December 11, 2006

"Borat," the unused footage.

Another lawsuit:
The man, who is identified as “John Doe,” says he was eating at the restaurant with a friend in October 2005 when someone approached his table and said a film crew was in the restaurant filming a documentary of tourism in South Carolina.

The man didn’t see a film crew in the restaurant, according to a complaint that was filed in Richland County on Dec. 1. When he went to the bathroom, he saw what he thought was an attendant, who turned out to be [Sacha Baron] Cohen....

According to the lawsuit, Cohen repeatedly approached the man, climbed over the stall, watched him using a urinal and made comments about this [sic] genitals.

The footage wasn’t included in the movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” but was shown on Comedy Central during a special promoting the movie...

“It’s humiliating,” said Jonathan Milling, a Columbia attorney representing the plaintiff. “This is clearly something that hits very close to home, and that’s the reason for us bringing his action so that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Everybody's looking for payday.

IN THE COMMENTS: A lot of sympathy for "John Doe" and antipathy toward Cohen. Cohen's behavior sounds really bad. The complaint alleges that he "repeatedly approached the man, climbed over the stall, watched him using a urinal and made comments about this [sic] genitals." We are told that the man was approached at the outset and informed that a film was being made. We are not told whether the man signed a contract. I think it's pretty obvious that he must have. We shall see.

26 comments:

Todd said...

You know, if anyone did that to me he'd get his ass kicked. Then, I suppose, he'd be suing me.

WisJoe said...

I take it you'd appreciate someone filming you taking a piss and then publishing it on Comedy Central?? I think this lawsuit is legitimate, though the damages should not be too excessive.

Bad Penny said...

If somebody filmed me in the loo and was making a fortune off of ridiculing me, you can be bloody sure I'd be looking for a payday out of it. And for the movie to be shut down and the footage destroyed.

Borat's an asshole.

Anonymous said...

He's suing both Baron Cohen and the restaurant. The story (unlike those about other Borat-related suits) didn't mention anything about having signed a release form. How does that affect your opinion on the legitimacy of this suit?

I'm assuming the complaint includes causes of action intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy. I'd say that being filmed while in the restroom and then having that shown on national television (assuming there was no consent) would qualify as being beyond the bounds of civilized behavior.

Seven Machos said...

I don't understand your position, Ann Althouse. These people were de facto actors in a movie. They deserve to share in the revenues of the film, just as others who worked on the film have been paid. Cohen and his producers could have worked all this out beforehand. But they didn't. And now we have the additional element of fraud.

I further do not understand the way these plaintiffs seem to be pursuing their cases (though I am too lazy to really look into it).

Meade said...

Forget payday -- I'm thinking payback. Lucky for Baron he didn't try that stunt at the wrong time in the wrong women's room with a certain female law prof. He could have been shot or even had an adult diaper stuffed down his throat.

VICTOR said...

Someone should look at the likelihood that SBC will actually foot the bill -- which I would guess is low.

PatCA said...

Well, I think it's wonderful! Cohen is all about reality as seen through a fun house mirror, as imagined by Cohen.

You live by the postmodern sword, you die by the postmodern sword.

Derve said...

What if there was a female Borat, a transvestite maybe, acting offensive in the ladies room?

Sure, we're all supposed to be polite, it's a foreigner after all, but harassing folks to get a rise out of them only works for so long. Sure it seems funny, when you're safe and making money. But you run the risk of getting your ass kicked real good one day. And then, we're all feel sorry for Borat/Cohen how he is a victim and should be properly compensated.

Strange days indeed.

Derve said...

Borat reminds me a lot of Michael Moore -- except Moore ambushes the high and mighty powerful.

Borat goes for easier targets, small game.

Ann Althouse said...

7 Machos: If they didn't sign the contract the scene wasn't used. The only question is who put it out in the world onto YouTube.

Brent said...

Ann:
1) It states above that the scene was used in Comedy Central, which clearly makes Cohen liable if the "pee-er" was unaware he was being filmed.

2) Since when is everyone fair game without signing on the dotted line? What are contracts for?

3) So, if I use a camera phone in the bathroom without some I'm filming knowing it, and I put it on the Web, Comedy Central or anywhere - they have no recourse?

Eli Blake said...

Cohen still had the film, so it is his responsibility that it got onto Comedy Central.

I don't just jump up and sue every time I could, in fact in my whole life I've sued somebody exactly once (and that was an auto insurance company, after several weeks of getting the runaround when I called them, I said the heck with it and called a lawyer.)

But yeah, if this happened to me, it would be lawsuit number 2. If you don't have privacy when you are sitting on the john, then the word itself has no meaning.

Troy said...

I agree with todd -- it's surprising Cohen hasn't had his ass kicked more.

Anonymous said...

Amen. And what is it about South Carolina?

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, I just said "Everybody's looking for payday," not that no one deserves to get paid. Maybe he does. Did he sign a contract? I find it hard to believe Comedy Central would use it if he didn't. That said, Cohen is taking a lot of risks surprising people if there is no contract beforehand, and I suspect some people have already been paid off.

thefewandtheplenty said...

Brent-I'll save you time waiting for a rebuttal by giving you Althouse's stock observation now:

"Brent, I just can't accept the fact that someone went itno a bathroom, was spied on while going and then was actually offended that it showed up on TV.

Now it may interest you to know I'm in total favor of supressing the DVD release of Borat but it's not for any of the reasons mentioned in this post. You'll have to read that post where I list things about stuff I read today in the NY Times.

Now pretty please go vote for me cause I'm a girl and kill that other blogger I despise so much... kill.... him. You know who. His first names ryhmes with Schmandrew."

Troy said...

Is there a full moon tonight? The freaks are out!

Mom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I am no lawyer but I have seen disclaimers at the doors of several restaraunts, night clubs & and musical events that 'warned' or alerted a movie/film/tvshow was being recorded and by entering the premises, you were agreeing to be part of the filming.

I was always looking for the camera but then again no-one ever peered over a stall at me.

Borat is Hilarious and Cohen is fearless but more of the film than not is staged and acted (it is definitely not all as advertised).

Anonymous said...

That's one of the nicer restaurants in Columbia. I find it hard to believe they let that idiot film there. It will be interesting to see whether the restaurant files a crossclaim against the production company.

Les said...

Aren't we all forgetting the most important issue: What exactly did Borat say about the man's genitals? I mean, if he was complimentary, then what's the problem? Obviously the guy's just looking to make a quick buck in that case....

I would be interested to know what the contract said or if there was one - supposedly the contract used while filming stated that "the person you're speaking to may not be who you think he is" or something along those lines.

mgarbowski said...

I'm going to go so far as to argue that even if the man did sign a release, then Borat/Cohen should be liable. There is a duty of good faith and fair dealing inherent to every contract, and watching somebody urinate and making fun of their genitals is a violation of that. If you sign a contract to be filmed in public and appear in amovie, you have both a reasonable expectation to be treated with respect and a reasonable expectation that a bathroom is not public.

The whole stupid Borat game is the lowest form of trickery. You prey upon the trust and good faith of others, then call yourself clever. Abusing somebody's trust is not clever, it's just wrong. It's that damn simple.

Elizabeth said...

I agree with the point that even if I signed a contract agreeing to be filmed in public, I'd never accept that the filming would include the bathroom. I sure wouldn't have left it to deal with in court later, either; I'd have been enraged enough to assault the person involved.

By the way, the frat boys suing to have their section of Borat edited out, and to receive compensation for their suffering, lost. This seems appropriate to me.

Edgehopper said...

If this suit holds, it should make it into textbooks as the new standard case illustrating intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy. For amusement value.

Les said...

I saw a short clip of the "bathroom spy" scene lastnight - looked like Borat was peeking over a stall cattycorner from the guy at the single urinal. So it's not like he was leering at the guy's bits - the guy would have more exposure at one of those trough urinals in a stadium. I really don't see what the issue is here other than a money grab from a guy with a lack of humor. How did this guy make it through adolescence? Did he never set foot in a locker room?