In Nov. 2007, Rolling Stone Magazine published a gatefold feature called “Indie Rock Universe” (pdf) in which it listed 186 bands that it felt belonged in said universe. The gatefold was surrounded by ads for Camel cigarettes promoting Camel’s support for “independent record labels.”
Two of the bands listed in the feature — Xiu Xiu and Fucked Up, in case you’re wondering — got their knickers in a knot and sued Rolling Stone LLC and its parent, Wenner Media. The suit claimed that the juxtaposition of the editorial feature — which was created independently and without the knowledge or assistance of Camel — and the ads created an implied endorsement. Rolling Stone filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss the suit. An Alameda Co. trial court denied the motion. Rolling Stone appealed.
Whatever you think of the merits of the sponsored-feature concept, it’s pretty easy to see why Rochelle Wilcox of Davis Wright Tremaine says that if the lawsuit is successful it would create “a remarkable slippery slope in which all publishers may be compelled to carefully compare advertising copy and adjacent articles or features, to ensure that similar themes do not inadvertently cross some subjective, undefined line.” So earlier this month AAN joined several other media organizations in an amicus brief (pdf) in support of Rolling Stone filed in a California Court of Appeals. The other parties to the amicus are American Media, Inc.; California Newspaper Publishers Association; Magazine Publishers Association; The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; and Time Inc.
On Monday, the Court of Appeal officially accepted our amicus brief and gave the indie rock dudes 20 days to file a response.