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Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-11-2006, 03:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Photogs should note the lawsuits over the movie Borat because they involve exactly the same issues that can affect photographers. The movie, in a nutshell, features "Borat," an off-color comedian who travelled around the U.S.A. He obtained cooperation AND MODEL RELEASES by claiming to be a serious filmmaker from Kazakhstan, making an educational documentary about the USA. But in fact, that was a lie; the entire plan was to use unwilling Americans as the butt or participant in his off-color, sometimes racist humor. And to ridicule them. (This was somewhat racially-selective, though; African-Americans received sympathetic, even toadying treatment, while white people were viciously targeted). The movie has a mean-spirited smell overall. Borat and his fellows are now facing numerous lawsuits, including lawsuits over the validity of the fraudulently-obtained model releases and services obtained via the false pretenses. The lessons for ALL photographers:

1. Drunken people cannot give valid releases. Borat obtained some releases, and cooperation, when the subjects were intoxicated. Photographers should remember that a release, or any other legal document, is questionable and probably invalid when the signer is affected by drugs, severe pain, duress, or the like. Smart photographers don't even allow a glass of wine at any shoot, lest the model later, for financial shakedown, remorse, boyfriend pressure, or other reasons, be able to falsely claim "I never would have posed that way/signed a release if he hadn't got me drunk." Some photographers are so paranoid--or careful--that they videotape the signing and talk to the model a little to make it obvious she's in her correct mind. The videotaping also shows her signing the release. This can be significant years later. A recent case in which Cameron Diaz destroyed the life of a photographer centered around Diaz' dubious claim that she didn't actually sign the release of a shoot; that the photographer had forged it.

2. Fraud can invalidate a release. For example, suppose you tell people, like Borat did, that you are making a serious documentary, but your real purpose is to shock and ridicule them. The release can be invalid when fraud is involved. An example from the movie involves Borat purportedly learning to be polite at dinner parties and the like with genteel ladies. But when he attends such a gathering, he goes to the toilet and returns to such genteel people carrying feces. Would ANYONE have agreed to be filmed or signed a release for such toilet humor if not for fraud?

Borat did many other purportedly sleazy things, and it is not surprising he is being sued. But at a quick look, the above are the two major warnings for photographers: 1. No drugs or booze at a shoot; and 2. Be honest.

================

BTW, one of the worst instances of deceiving people involved William Shatner, of Star Trek fame. He took a crew to a small town, telling the thrilled townspeople that their town would be the locale for a Star Trek movie. But in fact the plan from the beginning was that there was no such movie; the whole idea was to deceive the townspeople and make a mini-movie humiliating them as stupid gullible "hicks."
 
 
Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-11-2006, 04:10 PM   #2 (permalink)
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My guess would be that they knew exactly what they were doing and set aside so much for the settlements. It happens all the time in big business. Doesn't make it right at all. In fact what would have been wrong if they just paid everyone to be humiliated to begin with. Heck, they don't even have to pay them. Look at Jerry Springer.

What if the original intent was a true documentary that changed because of the ridiculous humor? That's like a self promotional release needing to be updated and compenstated when an actual image is reviewed for profit.

Another note...Had the movie been a complete flop, you would not hear of this.

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Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-11-2006, 04:31 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glamourpics View Post
... making an educational documentary about the USA. But in fact, that was a lie; the entire plan was to use unwilling Americans as the butt or participant in his off-color, sometimes racist humor. And to ridicule them. (This was somewhat racially-selective, though; African-Americans received sympathetic, even toadying treatment, while white people were viciously targeted).
We'll see if any of those lawsuits hold in court.

Also, I thought the movie was very very funny and it as a joke on the US as a whole and specially on most of YOU ( anglos ). Coming from non other, but an Anglo from the US mother country.

I thought the whole idea was genius.. they played on a lot of the stereotypes the US has as a whole and showed people for who they really are.. in their true colors.

Because I live in a city where racism and the anti gay/lesbian sentiment is very low.. I tend to forget how most anglos are and it reminded me of how the country as a whole feels about everyone who is NOT white or not heterosexual...

The joke is on the whole country and the movie was way too funny! In my eyes, Sasha is a genius ( how does he do to not break into laughter on some of those jokes ) and whoever wrote the movie is more so...
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Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-11-2006, 04:44 PM   #4 (permalink)
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First of all, Borat is not a person who is or even could be sued. Borat is a character being portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen, a comedian and actor.

As for the validity of a release (or any other contract for that matter), I would think that the actual written words on that release carry a whole lot more weight than anything that may or may not have been said by the person wanting the signature. There's a reason you're supposed to read a legal document before signing it.

You could say to a model, "This is a standard release that you have to sign before we can begin shooting", but what does that mean? A "standard" release for a fashion shoot is probably different than one for an adult shoot. There are "standard" releases that give models rights to pictures and there are those that don't give any rights to the model. There are any number of things that could be different from one "standard" release to another. Was the statement that it's just a standard release fraudulent? I don't think so. It's an honest statement.

Again, it's the responsibility of the signer to read what he/she is signing, no matter what they're being told it is.
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Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-11-2006, 04:48 PM   #5 (permalink)
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When the world is picking on you it is a good idea to look at how you are treating the world. Their is still alot of racism in this world but it is not brought on by most whites.
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Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-11-2006, 05:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Most of the comments ignored the reason I posted; the important lessons for photographers. I was disappointed also by the tacit acceptance of "Borat's" well-planned fraud and mean-spirited behavior.

One followup stated a belief that a release is valid, regardless of whether there was "fraud in the inducement." This is a dangerous misconception.

I was also surprised by at least one followups' racist implication that white people are by nature racist and homophobic, so it is thus okay to deceive and ridicule them. I wonder if the poster would feel the same if "Borat" had lied his way across Cuba or South America? And BTW, where did the poster get the notion that white people are more homophobic than Hispanics?

As an expert on Right of Publicity (E.g, California Civil Code 3344), my own prediction is that either: many of the releases will be held to be non-valid due to fraud in the inducement and/or because the signers were drunk -- and that the moviemakers will pay, OR the moviemakers will simply "buy off" the victims.

Since many of the readers seem to have gotten sidetracked, let me repeat the two most important points: 1. A release signed under alcohol/drug influence IS PROBABLY INVALID and thus exposes the publisher of the photos to suits under, e.g., CC CIvCode 3344; AND 2. A release obtained by fraud IS PROBABLY INVALID and thus exposes the publisher of the photos to suits under, e.g., CC CIvCode 3344.

I hope none of my gentle colleagues treat models in the same way "Borat" treated his victims. However, if you do, please share the news with us on this forum, when a model delivers a pile of papers that say, "Superior Court of California, County of ..."
 
 
Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-11-2006, 05:52 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Speaking of side tracks:

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Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat 


cheers,
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Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-11-2006, 06:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Actually today a judge threw out the lawsuit brought by the frat boys. Victory for "Borat"
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Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-11-2006, 10:10 PM   #9 (permalink)
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We were all doomed when the signs went up at the airport: Please no joking. We take your security seriously.

Lighten up.
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Re: Vital Warnings for Photogs from movie Borat
Old 12-12-2006, 10:58 AM   #10 (permalink)
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GP:

The validity of the releases will be a matter of state law, in each of the states in which they were obtained. I'm sure Sascha Cohen and his production company did a bit of legal research on the application of each release to the footage that they wanted to include in the film, before deciding whether to include the clip or leave it on the floor of the cutting room. My prediction is that not a single one of these lawsuits will ever reach a jury. If they do, I predict that the plaintiffs will lose on appeal. Of course, JT may be correct as well. The film's budget may have included a set-aside for payoffs. If so, I hope that they were discrete about it. A line-item like that would be evidence that puts $$$$ signs in the eyes of plaintiff attorneys, with an eye toward punative damages.

That being said, most photographers don't have access to that level of legal expertise, and your warning that a photographer not get the model intoxicated is quite good advice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dax View Post
I thought the movie was very very funny and it as a joke on the US as a whole and specially on most of YOU ( anglos ). Coming from non other, but an Anglo from the US mother country.
Dax,

I too thought the film was hilarious, because it lampooned some things that I don't like about some citizens of my country. But, while Sascha Cohen is "British" (a nationality), he isn't "Anglo" (a word with a more "racial" connotation). He's Jewish. Most of his political stuff includes anti-Semitic references as a result.

But I too was offended by your implication that "Anglos" are more homophobic than (for instance) Hispanics, or (at least) South Florida Cubans. I work regularly with gentlemen from Mexico, and I find that they are generally far-more homophobic than the average "white" with whom I have dealings.

Judging from your comments, I infer that you are of Cuban descent. Like you, most "white" Americans are NOT of "Anglo" descent. An "Anglo" is from an area comprising about 1/2 the surface area of the larger of the two British Isles. That island is also home to Scots and the Welsch, either of which group would be highly-insulted to be called "Anglo." Most "white" Americans are descended from Germans, Irish, Scots, French, Scandinavian, Czech, Spanish or other European ancestors. I trace only about 1/16 of my roots to any "Anglo" ancestor, but I feel confident you meant to insult me as well as any other American with skin shaded lighter than your own.

In any case, it is likely (on a statistical basis) that you have almost as much European ancestry as any other American, even if a great deal less "Anglo" ancestry than the average. Perhaps we should all re-examine our stereotypes, huh?

Luego
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Last edited by FotoTejas; 12-12-2006 at 11:41 AM..
 
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