NEW YORK (CN) – A federal judge threw out a New York businessman’s lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. over footage of him running away from comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in the mockumentary “Borat – Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”
The disputed segment shows Cohen’s fictional character, Borat, greeting Jeffrey Lemerond on a street corner in Manhattan. Borat extends his hand and says in a heavy accent, “Hello, nice to meet you. I’m new in town. My name a Borat.”
Before he finishes, the video clip shows Lemerond running away “in apparent terror,” screaming, “Get away!” and “What are you doing?”
Because New York does not recognize a common-law right to privacy, Lemerond filed suit under a state civil law that allows him to sue over the unauthorized use of his name, picture or voice “for advertising purposes or for the purpose of trade.”
The law provides an exception for newsworthy events or other matters of public interest.
The case hinged on whether U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska thought the clip of Lemerond was newsworthy. She did, but not without remarking on the film’s churlishness.
“Of course, the movie employs as its chief medium a brand of humor that appeals to the most childish and vulgar in its viewers. At its core, however, ‘Borat’ attempts an ironic commentary of ‘modern’ American culture, contrasting the backwardness of its protagonist with the social ills (that) afflict supposedly sophisticated society.”