News/Media Alliance Joins Brief Defending First Amendment Editorial Rights of Documentarians

On March 14, 2024, the Alliance joined several groups as additional amici curiae to an amicus brief in Netflix v. Barina, filed in the Texas Supreme Court in support of First Amendment rights for documentarians, investigative reporters, and advocates. In this case, Netflix was sued for defamation over a documentary examining adult guardianships, including potential abuses in the process. The Court of Appeals allowed the case to proceed despite the plaintiff’s inability to show that a single statement in the documentary was false. The brief, originally filed by a group of documentarians in support of Netflix, argues that a viable defamation claim cannot be made against a documentary that includes no false statements, and that is built upon a subjective assessment of a film’s “gist” based on exercise of editorial judgments like choice of camera angles and music. The brief also argues that the court erred when it accepted a non-statutory exception to Texas’s third-party allegation statute – that just because the film showed third parties making allegations while on camera did not mean the documentary adopted or endorsed those words. In addition to the Alliance, the brief was signed by several groups including the Motion Picture Association, the Association of American Publishers, and the First Amendment Foundation.


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