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Fake News Movie Ads Force Settlement with Alaska News Outlets

By Minara El-Rahman on November 18, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Universal Pictures recently had to reach a settlement with a number of news outlets in Alaska over its promotional movie ads that used fake news archives in order to promote their movie entitled The Fourth Kind.

LA Times reports that the movie studio planted fake news stories online that claimed to be from actual news outlets in Alaska. Some of the fake news stories that the movie studio planted were articles such as an obituary and news story about the death of the main character of the movie named Dr. William Tyler. The movie is supposed to be based on a "true story" about an alien abduction that took place ten years ago.

The attorney for several of the Alaskan news outlets told The Daily News-Miner  that attributing fake news stories to actual media outlets eroded their credibility. He was quoted as saying, "If people can't rely on the fact that when they look at a news article on the Web that it's from the newspaper it appears to be, or is written by the reporter it appears to be, it erodes confidence in the world of journalism."

While the settlement has been a boon for Alaska journalists since it doubled the Alaska Press Club's annual revenues, it is still seen as a major faux pas by Universal Pictures.

The LA Times quoted Universal Pictures as saying that: "An early element of the online promotional campaign for 'The Fourth Kind' used stories published by some news outlets without permission and inaccurately attributed other stories to papers that were not their origin. When Universal Pictures came to recognize this tactic as overzealous, it immediately removed these stories from the Internet well before the film's release and entered into a mutually satisfactory resolution with the outlets.

The film itself challenges conventional beliefs by presenting cases of alien abduction and asking viewers to make up their own minds about its content. Universal regrets that this isolated element of the marketing for the film took this speculation a step too far."

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