Technology takes consumers centrestage as arbiters of celebrity: report

CANNES: Consumers will increase their power as the direct arbiters of the mantle of celebrity, thanks to the explosive growth and use of new entertainment technologies that exploit celebrity, according to this year's International Association of Entertainment Lawyers Journal, to be released at MIDEM 2005 in Cannes.

The 2005 Journal, themed "Celebrity" includes insights from 25 entertainment and media attorneys from around the globe. The journal is edited by Jay Cooper, chair of law firm Greenberg Traurig's entertainment practice in Los Angeles.

"Today's celebrity culture is relentless, with enormous resources being poured by mass media to tap into the public's insatiable appetite for this information," says Cooper. "Along with the 24/7 entertainment television shows and a blizzard of magazines and tabloids, there are also Internet sites and `blogs' devoted to individuals, motion pictures, television shows and gossip."

The result will be an increase in legal privacy protections for public figures driven in part by consumers' growing power in controlling celebrity versus the right of the public to know, according to the 2005 Journal. The fact the courts are using right-of-privacy justifications to shield celebrity from the public eye is indicative of today's unforgiving culture of fame and the direction laws may take in the future with respect to privacy protection, adds Cooper.

IAEL was officially founded in 1977 at MIDEM, Cannes. Three years prior to IAEL's charter, the founding members had begun holding informal seminars and discussion groups for MIDEM participants interested in the legal aspects of the entertainment industry.

"A celebrity is not just a movie star today," notes Burry, a Greenberg Traurig shareholder, in the first chapter. "It's any individual of public notoriety whose personality, personal story and private facts have captured the public's imagination and then becomes public property," he reports.

In another chapter, Jonathan Coad, a partner at London-based The Simkins Partnership, and Greg Nylen, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, explore the difficulty of simultaneously using laws to combat unfair defamation and at the same time respecting and working with the media in managing a celebrity brand.

"Although the United Kingdom is not as claimant-friendly as it once was, it remains a much more neutral playing field between the celebrity and the press than the United States," says Coad. "If you have an international reputation or privacy problem, the best strategy is to tackle it in the UK, then through astute public relations transmit the remedy out to the US and (continental) Europe once it has been achieved."

A third chapter looks at how new technologies have altered the landscape and the legal frameworks within which celebrities seek protection. According to the chapter authors, Mark Bateman and Paul Chamberlain, prior to the technology boom, the public received celebrity news from the cinema and mainstream newspapers and publications. Now, celebrities have their personal lives hyper-examined by a host of specialized magazines, websites and digital television stations. The ever-growing appetite for celebrity content means that a celebrity's image is an extremely valuable asset worthy of adamant protection.

"Technology plays its part in keeping a public increasingly addicted to celebrity tales supplied with its regular fix," says Bateman and Chamberlain.

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