Friday, August 24, 2007

Wear a t-shirt

Get arrested. Sinfonian of Blast Off! posts on the latest erosion of free speech in Florida:
Did you know that in Florida, a protest T-shirt might get you thrown in jail?

Sounds preposterous ... but Fla. Stat. § 540.08 makes the unauthorized commercial use of persons' names illegal ... and it adds a bonus provision, an extra fine, if the person or persons happen to be (or, in the case of deceased people, have been) members of the armed forces[.]
The statute goes on to exclude "news medi[a] or publication as part of any bona fide news report or presentation having a current and legitimate public interest," so at least we bloggers can focus our worry where it belongs: NSA, CIA, Secret Service ....

However, I've read the statute over and over again, and I don't see any exception for public figures akin to that requiring "actual malice" in order to sustain a defamation claim. Therefore, as an example, if you wear a T-shirt that bears the image of Drunky McStagger with the caption "War Criminal," you're breaking the law. Indeed, since such displays are illegal for 40 years after the subject's death, even a T-shirt I had 20 years ago, showing Richard Nixon with the caption "Nixon in '88: He's Tanned, Rested, and Ready" would be illegal today.
Update: Connecting this post to the one about the Ranks who were just awarded money for their arrest for protest t-shirts. Hipparchia at Over The Cliff, Onto The Rocks has the picture and more.

Wonder if Bush will have a special place in Gitmo for anyone who wears these or these?

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