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Court tosses 'wardrobe malfunction' fine

  • Story Highlights
  • 2004 Super Bowl halftime included Janet Jackson bared breast
  • FCC had fined CBS $550,000
  • Panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says FCC acted "capriciously"
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(CNN) -- A Philadelphia appeals court Monday threw out the $550,000 indecency fine levied on CBS in connection with Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl.

Judges said in the court ruling that one of the determining factors was that they considered Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake "independent contractors" and CBS could not be held accountable for their actions.

The fine was levied by the Federal Communications Commission after one of Jackson's breasts was exposed briefly during a performance with Timberlake during halftime of the Super Bowl.

Also the judges said it was impossible to determine how many complaints CBS received after incident.

In court filing, the FCC said the network received more than 542,000 complaints -- an "unprecedented" number. But CBS disputed the number of and significance of complaints, claiming that 85 percent of them came from form letters generated by well-organized single-interest groups.

"The record is unclear on the actual number of complaints received from unorganized, individual viewers," the ruling said. "The FCC cannot impose liability on CBS for the acts of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, independent contractors hired for the limited purposes of the halftime show."

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