First, They Came for the Students Who Photoshopped Pictures of Professors as Members of KISS…

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…and I did nothing because I was too busy rereading the Marvel comic in which Gene, Paul, Ace, and Peter battle Dr. Doom and is printed with the very blood of everyone's favorite Kabuki-influenced crap rock band.

USA Today has an interesting article about a "criminal libel" case in New Mexico involving a man facing jail time for picketing the Farmington Police Department with a placard that apparently spread malicious falsehoods about a particular cop (the paper doesn't say what was on the placard, alas):

Under U.S. law, someone who believes he has been libeled in print or slandered by spoken words may file a civil lawsuit, which can lead to monetary damages.

Under a 1964 Supreme Court decision, however, it is difficult for a public figure to win a libel suit unless the figure can show the statements were false and made with "actual malice," meaning they were known to be false or were made without regard for the truth.

[Juan] Mata was convicted under a state law that makes it a misdemeanor to circulate "any false and malicious statement affecting the reputation, business or occupation of another, or which exposes another to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation or disgrace."

Sixteen other states and two U.S. territories have similar laws, according to the Media Law Resource Center in New York. In another 1964 case, the Supreme Court left such laws in place but said they "serve little if any purpose."

In a December 2004 report, the Media Law Resource Center found 77 threatened or actual prosecutions for criminal defamation from 1965 to 2002. At least one-third ended in convictions.

Mata, who sounds like a real dick from the article (is that characterization actionable? hmm…), is being sentenced today and faces up to three years in the slammer.

Buried at the end of the story is this tantalizing summary of a previous case that had a happier ending for the ostensible libeler:

In December 2003…police in Greeley, Colo., seized the computer of college student Thomas Mink, whose "Howling Pig" website carried a doctored photograph depicting a professor as a member of the rock group Kiss. Police told Mink he was being investigated for "felony criminal libel." Mink sued in federal court; the criminal investigation was dropped.

When a man can't photoshop professors into Kiss, no man–or God of Thunder–is free.

Whole story here.

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  1. Brings me back to the days of doing pencil rubbings on the beautiful raised graphics on the Double Platinum album.

  2. Has anyone heard of Mini-Kiss? My friend told me about them-a band of midgets that dress up like Kiss and do their songs-no, really. Strange world.

  3. Mini-Kiss was featured awhile back on some VH-1 ‘countdown’ show about heavy metal, which VH-1 seems to think consists entirely of a bunch of glammed-out L.A. hair bands. Oh well. I’d pay to see Mini-Kiss for sure. Of course, I still haven’t gotten around to seeing The Iron Maidens, an all-female tribute to…you can probably figure it out.

    As far as criminal libel goes, it’s interesting that such laws seem to be used in places like New Mexico and Utah, where I would think the state codes would be less, umm, ‘archaic.’

  4. “[Juan] Mata was convicted under a state law that makes it a misdemeanor to circulate “any false and malicious statement affecting the reputation, business or occupation of another, or which exposes another to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation or disgrace.”

    Sixteen other states and two U.S. territories have similar laws, according to the Media Law Resource Center in New York. In another 1964 case, the Supreme Court left such laws in place but said they “serve little if any purpose.”

    Does this mean that every black person in NOLA has a class-action against every media outlet that carried completely false stories of bad deeds during Katrina?

    I’m grinning wildly at the thought….

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