Can sex video publishers be charged with legal damages?


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2Revenge porn is nothing new. It’s tacky, it’s nasty, and it’s pretty damn cruel.  What could be new is the legal situation – CAN YOU SUE if someone publishes a sex video of you? A lot of people would say that you should be able to. The good news for the damaged is that there are some legal precedents.

Sex tapes can be brutal, and bizarre in many ways. Hulk Hogan’s famous Gawker sex tape was as weird as it gets. He sued and destroyed Gawker, no loss to the world, for what was basically sex tape publishing.

The major deal here is the publishing angle. Doing a private sex tape is your business. Publishing someone else’s sex tape isn’t your business. It’s a clear privacy violation. In some cases, it could even be a criminal act.

The reason for this blog is another wrestler’s sex tape train wreck. Paige is a WWE icon, and a true-DNA wrestler. It’s literally in her blood, and apparently her mother was wrestling with Paige while she was pregnant. You can’t get a lot more authentic than that.

Paige

After a long haul to the top at a young age, Paige got hit with the full force of cyber bullying, the public embarrassment, and the massive shock of an unexpected global publicity debacle. Few people can get up at all after something like that, but she’s fighting on.

Publication of this sex tape was a gratuitous, bloody unkind, thing to do. This was a tape of Paige pre-fame, and let’s face it, people tape sex every day without it ruining their lives and threatening their career and sanity.

Suddenly, thanks to antisocial media, it was a global news event. Most media organizations don’t bother with tacky sex videos, even if it is someone famous. They don’t need sleaze. Social media, however, isn’t like that. It’s a black hole of tat, and it’s big business for these sites. There’s a lot of money in this crap.

I don’t care how you cut it – This IS malicious exploitation of the victims. It’s money for smut. A person who’d get a fortune for a nude photo shoot gets hell for a video, and somebody else profits?  Come off it.

This is another side to the legal angles. Why should any publisher benefit from a nasty, quite possibly illegal, use of a sex tape? Hogan’s case made a very important point – It’s NOT legally OK to publish these things, in so many ways.

So – The legal issues relate to the potential for damage. Hulk Hogan famously got removed from the WWE roster for a remark on an old tape that nobody in the business took seriously. Paige wasn’t even born when Hogan hit the big time, but she’s a major name. The potential for career damage couldn’t possibly have been missed when her sex video was published.

Publishers are supposed to know better. They do. Even one word, or one allegation, which might be defamatory or do high dollar value career damage, is treated like a live IED – But a sex video, which is no major asset to any high profile female, isn’t?

WRONG. It is. There’s no getting away from that very basic fact. There should be a prima facie legal status for these nasty little videos, based on that fact.

Nor should the horrendous effect on the victims be ignored. Check out this interview by the very professional Lillian Garcia and see how grim this was for Paige.  Talk about “mental anguish”; this kid did go through hell. Think there might be some damages in any normal legal case? Damn straight.

 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

A few comments on watching “fake” wrestling on YouTube


 

Wasp2For many years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching wrestling. On YouTube, however, the comments are all about “fake” wrestling. Wanna make a comparison?

Egad.

Gadzooks, already.

“Fake” wrestling?

Let’s explore this theory a bit. There’s a lot to be said about it, all bad:

  • As everyone knows, all other media, including the news, is 100% legit.
  • All Hollywood movies are performed under oath for authenticity. Star Wars is actually a documentary, made in real time. (Thank you, Carrie Fisher, but otherwise…)
  • All TV shows are performed on the same basis. Everything is real.
  • All you need to do to get a straight, unbiased version of the news is to watch FOX or listen to any politician. No fakery there.
  • No pro athletes and teams make money out of lousy, boring, decade-long performances.
  • People do not actually fake anything in real life – Everyone is 100% legit, and nobody ever puts on an act.

How naive can you get? That naive.

Then there’s the fight fan version:

  • MMA and UFC are “real fighting” – Maybe so, maybe not, but check out the difference between the real champs and the fist-food they usually fight.
  • How many of these people actually have long careers? Not many if any, and they tend to get pretty lame and sad at the end.
  • How many of the thousands of fighters do you actually remember? Just about anyone can reel off a long list of wrestlers, but not these guys.
  • How many put in a good performance? You get 1-2 good fights per week, and more than a few walkovers.
  • Brock Lesnar, a pro wrestler extraordinaire, went over to UFC and won the title fair and square. Sufficient on that subject.
  • Boxing is famous for its “controversial” super-short matches at great expense to attendees and the betting fraternity.
  • Do pro fighters of any kind ever throw fights? Guess.
  • UFC and MMA are also media. They’re products, not morals in rings. Or do you just naturally assume all media other than pro wrestling is real?
  • Compare the original ECW with anything called “fighting”. Which is better? Why? ECW included things like broken necks, etc., but that’s hardly as exciting as a spot of blood on some fighting furball today, is it? Mick Foley’s missing ear is pretty real, too, and so on.
  • People are trained to take falls in wrestling… And pro fighters aren’t? Every type of fighting teaches falls. The hospitals are full of fully trained people who took falls and didn’t get up afterwards.

The entertainment factor in wrestling

Let’s clarify something here – “Entertainment” is not supposed to be a synonym for “Super-Crap”. Wrestling was doing “reality”, and doing it better, long before the TV industry, in so many ways. Wrestling is also pro standard entertainment. It’s fun, it’s basically nuts, and it’s well done. It’s also pretty creative at the slightest excuse.

It’s interesting to watch, just about all the time. Also interesting to me is that the more creative it gets, the better it gets. The McMahon family, in particular, have got themselves in some pretty damn strange situations for no better reason than I can see than they love doing it.

The people have a lot to do with that. One of the things that first fascinated me was that I’d never seen athletes with actual personalities before, real or imaginary. The wrestlers are actually very articulate, which is a lot more than can be said for the mumbling messes of “real fighting” media.

Real wrestling

To perform in a ring as a wrestler, you need something other codes don’t have – The trust of the other wrestlers. A running bulldog or body slam can easily put you in a neck brace for the rest of your life, particularly if the person delivering is a big guy. I saw a guy on a bus one day whose entire face was one side 100% black bruise. Reason? A single elbow shot. Getting thrown out of a ring can turn you in to human origami.

The sheer number of possible injuries with more complex moves is no minor calculation. For people over 200 lb, mass + velocity = very real risks… And that’s just when things are being done properly. When things go wrong, they can turn very nasty in medical terms. If you fall off when you’re standing on a chair, you can do real damage. If someone happens to throw you off a ladder, your chances are drastically increased.

This is the obvious, in fact. Don’t try this at home because the odds are very good you’ll kill yourself. No other form of pro sport has to broadcast that message. You don’t hear that message on football, MMA, or UFC, and by rights, you should.

Wrestling culture

It took me a while to find out that the offstage stuff is just as crazy, or more so, than the stuff on the screen. There are egos, jokes, tantrums, bitchiness, motormouth writers blabbing about next week’s show, and more. Some of it is truly funny, and some of it makes you wonder how these people manage to work together at all. My guess is that you’d have to know how to keep your cool, and be good at it, to make a career as a wrestler.

For example:

  • Vader on the subject of someone getting stabbed by another wrestler, said that he put his finger in the stab wound to stop the bleeding while they got help. Fake, eh? Consider why a situation like that might occur. How do you fake a stab wound, and put your finger in it?
  • Tommy Dreamer on the subject of the Sandman dying – Dreamer said that Rhyno, the ECW champion and prime mover with legs, burst in and told him, “Sandman died, but he’s OK now”. The Sandman, ECW Mr Hardcore, had technically died, but been revived – And went on to wrestle afterwards that same day. True story, told by a guy who had it dropped on him while he was in charge of things.
  • Sid Justice and his snapped leg – He’s coming off the top rope, and his left leg suddenly points itself at right angles to the rest of itself. I’d never even heard of something like that happening before. On video, it’s a pretty sickening sight. Fake? Nope.
  • Tazz of ECW/WWE, on the subject of his broken neck, said that he walked to the hospital and was told that he couldn’t possibly have walked to the hospital with a broken neck. Broken necks are pretty hard to fake to people with X ray machines.
  • When I was a kid growing up, the original Chief Little Wolf came to Melbourne. A couple of bozos from the local Saturday night fights society started hassling him. He nearly killed them. The locals appreciated his contribution to better Saturday nights out.

Since then I’ve watched whole generations come and go, from Killer Kowalski to Roman Reigns, and I’ll keep watching. It never gets dull. Real fans love it, and let’s face it, there’s nothing else like it.

So, some YouTube videos:

Ever see an entire crowd sing along at the top of their voices with Metallica? Enter the Sandman.

The famous Hell in a Cell match between Foley and the Undertaker – At the start of the video, a kid yells out, “Don’t fall!”.

Picture quality varies, use HD.

www.sydneymediajam.com

 

DVD review – The Rise and Fall of ECW


 

ECWThe Rise and Fall of ECW is a tale of media, as much as wrestling. This article is only just barely about the video, which is a minor miracle in itself, given the sheer amount of material they had to work with. It’s about the business end of wrestling and the much wider context of entertainment.

The original ECW was unique. It achieved a level of pure mayhem that few forms of “entertainment” including Hollywood have ever even approached, and did it on a regular basis. It was also one of the very few authentically fan-driven media products ever to have existed. That’s one of the things that made ECW so special, and why it deserves more than a cosmetic look.

Fans- There needs to be a preamble, because I need to spell some things out to clarify the message, so excuse me if I get a bit Spinoza:

Paul Heyman – Arguably the wittiest, most mentally agile guy in US media on a weight for age basis. If you can work well with this guy, you have both a brain and talent. The Ed Sullivan of wrestling, finding more talent in a few years than the industry did in decades.

Entertainment industry– A place of sudden and almost certain death. You, your product and even your memory can disappear in a single corporate decision. Very few entertainment industry products survive for more than 5 years.

Television industry– Collection of suits dedicated to the wellbeing of themselves. Totally uninterested in audience input of any kind. These guys want documentation before they even admit to eating breakfast. They do not take risks of any kind.

Pro wrestling– Physically murderous performance, in which only the extremely good ever rise to the surface, let alone make names for themselves. These guys take career risks that even gambling addicts wouldn’t consider.

Risks in pro wrestling– Even the most basic moves carry with them a range of risks. If you weigh 200lb+ and do any of those moves, you will get hurt, sooner or later. When you’re working with one or more other people, the risks go up in multiples. The sheer wear and tear factor is almost unbelievable.

Branding- In this industry you either stand out a mile or disappear. A wrestling brand is defined by its wrestlers. The success rate for most wrestlers is low, unless they’re truly exceptional. Consider Hogan, Undertaker, Kane, The Rock, Austin etc. Living with these images is damn near impossible. It’s an inhuman environment, but the top talents can do it and remain sane-ish..

This was the environment in which ECW got started. I’m not going to plod through the startup phase, just focus on the business side of the process:

Paul Heyman started ECW in its revised form as a massive evolution of Eastern Championship Wrestling, a second-tier operation with a following of sorts locally. From the Eastern Championship Wrestling materials and some early ECW stuff it’s pretty obvious that this was very much an old style wrestling business with some talent, but not much capital and limited resources.

Yes, money matters. Capital makes entertainment industry product pay. It attracts the people prepared to fund it. ECW didn’t have that sort of capital support. It did, however, have a lot of ideas, and parlayed those ideas into one of the few true urban legends of grassroots entertainment.

ECW had a list of talent which are now household names:

  • Mick Foley/Cactus Jack/ Mankind
  • The Sandman
  • Eddie Guerrero
  • Dean Malenko
  • The Dudley Boys
  • Tazz
  • Chris Jericho
  • Stone Cold Steve Austin
  • 2 Cold Scorpio
  • Terry Funk
  • Raven
  • Tommy Dreamer
  • Rob Van Dam
  • Sabu
  • Pit Bulls
  • Way too many others to list, and they all deserve listing.

Those are names, right? Wrong. They’re the working elements in a total departure from the previous body slam/signature move/good guy/bad guy wrestling clichés. Talk about branding; there was actually too much talent, a virtual reservoir of it. (How many times do you expect to see that statement in a review of anything, ever?) They were a revolution and a half. These guys were nuts, and they could prove it.

If you take “normal” wrestling as having a risk factor of 1, they were doing a risk factor of about 25. The pool cues, Singapore canes, crutches, frypans, toilet seats, Leonard Cohen albums and various other audience-supplied weapons provided the extra ammunition after the wrestlers had used their own.

The result was a viewing experience which had absolutely no parallels.

Case in point- Sabu. This guy takes risks most other people wouldn’t know how to spell without a degree in physics. He’s incredibly athletic, takes real hits and gets up like a super ball, and he’s been doing it for decades. That’s one thing which tends to get overlooked in the casual dismissal of wrestling as a scripted process. Sabu does more dangerous moves than ten people do in their entire lives, per match. Few pro athletes would survive one Sabu match. None would sign up for a second match.

The other wrestlers had a lot of strong points and knew how to use them. They could handle things most people wouldn’t do in nightmares, show after show. This was the basic strength of ECW, and it simply had no equivalent.

Result- A “product” which was always more than just a product. The fanatical audiences were fanatical for a good reason. There was absolutely nothing like it, anywhere else.

ECW had talent to burn, and people with the real skills to do a lot more than other shows had to offer. Whether it was brawling or just top quality wrestling, they did it, and did it well.

Problem- The “entertainment” industry. This mindless quagmire of stale thinkers was incredibly slow on the uptake with ECW, and true to form, didn’t want to take risks. Heyman was dealing with people who were cast in the Early Disney mold, and that was the crux of the cultural divide. The trouble for entertainment executives was that ECW didn’t look like the others. They would buy proven formulas, like the good little wannabe accountants/lawyers they were. Bambi could have got a job, but not ECW.

God only knows how, but Heyman got ECW on Turner. That was a success, but came at a price- Working with suit-think. This was the exposure ECW needed and it became a millstone. The network then proceeded to trash ECW. Heyman said at the time that they wouldn’t even advertise the show. His fury is still evident, years later, on the DVD.

(You really have to wonder what a dialogue between Heyman and the “whiter and brighter” cretins would have sounded like. Did he actually use a crayon? We’ll never know.)

This no-sell approach is a standard practice when trying to kill a show and it was also a ridiculous example of how little the network understood its audience. A 15 second plug from existing materials with no production costs would have got more viewers. They didn’t even do that.

ECW, meanwhile, was going from strength to strength, thanks to massive inputs from all involved and a fan base which still watches, to this day. The risks went up for the wrestlers as they put on fantastic shows using any damn thing they could think of, and it has to be said that this all-out effort also produced more creativity than anyone had ever seen before. The wrestlers were also helping out with the behind the scenes work, sending out T shirts and doing everything else.

They weren’t even getting paid, and the risks weren’t exactly trivial. Tazz mentions in the Rise and Fall story that he broke his neck, walked to the hospital, and was told he couldn’t have walked there. Just get a copy of Gray’s Anatomy and you can guess what was going on in the wrecking yard.

Interestingly, a lot of the wrestlers, notably but not only Foley, understood the idea a lot better than the industry plodders. A visual medium can do a lot, and these guys knew how to do it. They also knew how to sell the message, as Austin later proved so thoroughly. The trouble was that the network simply didn’t want to get that message.

The competition, however, did. WCW and WWF were paying attention. Heyman bitterly, and understandably, complained about talent poaching as a major issue in ECW’s hard road. The guy put together arguably more talent than ever seen before in one place, and the wrestling experts recognized it.

That happened just as the wheels were starting to get wobbly. Capital problems came back to haunt ECW as a result of the network’s pissy treatment. The wrestlers needed money. A show that should have been raking in millions in merchandising alone was cash-strapped. The departures didn’t help. Attracting new talent wasn’t going to be easy, particularly with a reputation for being cash-strapped.

WWF tried to help with the famous raid by Jerry Lawler on the ECW arena. McMahon said later that he respected the show, even if he obviously knew in detail the issues affecting it. That’s believable. McMahon, in fact, works better with other ideas people- He synthesizes and expands ideas. He declassified wrestling from a niche market into mainstream. (Getting out of a niche market is supposed to be impossible.) There was a certain natural fit in ECW’s wildness that made sense in relation to WWF’s move to the Attitude Era and beyond.

But ECW was in real trouble. Heyman is also obviously an ideas person, but the problem with being a person with a lot of ideas and not enough money is making them work. He was dealing with idiots who didn’t want to get his ideas, and stuck with idiots as the source or in this case non-source of capital. The result was ECW’s premature, unnecessary, idiotic demise.

When watching ECW videos, just allow for the trip to take hold. This is “The Return of the Sandman to ECW. The Sandman is the anti-PC icon of ECW, and a show in his own right. If you don’t like strong language and violence, this isn’t for you. The crowd is singing along to Enter the Sandman, by Metallica.

There are a lot of theories about ECW, Heyman’s management and business sense, but the real answer is the bottom line. You can’t make TV with no money. You can’t keep talent with no money. The obvious fact is that ECW was murdered in a business sense.

That’s also a true reflection of the state of the industry. The other companies lost major products to McMahon, simply because he was a better player. Where they were making pennies, he was making an empire.

If there’s any vindication of Heyman required, you don’t have to look too far to find it. It’s a matter of opinion how much money the “entertainment” industry lost for itself by handing over wrestling to McMahon, but it really does tell you a lot about the IQ levels of US media. The upshot of the networks’ lack of understanding was like giving away Apple to someone for a few bucks over the phone. God only knows how much money that cost them.

McMahon took over ECW and WCW, a move which was very well dramatized in the famous Invasion sequence. Heyman and WCW’s Bischoff found a much more sympathetic market for their babies. McMahon outmanoeuvred the market completely. It was a fait accompli. It’s also largely thanks to McMahon that the industry wasn’t buried under the comatose mindsets of the industry. The talent was saved, the medium lived on. It’s also hard to imagine any scenario where wrestling could have survived in its present form.

ECW’s legacy is ongoing. The reborn ECW is still fanatical. John Cena’s famous appearance at ECW One Night Stand with the fans throwing back his T shirt remains a classic of working with live audiences. “EC Dub!” is still screamed, the names that people knew are still around.

So – Watch the Rise and Fall of ECW and learn. When you watch the other ECW videos, just think about one thing, when you’ve got a moment- This could never have happened at all, without the ideas that made it. Listen to the interviews, in particular, because you’ll get an idea of how these guys survived the world’s least intelligent working environment. Every single one of them has a bit of a tear in the eye for the glory days of ECW, with good reason.

LOGO with Sydney Media Jam edit 300PPI