stra­tions in Tunis, attack­ing the TV station’s offices and Karoui’s home.

The court said Thurs­day that ver­dict will be deliv­ered May 3. Karoui’s trial opened Novem­ber 16 and has been adjourned twice.

The trial resumed with Nessma tele­vi­sion denounc­ing what it called an attempt to silence it and com­plain­ing that its right to oper­ate freely had been taken away.

Amnesty Inter­na­tional urged the country’s new Islamist-led gov­ern­ment not to repeat the repres­sion of for­mer Tunisian pres­i­dent Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first leader over­thrown in the Arab Spring.

Pros­e­cut­ing and con­vict­ing peo­ple on the basis of the peace­ful expres­sion of their views, even if some might find them offen­sive, is totally unac­cept­able and not what we would expect from the new Tunisia,” said Has­siba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s regional deputy direc­tor. “It’s rem­i­nis­cent of the vio­la­tions of the ousted Ben Ali gov­ern­ment and must stop.”

The judi­ciary was used in Ben Ali’s day to attack free­dom of expres­sion, and we hope that it will not be used now to attack free­doms but to pro­tect them,” said human rights lawyer Rad­hia Nas­raoui, a mem­ber of the defense team for Nessma.

France’s Inter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Human Rights (FIDH) sent an observer. French lawyers were in court as well.

The trial “involves a fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple, that of free­dom of expres­sion and free­dom of cre­ation,” said French mag­is­trate Antoine Gara­pon of FIDH. He called the trial a test of Tunisia’s democracy.

French press free­dom orga­ni­za­tion Reporters With­out Bor­ders sent an observer to the trial. Olive Gre said that she hoped for an acquit­tal. The trial “never should have taken place,” she told AFP.

A trial over a film dam­ages the image of Tunisia abroad,” said long­time sec­u­lar politi­cian Nejib Chebbi.

Second Mickey Mouse lawsuit falls on deaf ears

Bearded Mickey

Bearded Mickey

The sec­ond of two law­suits against Chris­t­ian media mogul Naguib Sawaris over a car­toon of Mickey and Min­nie Mouse in con­ser­v­a­tive Mus­lim guise was dis­missed Sat­ur­day by a Cairo court, Egypt­ian state media reported.

Ultra-conservative Islamist lawyer and par­lia­men­tar­ian Mam­duh Ismail, who filed the com­plaint against the head of Oras­com Tele­com, told Agence France-Presse that he would appeal the lat­est decision.

The judge of the Cairo mis­de­meanor court ruled that the plain­tiff was inel­i­gi­ble to file the reli­gious defama­tion law­suit. He sent the case back to the state prosecutor’s office for fur­ther investigation.

Sawiris, also the founder of a lib­eral party, reposted on Twit­ter a car­toon of a bearded, tur­baned Mickey and girl­friend in a niqab, the face veil worn by fun­da­men­tal­ist Mus­lim women.

It was a humor­ous ref­er­ence to the pos­si­ble effect of a takeover of the coun­try by Islamists, who now con­trol par­lia­ment. How­ever, Sawiris was forced to apol­o­gize fol­low­ing calls for a boy­cott of Mobinil, his cell phone ser­vice provider.

Another court dis­missed a sim­i­lar com­plaint against Sawaris last week.

In his rul­ing, the judge fined the plain­tiff, hard-line lawyer Ali Dergham, slightly under $10 for the court’s time. The car­toon did not do any harm to the plain­tiff, the judge said.

Law­maker Mam­douh Ismail filed a com­plaint to the attorney-general’s office about the car­toon. An adher­ent of the fun­da­men­tal­ist Salafi sect of Islam, he repeated his con­tention Sat­ur­day that the car­toon was offen­sive and harmful.

He posted car­i­ca­tures mock­ing Islam, and we see this as a con­tempt of Islam,” Ismail said.

Sawiris used his Twit­ter account once again Sat­ur­day to say how grate­ful he is for the ruling.

I thank God for this rul­ing because I feel that there is still hope,” he wrote. “Con­grat­u­la­tions to an open, free and smil­ing Egypt that respects all religions.”

Egyptian court tosses lawsuit over bearded Mickey

Bearded Mickey

Bearded Mickey

An Egypt­ian court has dis­missed one of two com­plaints over tweeted car­toons of a bearded Mickey Mouse and a veiled Min­nie Mouse.

In June, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions mag­nate Naguib Sawiris, a bil­lion­aire Cop­tic Chris­t­ian, infu­ri­ated con­ser­v­a­tive Mus­lims with the satir­i­cal mes­sages. Both com­plaints accuse Sawiris of insult­ing Islam.

The judge at Qasr al-Nil court dis­missed the first case Tues­day, fin­ing the plain­tiff $8. The judge ruled that indi­vid­u­als who “lack legal stand­ing” made the ini­tial com­plaint, legal sources said.

How­ever, a dif­fer­ent court is slated to rule Sat­ur­day on the sec­ond case. That suit was filed by another group of lawyers, includ­ing mem­ber of par­lia­ment Mam­duh Ismail, a mem­ber of the ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive Salafist group of Islamists.

Sawiris tweeted images of Mickey with a full beard and wear­ing a tra­di­tional Islamic robe, and Min­nie wear­ing a niqab (full-face veil) with only her eyes show­ing. How­ever, her large ears and famed pink hair rib­bon were visible.

After an angry response from peo­ple who said they took off­snse, Sawiris removed the pic­tures. He tweeted: “I apol­o­gize for those who don’t take this as a joke, I just thought it was a funny pic­ture; no dis­re­spect meant. I am sorry.”

Nonethe­less, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple joined groups on Face­book and other social media con­demn­ing him. As well, con­ser­v­a­tive Mus­lim groups urged boy­cotts of the tycoon’s firms.

DWA wins suit over idea for “Kung Fu Panda” movies

"Kung Fu Panda"

Kung Fu Panda”

A Los Ange­les jury has given Dream­Works Ani­ma­tion the ben­e­fit of the doubt in a major law­suit by a man who claimed the stu­dio stole his idea for the suc­cess­ful Kung Fu Pandafran­chise.

Self-professed “writer-producer-teacher-philospher” Ter­ence Dunn, who was chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Zen-Bear Inc., sued in June 2010 for breach of an implied con­tract. He charged that in Novem­ber 2001, he sub­mit­ted the con­cept of a “spir­i­tual kung-fu fight­ing panda bear” to a Dream­Works exec­u­tive, expect­ing that any result­ing film project would include him.

Dunn claimed at one point that he deserved a per­cent­age of the hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in prof­its from the films. Star­ring the voice of Jack Black, the first KFP film grossed over $630 mil­lion world­wide in 2008. The suc­cess­ful sequel Kung Fu Panda 2 was released May 26 this year.

Accord­ing to Dunn’s suit, he spoke with the stu­dio sev­eral times before it turned down his pitch. Instead, DWA started work­ing with screen­writ­ers Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris on its “sub­stan­tially sim­i­lar” Kung Fu Panda movie in 2002.

Dunn claimed that that his kung-fu fight­ing bear was “adopted by five ani­mal friends in the for­est (a tiger, a leop­ard, a dragon, a snake and a crane), whose des­tiny is fore­told by an old and wise sage, Turquoise Tor­toise, and who comes of age and ful­fills his des­tiny as a mar­tial arts hero and spir­i­tual avatar.”

At Dream­Works’ request, the dis­cus­sion of dam­ages was restricted from pub­lic view.

Even­tu­ally, the case was sub­ject to a two-week jury trial, fea­tur­ing tes­ti­mony from Dream­Works Ani­ma­tion CEO Jef­frey Katzenberg.

In a ver­dict that took about three days to reach, jurors ruled that DWA didn’t use Dunn’s ideas, so there was no ques­tion of damages.

We intend to appeal this deci­sion. We feel quite con­fi­dent in the appeal,” said Theresa Macel­laro, one of the attor­neys for Dunn

We are pleased with the deci­sion of the jury, which sup­ports our posi­tion that this was a base­less law­suit,” DWA com­mented in a statement.

Kung Fu Panda is the sub­ject of another law­suit against DWA. In Feb­ru­ary, artist Jayme Gor­don alleged that the stu­dio and dis­trib­u­tor Para­mount copied the art­work for the film from “Kung Fu Panda Power,” the col­lec­tive title for Gordon’s copy­righted works.

No Butts about it: South Park wins copyright suit

South Park

South Park

Mak­ing “What What (In the Butt)” the butt of a joke is fair play, a Wis­con­sin fed­eral judge has ruled.

Via­com and Com­edy Cen­tral were sued in Novem­ber over the 2008 South Park episode Canada On Strike. Brown­mark Films alleged that a scene stole from its copy­righted music video for the viral phe­nom­e­non “What What (In the Butt).”

In “Canada on Strike,” the char­ac­ter But­ters Stotch recon­structs a silly Inter­net video by singer Samwell.

Down­loaded over 41 mil­lion times on YouTube, Samwell’s “What What” video was fea­tured on PerezHilton and VH1’s Best Week Ever.

Re-creating the music video amounted to copy­right infringe­ment, Brown­mark claimed. But Via­com responded that its own ver­sion was a par­ody, and thus was allowed within “fair use” excep­tions to copyright.

In a rare move, the judge affirmed “fair use” at the sum­mary judg­ment phase of the action.

Any­one see­ing the South Park episode will know that the show was try­ing “to lam­poon the recent craze in our soci­ety of watch­ing video clips on the Inter­net that are — to be kind — of rather low artis­tic sophis­ti­ca­tion and qual­ity,” the judge added.

The judge ruled that a clip last­ing under a minute in a 25-minute episode was not very sub­stan­tial and would not hurt the suc­cess of the orig­i­nal video dis­trib­uted by Brownmark.

As well, the judge observed, South Park altered “What What (In the Butt)” con­sid­er­ably by accom­plish­ing “the seem­ingly impos­si­ble — mak­ing the WWITB video even more absurd by replac­ing the African-American male singer with a naive and inno­cent nine-year-old boy dressed in adorable outfits.”