PBS Blows the Lid Off of Sex Tape Scandal
Well, not really…. But, in an uncharacteristically scintillating post, PBS’ MediaShift analyzed the legal issues around the recent lawsuit filed by TV star Eric Dane and wife Rebecca Gayheart against the internet company Gawker Media. The celebrities are suing Gawker for copyright infringement in connection with the site’s posting of a home video showing the two romping naked with former beauty queen Kari Ann Peniche.
The 4-minute Gawker clip from the longer tape apparently showed no actual sex (honestly, I haven’t watched but that’s what they say), leading some to speculate that the full 12-minute version is more explicit, and thus may be more marketable. Fueling the suspicion is the lawsuit claim of copyright infringement, as opposed to more common claims of defamation or invasion of privacy. Such a claim makes sense only if the couple intended to market the video.
Gawker, apparently pointing to the news value of the tape, claims that it violated no laws due to the “fair use” doctrine permitting circulation even of trashy videos as long as said videos are newsworthy, are not first viewings, and are appropriately trimmed. Gawker is no stranger to porn or to controversies around celebrity invasions of privacy: the company runs the FleshBot pornsite and is known for its GawkerStalker maps of celebrity sightings around New York City.
Gawker Media founder Nick Denton was the subject of a 2007 n+1 Magazine profile that noted his intent to produce an online media empire along the lines of print empire Conde Nast – by underpaying young inexperienced staff for trashy write-ups of celebrity gossip. As the magazine noted,
The purpose of Gawker Media was always to improve on the print publishing business model. It was never, as the content of Gawker sometimes seemed to suggest, to produce investigative critiques of the waste that model created. The content at Gawker, like most Condé Nast publications, is a service to the advertisers.
Gawker Media has earned Denton about $230 million, but he has recently laid off staff and sold or spun-off several online sites, including its Hollywood gossip site Defamer, its DC-site Wonkette, and Consumerist.org, among others.
Meanwhile, Gayheart recently announced her first pregnancy, stating that in preparation she is “…doing yoga, and walking on the beach every day with my dogs for about an hour.” No mention of romping naked as part of her prenatal routine.