Chalk up another in the win column for the Twentieth Century Fox lawyers tasked with defending the studio from the numerous lawsuits that have cropped up by folks who have found unusual stardom by appearing in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
A New York federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a man seen running away from Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen on Wednesday. The man, Jeffrey Lemerond, appeared briefly in the film’s trailer and in a 13-second segment in which he fled up a sidewalk screaming after Baron Cohen approached him in his Borat character asking for a hug. He claims that the filmmakers unlawfully used his image in the film, even though his face was obscured by pixelation.
U. S. District Judge Loretta Preska tossed the suit out, ruling that the film was protected because it fell under the rather large umbrella of being “newsworthy” and therefore exempt from being sued.
[Although the film] employs as its chief medium a brand of humor that appeals to the most childish and vulgar in its viewers… [It] challenges its viewers to confront, not only the bizarre and offensive Borat character himself, but the equally bizarre and offensive reactions he elicits from ‘average’ Americans.
Lemerond’s attorney feels he knows better than Judge Preska, and plans to appeal the decision. “We think New York law is clear that a corporation like Twentieth Century Fox is not entitled to pluck an otherwise anonymous citizen out of a crowd and subject him to public humiliation in order to make a buck,” he said.
Judge Preska’s decision noted that the content of the film itself was the sole consideration in the decision, not whether Twentieth Century Fox intended to make a profit with it.
I have to wonder about the plaintiff, though. He barely appears in the film and when he is seen, his face is pixilated, making him unrecognizable. I’m not sure how he can claim that he is being held up to ridicule when no one make out who he is. In fact, he’s far more visible to the public eye now that he has identified himself as the man from that scene, thrusting himself into the public spotlight with this lawsuit.
Mr. Lemerond, if you’re reading this, and since you strike me as someone who may just spend a lot of their time Googling their own name I think you are, let it go. The only harm being done to you is by yourself, as you stand up and loudly draw attention to yourself. Or is that what you really want? I don’t want to engage in armchair psychology here, but a high-profile lawsuit with an attorney who vows to keep fighting certainly doesn’t make you look like a man who just wants to be left alone.