Secrets of Scandal: "White Hat's Off"

By Jess Brownell, Researcher | Sep 27th, 2012
Harrison WrightHello Scandal Fans!

I hope you enjoyed “White Hat’s Off,” the kick-off episode to our second season!

As most of you already know, Olivia Pope is a gladiator in a suit. As we saw last season, one day Olivia is stopping the release of a madam’s high-powered client list, the next day she’s counseling a South American dictator on his family woes, and the next, she’s sorting out who should be held accountable in a plane crash. Her job is unlike anyone else’s—a little bit PR strategy, a little bit legal know-how, and a whole lot of trusting her gut. She’s a pro in almost every arena.

So, how does she do it? In this blog, each week we’ll take a look at the facts, figures, and headlines that inspired our storylines.

In this week’s episode, Olivia helps charming Democratic Congressman Jacob Shaw deal with a sticky situation. The lawmaker confesses to Olivia that he has had “relations” with a woman. Now, what’s so wrong with that, you ask? He’s single, the sex was consensual, and the woman was even age-appropriate! Oh right—he did the deed on his desk. His Congressional desk. Also? Someone put a tiny spy camera in the Congressman’s desk clock, and a right-wing political blog called Capital Spill is planning to broadcast the night in question. And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have the makings of a scandal worthy of Pope & Associates.

So what can Olivia and the team do for Congressman Shaw?

The truth of the matter is, it’s extremely difficult to suppress a sex tape once it gets out. The common arguments made by exposure-shy defendants include theft, defamation of character, and violation of right to privacy. But just ask any celebrity whose night of passion has gone viral: those arguments might win you a hefty settlement out of court, but they probably won’t stop the world from viewing your naughty bits – which, when you’re an elected figure in government, is a problem.

In this episode, Harrison attempts to stop the release of Shaw’s tape by filing an injunction against Capital Spill, alleging copyright infringement. While his argument that Uncle Sam has to “get his rocks off” might seem a little glib, Harrison probably knows from the moment he walks into judge’s chambers that no matter what he argues or how charmingly he does so, the odds are stacked against him. That’s because of a somewhat tricky concept known as Fair Use, as laid out in the Copyright Act of 1976. This act gives copyright holders certain exclusive rights to their material, but also outlines the rights of the media and individuals to excerpt from said materials for the purposes of “criticism, comment, or news reporting.” Essentially, the people at Capital Spill have the right to show clips from Shaw’s sex tape as long as a) it’s newsworthy (and I’m guessing from Abby’s face while watching the tape that it most definitely is!) and b) they did not steal the tape themselves. And in this case, since no one is entirely sure who bugged the Congressman’s office and anonymously shipped the recording over to Capital Spill, the blog is in the right.

So what’s a gladiator in a suit to do?

Olivia Pope does not give up, but sometimes, if you can’t beat them—well, let’s just say, Olivia and the team decide they will release the tape themselves, through a more sympathetic celebrity gossip site. By beating Capital Spill to the punch, they avoid the stink of politics and let the initial reaction to the tape be an “OMG” moment rather than an “Impeach!” moment. In the process, the sex tape puts the Congressman in the spotlight and gives him a platform to let the country know who he is and what he’s really about.

So, moral of the story? Your sex tape is coming out one way or another. So the next time you get caught with your pants down, you’d better hope Huck swept the premises for any bugs beforehand!

See you next week!

More on Copyright Law and Fair Use: (From the US Copyright Office)


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