Accusation of Defamation Tossed in CSI Episode
Jun 2, 2011
Los Angeles, CA (Law Firm Newswire) June 1, 2011 – Imagine turning on the TV one night to enjoy an episode of CSI. As the show progresses the storyline feels familiar. Just like the characters on CSI, you and your wife are a pair of married real estate agents. As the show unfolds, the couple remembers that three years ago they had dealt with a Hollywood TV writer who was interested in buying a home where they represented the seller.After researching more about the CSI episode “Deep Fried and Minty Fresh” that aired as episode 13 of the show’s ninth season, an incomplete preliminary draft of the show’s script that was leaked online showed the real-life realtors’ names. To their shock, the script synopsis read that, “Scott Tamkin was a mortgage broker and a hard drinker who liked pornography and was suffering because of the economy, and who was suspected of murdering his wife. Melinda Tamkin was a real estate agent who would not let the bad economy freak her out and whose death may have occurred during kinky sex in which she was handcuffed to the bed.”
The draft was released by a third-party company that CBS casting staff worked with to cast guest actors. When the episode aired, the characters’ names became Scott and Melinda Tucker from Las Vegas, and the real Tamkins sued CBS for defamation and invasion of piracy. California’s second appellate court ruled that, “…nothing about the physical description of the fictional Scott Tamkin, such as a special birthmark or a specific hairstyle, would allow a reasonable person to conclude that the fictional Scott Tamkin was the real Scott Tamkin,” wrote Justice Nora Manella. “And there is no reason to believe that someone using the Internet looking to hire a real estate agent or simply find the plaintiffs would conclude from the search results that the plaintiffs were involved with pornography, kinky sex, or the television show.”
In TV and screenwriting, writers take inspiration from their own lives, the headlines, and even conversations overhead at restaurants. But no matter the haunting similarity to real life, for defamation to occur the plaintiff must prove that that the damaging event was: published, a statement of fact that is false, defamatory, and unprivileged and has injured or caused special damages. All the while, the defendant can file an anti-SLAPP motion before discovery occurs and show the claim comes from free speech or petitioning, thus shifting the burden of proof back to the plaintiff.
The complexity of defamation cases and the inner workings of the law in Hollywood are best left to prominent entertainment lawyers. Los Angeles entertainment lawyer Anthony Spotora has counseled Hollywood studios, agencies, actors and writers, and distributors in all genres of the industry on matters of defamation, privacy, life-story rights, and more. His past experiences working for the Warner Brothers’ corporate legal department as well as the Columbia Motion Picture Group at Sony Pictures Entertainment bring a depth of knowledge to help clients achieve their goals in an efficient and timely manner and often help them determine what materials should not cause for claims of defamation, invasion of privacy or otherwise.
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