Saturday, November 11, 2006


I've been waiting for the opportunity to work Borat into this blog, and here it is:

"Two college students featured in the hit film 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan' are not laughing about their screen appearance, in which they make racist and misogynistic comments to Borat, the boorish fictional Kazakh journalist played by Sacha Baron Cohen. A lawsuit filed on their behalf in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday states that the young men were plied with liquor by the production crew before their scene and thus 'engaged in behavior that they otherwise would not have engaged in,' The Associated Press reported. The students — who in their suit described Mr. Baron Cohen as 'a prankster' — also say they were told they were participating in a documentary that would be shown only outside the United States. The plaintiffs were not named but were identified in the film as fraternity members at a South Carolina university, and they appeared drunk as they made insulting comments about women and minorities. The suit seeks an injunction to stop the studio from displaying their likenesses, along with unspecified monetary damages."

High five! The complaint is here. Borat's release form is here. Law prof Gordon Smith wondered about exactly this possibility a few days ago: "One obvious problem with the release jumps off the page: One America Productions is fictional! ... The release has a merger clause, but I am wondering about a fraud claim." So did Nate Oman (scroll down to comments): "It seems that there is at least the possibility of fraud, as he obtained their consent by lying to them. ... [T]he set up does strike me as fundamentally deceptive, especially in light of the legal claims that the parties are signing away in the contract, which was presented to them under false pretenses." Another law professor, Miriam Cherry, responding to Oman in comments, doesn't think there's much to the suit: "What's the plaintiff's claim? You taped me saying stupid things and making racist comments? These folks knew they were being filmed, and they signed releases. ... They knew that they were being interviewed and that it would be public (i.e. broadcast)."

Jeremy Telman at the ContractsProf Blog says "[s]ome have suggested that the complaint might be yet another prank by the irrepressible Mr. Cohen. But if that were so, why wasn't the case styled I.P. Freely & I. Tappa Keg v. Borat?" Very nice, Profess Telmer!