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Media & Communications Law

Universal Settles Newspapers’ Complaints Over Fake Alien Abduction News

Posted Nov 13, 2009 9:23 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A marketing ploy by Universal Pictures has backfired, with the studio agreeing to pay $22,500 for creating fake news reports about alien abductions attributed to seven real media organizations in Alaska.

Universal created the online articles to promote its alien-abduction movie, The Fourth Kind, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Associated Press. In a settlement agreement with the seven publications, Universal has agreed to pay $20,000 to the Alaska Press Club, doubling its annual revenues, and $2,500 to a scholarship fund.

One of the fake news articles was an obituary about the death of one of the movie characters that claimed to be from the News-Miner.

Anchorage lawyer John McKay negotiated the settlement on behalf of the news publications. The fake news undermines the publications’ credibility and “erodes confidence in the world of journalism,” he told the News-Miner. He said it didn't appear that Universal lawyers had approved the marketing campaign.

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