Deadline.com’s Parent Company MMC Sends ‘Cease & Desist’ Letter To TheWrap

By | Wednesday February 23, 2011 @ 5:13pm PST



Deadline.com and its parent company MMC is embarking on an intensified legal campaign to protect its original content. I began Deadline Hollywood Daily exactly 5 years ago in March and have seen it grow as a very successful and widely respected website of breaking news and analysis and commentary about the entertainment industry. I will not, and can not, allow anyone to rip off Team Deadline’s exclusive coverage. It often can take weeks of working our deep sources to report and write our posts. And yet a proliferating number of blogs and websites without the journalism credentials we have often post our original content 5- or 10-minutes after us without credit and/or linkback and without individually reporting the articles themselves. And merely calling a studio or network and saying, “Is this correct?”, then copying Deadline’s post often word-for-word and slapping a different byline on it, does not constitute reporting in my journalism playbook. Nor should it for you readers.

In 2010, Deadline’s parent company MMC brought separate lawsuits in Federal Court against the owners and operators of DeadlineHollyweird.com and BoxOfficeWorld.com. Both resulted in the owners of those respective websites effectively closing up shop immediately after we filed suit. While those websites still technically exist on paper, they have been completely stripped of all content. We are currently in the process of resolving those lawsuits in a very favorable manner. In particular, the settlement in the Deadline Hollyweird lawsuit won by MMC’s outside counsel Bryan Freedman of the Century City law firm of Freedman & Taitelman will result in, among other things, the defendant transferring the entire domain DeadlineHollyweird.com to MMC.

Now we embark on our next phase of copyright protection. TheWrap.com has had many wholesale staff turnovers since it began in January 2009 and at present is operating with just a handful of reporters — apparently the least amount in its brief history. As one of TheWrap’s reporters emailed to a Deadline staffer expressing his frustration trying to compete with us, “I spend my days following and getting scooped by you.” But that is no excuse for what keeps happening and is even increasing as outlined in this letter which attorney Freedman just sent to TheWrap’s editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman, COO Mark Davis, and board directors Ben Choi (a principal at Maveron which initially funded TheWrap) and Charles Koontz (a media entrepreneur):

February 22, 2011

Re:      Mail.com Media Corporation v. the Wrap News, Inc. d/b/a The Wrap.com

CEASE AND DESIST:  THEWRAP.COM

Dear Messers Davis, Choi and Koones:

This firm represents Mail.com Media Corporation (“MMC”), the owner of the website www.deadline.com (“Deadline.com”).  It is our understanding that the Wrap News, Inc. (“WNI”) owns and operates www.thewrap.com (“TheWrap.com”).  I am contacting you because it has become apparent that TheWrap.com and its employees have engaged in a continuous pattern of misappropriating content from Deadline.com, publishing that information on TheWrap.com, passing off that information as its own, and doing so without compensating or even crediting Deadline.com.  In many instances, TheWrap.com’s misappropriation involves the wholesale copying of substantial portions of articles posted on Deadline.com.  While I want to inform you that MMC and my office intend to closely monitor TheWrap.com for any continued infringement, I also want to stress the need for WNI to implement internal policies and procedures that will discourage future infringement by TheWrap.com, and minimize WNI’s exposure to copyright infringement or “hot news” misappropriation liability.

MMC is concerned that TheWrap.com’s infringement on and theft of Deadline.com content is not an isolated incident.  Rather, TheWrap.com’s copying of Deadline.com content, which has been going on for some time now, is only getting worse and is apparently becoming an institutionalized practice.  As a result, both MMC and my office intend to make a concerted effort to monitor the TheWrap.com in order to identify and document any infringement of Deadline.com content that occurs on a going forward basis in case formal legal action becomes necessary.  Rest assured, nothing will fly under our radar.

If TheWrap.com’s infringement continues, MMC intends to vigorously protect its intellectual property rights.  As you probably are aware, the unauthorized copying and distribution via the internet of even portions of Deadline.com content, without the express permission of MMC, constitutes copyright infringement in violation of Title 17 U.S. Code, Section 106(a) of the Copyright Act of 1976.  Such infringement subjects WNI to damages and injunctive relief.  Moreover, based on what is undoubtedly willful infringement of MMC’s rights under 17 U.S.C. Section 101 et seq., WNI could be liable for statutory damages as high as $150,000 for each act of infringement as set forth in Section 504(c)(2), as well as attorney’s fees and costs.

Even when TheWrap.com does not copy Deadline.com’s content verbatim, WNI’s misuse of Deadline.com’s exclusive and breaking stories exposes WNI to liability under California’s “Hot News” misappropriation laws.  Like many other jurisdictions, California recognizes the tort of “Hot News” misappropriation.  See Balboa Ins. Co. v. Trans Global Equities, 218 Cal. App. 3d 1327, 1342 (1990); X17 v. Lavandeira, 563 F. Supp. 2d 1102 (C.D. Cal. 2007).  A defendant will be liable under this theory if: (i) the plaintiff generates or collects information at some cost or expense; (ii) the value of the information is highly time-sensitive; (iii) the defendant’s use of information constitutes free-riding on the plaintiff’s costly efforts to generate or collect it; (iv) the defendant’s use of the information is in direct competition with a product or service offered by the plaintiff; (v) the ability of the other party to free-ride on the efforts of the plaintiff would so reduce the incentive to produce the product or service that its existence or quality would be substantially threatened.  National Basketball Ass’n v. Motorola, Inc., 105 F.3d 841, 852 (2d Cir. 1997); Lavandeira, 563 F. Supp. 2d at 1105, 1108-1109; International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215, (1918).  As TheWrap.com’s sources clearly are not as robust as those of Deadline.com, TheWrap.com attempts to compete with Deadline by free-riding off of Deadline.com’s exclusive information and breaking news.  This is underscored by the fact that TheWrap.com frequently posts articles mimicking Deadline.com’s exclusive content shortly after dealine.com breaks such news.

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MMC’s TVLine.Com To Launch In January

By | Friday December 10, 2010 @ 9:17am PST
Nellie Andreeva

MMC’s new consumer TV-centric website spearheaded by my colleague Michael Ausiello now has a name, a url, a target launch date and first exclusive advertiser. Here is the release by Deadline.com parent company MMC announcing the launch of TVLine.com:

MMC, the media and publishing company founded by Chairman & CEO Jay Penske announced today TVLine as the name of its new consumer TV focused property launching in early January 2011. Michael Ausiello is Editor-In-Chief and Founder of the new website, with Matt Webb Mitovich serving as Editor-At-Large. MMC also owns the entertainment properties Deadline.com led by Nikki Finke, HollywoodLife.com led by Bonnie Fuller, and Movieline.com led by Charles Runnette.

MMC also announced that HBO is on board as the exclusive advertiser for the first two weeks of TVLine’s much anticipated launch.

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MMC ADVISORY: TV Reporter Matt Mitovich Joins Michael Ausiello For New TV Website

By | Wednesday November 3, 2010 @ 7:13pm PDT




Entertainment news reporter Matt Mitovich, a TV Guide veteran who is currently Executive Editor of TV News at Fancast.com, is the first major hire to join Michael Ausiello in launching a new consumer TV-focused property with media and publishing company MMC. The new consumer TV website will debut in January 2011. Starting November 29, Mitovich’s role will be to assist Ausiello, the site’s Editor-In-Chief, in developing this new TV property and defining its editorial plan. “When I started to think about the best reporters in TV news, Matt’s was the first name that popped into my head,” said Ausiello. Mitovich will be the Editor-At-Large.

Over the course of his career, Mitovich has conducted more than 1,200 celebrity interviews and evolved as a go-to reporters for TV lovers who crave news and previews. In addition to breaking TV news stories, Mitovich is well known for a fun, relaxed, and free-flowing interview style that elicits both insight and storyline intel.

“We are thrilled to have another incredible talent like Matt join our quickly expanding team,” commented  Jay Penske, MMC’s Founder and Chairman & CEO, and owner of other entertainment properties Deadline.com led by Nikki Finke, HollywoodLife.com led by Bonnie Fuller, and Movieline.com led by Charles Runnette. “He has become one of the TV industry’s most prominent and best all-around consumer TV journalists — and now with Michael Ausiello and Matt Mitovich working together, and contributions from Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva, this business holds almost limitless potential.”

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Deadline Now 25th “Most Influential Blog”

By | Friday July 16, 2010 @ 10:38am PDT

That was yesterday’s determination by Technorati, which tracks the world’s most influential blogs. technorati_logo1Frankly, I’ve always considered Deadline to be a website not a blog, even back in its formative stage when I was the only writer on Deadline Hollywood Daily. When it began in … Read More »

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My First & Last Statement On HBO’s ‘Tilda’

By | Tuesday July 13, 2010 @ 11:01am PDT

Considering how many inaccurate media claims have been made regarding myself and the potential series Tilda for HBO, I wish to set the record straight. I had no prior knowledge that this show was being created or put into development. I have never written about the show. I have never encouraged Deadline.com journalists to write about the show. I had no prior … Read More »

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MMC (My Parent Company) Buys BGR.com

By | Tuesday April 27, 2010 @ 12:44am PDT

BGR-logoI’ve been reading the Boy Genius Report for some time because it’s such a go-to website for mobile and gadget news scoops. So, apparently, does my boss. Jay Penske’s digital media and publishing network now has acquired the BGR.com website. mmc logoAs tonight’s news release states, “The impact of the expansion cannot be underestimated. RIM’s stock price increased by over 30% immediately after BGR.com broke the news of their new devices. Testament to the fact that the immediacy with which new media sites like BGR.com and Deadline.com break news and report on major events first, does move the needle in the financial sector.”

Penske, the founder, chairman and CEO of MMC, stated: “We’re thrilled to announce our acquisition of BGR, and partnership with Jonathan. Very much in the mold of Nikki Finke of Deadline.com, Jonathan has singlehandedly built an influential site with original content that appeals to an extremely engaged and loyal following in one of the largest and most exciting categories online. And he’s done it all before his 23rd birthday.” Here’s the complete news release: Read More »

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