Laura Lee Prather is a partner in the Business Litigation Practice Group in the Austin office of Haynes and Boone, LLP. Laura focuses her practice on First Amendment privacy, and intellectual property counseling and litigation arising out of both traditional and online media contexts. She is also an advocate and lobbyist for open government and First Amendment concerns at the Legislature. Laura has many years of experience in the industry and her practice includes general commercial, tax and employment work for media clients as well. She advises clients concerning media law issues for an extensive array of content providers including online and traditional newspapers, magazines, radio and broadcasters, cable television stations, production companies and music and sports entities. She regularly wins early dismissal and summary judgment - oftentimes without the expense of discovery.
Laura was the lead author and negotiator for the two most significant pieces of First Amendment legislation in recent history in Texas - both the reporters' privilege and the anti-SLAPP statute. Through her lobbying efforts, Laura both formed and led the coalition on the anti-SLAPP bill, House Bill 2973, in the State of Texas. This bill was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and was signed by the governor of Texas on June 17, 2011. The bill is designed to deter frivolous lawsuits directed at newsrooms and media personnel.
In 2011, Laura was named by The American Lawyer as one of the best young women lawyers in the nation. She was recognized for her substantial career as a fierce advocate dedicated to preserving the First Amendment - defending media companies in cases involving privacy rights, alleged defamation, and trademark and copyright infringement. In addition, Laura is the first woman to receive Texas Daily Newspaper Association's "Legacy Award," and has been named Texas Association of Broadcasters' "Associate of the Year" and as one of Texas Lawyer's "Extraordinary Women in Texas Law."
- Jehling v. A.H. Belo Corp., slip copy, 2013 WL 5803813, N.D. Tex., October 28, 2013 (No. 3:11-CV-1258-B)
- Canales v. ALM Media, LLC, slip copy, 2013 WL 5719476, W.D. Tex. October 18, 2013 (No. A-12-CV-1036-LY)
- KTRK Television, Inc. v. Robinson, 01-12-00372-CV, 2013 WL 3483773 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] July 11, 2013, no. pet. h.)
- Hogs Dogs & Lace, LLC v. A&E Television Networks, LLC, 2013 WL 3367296, E.D. Tex., July 3, 2013 (No. 1:123-CV-583)
- Neely v. Wilson, ____ S.W.3d ____, 2013 WL 3240040, 41 Media L. Rep. 2129, 56 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 766, Tex., June 28, 2013 (No. 11-0228)
- Garza v. Eagle Creek Broadcasting, 2012 WL 6061784, 40 Media L. Rep. 2686, Tex. App. – Corpus Christi, December 6, 2012 (No. 13-10-00573-CV)
- Arbor Consulting, Inc. v. Better Business Bureau of Austin, 2011 WL 6160498, Tex. App. – Eastland, December 8, 2011 (No. 11-11-00109-CV)
- McClain v. USA Today Newspaper, 2010 WL 2404651, Tex. App. – Dallas, June 17, 2010 (No. 05-08-01123-CV)
- In re Rabb, 293 S.W.3d 865, 2009 WL 2437212, Tex. App. – Dallas, July 31, 2009 (No. 05-09-00857-CV)
- Rosenfeld v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 37 Media L. Rep. 1348 (C.D. Cal. 2009)
- Busch v. Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, 2008 WL 345450, Tex. App. – Dallas, February 8, 2008 (No. 05-07-00761-CV)
- Pikl v. Enriching Entertainment, LLC, 2008 WL 80004, E.D. Tex., January 7, 2008 (No. CIV.A. 4:07CV514)
- Huffman v. Best for Texas PAC, 37 Media L. Rep. 1351 (Tx. Dist. Ct. – Harris Co. 2008)
- KENS-TV, Inc. v. Farias, 36 Media L. Rep. 1076 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2007, no pet.)
- Bailey v. Bowles, 2007 WL 3121678, Tex. App. – Dallas, October 26, 2007 (No. 05-07-00624-CV)
- Busch v. Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, 2007 WL 2380293, Tex. App. – Dallas, August 22, 2007 (No. 05-07-00761-CV)
- Busch v. Williams, 2007 WL 2254939, N.D. Tex. February 7, 2007 (No. CIV.A. 3:06CV1352-D)
- In re Guidant Corp., 2006 WL 1030153, Tex. App. – Corpus Christi, April 18, 2006 (No. 13-06-166-CV)
- In re BP Products North America, Inc., 263 S.W.3d 117 (Tex. App. – Hou. [1st Dist.] 2006, no pet.)
- Topheavy Studios, Inc. v. Doe, 33 Media L. Rep. 2192 (Tex. App. – Austin 2005, no pet.)
- Boone R. Enterprises, Inc. v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., Paul Adrian and Ernestor Pena, 189 S.W.3d 795 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2005, no pet.)
- UTV of San Antonio, Inc. d/b/a KMOL-TV v. Ardmore, Inc., 82 S.W.3d 609 (Tex. App. – San Antonio 2002, no pet.)
- Provencio v. Paradigm Media, Inc., d/b/a The Texas Network, 44 S.W.3d 677 (Tex. App. – El Paso 2001, no pet.)
- NW Communications of Texas, Inc., David Christopher and Kay Vinson v. John Power, Individually and d/b/a Brushield Systems of America, 28 Media L. Rep. 2483 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2000, pet. denied)
- Sharp v. Cox Texas Publications, Inc., 943 S.W.2d 206 (Tex. App. – Austin 1997, no writ)
- Memorial Hosptial-The Woodlands v. The Honorable F. Scott McCown, 927 S.W.2d 1 (Tex. 1996)
In addition to her private practice, Laura has served as the program attorney for the national television shows Christina's Court and Judge Alex, serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law in Media & Entertainment Law, and was the editor of the E-Copyright Law Handbook published by Aspen Law and Business.
Laura works on legislative initiatives and lobbying as a member of the Texas Association of Broadcasters' Legislative Task Force, the Public Participation Project's National Board of Directors, the General Counsel for the Legislative Advisory Committee of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association and the Texas Press Association, and as a co-chair of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas' Legislative Committee. She has also initiated and chairs the Media Libel Resource Center's State Legislative Committee, bringing together lobbyists from virtually every state that works on legislation impacting the media industry and government transparency. Laura has been elected to the National Board of Directors for the Student Press Law Center for the 2011-2013 term.
In May 2009, Texas became the 37th state to enact a reporter's privilege when Gov. Rick Perry signed the Texas Free Flow of Information Act. Laura represented the Texas Daily Newspaper Association, the Texas Press Association, the Texas Association of Broadcasters and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas on this issue. She was at the forefront of the efforts to get this law passed since 2005 and 2007. Laura was the chief drafter and negotiator for the Free Flow of Information Act and testified multiple times before various legislative committees in the process of gaining its passage.
Selected Publications and Speeches
- "Texas Newsroom Legal Toolbox," Speaker, Texas Association of Broadcasters, Austin, Texas, August 21, 2013.
- "Eye on the Lege," Panelist, Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas Annual State Conference, Austin, Texas, August 9, 2013.
- "Anti-SLAPP laws," Speaker, American Legislative Exchange Council, 40th Annual Meeting, August 8, 2013.
- "A Trifecta Of 1st-Amendment Advances in Texas," Law 360, July 29, 2013.
- "The New Defamation Mitigation Act – How it Affects Texas Newsrooms," TABulletin, July 1, 2013.
- "Open Government Seminar," panelist, State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting June 21, 2013.
- "New Laws Protecting Texas Newsrooms," Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas website, June 2013.
- "Anti-SLAPP Update: Texas' Citizen Participation Act Gets Stronger," Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas website, June 21, 2013.
- "Texas Adopts the Defamation Mitigation Act," Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas website, June 21, 2013.
- "FOI Report," panelist, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors Annual Convention, April 7, 2013.
- "Newsroom Outlook," panelist, Texas Association of Broadcasters 2013 Legislative Day, January 28, 2013.
- "Anti-SLAPP Laws: Taking the Punch from Defamation Suits," co-author, Media, Privacy and Defamation Law Committee Newsletter, American Bar Association, Spring 2012.
- "How to Get an Anti-SLAPP Statute Passed," speaker, Newspaper Association Managers 2011 Legislative Conference, Washington, D.C., December 5, 2011.
- "Texas Laws that Benefit the Media: Anti-SLAPP, Reporter's Privilege and Interlocutory Appeal," speaker, Texas Association of Broadcasters (TAB) Newsroom Workshop, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, October 29, 2011.
- "Tort Reform in Media Law," speaker, Texas State University's Mass Communication Week, San Marcos, TX, October 18, 2011.
- "Defending Your Newsroom - Using the Anti-SLAPP Law, Free Flow of Information Act and the Interlocutory Appeal," speaker, webinar for the Texas Association of Broadcasters, October 5, 2011.
- "Passage Of The Texas Anti-SLAPP Statute - How It Happened And What It Could Mean For You!" author, Media, Privacy and Defamation Law Committee Newsletter, Fall 2011.
- "Winners & Losers: Scoring the 82nd Legislature," panelist, FOIFT State Conference, Austin, TX, August 12, 2011.
- "FCC Compliance," panelist, FOIFT State Conference, Austin, TX, August 10, 2011.
- "Newspapers Benefit from Anti-SLAPP Law," author, Daily Tribune, July 22, 2011.
- "Texas Newsrooms Will Benefit from Anti-SLAPP Law," author, Texas Daily Newspaper Association e-Bulletin, July 15, 2011.
- "Primer on Texas Anti-SLAPP Statute," author, Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas (FOIFT) website, July 15, 2011.
- "Texas Newsrooms Will Benefit from Anti-SLAPP Law Protecting First Amendment Rights," author, Texas Association of Broadcasters Bulletin, July 11, 2011.
- "Passage of the Texas Anti-SLAPP Statute," author, MLRC Media Law Letter, July 2011.
- "Strategies for Efficiently and Economically Winning a Media Case," co-author, ABA/TIPS Media Newsletter, Spring 2011.
- "Freedom of Information," panelist, Texas Association of Licensed Investigators Mid-Winter Conference, San Antonio, TX, February 18-19, 2011.
- "Hot Issues in Reporter's Privilege and Anti-SLAPP Laws," panelist, ABA Forum on Communications Law 16th Annual Conference, Rancho Mirage, CA, February 3-5, 2011.
- "The Texas Legislative Process: What Every Lawyer Should Know and Transparency in Government," panelist, State Bar of Texas Continuing Legal Education Program, Austin, TX, February 1, 2011.
- "How to Prevent the Sting of a SLAPP," author, Sedgwick's Media Law Bulletin and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas website, November 2010.
- Reporter's Privilege Compendium, co-author, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 2010.
- "Ask an Attorney," speaker, Southwest Broadcast Newsroom Workshop, Austin, Texas, October 16, 2010.
- "Texas Free Flow of Information Act," speaker, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors 2010 Annual Convention, College Station, Texas, March 27, 2010.
- "Hot Issues in Reporters Privilege/Subpoenas," moderator, ABA Forum on Communications Law 15th Annual Conference, Key Largo, FL, January 28-30, 2010.
- "Alternative Billing Arrangements" moderator, Women in Communications Law Committee meeting, ABA Forum on Communications Law 15th Annual Conference, Key Largo, FL, January 28-30, 2010.
- "The Lawful Truth: Discussing Issues in Mass Communication Law," speaker, Association for Women in Communications, Austin, TX, October 21, 2009.
- "Appeals Court Thwarts Attempt to Gut Shield Bill Provision," author, Texas Press Messenger, September 2009.
- "Let the Free Flow of Information Begin - Texas Adopts 'Reporter's Privilege'," author, Texas Press Association's eBulletin, July 2009.
- "Legislative Update on Free Flow Act," Speaker, Texas Press Association Annual Convention, June 19, 2009.
- "Texas Becomes Number 37 in States that have a Reporter's Privilege," author, MLRC Media Law Letter, May 2009.
- "The Television Decency Cases: Are F-Words and Fleeting Expletives Sanctionable?" moderator, American Bar Association Section of Litigation Annual Conference, April 30, 2009.
- "Hot Issues in Subpoenas," speaker, American Bar Annual Conference Forum on Communications Law, Scottsdale, AZ, February 5, 2009.
- "Advancing the Free Flow of Information Act," speaker, Texas Association of Broadcasters Legislative Day on the Free Flow Initiative, Austin, TX, February 2, 2009.
- "Freedom of Information/Open Government Panel," panelist, Texas Associated Press Managing Editor's Legislative Conference, Austin, TX, January 7, 2009.
- "Golly, I Just Got Fined by the FCC Again!" author, Sedgwick's Media Law Bulletin, January 2009.
- "Recent Attempts to Enact State Shield Laws," author, MLRC Committee Report, December 2008.
- "Newsroom Legal Issues / Free Flow of Information Act (FFOIA)," speaker, Southwest Broadcast Newsroom Workshop, Austin, TX, October 4, 2008.
- "What the $#*& is up with the fleeting expletives (and fleeting images)?" speaker on co-authored article, State Bar of Texas - 18th Annual Entertainment Law Institute, October 2-3, 2008.
- "The Journalist's Privilege and Shield Law," speaker, Austin Bench Bar Conference, San Antonio, TX, April 18, 2008.
- "Free Flow of Information," speaker, Texas Daily Newspaper Association's Statewide Convention, Austin, TX, March 11, 2008.
- "Hot Issues in Newsgathering," facilitator, American Bar Association Forum on Communications Law 13th Annual Conference, Boca Raton, FL, February 2008.
- Named one of the top 45 women lawyers in the nation younger than age 45 by The American Lawyer, 2011
- Named to the BTI Client Service All-Stars Team for Law Firms, 2011
- Recipient of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association's Legacy Award, 2010
- Named Associate of the Year by Texas Association of Broadcasters, 2009
- Profiled in Texas Lawyer in "Extraordinary Women in Texas Law," as one of the state's top 30 leading women lawyers, 2008
- Recipient of the Texas Association of Broadcasters' Award of Honor for "Outstanding Efforts in the Continuing Battle to Pass the Texas Free Flow of Information Act" during the 80th Legislature, 2007 Regular Session
- Awarded the Special President's Award by the Texas Association of Broadcasters, 2005
- Selected as a Rising Star in the Legal Field, Austin Business Journal, 2004
- Received the "Austin Under 40 Legal Award," the Austin Young Men's Business League and Austin Young Women's Alliance, 2001
- Chosen as one of the top 10 "Up-and-Comers on the Texas Legal Scene" by Texas Lawyer, 2000
- Martindale Hubbell® Law Directory with a Peer Review Rating of AV® Preeminent™
- American Bar Association Forum on Communications Law, Internet chair
- American Bar Association Litigation magazine, editorial board, 2004-2012
- American Bar Association Women in Communications Law Committee, former national co-chair
- First Amendment and Media Litigation Committee, co-chair, 2005-2009
- Media Libel Resource Center, chair, State Legislative Committee
- Appointed by governor to State of Texas Personal Privacy Task Force, 2002
- Texas Association of Broadcasters, Board of Directors, ex-officio member (2005-2012)
- Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, Immediate Past President; Legislative Committee, co-chair
- KLRU public broadcast station, board of directors
- College of the State Bar of Texas
- Travis County Women Lawyer's Association
- Colorado River Foundation, former board member
- Center for Child Protection, former advisory board member
- Leadership Austin, 1998-1999 graduate
Selected Representative Experience
Brandon Darby, Appellant v. The New York Times Company and James C. McKinley, Jr.
Successfully defended the appeal of a defamation summary judgment ruling in our clients' favor after plaintiff, a former activist and FBI informant, sued our clients, The New York Times
and one of its reporters, for $187 million dollars for an article written about an arson at the Texas Governor’s Mansion that mentioned the plaintiff’s relationship, as an FBI undercover informant, to two activists who were convicted for their actions at the 2008 Republican National Convention. We filed a motion for summary judgment asserting the statements made were not capable of a defamatory meaning, were true or substantially true, privileged and plaintiff was a public figure and could not establish actual malice. After a hearing on our motion for summary judgment, and before any depositions had been taken, the court granted defendants’ motion and dismissed the case in its entirety. The plaintiff appealed and the Court of Appeals for the Seventh District of Texas at Amarillo affirmed on the grounds of actual malice.
Steven Busti v. Platinum Studios, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg; Universal Studios, Inc.., d/b/a Universal Pictures; and Dreamworks II Distribution Co., LLC, Cause No. A-11-CA-1029-SS (W.D. Texas)
Plaintiff claimed that Cowboys and Aliens (the film and graphic novel) violated the copyright of his eleven-page comic of the same name, which he self-published in 1994. After we filed a motion for summary judgment, the court awarded summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding there was independent creation, no access, no factual copying, and no substantial similarity.
Hogs Dogs & Lace, LLC and Crystal Ward v. A&E Television Networks, LLC, Sharp Entertainment, LLC, Christie Chreene and Julie Snead, 75th Judicial District Court of Liberty County, Texas
Plaintiffs sued our clients, including a production company, for breach of implied contract, fraud, negligence, civil conspiracy, and other causes of action based on plaintiffs' assertions that defendants used plaintiffs' allegedly secret ideas and concepts for a reality television show without compensating plaintiffs. The production company, a New York resident with its principal place of business in New York, filed a special appearance asserting that it was not amenable to the personal jurisdiction of the Texas court and that the court could not exercise either specific or general jurisdiction over it. After briefing and a hearing on the special appearance, the trial court sustained the special appearance and dismissed all claims against our client.
Kristina Head a/k/a Kristina Robinson v. Chicory Media, LLC, et al., Cause No. 13-0040; in the 71st District Court of Harrison County, Texas
A participant in a reality television series sued our client, a weekly magazine, for defamation based on its article discussing plaintiff’s appearance on the reality show and allegations made by the mother of plaintiff’s deceased former fiancé. On behalf of the magazine, we filed an answer and anti-SLAPP motion asserting that plaintiff was a public figure, that the article did not say what plaintiff claimed and was not “of and concerning” her, that plaintiff could not establish substantial falsity of the statement at issue, and that the statement was privileged. After a hearing on our anti-SLAPP motion, the court granted the motion and dismissed the case against the magazine.
KTRK Television, Inc. v. Theaola Robinson, Cause No. 01-12-00372-CV; in the First Court of Appeals, Houston, TX
Represented a television station in a libel per se
action brought in response to the station's true reports on the closing of a local charter school due to (among other things) a lack of adequate funds and allegations of financial mismanagement and failure to properly account for state funds. Finding that the station had not accused the plaintiff, the former superintendent of the school, of any criminal activity and that the broadcasts were true, the court of appeals reversed the trial court's denial of the station's Anti-SLAPP Motion and dismissed the case against the station. The court also held that one cannot rely upon third-party user generated content to establish a defamation per se
Garza v. Eagle Creek Broadcasting D/B/A KZTV 10; 13-10-00573-CV
Obtained affirmation of summary judgment in a case in which we represented Eagle Creek Broadcasting. The Court upheld the summary judgment on the grounds of substantial truth, limited purpose public figure and no actual malice, and some of the statements were not capable of a defamatory meaning.
02/06/2014 - Media and Entertainment Law Newsletter, February 2014
The Media and Entertainment Newsletter highlights current issues in Media and Entertainment Law. Articles featured in the February 2014 issue include:
01/14/2014 - Media and Entertainment Law Newsletter, January 2014
The newsletter of the Media and Entertainment Law Practice Group of Haynes and Boone, LLP.
12/12/2013 - Media and Entertainment Law Newsletter, December 2013
The newsletter of the Media and Entertainment Law Practice Group of Haynes and Boone, LLP.
08/26/2013 - Media and Entertainment Practice Group
07/30/2013 - Law360 Guest Article: A Trifecta of 1st-Amendment Advances in Texas
Over the last three legislative sessions, newsrooms have gained significantly greater protections under Texas law.
On May 13, 2009, Texas became the 37th state to enact a reporter’s privilege protecting sources and information gathered during the newsgathering process.
06/21/2013 - Anti-SLAPP Update: Texas' Citizen Participation Act Gets Stronger
On June 14, 2013 Governor Perry signed into law HB 2935 further strengthening Texas' Citizen Participation Act (also known as the Anti-SLAPP statute) demonstrating continued support of free speech for our citizens.
06/21/2013 - Texas Adopts the Defamation Mitigation Act
On June 14, 2013 Governor Perry signed into law HB 1759 adopting the Defamation Mitigation Act (also known as the Retraction Statute) demonstrating continued support of free speech for Texas citizens.
06/01/2013 - New Laws Protecting Texas Newsrooms
Over the last three legislative sessions, newsrooms have gained significantly greater protections under Texas law.
09/20/2012 - Media Law Resource Center Guest Article: ABA Makes Anti-SLAPP Legislation Official Bar Policy
The 560-member governing body of the American Bar Association this month adopted a resolution encouraging legislatures to enact and strengthen anti-SLAPP legislation.
06/18/2012 - American Bar Association Newsletter Guest Story: Anti-SLAPP Laws: Taking the Punch from Defamation Suits
When author Carla Main wrote a book about the use of eminent domain by cities to gain property for a development, little did she know she would be “bulldozed” next in Court. Dallas developer, H. Walker Royall, not only sued the author for writing the book, but also sued a local Texas newspaper for writing a review of the book. Stories like Carla’s have inspired legislators across the country to enact powerful legislation aimed at limiting the impact of lawsuits that target those speaking out on matters of public concern.