With Gag Order Stopped, Salt Lake Comic Con’s Brandenburg Has Plenty To Say

Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Bryan Brandenburg told the Associated Press “they’re going to try crowdfunding to help pay legal bills topping $1 million.” He is free to speak about the case again since the Ninth Circuit rejected a district court’s gag order in the San Diego Comic-Con’s trademark infringement suit against SLCC.

Brandenburg also wrote to supporters:

Here’s our thoughts. We’re considering a crowdfunding plan that allows fans and supporters to support the funding with rewards being tickets for Salt Lake Comic Con and other allied events and 100% of the proceeds will go to the legal fund, crowd funding fees and a documentary about the case. Support of the case will also get you a free copy of “Con Wars”.

That way, if you’re supportive of our cause, you can send a signal to the opposition AND get a ticket to one of our events or one of the events of our allies in the comic con community. What do you think? (Please keep it civil).

The Associated Press story said they did not immediately receive a comment from the San Diego Comic-Con.

Nor did Reuters commentator Alison Frankel, who approved the decision in a column titled “Common sense (and the Constitution!) win in Comic Con gag order appeal”:

On Thursday, a three-judge panel at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved a pair of lower court orders that barred producers of Utah’s Comic Con events from commenting on – or even posting public documents from – their infringement litigation with a San Diego group that claims ownership of the Comic-Con trademark. The appeals court held the orders to be an unjustified, unconstitutional prior restraint on the Utah group’s free speech rights.

That was the only sensible outcome. The trial judge in the Comic Con case, U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia of San Diego, issued the orders because he was convinced the Utah group’s website, Facebook and Twitter posts – which included commentary as well as links to articles about the case and documents from the litigation – would irretrievably taint the jury pool in San Diego. The 9th Circuit said Judge Battaglia’s reasoning simply didn’t hold up given the size of the jury pool and the availability of common procedures like voir dire to weed out biased jurors.

Allowing the restraints to remain, the 9th Circuit said, would justify gag orders “in almost any situation where an article is written or a statement is made in a public forum.” In other words, if the 9th Circuit hadn’t struck down the Comic Con restraints, parties’ First Amendment rights would be vulnerable in every case of public interest in the circuit. Thanks to Judges Kim Wardlaw, Ronald Gould and Paul Watford, that dire prospect is foreclosed….

The Deseret News of Utah also ran an article based on the AP story, “Appeals court: Gag order on Salt Lake Comic Con violated First Amendment”.

The district court “clearly erred” in restricting the free speech rights of Salt Lake Comic Con co-founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, quoting a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision that emphasized “the loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury,” according to the ruling.

[Thanks to Dave Doering for the story.]

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