The Human Cannonball Flies Again, Shoots Down Gannett

The “human cannonball,” Hugo Zacchini, left an indelible impression on the law in his seminal case against Scripps-Howard 34 years ago.  Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., 433 U.S. 562 (1977).  Zacchini’s case affirmed his right to control viewing of his unique 15-second performance in which he was shot from a cannon. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment did not grant the media the right to broadcast Zacchini’s entire performance without his permission.

Zacchini’s enduring legacy shot down a recent First Amendment challenge by Gannett to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s exclusive licensing of live internet streaming of high school sporting events.  In rejecting Gannett’s claims, the Seventh Circuit relied heavily on the Zacchini case in ruling that “nothing in the First Amendment confers on the media an affirmative right to broadcast entire performances.” Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association v. Gannett Co., No. 10-2627 (Aug. 24, 2011). The Court distinguished broadcast of an entire performance from coverage of the event, and made it clear that media coverage of high school events could not be granted or restricted on a selective basis.

The only recourse left to Gannett is to seek certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which must be filed within 90 days of the Seventh Circuit’s decision.

About Bose McKinney & Evans LLP

Bose McKinney & Evans LLP is a business law firm, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, serving both publicly held and privately held businesses, governmental entities and high-growth industries. Our clients include Fortune 100 companies, international manufacturers, national and regional financial institutions, agribusinesses, sports teams, university-incubated start-ups, media, utilities, cities and schools, to name a few. We strive to build strong relationships with our clients as key business advisors, to exceed expectations in the quality of our work, to be knowledgeable about our clients’ businesses and sectors, to be responsive to service needs and to continually seek to improve the delivery of client services. Our ultimate focus is on our clients.
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