San Francisco Chronicle: Suit brought by 'Savage Nation' radio host tossed

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage against a Muslim rights group that reprinted his attacks against Islam and called for an advertising boycott.

Savage, who has about 8 million listeners a week on 400 stations for his syndicated “Savage Nation” program, sued the Council on American-Islamic Relations in December for copyright infringement.

The organization had posted four minutes of excerpts from an Oct. 29 broadcast in which he called the Quran a “hateful little book” and a “document of slavery.” He said Muslims were “screaming for the blood of Christians or Jews or anyone they hate.”

The council cited Savage’s remarks in urging advertisers to boycott the program. Its members say Savage has since lost $1 million in advertising.

The broadcaster claimed in his lawsuit that the Muslim rights group had misappropriated his words and used them for its own fund-raising purposes, damaging the value of his copyrighted material.

He also claimed in his suit that the group was engaged in racketeering, describing it as a “mouthpiece of international terror” that helped to fund the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The council called those allegations preposterous, denied any connection to terrorism and said Savage was trying to intimidate and silence a critical voice.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston of San Francisco said anyone who listens to a public broadcast is entitled to take excerpts and use them for purposes of comment and criticism. Reprinting small portions of a copyrighted work for those purposes helps to put it in context and benefits both the public and the target of the criticism, Illston said.

She also said Savage offered no evidence that copying and posting the excepts affected his commercial market for the Oct. 29 broadcast.

She also said Savage offered no evidence that copying and posting the excepts affected his commercial market for the Oct. 29 broadcast.

Savage’s complaint – which cites the council’s lawsuits, boycotts, letter-writing, and criticism of him – is principally focused on “the ideas that (the council) may or may not espouse,” the judge said. Those ideas are constitutionally protected, she added.

Illston said Savage could try to rewrite the racketeering portion of his suit to cure its legal defects, and the broadcaster’s lawyer said he would do so.

“We are prepared to file a very detailed and well-documented new complaint” for racketeering, said attorney Daniel Horowitz, without going into detail. He said Illston’s ruling was “very carefully thought-out” even if its conclusion was unwelcome.

Ahmed Rehab, a spokesman for the council, said it “will continue to stand up to Savage’s bigotry and will not be bogged down by his knack for retaliatory fluff lawsuits.”

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