Litigation

Bush, Lies, and Retarded Monkeys

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Last fall I wrote about Arizona anti-war activist Dan Frazier's tacky "Bush Lied/They Died" t-shirts, and about even tackier attempts by Congress and several state legislatures to ban them. The front of the shirts say "Bush Lied." The backs of the shirts say, "They Died," and feature the names of some 3,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq.

Now comes a lawsuit (pdf) from the family of one of the late soldiers whose name appears on the shirt. The family's attorneys are seeking to make the suit a class action on behalf of the families of every solider listed on the shirt. One can sympathize with the family and still believe that (a) their suit is ridiculous, and (b) it looks as if they've hired a third-grader to represent them. For example, after arguing that Frazier's enterprise isn't protected by the First Amendment, and that even it is, Frazier should be forced to share his profits with the soldiers' families, the suit then states:

Most respectfully, this is a concept that even a mentally-challenged monkey could grasp, but, apparently, defendants cannot—or, more likely, refuse–to do so, for as defendant, Fraser [sic], stated recently to the Associated Press, he is "not worried" about the outcome of this litigation.

"Most respectfully?" Also, the attorney is asking for $40 billion in damages.

(Hat tip: Howard Wasserman)

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  1. The attorney is clearly Ricky Bobby. “I said it with all due respect!”

  2. Judges love it when lawyers tell them they are idiots if they don’t rule the way they want.

  3. I remember during the first Gulf War, some of the radio stations in my extremely military town played this execrable version of “Unchained Melody” with voice-overs from the first President Bush. Someone at the time told me that no, Bush could not claim royalties for the use of his voice in the song, because the fact that he was president and said thus-and-so is historical fact, not something he can copyright or trademark. Doesn’t a similar rule apply to the names of people unfortunate enough to be injured or killed in a war? If I’m publishing a history book, I don’t need permission to say “John Smith died of an IED blast in Fallujah, March 2004.” Why should a T-shirt be any different?

  4. I had the same thoughts Jennifer. The death of a soldier in Iraq is “news”. The original broadcast of the “news” may be copyrighted, but the “news” itself cannot be.

  5. As a mentally-challenged monkey, it is my understanding that you can use the names of those killed in action as part of a political statement, even if there is some money made, assuming that the money isn’t the basis for making the T-shirts. Those killed are newsworthy and the basis of political protest. One cannot use the name (or image) of a person, even if they are newsworthy, purely for profit. That’s why Spitzer’s swallower can sue Girls Gone Wild.

  6. I think you are probably right about that Jennifer. As stupid and tacky as the shirt is, even a mentally-challenged monkey could grasp that the shithead wearing the shirt is the one making the point, not the poor souls whose names are listed on it. The fact that those people died in Iraq is an historical fact and I don’t see how you can prevent people from commenting on it one way or another. One could put together an equally tacky pro-war shirt and I don’t see where the families of the people whose names are on the shirt could sue.

    One could imagine this in other contexts. What if I took the names of every murder victim in Washington DC over the last year and put them on a T-shirt that said “Stop the violence”, could the families sue? I don’t see how.

  7. Major League Baseball recently lost a lawsuit when the judge ruled that baseball’s statistics cannot be copyrighted. MLB sued a game developer that was using published MLB stats.

  8. The complication is that “public” figures do have some rights concerning the use of their names in commercial applications. For instance, if you find a photo of a star athlete drinking a beer, you can’t run an add saying that so-and-so likes your beer without his/her permission.

    It is not clear to me what rights the families of murder victims or dead soldiers have to control the use of their names in commercial applications.

  9. Most respectfully, this is a concept that even a mentally-challenged monkey could grasp, but, apparently, defendants cannot . . .
    “Most respectfully?” Also, the attorney is asking for $40 billion in damages.

    Sounds like this is more about press coverage than winning the lawsuit. Also, it is good to see that someone has the guts to speak about the Iraq War in more honest, plain and full terms than the etiquette-conscious Mr. Balko does. His limp opposition, here at the HnR to the war is one of the reasons we are still over there.

  10. I often wonder if I’ll be a good lawyer but at least I need not worry about being the worst.

  11. I occasionally teach mentally-challenged monkeys (remedial English students at a for-profit career college). Believe me, they wouldn’t get it.

  12. That excerpt was written by an English-challenged monkey.

  13. As someone who has actually worked with monkeys (never forget the anal prolapse), I can state that even non-mentally-challenged ones would fail to understand this distinction.

  14. His limp opposition, here at the HnR to the war is one of the reasons we are still over there.

    This is true. I was just talking to Bushwah the other day (that’s my affectionate nickname for the president, but you can’t call him that unless you’re one of the rare people cool enough to have his cell-phone number in your address book), and I asked him “So, when are you going to end this Iraq thing?” And Bushwah told me, “That’s for Radley Balko to decide. I never make a move without first consulting his blog, which thus far has given no compelling reasons to end the war OR my insidious plan to contaminate the entire American food supply with high-fructose corn syrup.”

  15. Tacky maybe, but it beats wearing a Che t-shirt.

  16. By the way, Radley: if you want this war on drugs to end, drop me an e-mail and I’ll tell you what your blog really needs to say to bring about this desired outcome. What you’ve been doing thus far just doesn’t cut the mustard, y’know?

  17. Yeah, who can’t see through all that “another isolated incident” and civil rights reporting as just a cover for being limp wristed on the war. Balko the transparent.

  18. Hey, lay off Dave. He told me that yesterday he accidentally had some HFCS and he’s still hallucinating. Plus, some ADM bullies threatened to piss in his “corn” flakes.

  19. Balko the transparent.

    1. His reporting in domestic issues is excellent. Top notch. None better. Seriously. The only way it could be better is if he did a blog entry of the anthrax victim’s family who just sued down Floreeeedah waaayyah.

    2. Still, do you have any idea who he voted for in 2004? I don’t.

  20. “just sued” should have been –just sued the government–

  21. Bush didnt lie. Lying means that you know what your saying isn’t true. There is nothing proving that Bush knew what he said wasn;t true.

    The p[erson most responsible for the idea that Iraq had WMDs was Stuart Cohen, who was in charge of intelligence on Iraq.

  22. The person most responsible for the idea that Iraq had WMDs was Stuart Cohen, who was in charge of intelligence on Iraq.

    Oh sure. Blame the Jews.

    Asshole.

    🙂

  23. . . .that even a mentally-challenged monkey could grasp. . . .

    It’s Monkey Tuesday!

  24. The p[erson most responsible for the idea that Iraq had WMDs was Stuart Cohen, who was in charge of intelligence on Iraq.

    Whoever forged the Niger documents most definitely lied. But, I don’t see the government looking for them.

  25. You know, Dave, I hate to give you even the satisfaction of responding to you. But I’ll indulge today, just to embarrass you.

    Took me all of 15 seconds to pull up the link:

    http://www.theagitator.com/2004/11/02/i-voted-for-kerry/

  26. The death of a soldier in Iraq is “news”. The original broadcast of the “news” may be copyrighted, but the “news” itself cannot be.

    Would this imply that anyone with a published obituary gives up proprietary rights for their heirs to the use of their name? Does this also count for Walt Disney?

  27. What’s supposed to be tacky or stupid about that t-shirt? Are those complaining making an assumption that the people named on the shirt would have found some other way to die for the greater glory of the Evil Empire if Bush hadn’t lied?

  28. Would this imply that anyone with a published obituary gives up proprietary rights for their heirs to the use of their name? Does this also count for Walt Disney?

    If you died in a car accident, I’m pretty sure it would be legal to use your name in some push to change the speed limit or whatever. If you die from a drive-by shooting, your name can be used in a “Stop Street Violence” campaign. I think the rule is, you can’t be used in a purely commercial transaction: I can sell a “Stop Gun Violence” T-shirt with your name on it, but I can’t use your name in my advertisements for bulletproof vests.

  29. Radley, could you just come out against the war? Dave said that if you do he’ll go away.

    Oh, wait, you’re already against the war. Damn.

    Dave, go guzzle some HFCS.

  30. The death of a soldier in Iraq is “news”. The original broadcast of the “news” may be copyrighted, but the “news” itself cannot be.

    Would this imply that anyone with a published obituary gives up proprietary rights for their heirs to the use of their name? Does this also count for Walt Disney?

    The content on the T-shirt is clearly political speech and should be covered by the 1st. So if Mr. Frazier had paid for a billboard or a ad space in the local newspaper, he would be able to post a Bush-lied/they-died message without much concern for the rights of the deceased.

    But since he posted their names on a T-shirt, which I am guessing was sold for a profit, he may not have a 1st amendment right to sell those shirts.

  31. Of course, anyone that bought a shirt would have a 1st amendment right to wear it. Even in school 😉

  32. How did you get it in 15 seconds. I was scrolling back through November over at The Adge and stopped at the first page of November 2 posts (stupidly not realizing there was more than one page of November 2 posts). It would not let me go forward in time from Oct 04. I don’t see how you could have got there in 15 seconds.

    Anyway, what makes me feel a bit better is not so much that you responded to me but that you voted for Kerry. Obama in ’08! (Actually, if my state is not close I’ll go 3d party)

  33. Radley,

    I didn’t know you were so powerful that your refusal to condem something so strongly is the chief cause of its continueing. Can I send you a list of things to come out against so that they can be stopped?

  34. Does this also count for Walt Disney?

    You can write an article or book that talks about Walt’s life and death and accomplishments. But you can’t use Walt’s name or likeness to promote your commercial products.

    Clear enough?

  35. and about even tackier attempts by Congress and several state legislatures to ban them.

    What’s the problem, it is kind of treasonous to oppose the government during war. We are currently at war with terror.

  36. Frederick meet Neil, Neil meet Frederick.

  37. Last time he posted it was just Fred. Fred is Neil when all he wants to say is “the law’s the law” blah blah blah.

  38. “Most respectfully?” Also, the attorney is asking for $40 billion in damages.

    I hear they’re willing to settle for $20 billion if (1) Balko comes out against the war and (2) Dave W. agrees to destroy every extant copy of Farces Wanna Mo’s music.

    I’m pretty sure Balko is willing to do his bit here; so, Dave, it’s all up to you now …

  39. Wriggley’s: the only reason that you don’t like the music is that it is so far ahead of its time. I swear sometimes I feel like Marty McFly stuck in 1955.

  40. Dave W, it’s funny that you feel better knowing Radley voted for Kerry. My guess is that he is somewhat embarrassed by that vote. (I only say that cuz I voted for Duke-man in 88 and know how I feel about it)

    Also, it sure does take a lot of guts to talk about the Iraq war. I lost my whole family this way. My brothers and uncles were all “disappeared” a few years ago after they were spotted holding up “know [sic] blood for oil” signs. Bushes henchmen came and raped my mom to death after she was heard shouting, “Bush lied, people died” at Dick Chenney’s caravan. My dad is in prison serving a 432 year sentence for tax evasion. But that is bullshit. They only came after him after he was seen wearing a chimpzilla T-shirt and flashing peace signs while standing behind the great martyr Dan Rather. Protester in China, Cuba, and North korea have it easy in comparison. Before she was imprisoned for treason, my sister had her middle finger cut off by Bush thugs. She didn’t even flip him the bird – she only told a socialist friend of hers that she was thinking of flipping the bird to Emperor Bush, and the gestapo Bush administration pulled up her conversion using their carnivore computer system that they use for all that illegal wiretapping. I better cut this short, as I just saw a shadow go across my window. Fuggin’ Bush assassins have been after me for weeks now, and that’s just because I think he is soft on the 2nd amendment. Peace out, and keep your head down brother. The fight may get us killed, but we will die knowing we did right.

  41. I’m pretty sure Balko is willing to do his bit here

    You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. It’s been nearly TWO HOURS since I offered to teach R. how to end the Drug War, but I just checked my e-mail and there’s no correspondence from him or any other Reasonoid. That’s because R. is afraid he’ll get fired if he speaks against the war.

  42. Also, it sure does take a lot of guts to talk about the Iraq war.

    O, I actually took some action. I planned on staying away til the thing was over, but not enough people did what Balko did. And not enough Balkos did what Raimondo did. And too many tractable people got fooled by these phenomenon into thinking that our cause is just.

  43. RADLEY —

    You should change the PDF link. You’ve linked to the original complaint, but the quoted “monkey” passage and prayer for billions in damages appears only in the Amendment to Complaint. The Amendment to Complaint is what Howard W. linked to.

    No reason to give people room to claim that the document doesn’t support your post.

  44. Dave, it’s not Radley’s fault that your “opposition” is limp. You should try getting more exercise – that tends to both reduce stress and improve bloodflow, which should help.

  45. I better cut this short, as I just saw a shadow go across my window.

    You win.

  46. I swear sometimes I feel like Marty McFly stuck in 1955.

    You know, you should really just tell your mom that you’re flattered, but she’s not your type.

  47. But you can’t use Walt’s name or likeness to promote your commercial products.

    So is using a dead guy’s name on your t-shirt kosher (or maybe, in this case, halal) or not?

  48. So is using a dead guy’s name on your t-shirt kosher (or maybe, in this case, halal) or not

    Given the case at hand. If Mr Frazier had printed up Tees and given them away at an anti-war demonstration, I don’t think he’d any problem making a 1st amendment argument that his speech is protected.

    If he is selling the Tees and making any profit at all, I think he is at serious risk for losing a court battle.

    I have know idea how a collection of jurors under the influence of too many lawyers would rule.

  49. Do parents have standing in court to sue on behalf of their adult offspring?

    The names of troops killed in war are public domain, No?

  50. I propose a moratorium on the use of “___, Lies and ___.” This is what your junior-high English teacher called a “cliche.”

  51. Can we get the monkey butlers working on this?

  52. Nice to see Lionel Hutz is still working after that Satanic donut incident.

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