Case: Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard.

Case citation: Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co. , 433 U.S. 562 (1977).


Howard Zacchini performed a human canon ball feat where he was shot into a safety net 200 feet away. A local TV station taped and aired the segment during the nightly news, all without Zacchini's permission. Zacchini sued for misappropriation but a trial court issued a summary judgment. The Court of Appeals of Ohio reversed the judgment but ruled in favor of Zacchini. Later, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that while the TV station should not have used Zacchini's likeness without compensating him or without his permission, on the grounds that the segment aired was of public interest. On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision. 

Decision: Reversed. 

Test - Appropriation: 

The length of the segment aired and the economic impact thereof trumps the newsworthiness defense.


Private Facts

Case: Diaz v. Oakland Tribune.

Case citation: Diaz v. Oakland Tribune, Inc. (1983) 139 Cal. App. 3d 118, 188 Cal.Rptr. 762.


A columnist for The "Oakland Tribune" ran a story about College of Alameda student body president Toni Diaz, stating that she was a transsexual, born as a man named Antonio. Diaz sued the Tribune for publishing embarrassing private facts. A jury delivered in favor of Diaz on the grounds that the facts were indeed embarrassing and not newsworthy. On appeal, a California appeals court ruled that Diaz's sexuality had no connection to her fitness for office and that her being the first female student president did not warrant the disclosure of her private life. 

Decision: The appeals court ruled that the jury was fit to decide whether the news article was newsworthy, thus awarding Diaz a win.. 

Test - Private Facts: 

The disclosure one's private facts in a shocking and embarrassing manner.


False Light

Case: Peoples Bank v. Globe.

Case citation: Peoples Bank and Trust Company v. Globe International Publishing, Inc.,
978 F.2d 1065; 1992.


Nellie Mitchell, a 97-year-old newsstand operator from Arkansas sued "The Examiner" after its Nov. 25, 1980 issue ran her picture alongside a headline that read, "Pregnancy forces granny to quit work at age 101." Inside was another picture of Mitchell alongside a fictitious story about a an Australian 101-year-old grandmother who was impregnated by a millionaire who lived on her paper route. A jury awarded Mitchell $650,000. After a district court refused to issue a new trial, Globe Inc., publisher of "The Examiner," appealed to the 8th circuit appeals court. While the court deemed the story not defamatory, it found for Mitchell on false light and upheld the jury award. 

Decision: The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction. 

Test - False Light: 

The representation of one in a false and highly offensive manner using distortion, embellishment and fictionalization.



Case: Shulman v. Group W.

Case citation: Shulman v. Group W Productions, 8 Cal.4th 200, 74 Cal.Rptr.2d 843.


Ruth Shulman and her son Wayne were involved in a serious accident on a California highway. A video cameraman for the 4MN Productions filmed the rescue operation, up to and until when Ruth was hoisted into a rescue helicopter. Segments of the rescue were aired later in an emergency rescue TV program. Ruth, who was left paraplegic due to the accident, sued the producers for disclosure of private facts and intrusion. The defendants asked for and received a summary judgment. 

The appeals court however reversed the judgment and remanded the case for further examination, ruling in favor of Ruth on intrusion. On further appeal, the Supreme Court of California ruled that while the broadcast might have been newsworthy, it found for Ruth on intrusion. The cameraman had violated her seclusion by filming her inside the rescue helicopter.

Decision: The California Supreme Court affirmed the appeals court ruling. 

Test - Intrusion: 

The intentional invasion of someone’s physical seclusion. This occurs mostly during the news gathering process.

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