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Fox News sues satirist Al Franken over book title
- The New Channel says it registered the phrase “fair and balanced” and that Franken cannot use it in the title of his upcoming book, which mocks the network.
Aug. 13, 2003 — Fox News Channel Tuesday sued political satirist Al Franken and publisher Penguin Group for trademark infringement because over their use of the phrase “fair and balanced” in the title of his upcoming book.
Filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan Tuesday, the lawsuit seeks a court order forcing a Penguin publisher, Dutton books, to rename the book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,” which is scheduled for release in September.
In the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, Fox News says it registered the phrase “Fair & Balanced” as a trademark in 1995, according to AP. The lawsuit describes Franken as “increasingly unfunny.”
“It is extraordinary that one of the largest media corporations would take such action,” said Lisa Johnson, the executive director of publicity for Dutton, in a statement. “In trying to suppress Al Franken’s book, News Corp. is undermining First Amendment principles that protect all media by guaranteeing a free, open and vigorous debate of public issues.
According to a report in The Washington Post today, in a statement on the lawsuit, Franken thanked Fox “for all the publicity,” and said: “And by the way, a few months ago, I trademarked the word ‘funny.’ So when Fox calls me ‘unfunny,’ they’re violating my trademark. I am seriously considering a countersuit.”
About 24 hours before reports of the lawsuit hit the newsstands, Franken’s book, due out next month, ranked No. 489 in sales on Internet bookseller Amazon.com. But by about 5 p.m. yesterday, it had shot up to No. 4, according to the Post.
Franken’s other books include “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot: And Other Observations” and “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!” In 2003, he served as a fellow with Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy.
(Fox v. Franken) — JL
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press