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Lifetime Movie: A Case of Violated Privacy?

interrogation room- the authors guild

On October 1, the Authors Guild joined with other author and literary groups to sign on to an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in the Porco v. Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC case. Convicted killer Christopher Porco sued Lifetime Entertainment, alleging that his right to privacy had been violated by the Lifetime docudrama Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story. Porco had already unsuccessfully sued to prevent Lifetime airing the movie. 

The Appellate Division found that while Porco’s right to privacy under the New York statute is limited, a  “materially and substantially fictitious biography,” may nonetheless violate the statutory right of privacy. The amicus brief supports Lifetime’s motion for leave to appeal, and addresses the impact that this ruling will have on amici’s “constitutional right to create and publish fiction and non-fiction material, including authorized and unauthorized biographies, ‘non-fiction novels,’ plays, and myriad other creative works.” As the brief states:

Although this case concerns a docudrama, the detrimental impact of the trial court’s unwarranted expansion of New York’s limited statutory right of publicity is by no means limited to that genre. Amici present this brief to focus on the unconstitutional, profoundly chilling effect that the trial court’s decision, unless reversed, will have on the writing, publication and distribution of books, plays, and other forms of expression using the printed word and image. This is a matter of particular importance because New York is the hub of book publishing in the United States.

We will continue to monitor developments in this case and will advise our members accordingly.