Fox Loses

From the AP:

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said the book — “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right” — is a parody protected by the First Amendment. “There are hard cases and there are easy cases,” the judge said. “This is an easy case. This case is wholly without merit, both factually and legally.”

I liked some of these details from the NYTimes:

A federal judge in Manhattan told Fox News yesterday that it had to learn how to take a joke. Then he rejected the network’s request for an injunction to block the satirist Al Franken from using the words “fair and balanced” on the cover of his book, “Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.”

Calling the motion “wholly without merit, both factually and legally,” the judge, Denny Chin of United States District Court, said that a person would have to be “completely dense” not to realize the cover was a joke, and that trademark protection for the phrase “Fair and Balanced” was unrealistic because the words are so commonly used.

After the ruling yesterday, it moved to the No. 1 spot on the best-seller list at amazon. com.

[In addition to the use of the term “fair and balanced,”] Fox also objected to the use of a picture of Bill O’Reilly, one of its prominent news personalities, on the cover, claiming that it could be mistaken as an endorsement of the book.

But these arguments were met by laughter in the crowded courtroom, as Fox tried to defend its signature slogan. Part of the network’s burden was to prove that Mr. Franken’s use of the phrase “fair and balanced” would lead to consumer confusion.

One round of laughter was prompted when Judge Chin asked, “Do you think that the reasonable consumer, seeing the word `lies’ over Mr. O’Reilly’s face would believe Mr. O’Reilly is endorsing this book?”

After more discussion about what was and what was not satire, and about the definition of “parody,” Judge Chin decided that Mr. Franken’s work was of “artistic value.”

“Parody is a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment,” he said. “The keystone to parody is imitation. In using the mark, Mr. Franken is clearly mocking Fox.” He said Mr. Franken’s work was “fair criticism.”

Judge Chin said the case was an easy one, and chided Fox for bringing its complaint to court. The judge said, “Of course, it is ironic that a media company that should be fighting for the First Amendment is trying to undermine it.”

At least this inane action by Fox has boosted the book’s sales (the publisher has just ordered a second printing of an extra 50,000 books) — and, as pointed out by AB below, Franken’s royalties.