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A representative of Electric Factory Concerts Inc. did not defame Philadelphia lawyer and artists’ manager Paul Czech when he supposedly called Czech a “moron” and an “idiot,” among other insults, during a conversation that was allegedly conducted via speakerphone, a Philadelphia city judge has ruled. According to the opinion in Czech v. Gordon, the case stems from a disagreement between Czech’s YB Entertainment Group and Geoffrey Gordon, an Electric Factory official, over whether Prophets of the Ghetto, a local hip-hop group represented by YB, could perform at the Philadelphia concert venue, The Electric Factory, on the same show bill as veteran rap ensemble Public Enemy. In granting the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in an opinion filed Monday, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Gene D. Cohen also rejected Czech’s tortious interference claim, which related to a broadcast on the WIOQ radio station that Czech claimed used YB’s name disparagingly after Czech had filed suit against Gordon and Electric Factory. Electric Factory Concerts is a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications Inc., according to Cohen’s opinion. WIOQ, better known as Q102, is also owned by Clear Channel, according to the company’s Web site. According to the opinion, Czech claimed that Gordon had been on the speakerphone when he allegedly made the statements. The defense denied that Gordon had been on the speakerphone at the time. “All the plaintiff has shown is that his business associate in a fit of pique called him names,” Cohen wrote. “In order for these names to be defamatory under the law they would have to [have been] directly addressed to Mr. Czech’s capacity to carry out his trade or business. For example, had Mr. Gordon … approached a local popular music figure and told that person untruths or expressed factually unfounded opinions about Mr. Czech’s conduct or performance as a popular music entrepreneur, that may be defamation. As it was, Mr. Gordon blew his stack and called Mr. Czech names. While other people may have inadvertently overheard Mr. Gordon, this conduct alone is legally undifferentiated from any common outburst of anger directed by one person at another person.” In an interview with The Legal Intelligencer Wednesday, Czech said that he suddenly lost every entertainment client he had following the conversation between him and Gordon that is at the heart of the litigation. “The day after that happened, my phone stopped ringing,” Czech said. After successful shows at smaller area venues, according to Cohen’s opinion, Prophets of the Ghetto had looked to begin performing in larger theaters, such as the Clear Channel-run Electric Factory or Tweeter Center. Starting in September 2002, Elisabeth Colbath, Czech’s business and legal partner, began e-mailing Gordon to discuss a Sept. 21, 2002, show at which Public Enemy was scheduled to perform. When Colbath floated the idea of Prophets of the Ghetto performing at that show, Gordon asked how many tickets the group could guarantee, suggesting something in the range of 500 tickets at $20 apiece, according to the opinion. In a subsequent e-mail, according to the opinion, Colbath’s writings included: “We are going to have to find another way to handle this… . This looks and sounds like antitrust to me… . I think that a jury will not like your business practices.” The text of Gordon’s responding e-mail, according to the opinion, included the following statements: “If you’re threatening me at least have the guts to do it in person. Lose my numbers and e-mail address. You are unbelievably unprofessional and because of this behavior you leave me no choice but to never deal with you in my lifetime.” The texts of both e-mails were introduced as exhibits by the plaintiff, Cohen wrote. Later, Gordon called YB offices and Czech picked up the phone. During the ensuing conversation, according to the opinion, Gordon said that Czech was “incompetent” and called him a “moron” and an “idiot.” “Mr. Gordon denies putting the speakerphone on at his end but acknowledges that others were within range of his conversation,” Cohen wrote. In support of his tortious interference claim, according to the opinion, Czech had cited the testimony of Thomas Keiser, a University of the Arts student who knew an acquaintance of Czech’s. Keiser stated under oath that he had heard YB Entertainment’s name used in a March 2003 Q102 broadcast. According to the opinion, the broadcast in question consisted of a plug for a Clear Channel network through which would-be musicians could post their biographies and songs on Q102′s Web site. The broadcast contained what appears to a parodistic exchange between an amateur musician and a receptionist for a “big record label;” the receptionist seems to rudely dismiss the would-be musician’s attempt to send in a demo tape. Keiser had stated that during the broadcast he heard, the words “YB Entertainment” had been substituted for “big record label,” according to the opinion. Addressing Czech’s defamation claim, Cohen wrote that if Gordon’s comments were found to be defamatory, “then obeisance to the law would require individuals engaged in commerce, domestic matters or casual acquaintances to communicate with antiseptic caution or in monkish silence.” Cohen went on to deem “speculative” a report from plaintiff’s expert Bernard Resnick — who has managed musicians and boxers — that noted the decline of Czech’s entertainment business following his incident with Gordon. Turning to the tortious interference claim, Cohen wrote that Keiser’s uncorroborated depiction of the broadcast, even if believed, did not indicate the commercial was defamatory in content. “This is a quaint and familiar advertising technique, exemplified by certain automobile and beverage concerns who mention their competitors’ names in advertisements,” Cohen wrote. “Hence, if Mr. Keiser is to be believed — and there is no reason at this juncture not to believe him — the language he heard was fair competitive comment and not defamatory.” Czech said that while before the incident with Gordon he had been devoting increasing amounts of time to his entertainment business, he has since been focusing on his personal injury practice. Early last month, a Philadelphia jury awarded $4 million to a client of Czech’s who had claimed that she had inadvertently chewed on a bloody adhesive bandage that had found its way into her meal at a local Chinese eatery. Czech said that he has appealed Cohen’s decision to the Superior Court. Czech is being represented in the matter by Barry Penn of Penn & Robinson in Philadelphia. Defense attorney Andrew Allison of Littler Mendelson in Philadelphia could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Calls to Clear Channel’s public relations office seeking comment were not immediately returned.

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