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Fox drops lawsuit over Franken book

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN New York Bureau


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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Fox News dropped its lawsuit Monday against liberal humorist Al Franken and his publisher.

Fox had alleged the title of Franken's new book, "Lies And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," violated the trademark for its cable news channel's slogan phrase, "fair and balanced."

A federal judge Friday rejected Fox's motion for an injunction to halt distribution of the book, which is already in stores. (Full story)

On Monday, the cable news network withdrew the underlying lawsuit in a one-page court filing.

"It's time to return Al Franken to the obscurity he's normally accustomed to," a Fox spokeswoman later told CNN.

Floyd Abrams, lead attorney for Franken and his publisher, Penguin Group, told CNN, "Fox's decision to abandon its efforts at interfering with the sale of Al Franken's new book is welcome, if overdue. The case never should have been brought."

Franken reacted to the development with his characteristic humor.

"I'm a little disappointed," he told CNN. "I had hoped they would keep it going a few more news cycles."

"It was such a stupid lawsuit," Franken said later.

Fox argued the book's title and its cover -- which contains a photograph of Fox's top rated anchor, Bill O'Reilly -- could confuse consumers that somehow Fox endorsed the product.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin Friday found "no evidence of actual confusion" in the parody, which he called "a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment" to the Constitution.

"I don't know if Fox is arguing that its viewers are less sophisticated than those who would buy Mr. Franken's book," Chin said in court. "But either way, I think we are talking about relatively sophisticated consumers here."

Fox viewers, Chin said, have "got to conclude that Mr. O'Reilly is not endorsing the book" with the word "LIES" stamped over his image and images of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

Penguin now has 510,000 copies of Franken's book in print, having initially shipped nearly 300,000 copies to stores before it went on sale last week.

The book is ranked first on Amazon.com's best seller list.

Franken, a long-time writer for NBC's "Saturday Night Live," is the author of four previous books, including the bestseller, "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot."

"It is ironic," Chin said of the Fox suit, "that a media company that should be seeking to protect the First Amendment is seeking to undermine it by claiming a monopoly on the phrase 'fair and balanced.' "


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