Borat Ruling Very Nice (For The Movie Studio)
The United States Court of Appeals for The Second Circuit ruled today that Twentieth Century Fox Films is not liable to three participants in the film “Borat.” The Sacha Baron Cohen film tells the story of the fictional Borat’s journey through America. The participants (who included the lady who hosted the dinner party and the driving instructor) claimed emotional distress over their portrayal in the film. The studio argued that releases the participants signed prevented their claims. The interesting issue for the court was whether the release accurately described the nature of the film. Apparently, the release referred to the project as a “documentary-style film.” The participants contended that the film was a put on, and not a documentary, and therefore, the release was misleading. In its decision, the court focused on the form of the film, rather than the substance. It noted: “While the character ‘Borat’ is fictional, the film unmistakably tells the story of his travels in the style of a traditional, fact-based documentary.” I’m not sure the release told the whole truth, but it was apparently close enough for the Second Circuit. And just in case you’re wondering, there has been at least one lawsuit filed over Baron Cohen’s recent movie Bruno. I suspect the publicity is good for the film. And if the studio prevails, they must view it as a win/win.