In this episode of The Briefing by the IP Law BlogScott Hervey and Josh Escovedo discuss a defamation dispute between Rachel Williams – a victim of con artist Anna Sorokin – and Netflix, over her portrayal in the docudrama “Inventing Anna.”
Continue Reading The Briefing by the IP Law Blog: Defamation by Docudrama – Inventing Anna

Last month, HBO released its new drama series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty – based on the book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman. To say that Jerry West, the former head coach and GM of the Los Angeles Lakers dislikes the way he is portrayed in the HBO series Winning Time is an understatement. West calls his portrayal “false and defamatory” and he has publicly called for a retraction and an apology.  In a letter to HBO, West’s lawyer claims that Winning Time falsely and cruelly portrays West as an out-of-control, intoxicated, rage-aholic. West’s lawyer claims that the producers have committed the tort of false light invasion of privacy by creating a false impression about Mr. West that is highly offensive and injurious to his reputation and have also defamed Mr. West by attributing acts of rage to him that he never committed.
Continue Reading Is Jerry West’s Potential Lawsuit Against HBO Over His Portrayal in the Lakers Docudrama “Winning Time” a Jump Ball?

In the past few years there has been a number of libel claims based on an unfavorable portrayal of a real person in either a television program or motion picture that is based on real life events.  To name a few, there is the currently pending Mossack Fonseca & Co., S.A. et al v. Netflix Inc., which is based on the streamer’s portrayal of Panamanian lawyers in the feature The Laundromat which was about the “Panama Papers” leaked documents scandal, and there is also the currently pending  Fairstein v. Netflix, Ava Duvernay and Attica Lock involving a defamation claim over the portrayal of Linda Fairstein, a former NYC prosecutor, in the Netflix series, When They See Us which was about the trial of the Central Park Five.  There was also the now resolved Green v. Paramount Pictures that was discussed in a previous article, and there was the false light claim made in Olivia De Havilland v. FX Networks LLC over De Havilland’s portrayal in the FX docudrama Feud: Bette and Joan.

These cases are primarily based on a claim of defamation, usually liable which is a written defamation.  In California, libel is defined by Civil Code Section 45 as “a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.”  In most states, libel is defined similarly.  In order to establish libel, a plaintiff will have to establish: that the statements were defamatory; that the statements were published to third parties; that the statements were false; and that it was reasonably understood by the third parties that the statements were about the plaintiff.
Continue Reading “Inspired By” Characters in Movies and TV – Defamation Lawsuit As a Spinoff