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Judge Rejects Fox News' Request for Injunction on Franken Book
Friday, August 22, 2003
NEW YORK — A federal judge on Friday denied Fox News Channel (search)'s request for an injunction to block humorist Al Franken's new book, whose title mocks the Fox slogan fair and balanced.
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."
The network had argued the subtitle to Franken's book could trick some consumers into believing the book is associated with Fox. Fox, which trademarked "Fair and Balanced" as a slogan in 1998, was seeking an injunction barring publisher Penguin Group from using the cover or any other promotion including those words.
Franken called the ruling a victory for the First Amendment and satirists everywhere — "even bad satirists."
"In addition to thanking my own lawyers," Franken said, "I'd like to thank Fox's lawyers for filing one of the stupidest briefs I've ever seen in my life."
The ruling opened the door for lawyers for Penguin and Franken to file a motion to dismiss the suit altogether. In addition to denying the injunction, the judge took direct aim at Fox for bringing the case.
"It is ironic that a media company, which should be protecting the First Amendment, is seeking to undermine it," Chin said.
The judge also said the "Fair and Balanced" trademark itself is weak, considering those words are used so frequently "in the context of the public marketplace."
The lawsuit described Franken as a "C-level political commentator" and said "he appears to be shrill and unstable" and his "views lack any serious depth or insight."
Franken's book went on sale nationally Thursday, moved up from its September rollout date because of publicity from the lawsuit. Penguin added 50,000 copies to the original run of 270,000 after the suit was filed.
On Friday, the book was listed at No. 2 on Amazon.com's best-seller list, behind The South Beach Diet.
Fox spokesman Paul Schur said the network was considering its options.
"We don't care if it's Al Franken, Al Lewis or Weird Al Yankovic," Schur said. "We're here to protect our trademark and our talent."
Al Lewis played Grandpa on "The Munsters."
The book's cover features Franken standing in front of a television monitor with screens of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, conservative pundit Ann Coulter and Fox host Bill O'Reilly.
The word "Lies," in the title, appears in large print over the four screens.
News Corp. is the parent company of the Fox News Channel, which operates Foxnews.com.