Verne Troyer successfully shut down the distribution of a sex tape featuring the “Austin Powers” actor and a former girlfriend — for now.
The celebrity Web site TMZ posted a 25-second snipped of the video Wednesday, but pulled the clips down Friday evening after a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order requested by Troyer’s attorneys.
The ruling also prevents any attempt by a porn distributor from taking orders for the full 50-minute video, and keeps TMZ from broadcasting any more clips. Troyer’s lawsuit also seeks $20 million in damages and the return of all copies of the tape.
U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez wrote that Troyer’s motion “demonstrated that he will suffer irreparable harm to his reputation” if the tape is distributed.
Troyer’s attorney, Tracy Rane, said she, Troyer and others are “very pleased” by Gutierrez’s ruling.
“Mr. Troyer is extremely distraught by the recent exploitation of his private life,” Troyer’s publicist, Melissa Bergera, wrote in a statement released to the AP.
TMZ did not return calls seeking comment on the case Friday. Although the video excerpt showing Troyer kissing his then-girlfriend was removed, another post describing the actor’s lawsuit remained active.
Tape stolenTroyer, most famous for his role as “Mini Me” in two of the “Austin Powers” movies, claims the sex tape he made with a former girlfriend, which he never intended to become public, was stolen from his home some months ago.
TMZ reported that the video could fetch $100,000 from a porn distributor. SugarDVD wrote in a statement on its Web site that hoped to reach a deal with Troyer to distribute the full, 50-minute version. That statement was also removed by late Friday afternoon.
Kevin Blatt, a producer who promoted a sex tape featuring Paris Hilton, is also named as a defendant. Reached on his cell phone Friday, Blatt said he had not been served with the lawsuit yet, but called it “baseless.”
Blatt said he never had the tape and only helped try to broker a deal.
The judge also indicated he may issue a more binding preliminary injunction in the case unless TMZ and other parties demonstrate why it should be released. His temporary order expires July 7.
Latest in a trend
Troyer is only the latest celebrity whose sex tape surfaced without consent, a phenomenon that began with the release of the infamous Pamela Anderson-Tommy Lee honeymoon video. Since then, several others have surfaced, including Hilton, Colin Farrell, and rapper Ray-J with Kim Kardashian — the daughter of a prominent attorney who parlayed at least some of her newfound notoriety into reality-star status.
In Anderson and Lee’s case, the couple actually agreed to have the tape distributed, which resulted in a federal judge tossing out their lawsuit after the video was widely distributed on the Internet, in adult video stores, and even in hotel rooms.
Legal experts differed on Troyer’s chances of long-term success keeping the video under wraps.
“I think distributing the tape is going to be very problematic,” said Jack Lerner, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law.
“Any time you record something that has even a very small bit of original expression in it, that’s going to be copyrighted,” he said, noting that a videotape would apply.
David Gringas, a Phoenix attorney who specializes in Internet, intellectual property and First Amendment issues, wrote in an e-mail that the fact that Troyer hadn’t yet applied for copyright protection could harm his case.
Troyer’s suit states he intends to register the tape’s copyright.
Gringas wrote that courts generally try to protect celebrities from “any conduct that’s really offensive,” but are also aware that the release of some tapes actually benefits the celebrity.
“However, when a private tape is truly stolen from the owner, most times courts will do all they can to protect the rights of the celebrity to control their name or image,” Gringas wrote.
Both Lerner and Gringas said they doubted injunctions against TMZ would remain, since the site may argue it was simply reporting the news.
If past cases are any indication, Troyer’s legal battle could be extremely swift or protracted: Anderson and Lee spent two years battling distributors over their sex tape; Kardashian’s lawsuit was settled less than three months later for undisclosed terms.