Media & Communications Law

Lifetime is banned from showing true-crime TV movie 'Romeo Killer'

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In a move blasted as an “unprecedented” free speech disaster in an emergency appeal by Lifetime Television, a New York judge has banned the cable network not only from airing on Saturday but from promoting a true crime television movie about a murder.

In a Tuesday ruling, Supreme Court Judge Robert Muller agreed with convicted killer Christopher Porco, who argued that he would be irreparably harmed if the movie aired, by his publicity rights being violated. New York Civil Rights Section 51 provides that an individual may seek redress if his “name, portrait, picture or voice is used … for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade without the written consent first obtained,” explains the Hollywood Esq. blog of the Hollywood Reporter.

Although Lifetime argued that its film Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story was entitled to journalistic protections, because it is based on Porco’s conviction for murdering his father and attempting to murder his mother, the judge said the network appeared to concede that some of the movie was fictionalized. Porco contended that it was “substantially fictionalized.”

Among other arguments, Lifetime is contending on appeal that the prior restraint is inappropriate, that Porco hasn’t made a sufficient showing of irreparable injury and that Lifetime will suffer a “devastating financial and reputational impact” if it is not allowed to promote and show the Romeo Killer movie as scheduled.

“The Supreme Court’s order is unprecedented and would cause grave and irreparable damage not just to Lifetime but to the constitutional protections for speech,” says Lifetime in its appeal.

The article doesn’t include any comment from Porco or his counsel.

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