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Gawker Wins Critical Battle in McSteamy Sex-Tape War

Judge strikes down Dane, Gayheart claims for statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.

In the case of McSteamy vs. Gawker Media, the first real legal battle has been won. By Gawker.

On Monday, a California judge granted Gawker Media’s motion to strike claims made by lawyers for “Grey’s Anatomy” star Eric Dana and his wife, actress Rebecca Gayheart, who had argued that their clients had the right to recover statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in the case.

The ruling limits Gawker’s liability in the case surrounding the site’s posting of a – quite frankly, boring — sex tape starring Dane, Gayheart and Kari Ann Peniche, a former beauty queen.

Dane, Gayheart and co., who are represented by heavyweight Hollywood lawyer Marty Singer, filed suit against Gawker on September 23, claiming copyright infringement and seeking more than $1 million in damages.

The Gawker post containing the tape has been viewed 3,392,408 times since its publication in August. (A post with an uncensored version, featuring Dane’s, uh, instrument, has been viewed 1,247,521 times on Gawker’s Fleshbot.)

The tide could eventually turn Dane’s way in the case, but according to the lawyer-types I’ve talked to, it’s gonna be tough for Team McSteamy to prove infringement here.

At any rate, the next turn in the case likely won’t come until early 2010.  A “status conference” has been set for January 11.

Note: This isn’t the only lawsuit Gawker Media is involved in. Sean Salisbury, a former NFL quarterback and ESPN football analyst, filed a lawsuit against Nick Denton’s bloggy empire after a series of bizarre e-mails sent by Salisbury to Gawker-owned Deadspin were posted on the site.

More to read:

Ex-ESPN Employee Prepping Tell-All About Network, Lawsuits
Will ESPN Become the Worldwide Leader in Lawsuits?

[Disclosure: I’ve covered tennis for Deadspin since 2007.]