FacultyFaculty/Author Profile

Victor A. Kovner

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

New York, NY, USA

Victor Kovner represents national and regional broadcast and print media clients in all aspects of communications law, in addition to his work in intellectual property and commercial litigation. He advises clients in cases of alleged defamation, privacy, copyright, press access, and reporter’s privilege and other First Amendment issues.

Victor has represented a wide range of clients in the media and the arts, including newspapers, magazines, book publishers, motion picture companies, documentary film producers, museums and billboard companies.

Representative Experience

Pre-publication/pre-broadcast review for various media entities
Counsels a wide number of media entities in pre-publication or pre-broadcast issues for various print publications and for motion picture companies. (Ongoing)

Documentary counsel
Provides pre-broadcast review and strategy to groundbreaking documentary and docudrama filmmakers and producers including: Hit the Ground Running Films, Andrew Jarecki, Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein, Laura Bickford and Abby Disney. Film projects have included documentaries such as, "Capturing the Friedmans," "Catfish," "Food, Inc.," "Last Stop on the Way to the Oasis," and "Sexy Baby" and docudramas, such as "All Good Things," and "Fur." (Ongoing)

Challenges to subpoenas for confidential records for McGraw-Hill (Platts)
Lead counsel representing McGraw-Hill in a variety of challenges to subpoenas for confidential records obtained by journalists at its Platts and Standard & Poors subsidiaries. Represented the company in federal courts in New York, the District of Columbia, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California. Most of the litigation involved assertion of the qualified privilege under the First Amendment and where applicable under state statutes and common law as well. (Ongoing)

Intellectual property claims for McGraw-Hill (Educational Publishing Division)
Represents McGraw-Hill in a variety of intellectual property claims arising out of its publications of educational material for children. (Ongoing)

Summit Media v. City of Los Angeles
Representing Clear Channel Outdoor in litigation pending in the Central District of California concerning Los Angeles outdoor advertising ordinances. (Ongoing)

Stop the Madrassa v. Almontaser
Successfully defended former principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy (Brooklyn, N.Y.) in defamation suit brought by opponents of the school. Pre-discovery motion to dismiss granted and affirmed on appeal. 75 A.D.3d 539, 904 N.Y.S.2d 765 (N.Y.A.D. 2d Dept. 2010)

Morisseau v. DLA Piper U.S. LLP, Proskauer Rose LLP, and ALM Media Inc.
Represented DLA Piper U.S., LLP, in New York state court, successfully defeating the petitioner's motion for pre-action discovery in aid of framing a complaint for libel arising from the publication of an allegedly false and defamatory article about the petitioner, who was a party to a federal discrimination lawsuit. Index No. 08100448 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2009)

Zelnik v. Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) et al. Successful appeal sustaining a summary judgment dismissing a First Amendment retaliation claim that plaintiff was not afforded professor emeritus status in retaliation for speech related to a matter of public concern after the District Court determined that plaintiff failed to demonstrate any material adverse change in the terms and conditions of his employment as a consequence of his speech. 464 F. 3d 271 (2d Cir. 2007)

Nieves v. HBO
Defense of claims arising out of comments made in course of HBO series 'Family Bonds,' a documentary series about a real-life family of bail bondsmen. (N.Y. Cnty. Sup. Ct. 2006)

Verizon Directories Corp. v. Yellow Book USA, Inc.
Represented Yellow Book USA in a false advertising and product disparagement action brought by Verizon Directories Corp. concerning Yellow Book's advertisements and sales practices. Secured dismissal of product disparagement claim and successfully settled false advertising claim. 338 F. Supp. 2d 422 (approving settlement) and 309 F. Supp. 2d 401 (granting in part motion to dismiss) (E.D.N.Y. 2004)

Professional and Community Activities
  • Board Member and Former Chair, Legal Affairs Committee, Association of Magazine Media, 2004-present
  • Co-founder, Media Law Resource Center
  • Advisory Board, Media Law Reporter, 1990-present
  • Former Chair, Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Communications and Media Law, Association of the Bar of the City of New York
  • Board Member and Former Chair, The Fund for Modern Courts, 1975-present
  • Member and Former Chair, New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, 1976-1990
  • Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, 1990-1991

Professional Recognition

  • Corporation Counsel Award for Distinguished Service, New York City Law Department, 2012
  • Named one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" in First Amendment Litigation (Nationwide) by Chambers USA, 2007-2013
  • Named one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" in Media & Entertainment: First Amendment Litigation (New York) by Chambers USA, 2003-2012; Received "Band 1" ranking, 2012. Cited as "an undeniably superb lawyer” and a “tenacious litigator who knows his area backward and is never stuck for an idea."
  • Named one of the "Best Lawyers in America" in First Amendment Law by Best Lawyers, 1995-present
  • Selected to "New York Super Lawyers," Thomson Reuters, 2007-2013


For more than 25 years, Victor served as the principal author for the Practising Law Institute's annual Communications Law Seminar outline on the law of newsgathering, invasion of privacy and related torts.

"Survey of New York Privacy and Related Claims Against the Media" chapter, Media Privacy and Related Law, MLRC, 2005-2013

"Commercial Defamation" chapter, Commercial Litigation in New York State Courts (2d, 3rd Ed.), 2004-2011; 2013


J.D., Columbia Law School, 1961
B.A., Yale University, 1958

Related Practices

Media & First Amendment
Commercial Speech & Advertising
Defamation & Privacy
Government Regulation of Content
Right of Publicity
Access to Public Records & Proceedings
Subpoenas & Reporters' Privilege
Trademark Litigation
Government Relations & Litigation
Copyright Litigation
Intellectual Property Litigation
Intellectual Property
Prior Restraints
Digital Media

Admitted to Practice

New York, 1962
U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, 1966
U.S. Supreme Court, 1975
U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit, 1995
U.S. Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit, 1997
U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit, 2003


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