Suspense builds for two key Supreme Court decisions

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Suspense builds for two key Supreme Court decisions

Thu Jun 25, 2009 @ 09:34AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Supremecourt Alfred Hitchock once lived by the dictum that if you introduce a gun in the first act of a movie, it shouldn't be used until the third.

The Supreme Court knows a thing or two about suspense, waiting until the very last second to make two decisions that hold ramifications for the entertainment community.

This morning the Court was expected to released the rest of its opinions from its current term. Well, not so fast. Everyone gets the weekend to wait in anticipation of two important decisions. How the nine justices rule could change the way TV is watched and the manner in which documentaries on political candidates are seen by the public.

We've been following the first case case (Cable News Network, Inc., et al., v. CSC Holdings, Inc) since the 2nd Circuit issued a landmark ruling that legitimized Cablevision's plan to allow subscribers to store TV programs on the cable operator's remote servers. The case poses copyright questions like what constitutes a "copy" and whether infringing acts must be willful, and in January, the Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General for the government's opinion of whether they should take the case. 

Judge Elena Kagan answered "Not so fast," and now it's up to the Supreme Court to grant review of the case or let the 2nd Circuit decision stand.

The second case (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) tests whether political documentaries that prominently feature candidates for office should be regulated by the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002. In the case, producers of a scathing 90-minute documentary about Hillary Clinton sued the FEC, arguing their film wasn't a political advertisement meant to push voters against Clinton and shouldn't be regulated as such. The Supreme Court held hearings on this case in March, but evidently the justices need every last second to refine their judgement.

Today the Court announced a long list of cases they were granting or denying cert without mentioning the Cablevision case. Talk about leaving the entertainment community on the edge of their seats.

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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