Monday, March 24, 2008

'Fahrenheit 9/11' Defamation Case Dismissed

A federal appeals court has dismissed the defamation lawsuit brought by a U.S. military veteran of Iraq against filmmaker Michael Moore over his depiction in the 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. In Damon v. Moore, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that former Army Reserves Sgt. Peter J. Damon's appearance in the documentary could not be construed as defamatory.

Damon lost his right arm and part of his left arm while on National Guard duty in Iraq in 2003. While awaiting surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he was interviewed by Brian Williams of NBC about a new pain blocker he was receiving. Damon consented to the interview's broadcast on Nightly News but not to its use elsewhere. Nonetheless, NBC allowed Moore to use it in the documentary, which was critical of President Bush and the Iraq war. The 16-second clip showed Damon describing the pain he had felt in his hands.

In his lawsuit, Damon claimed the film was an attack on the integrity of the Commander-in-Chief and on the Armed Forces and he alleged that his appearance in it defamed him by falsely portraying him as sharing and endorsing Moore's views. On appeal after the trial court dismissed the case, the 1st Circuit affirmed the dismissal, ruling that his appearance in the film was not susceptible to a defamatory meaning either within the community at large or within the community of military personnel and veterans.
"While we appreciate Damon's anger and frustration over appearing without his consent in a documentary that stands in direct contrast to his own personal and political beliefs, we conclude that his appearance in the documentary is not reasonably susceptible of a defamatory meaning. ... Since Damon's appearance was not reasonably susceptible to a defamatory meaning under Massachusetts law, we need not reach the question of whether being falsely labeled either pro- or anti-war, as a matter of law, holds a member of the military up to the type of scorn and ridicule required for a defamation claim."
The full decision can be read here.

3 comments:

Bethany Davis said...

When I was reading your blog about the ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ defamation case being dismissed, many things ran through my mind. First off, this may sound really bad but I did not even know that there was a suit filed. Being a college student I thought that you could use any and all material that you want as long as you have permission or site where you got it. Moore had permission from NBC to use the interview of Damon. In addition, Damon had to of signed a document for NBC giving them all rights to this interview. So, Damon really did not have any rights to this recorded interview. Why would someone want to file a suit of something that had already been broadcasted to the nation? Another point that I would like to bring up that Moore is also protected by the First Amendment; he has the right to freedom of speech. He did nothing that would be considered out of line. I completely support Moore and I am very glad that this case was dismissed.

Maya Turner said...

Michael Moore did not defame Damon according to the definition of defamation. The elements that must be proved to establish defamation are: (1) A publication to one other than the person defamed; (2) of a false statement of fact; (3) which is understood as being of and concerning the plaintiff; and (4) which is understood in such a way as to tend to harm the reputation of plaintiff. Moore intended no harm to come to Damon. If anything he was trying to show the world how senseless and tragic war is when he included the clip of Damon in his documentary. Can no legal harm come to NBC for releasing the clip? If Damon had sole rights to the interview then maybe his argument would be valid or another case all together. Moore obtained the clip from a major network that had already aired it. I don't think that the point viewers got from seeing a man mangled after war was any different in the context Moore used the clip.

Anonymous said...

What you fail to see is that Peter Damon could not sign anything to give consent-He had just lost BOTH hands