Another Borat Lawsuit

Ellen Johnston, a worshipper portrayed in a crowd at a church meeting filed a complaint on March 20, 2007 against the producers of the 20th Century Fox motion picture “Borat”. In her Complaint she argues that she was deceived into believing that she was participating in a religious documentary claiming the company’s actions constituted an invasion-of-privacy. She claims she never signed a release to appear in the film, and that the producers invaded her privacy by filming her without her consent while she is praising the Lord. In the scene, Sacha Baron Cohen’s character pretends to speak in tongues.

According to the a Motion to Dismiss filed by the Defendant, “she is not identified by name, does not speak on film and is seen doing what several others in the same scene are doing.” The Defendants further argue in their Motion that “the plaintiff was aware the meeting was being filmed and does not claim that her image, as it appears in the film, is altered in any way.” Johnston, however, says the filming took place in an interior setting where she had an “expectation” of privacy.

The case raises some interesting issues. A person’s right to privacy has to be balanced against others rights First Amendment rights to freely express themselves. Filmmakers and journalists can generally film subjects in open public view the public without their permission.

The pleadings on this case are listed below:

Motion to Dismiss Ellen Johnston Complaint

Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss

Ellen Johnston’s Response to Motion to Dismiss

Reply to Ellen Johnston’s Response to Motion to Dismiss


2 responses to “Another Borat Lawsuit

  • Linda Ruth

    It certainly sounds like Ellen Johnston’s feelings were hurt. And although it is regrettable to have a private moment of an older woman from Mississippi amusing the masses, (I mean, imagine it being your own mortified mother being the source of the so many chuckles) I don’t see that she was portrayed in a “false light” as her response contends. She is upset, but unlike the comparison to being “outed” she is not likely to suffer alienation within her life because other people are offended or merely amused at her religious practices. People are made fun of in public all the time, and although nobody wants it to happen to them, parody is not still not against the law.

  • Fact vs. Fiction; DEA Agents Sue Over ‘American Gangster’ « Entertainment Law

    […] for falsely depicting them in a movie. This has happened before, many times and to no avail. (See Another Borat Lawsuit). According to the Associated Press, a group of retired federal drug enforcement agents sued NBC […]

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