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AOL, DISNEY BATTLE
HEATS UP… AGAIN

Children Of America Agree: They Hate It When Mommy And Daddy Fight
The feud between America Online and Disney has been reignited with AOL's demand that the Walt Disney Co. explain in greater detail why it circulated confidential information about the AOL-Time Warner merger among Disney staff, thus violating an FCC protective order, according to published reports.

In a letter sent late last week, AOL General Counsel George Vrandenburg III asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the matter to determine if any sanctions should be imposed on Disney, which has opposed the $183 billion merger of the two corporations.

A handful of attorneys representing Disney have had access to documents filed with the FCC by AOLTW. Outside parties must sign a protective order agreeing not to disseminate any information contained therein.

On Wednesday (9/27), Disney outside counsel Lawrence Sidman notified the FCC of the "inadvertent" breach in a letter copied to AOL and TW, stating an associate attorney wrote an e-mail Sept. 22 to two in-house Disney counsels detailing a portion of the protected documents, which had been viewed Sept. 14.

"The attorney provided this information under a mistaken belief that the [in-house] counsels had executed the required acknowledgments of confidentiality," Variety reports that Sidman said in a letter to the FCC.

According to the trade, Disney realized its mistake within an hour and "immediate steps were taken to rectify the situation," Sidman said. By that time, however, the e-mails had "unfortunately" been retransmitted by one of the in-house attorneys to a number of other Disney employees. Another e-mail was sent ordering Disney staff to delete the previous communication and to immediately disregard its contents.

In his letter, however, Vrandenburg questioned why Disney didn't acknowledge the breach until Wednesday, five days after the mistake was noticed. Another attorney representing Disney asked for access Sept. 25 to other confidential documents.

AOL is requesting that Disney provide certain records, such as a copy of the first e-mail, a list of all recipients, copies of subsequent e-mails, an accounting of the five-day delay in notifying the FCC of the breach, as well as an accounting of all discussions relating to the additional viewing of documents.

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