June 9, 2009

"Courts from California to Alabama to New York have enforced those same contractual provisions..."

"... in the face of claims not as weak as the bogus allegations of your clients."


traditionalguy said...

Well written letter.The nuisance value of law suits will always be an income for bottom feeders. Glad to see a fight on principal to dicourage more frauds from using the Courts to get Bad People damages for suffering the everyday stresses of human existence, out of every imagined deeper pocket. Thats why Lawyers are necessary: Everbody that can lie and steal without a legal boundary being set, will do so and brag about it too.

Joseph said...

I agree with the filmmaker but this is no "fight on principal." The filmmaker is aggressively protecting its own profits.

And I'm not sure ordinary citizens being humiliated in a major motion picture after signing a contract that, assuming they read it probably did not reasonably put them on notice of what they were really getting into, falls under the category "the everyday stresses of human existence."

Leland said...

I agree with Joseph.

I also think the actual letter is very poorly written, and easily debatable.

For instance:
Regarding your clients claim that the Film producers tricked them into believing that the Film was being made for Discovery Channel or PBS, this is another provably false assertion. It is contradicted not only by common sense (including the fact that those channels do not include programs on the subject of bingo), but also by the written consent agreements that your clients read and signed.

I'm sorry, but I'm still surprised to this day that when I come home, Discovery Channel has on a game show run from a NY Cab. I have no idea what PBS has, but I've seen documentaries on all sorts of subjects, so one on Bingo wouldn't surprise me in the least. Include History channel, and I could almost imagine the voice over discussing how gambling progressed into Churches thanks to bingo "next on Modern Marvels".

But that's the aside, lets look at what the signed agreement said (my emphasis in bold):
Your clients also solemnly agreed in writing "not to bring at any time in the future, any claims against anyone associated with the Film, which are related to the Film or its production, or this agreement, including, but not limited to, claims involving assertions of... allegedly sexual-oriented or offensive behavior or questioning, ... infliction of emotional distress (whether allegedly intentional or negligent), ... allegedly deceptive business or trade practices, ... or fraud (such as any alleged deception about the Film or this consent agreement)."

So the first argument is the person signing the agreement should have common sense, but the next argument is that if they didn't know better, they signed there rights away. Pardon me if I find the arguments of the Bruno lawyers wanting in logic and filled with hyperbole.

I found this to be amusing it is utter stupidity:
Putting aside the impossibility of a camera crew physically attacking Ms. Olson while at the same time filming her, the actual footage reveals that the number of crew members and other persons who attacked your client is zero.
I'd love to have the idiot who wrote this explain how it is impossible for a crew to attack. Prove that negative, because I can prove it can happen. After all, if 3 cameraman and 2 sound men were present, why not 2 more cameraman and 1 more sound guy to continue filming?

That's not to say the original claim has any merit. I just think the letter and the arguments made within are stupid and flemsy. Best argument would be: "We have the footage of the entire event. Nothing the person claims occurred actually happened. And there is this release that was signed, so we will go after you for violating that agreement." Simple letter.

traditionalguy said...

Joseph...The jury may feel like you do, that The Borat entertainment business is not one of the normal people who deserve to live their stress free idylic lives without surprises. That reminds me of the Puppet, Buford the Buzzard at Six Flags which was an attraction based upon a skilled public humiliator/insulter talking to a crowd that would gather around its cart and challenge the puppet to hear its skilled insults of Alabama Rednecks, fat and bald people etc.. Believe it or not, some dimwit got into an argument with the puppet, and sued later for intentional infliction of mental distress damages and won. That wasn't you was it.

Joseph said...

traditionalguy, I said I'd ultimately take the filmmaker's side. But the real-life effects of this enterprise are not the "everyday stresses" you suggest they are. Cohen's business is inherently exploitative--provoking Americans to behave in a way that portrays them as incredibly stupid and bigoted and then humiliating them/us by editing his film in the most damaging way. I personally think he's hilarious but I'd also be mortified if I ended up wrapped up in one of his sting operations. Few would voluntarily sign up to be publicly humiliated in the way they are in his movies and TV show. And while the contracts people sign should be enforced, Cohen is clearly taking advantage of the fact that people don't generally bother (or don't have sufficient time or intelligence) to read and really contemplate the consequences of the rights they are waiving in those contracts.

veni vidi vici said...

"Cohen is clearly taking advantage of the fact that people don't generally bother (or don't have sufficient time or intelligence) to read and really contemplate the consequences of the rights they are waiving in those contracts."

That's one of the dumbest excuses I've ever heard in my life.

Joseph said...

That's one of the dumbest excuses I've ever heard in my life.

Tell that to Lori Drew.

traditionalguy said...

Joseph...Sorry for being snarky at you. My button gets pushed by very nice people who also want to set up a niceness standard for words and jokes. It always ends up being used as a stick to show off to like minded friends how easy it is to beat up good people for violating community standards of Bad Words used in public. It soon gets to being like Revoking Driver's Liscenses of every one caught driving 56 mph in a 55mph zone by a self righteous vulgarity patrol. We got serious stuff to worry about, and not waste our time policing easy to spot Bad Words and vulgar jokes. I am working on fitting into the group better.

Kylos said...

traditionalguy, I would argue that Sacha Baron Cohen represents more than just Bad Words and vulgar jokes. He crosses a line to the truly vile and reprehensible with his ploys to shame and humiliate unsuspecting people. Anybody can treat their fellow humans shamefully, but doing so breaks down societal trust. I'm pretty disgusted with a society that, instead of shunning such behavior, encourages it by continuing to tolerate and pay to witness such garbage.