Who will have the last laugh? | The Hoglawyer

Who will have the last laugh?


I love reading about high-profile, bonehead lawsuit. Here is a great one.

Borat makers appear in LA court

Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat
Sacha Baron Cohen's character has been a hit in US and UK cinemas
The makers of the hit film Borat, starring British comedy actor Sacha Baron Cohen, have made a brief appearance in a Los Angeles court.

They are being sued by two young men, featured in the film, who say they were plied with alcohol and duped into making racist remarks.

The two are seeking unspecified damages and want their scene to be cut from the film and the DVD.

Distributors, 20th Century Fox, deny the men were tricked into appearing.

The trial has been adjourned until 27 February.


The film - Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan - features a spoof Kazakh TV reporter who meets people across the US.

It has been a success at the box office but has attracted five lawsuits.

The case involves the film's makers and distributors, but not its star, Sacha Baron Cohen.

The two plaintiffs, university students from South Carolina, say they were tricked into appearing in the film and have suffered humiliation and emotional and physical distress as a result.

They say the movie's producers fooled them into signing a release form after being told the film would not be shown in the United States. One of my favorite columns, The Explainer, tackles the issue

Borat Tricked Me!Can't I sue him or something?
By Daniel Engber

The Borat movie's consent agreement document. Click to view enlarged image.The Borat movie's consent agreement document (click to expand)
Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is set to open in two weeks. The comedy follows a fictional Central Asian journalist who travels across the United States and interviews real people. Several of the film's unsuspecting stars have come forward recently to say they got duped into participating in the mockumentary. Most say they never read the fine print on the release forms they signed. What kind of releases are they?

Extra-long ones. Production companies typically get releases from everyone who appears on camera and can be identified in a finished film. A standard consent agreement has a couple of components. First, the signer agrees to let the producers use his image and voice in any way they see fit. Second, he waives the right to make a claim for defamation, invasion of privacy, or infringement of his rights of publicity.

What are these claims? In general, you can sue a production company if they use your image (or some other aspect of your persona) in a way that's misleading to viewers and makes you look bad. You can make a privacy claim if private facts about you are disclosed, or if the producers intruded upon you in a private place. And you can sue on the basis of your publicity rights if your image gets used for commercial purposes without your permission. (The courts first laid out the right of publicity in the 1950s, in a case concerning whether Topps Chewing Gum could use baseball players' images on trading cards.)

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