Duane Morris LLP

Duane Morris LLP
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Media and Communications

The speed, reach and number of communication avenues are proliferating at a rate that far outpaces changes to the law, leading to issues that could never have been contemplated when those laws were drafted.

Duane Morris attorneys’ work for clients in the media and communications industry keeps us keenly aware of key developments and trends as we provide astute interpretation of the law and application of tested approaches, as well as find novel solutions to the unique new issues. We represent large broadcast, newspaper and online companies; Internet distributors; and bloggers, authors and other industry leaders on matters affecting the wide range of communication channels.

Libel, Defamation and First Amendment Law

Duane Morris has a history of protecting the constitutional freedoms of speech and the press, recognizing that these rights are fundamental to the United States democracy. Our lawyers are prepared to address the challenges of “round-the-clock” news gathering and have the resources to respond expeditiously to prevent media delivery interruptions.

The firm’s media and communications attorneys regularly counsel clients in connection with defamation and libel lawsuits, as well as invasion of privacy and public disclosure laws. This includes not only application and defense of anti-SLAPP statutes, but also preemptive representation on privacy, copyright, trademark and other intellectual property issues.

Regulatory and Advocacy

Duane Morris lawyers have been active in telecommunications policy issues for decades and are frequently called upon to represent the interests of industry participants, corporations and trade associations in connection with rulemakings and other regulatory proceedings. This work has entailed advocacy before the FCC, NTIA, state PUCs, Congress and its oversight committees (principally Judiciary and Commerce), state legislatures, other Executive Branch agencies (for instance, the FTC) and appellate courts throughout the country. Our lawyers have spearheaded the formation of coalitions and associations to advocate industry views and have developed innovative approaches to compliance with, or waiver of, applicable communications regulations when needed to facilitate client business expansion.

Litigation and Enforcement

The firm regularly represents telecommunications and media clients in FCC and state administrative enforcement proceedings, trial and appellate courts, international forums and arbitrations. Our lawyers’ experience in regulatory enforcement includes defense of Fortune 500 companies involving alleged violations of communications regulations and federal and state laws, industry participants seeking to protect their intellectual property and standards, and emerging growth companies pursuing licenses or spectrum waivers needed to develop and commercialize new communications technologies.

Range of Services

The firm has also represented media and communications clients in multimillion-dollar corporate transactions, including the purchase and sale of communications properties, mergers and acquisitions, privatizations, project finance and infrastructure development. We frequently advise on matters related to tax; labor and employment, including wage-and-hour, breach-of-contract and discrimination cases; white-collar crimes; and bankruptcy.

REPRESENTATIVE MATTERS

Litigation

  • Secured removal of injunction restraining Atlanta television station from broadcasting an audio tape it obtained that was relevant to the criminal trial regarding a highly publicized cheating scandal involving the superintendent of city schools. What the judge characterized as a “well-written brief” led him to apologize for overstepping and he immediately lifted the injunction. State of Georgia v. Beverly Hall, et al.
  • Mounted anti-SLAPP defense to secure early dismissal of physician’s libel claim that investigative television news coverage of the deaths of several of her cosmetic surgery patients was the reason her license was suspended. Nedra Dodds v. Adam Murphy, CBS46, Channel 2 Action News, et al.
  • Obtained summary judgment in favor of two radio station hosts in a defamation and false light claim concerning comments they made on their radio program, a satirical show that discussed issues particularly relevant to a Hispanic audience. Gabriela Gonzalez-Lamberson v. Davis Broadcasting Company.
  • Successfully opposed motion seeking restraining order filed by pool company seeking to prevent a television station from broadcasting an audio tape it obtained. Blue World Pools Inc. v. New World Communications of Atlanta Inc.
  • Upheld right of media to broadcast judicial proceedings of criminal defendant accused of murdering a judge. State v. Nichols.
  • Quashed plaintiff's motion to compel disclosure of documents and information a television reporter obtained from an anonymous source during newsgathering pursuant to Georgia Reporter’s Privilege. Hendrix v. Highsmith.
  • Obtained summary judgment for television news station following public official’s claim of defamation, false light invasion of privacy and public disclosure of private facts resulting from station’s news reporting. Godfrey v. Cobb County and New World Communications of Atlanta.
  • Secured dismissal with prejudice prior to engaging in any discovery based on grounds that plaintiff’s libel claims against television broadcaster were barred by state public interest privilege and wire service defense. Bodana v. Times-Journal.
  • Secured voluntary dismissal without prejudice in claim for conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and tortious interference against television broadcaster after filing motion for summary judgment before there was any formal discovery. Nathaniel Johnson v. FOX 5.
  • Secured voluntary dismissal with prejudice of libel case filed against television reporter following his investigative series about plaintiff with argument that attorney’s fees and sanctions would be mandated by anti-SLAPP statute. Annamalai et al. v. Randy Travis.
  • Secured dismissal of two federal RICO lawsuits against broadcast client and a reporter within two weeks following threats of attorney's fees and sanctions for frivolous litigation. Hindu Temple and Community Center of Georgia v. New World Communications, and Annamalai et al. v. Loganathan, et al.
  • Secured voluntary dismissal of libel complaint in exchange for factual clarification and assurance that defendant publisher would not seek attorney's fees for frivolous litigation on grounds that truthful reports of information from police are protected. Askew v. Ingles & West Ga. Shopper.
  • Secured voluntary dismissal of complaint by drug developer who sought $300 million in damages, a temporary restraining order and an injunction demanding removal of an article from an online news publisher’s website. Evans v. Chicago Reader.
  • Secured dismissal with prejudice of plaintiff’s claim against television broadcaster for libel, invasion of privacy, fraudulent misrepresentation and infliction of emotional distress, due to plaintiff&resquo;s failure to comply with anti-SLAPP verification requirements. Boxcar Development Corp. v. New World Communications of Atlanta.
  • Secured voluntary dismissal of defamation complaint regarding television broadcaster’s investigation of health conditions at plaintiff’s cosmetic services business. Stewart v. WAGA FOX 5.
  • Secured voluntary dismissal of defamation complaint regarding television news broadcaster’s undercover investigation showing plaintiff’s security company hired convicted felons. OSHA Security, Inc. v. FOX 5.
  • Advised entertainers, record labels and publishers of rights under copyright law, right of publicity and defamation law.
  • Obtained a summary judgment decision in district court in Jefferson County, Idaho, in a case stemming from allegedly defamatory comments made on a radio program.
  • Represented a radio station concerning potential claims from the owner of the Miami Herald site and the city of Miami seeking to terminate the station’s rights to a radio tower, seeking to eject the station or require that the tower be dismantled.
  • Defended an integrated media company against a lawsuit brought by the DOJ in federal court challenging a proposed transaction.
  • Acting as co-counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in representing a reporter and an animal rights group seeking access to Yellowstone National Park to observe and report on the United States Park Service’s population control efforts against the wild bison of Yellowstone.
  • Obtained an order from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granting summary judgment against all damages brought against a major U.S. cable and satellite television channel in an action in which plaintiff sought $98 million in damages for an alleged breach of a licensing agreement and misappropriation of trade secrets.
  • Commercial dispute involving the allocation of certain deferred revenues in an asset sale transaction and the plaintiff purchaser’s claims that it should be indemnified for those deferred revenues. L&L Broadcasting LLC v. Triad Broadcasting Co., LLC, C.A. No. N13C-10-028 WCC, Delaware Superior Court.
  • Obtained on behalf of an online and print publisher an Order and Judgment from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirming the dismissal of a claim for defamation arising out of an article the client published concerning the plaintiff’s failed discrimination case against her previous employer. The 4th Circuit held the client’s article was an accurate description of judicial proceedings and therefore was protected by the fair report privilege.
  • Represented producer of entertainment programming in lawsuit arising out of a dispute over ownership of programming for the largest interactive television test market in the United States.
  • Represented a major worldwide television and internet retailer in the defense of several class actions brought against it based on its sales practices.
  • Lead attorney for a magazine publisher in the defense of injunction proceedings initiated by former executives intended to block a sale of the company’s assets. Defeated multiple attempts to obtain a writ of attachment or preliminary injunction.
  • Defended Fortune 100 media company in multimillion-dollar international contract dispute.
  • Obtained relief for a student news reporting organization from an order prohibiting any contact with witnesses during a homicide trial.
  • Represented several financial newsletter publishers in criminal investigation and in subsequent civil litigation by Securities & Exchange Commission. Investigation resulted in no charges filed and civil litigation settled for nominal settlement.
  • Pursued Lanham Act suit on behalf of digital cable television and telecommunications provider.
  • Defense of several class action, RICO, and securities cases regarding financial disclosure; settled. In re Financial News Network, Inc. and Infotechnology, Inc.
  • Obtained on behalf of Brooks-Cole, a college textbook publisher, a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts that its use of a written psychological test borrowed from another publication was a “fair use.”

Corporate

  • Representing Dentsu Inc., a Japanese advertising and public relations company, in negotiating the license for the media rights for the XXII Olympic Winter Games (2014) in Sochi, Russia, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad (2016) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the II Summer Youth Olympics Games (2014) in Nanjing, China for 22 Asian countries and territories with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and in drafting and negotiating a number of sub-license agreements for those media rights with broadcast partners.
  • Represented Colorado Public Radio for nearly 20 years, a period which has coincided with major growth of the organization from a handful of radio stations to a statewide news and classical music radio network. Worked closely in the negotiation of multiple asset purchase agreements, and the regulatory approvals required for same. Providing continuing advice on FCC compliance and transaction-related issues.
  • Assisted WNYC Radio, a public radio station, in a bond offering to finance its new location.
  • Represented a leading India based media and entertainment company in relation to offshore investment structures from an Indian exchange control perspective.
  • Represented a major French media company in connection with a $20 million Series A financing for a U.S. publisher of music, sports and entertainment apps.
  • Represented a publicly-traded media company in connection with its merger with another public company, valued at $38.5 million.
  • Represented a private-equity backed holding company which owns and operates radio stations in numerous markets across the United States in the sales of several clusters of radio stations and all related operating assets and real estate.
  • Acted as Georgia counsel for a television network in the $37 million sale of television stations in Texas and Georgia.
  • Represented a private-equity-sponsored media and marketing company in its leveraged recapitalization.
  • Represented a major record label in a joint venture with MTV to launch a music video station in Asia.
  • Represented a privately owned cable television system in connection with its $90 million sale to another privately owned cable television system.
  • Represented national media company in restructuring of $20 million secured credit facility.
  • Advised national publishing company in the marketing and sale of its constituent businesses and negotiated and documented asset sales.
  • Represented broadcast media company in major corporate restructuring and several convertible-debt offerings.
  • Representation of Tri-Cities Broadcasting, Inc. in the sale of KUPR(FM), Carlsbad, California, and KCEO(AM), Carlsbad, California, to Nationwide Communications, Inc. for consideration of $32 million.
  • Representation of Sunshine Wireless, Inc. in the sale of WQAM(AM), Miami, Florida, and WKIS(FM), Boca Raton, Florida, to Beasley FM Acquisition Corporation and Affiliates for $56 million and other consideration.
  • Represented The Chicago Sun-Times in its acquisition of Digital Chicago Magazine.

Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration

  • Obtained motion for summary judgment without any discovery being conducted in an employment case because of a lack of evidence establishing an employer-employee relationship. Zeigler v. FOX Broadcasting.
  • Counsel to national publishing company concerning wage and hour issues and reclassification strategies.
  • Advised a Vietnamese media company on an ex-employee’s claim of illegal termination.
  • Secured asylum for a pro bono client, a young Iraqi journalist who is in the United States as an exchange student at American University. His asylum status allows him to stay in the United States indefinitely, be able to work, and apply for a green card after one year.
  • Obtained on behalf of a national satellite television installer and service provider a ruling for the client on all fourteen counts, alleging violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), arising out of the client’s withdrawal of recognition of a union at one of their major facilities in Florida.
  • Obtained a decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal reversing a $1 million jury verdict in favor of a former television reporter in her age and sex discrimination suit. Sunbeam Television Corp. v. Mitzel (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Jan. 18, 2012).
  • Successfully defended more than a dozen employment class action and collective claims for newspaper publishers. Tried each of those cases to defense verdicts or got them dismissed prior to trial.

Intellectual Property

  • Patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation action involving offset rotary magazines for rifles, resolved through mediation with favorable settlement agreement. Browning v. Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., No. 1:13-cv-00013-CW (C.D. Ut. 2014)
  • Advised medical publisher and information services company regarding licensing of its medical content to healthcare providers, academic institutions and government licensees.
  • Represented a mobile communications company in defense of a patent infringement matter concerning wifi networking.
  • Represented beauty product retailer and magazine publisher in an action for infringement of the NEWBEAUTY® trademark and trade dress infringement brought against a beauty salon and medical spa. Case settled. Sandow Media, LLC v. Renew Beauty Med Spa, Inc., 3:11-cv-02082-G (N.D. Texas).
  • Represented beauty product retailer and magazine publisher in an action for infringement of the NEWBEAUTY® trademark and trade dress infringement brought against a beauty salon and medical spa. Case settled. Sandow Media, LLC v. Fix Medical Spa, LLC, 2:11-cv-00854-RSM (W.D. Wash.).
  • Represented publisher in copyright infringement and Lanham Act 43(a) false advertising action and counterclaims alleging trademark infringement, false advertising, tortious interference with contract and antitrust violations. Hearst Business Publishing, Inc. v. W.G. Nichols, Inc. (S.D.N.Y.)
  • Represented Primetime 24 Joint Venture in dispute with DirecTV regarding the Satellite Home Viewer Act and copyright licenses to distribute content to satellite television subscribers. Case was settled on terms very favorable to our client. Primetime 24 Joint Venture v. DirecTV, Inc. (S.D.N.Y. April 20, 2000) 2000 U.S. Dist. Lexis 5022.

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Peer Reviews

  • 4.9/5.0 (521 reviews)
  • Legal Knowledge

    4.9/5.0
  • Analytical Capability

    4.9/5.0
  • Judgment

    4.9/5.0
  • Communication

    4.9/5.0
  • Legal Experience

    4.9/5.0

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*Attorneys who only have peer reviews prior to April 15, 2008 are not displayed.

Client Reviews

  • 4.5/5.0 (65 reviews)
  • 89% (58 recommendations)
  • Communication

    4.5/5.0
  • Responsiveness

    4.5/5.0
  • Quality of Service

    4.5/5.0
  • Value for Money

    4.5/5.0
  • Recommended 5.0/5.0 Review for Sean P. Murphy on 12/07/18 in Commercial Real Estate.

    Sean is highly detail oriented and excellent in all aspects of contract negotiation and due diligence. He provides important feedback, works efficiently and is mindful of his clients needs in a transaction. He is also extremely creative when it come... Read more

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    Sean is highly detail oriented and excellent in all aspects of contract negotiation and due diligence. He provides important feedback, works efficiently and is mindful of his clients needs in a transaction. He is also extremely creative when it comes to problem solving. Highly recommend. Read less

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  • Recommended 5.0/5.0 Review for Michael M. Mustokoff on 05/18/18 in Criminal Law.

    I cannot say enough about the quality of Mike’s legal skills and his ability to get right to the heart of the issues. On top of that he is one hell of a nice guy.

    I cannot say enough about the quality of Mike’s legal skills and his ability to get right to the heart of the issues. On top of that he is one hell of a nice guy. Read less

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Diversity

"In my discussions with Duane Morris leaders, they frequently speak about how diversity within their firm has enabled them to better serve their diverse clients. They understand that investing in diversity is a wise business decision that positions them for the marketplace of the future."

Don Liu
Senior VP, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
Xerox Corporation

At Duane Morris, achieving diversity is paradoxical. By supporting and celebrating the differences of our attorneys - and the individual strengths that they bring - our firm culture expands, fostering creative solutions for our clients. But diversity at Duane Morris does not mean that we have a certain number of diverse attorneys; true diversity means that it is no longer noteworthy to see diverse lawyers leading our practice groups or managing client relationships. Ascending to positions of leadership and greater responsibility and providing the highest levels of client service is simply what is expected of all our lawyers. Diversity is another strong asset that adds to our collective abilities to meet the needs of our clients.

Our vision of diversity at Duane Morris is to realize an environment in which our lawyers' outstanding qualities are not just measured by ethnicity, race, gender and sexual orientation, but more importantly, that our lawyers are remarkable as excellent attorneys above all else. Only then can we celebrate our differences while focusing on the common pursuit of legal excellence which everyone shares at Duane Morris.

To reach this goal, Duane Morris understands that the familiar diversity strategies and policies that most law firms have are needed. Without demanding results from such policies, most law firms are bound to fail in even achieving numerical hiring and retention goals. Duane Morris has been proactive and ambitious in its efforts to improve diversity at the firm, and has set deadlines for reaching the milestones which mark our progress. To create a more diverse law firm, Duane Morris is:

  • Committed to strategically increasing our diversity levels, which is currently at 10 percent.
  • Bringing together our Diversity Committee and our Hiring and Retention Committee to raise diversity as an important factor in our hiring decisions.
  • Dedicated to improving retention by building upon our monitoring and mentoring program for all diverse associates.

Combining new initiatives with our longstanding diversity efforts, Duane Morris has seen increasingly positive results. In the Minority Law Journal's annual diversity survey of the nation's largest 260 firms, Duane Morris continued to improve its regional and national ranking, rising to number 136 of all firms surveyed. Our strides in Philadelphia are encouraging; in a city known for both the racial diversity of its population and the lack thereof in its law firms, Duane Morris is one of only two law firms to exceed the national average of minority partners at all law firms. Additionally, Duane Morris leads all national law firms based in Philadelphia in the number of Latino partners. Nearly 30 percent of all of our attorneys are women, and more than 20 percent of our partners are women.

In our approach to diversity, progress in racial, gender and cultural diversity cannot be measured in numbers alone. Duane Morris has focused our diversity initiatives on both increasing the number of diverse associates and addressing the challenges diverse attorneys face in building lasting careers and rising to senior and leadership positions. While several of our key practice groups are led by diverse partners and female partners, Duane Morris endeavors to create a culture which will foster a deep pool of such attorneys who can then develop into the firm's future leaders. Duane Morris understands that simply hiring diverse associates will not change the diversity of the firm; Duane Morris is working to mentor and retain diverse associates so that our progress in racial, gender and cultural diversity is also reflected at the highest levels of leadership within the firm.

Our progress on gender diversity has been profound. We have no glass ceilings: women hold positions of leadership at all levels of management at the firm. Women lead a number of our key practice groups, including our Energy, Immigration and International practices, and serve on the firm's Executive Committee. The success of our female attorneys at Duane Morris has not gone unnoticed. Barbara Adams was chair of the firm's Finance Practice until her appointment by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell to serve as General Counsel of the Commonwealth. In 2004, our longtime General Counsel, Gene E.K. Pratter, was approved by the United States Senate and is now a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Our efforts to improve diversity extend beyond our firm's walls. The chair of our Diversity Committee, Nolan N. Atkinson, Jr., recognized the lack of diversity in Philadelphia's legal community and formed the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group. Nolan now serves as the chair of the organization, a consortium of 25 law firms and corporations that commits to employing at least one diverse first-year law student each as a summer associate. From this program, law students of diverse backgrounds gain access to what was once an exclusive legal community, and now have the opportunity to learn and develop their legal careers with experience at Philadelphia's top law firms.

In addition to our involvement in the Philadelphia area, Duane Morris has increased our presence at national conferences and events focused on diversity. We sponsor the Hispanic National Bar Association and its job fair. Duane Morris is also a longtime supporter and sponsor of the Equality Forum, a national gay and lesbian rights organization. Duane Morris continues to sponsor the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and is active in other associations of diverse attorneys including: the Asian American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley; the Charles Houston Bar Association; Cuban Bar Association; Korean American Lawyers Association; National American Indian Housing Counsel and the National Bar Association.

The challenge of improving gender, ethnic and cultural diversity at Duane Morris is an ongoing effort that has the support of the entire firm. Duane Morris has been at the vanguard in supporting gender diversity throughout the firm beginning a generation ago. Our diversity programs are leading to similar success in improving racial and national origin diversity at Duane Morris. But even as we share these examples of Duane Morris attorneys and our involvement in numerous legal events, associations and programs for diversity, our hope is that such examples will no longer be necessary to mention in the future. We hope that through our efforts, and the efforts of other law firms, these stories become so common that they are no longer the remarkable accomplishments they are today, but simply routine aspects of the legal world tomorrow.

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