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View Full Version : Kathryn Stockett [Author of The Help] To Be Sued



gothicangel
02-18-2011, 12:47 PM
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1358079/The-Help-Woman-sues-author-claims-black-servant-character.html

aruna
02-18-2011, 02:06 PM
I just read this and came here to post the story - you beat me to it!
I have to say I loved this book. I know that many blacks in America hated it for a distorted portrayal of them, but I loved it. I don't think this maid has a chance (without knowing the US legal system), and if so, it's just wrong.

I mean, what else are we going to be offended about?

Miss Cooper's lawsuit claims it was offensive to be portrayed as someone who must use a segregated toilet.

Jamesaritchie
02-18-2011, 03:25 PM
If there's any chance at all to make money, some will go for it.

shaldna
02-18-2011, 03:25 PM
Interesting. I think what complicates the matter is the womans claim that she worked for the authors familiy in the past. It could, if true, be a case of stories passed on like 'In the 60's we had this maid called....'

It'll be interesting to see how this pans out though.

aruna
02-18-2011, 03:34 PM
The thing is, the maid in the book is one of the heroines of the story. She is portrayed as brave and noble, so I don't understand how the real maid could feel insulted.

Purple Rose
02-18-2011, 03:57 PM
I'm with Aruna on this. Fabulous book. The maid is just capitalizing on Ms Stockett's well-deserved success. I mean, even if the book were based on the maid, how many people are as talented as Ms Stockett to create such an engaging story loosely based on one person? Writers borrow from real people's experiences all the time. It is what they make out of those experiences that sets them apart. Maybe the maid was never as noble as Ms Sockett made her out to be.

gothicangel
02-18-2011, 04:13 PM
Writers borrow from real people's experiences all the time. It is what they make out of those experiences that sets them apart.

Not sure about this. I'll read a newspaper article and fictionalise it out of recognition. However, I've never based a character on someone I've known. That's very murky water.

Not going to call this one.

shaldna
02-18-2011, 04:32 PM
The thing is, the maid in the book is one of the heroines of the story. She is portrayed as brave and noble, so I don't understand how the real maid could feel insulted.

I haven't read the book, but I might give it a go now.

I guess it's all about perception really. The woman clearly feels that there is something there that is upsetting for her, or might damage her reputation etc, whether there is or not I guess is for a judge to decide.

These cases fascinate me to be honest.

aruna
02-18-2011, 05:23 PM
I read some of the bad reviews of the book, and they seem to be all by black Americans who feel somehow insulted. I didn't when I read the book, so I don't get the hurt; maybe it's a subtle Southern thing? If anything, the blacks were all positive (even the bad-behaved feisty one) and the whites pretty nasty, most of them anyway. This was about racism,.
It's certainly worth reading, of only to find out. The dialect was a bit hard to get into at first but I quickly got used to it. And the "secret" is one of the biggest shockers I've ever found in fiction! :).
It would be a sad day for writers if we couldn't feel inspired enough by people we've known to base a character on them. I've done it; and always in a positive sense.

Rhoda Nightingale
02-18-2011, 06:09 PM
^Speaking as a Southern American (but not a black one, unfortunately, so I can only see one side of the crazy clearly), there is such a thing as 'reverse racism' down here. Is the author white? Maybe the naysayers feel like she doesn't know what she's talking about, or has no right to make assumptions.

Just throwing that out there, because I haven't read the book myself. I'm curious to read those reviews now though...

ETA: After looking through a few of the one-star reviews--which on the first page are more well thought out and intelligent than the usual "THIS BOOK SUX!" diatribe I've gotten used to seeing that category--I think they may have a point. Again, without having read this myself, it seems like the biggest complaint is stereotyping and misusing the southern dialect. Which if it's true, would grate on my nerves too.

My mom really enjoyed this book though. I might have to put this on my list now. Hm. Well you know what they say about "bad" publicity.

aruna
02-18-2011, 06:49 PM
ETA: After looking through a few of the one-star reviews--which on the first page are more well thought out and intelligent than the usual "THIS BOOK SUX!" diatribe I've gotten used to seeing that category--I think they may have a point. Again, without having read this myself, it seems like the biggest complaint is stereotyping and misusing the southern dialect. Which if it's true, would grate on my nerves too.


I don't doubt that they might have a point; yet I felt these characters as three dimensional, and since I don't know the dialect, it didn't bother me. I took the reviews I read to heart; but I still loved the book.

Irysangel
02-18-2011, 07:00 PM
I loved the book too, but I can see where it would be offensive. There was a lot of subtext that I found a little uncomfortable, and chalked up to the author wanting it to be deliberately uncomfortable.

That being said, I read the article and flinched a little when I found out that the woman's name (Ablene) is almost identical to the main character of Aibileen. I mean, if one of my former employers wrote a book about 'Jillian' and portrayed me in a way I found offensive, I'd be really upset too.

Susan Littlefield
02-18-2011, 07:32 PM
I haven't read it, but it sounds to me like someone is digging for gold.

Kitty27
02-18-2011, 07:36 PM
As a Southern African-American,I absolutely detested this book.



That said,the woman is obviously trying to capitalize on Ms.Stockett's success. But it will be interesting if she can prove that characters and stories are based on real events that she informed the author about. But would she have a case if that happened?

brainstorm77
02-18-2011, 07:38 PM
That being said, I read the article and flinched a little when I found out that the woman's name (Ablene) is almost identical to the main character of Aibileen. I mean, if one of my former employers wrote a book about 'Jillian' and portrayed me in a way I found offensive, I'd be really upset too.

I felt the same.

aruna
02-18-2011, 07:41 PM
Well, technically it wasn't her own family maid, but her brother's maid. Who knows how closely they knew each other. If the maid WAS the inspiration then the choice of name was very unfortunate.
I can imagine if one has lived through that situation it would be a very touchy subject, having the white employer exploit it in a novel. But the reasons given in that article wouldn't be enough to make a case.

Irysangel
02-18-2011, 08:20 PM
Well, technically it wasn't her own family maid, but her brother's maid. Who knows how closely they knew each other. If the maid WAS the inspiration then the choice of name was very unfortunate.
I can imagine if one has lived through that situation it would be a very touchy subject, having the white employer exploit it in a novel. But the reasons given in that article wouldn't be enough to make a case.

But in the book, Aibileen wasn't her maid either - she was the maid of a friend. Surely there are other names out there that she could pick up on?

Honestly, this lawsuit doesn't surprise me. I read an article about the author after listening to the audiobook (so I could get around the horrific faux-southern dialect) and my hackles kind of raised up a little because the article was all about how the author's life had parallelled Skeeter's in the book. What if it comes out later that Stockett was called 'Scooter' as a child? And that another friend had a maid named Millie? At what point does it stop being original fiction and start being a roman a clef, you know?

So I don't know what to think. :)

KathleenD
02-18-2011, 08:49 PM
The maid works for the author's brother, the maid and the character have several parallels... and if I've read between the lines correctly, apparently the brother is both not speaking to his sister over this book AND encouraged the maid to sue.

This smacks of dirty family laundry as well as justifiable discomfort on the part of the maid.

Edit to add: The article I read gave me my impressions, not this Daily Mail piece.

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/family-maid-files-suit-against-author-of-the-help/?hp

djf881
02-18-2011, 09:24 PM
The First Amendment is very broad and actionable exceptions like libel, commercial misappropriation of one's image and invasion of privacy are very narrow. Libel, in particular, has a number of necessary elements and a number of defenses.

This woman's case seems to be hinged on the fact that a character in a fictional novel includes a character who has a first name that is similar to hers.

Based on the 200 years of strong speech protections, this case should be quickly bounced out of court; if the courts will entertain this kind of thing, basically any artist can be sued on any pretense on the claim that the art in some way resembles a real person and caused emotional distress.

But after the 2009 "Red Hat" verdict in Georgia, who the hell knows anymore. The Constitution is only as good as the people who apply it.

MarkEsq
02-18-2011, 09:52 PM
As a Southern African-American,I absolutely detested this book.

Just curious - why?

(I haven't read the book, maybe the answer would be obvious if I had!)


That said,the woman is obviously trying to capitalize on Ms.Stockett's success. But it will be interesting if she can prove that characters and stories are based on real events that she informed the author about. But would she have a case if that happened?

Great question. Answer: not necessarily. A lot of the comments seem to indicate a belief that if the complainant can show the events were based on her, then she has a decent claim. If that were true, no unauthorized bio would ever be published. The issue is whether the plaintiff was somehow libeled or otherwise (legally) sinned against.

See djf881's post for the remainder of my opinion. :)

aruna
02-18-2011, 10:35 PM
How much does it matter if the portrayal of her was negative, or not? The two examples cited don't convince me. In one of my early novels a black character decribed herself as "the colour of mud". It was deliberately negative, showing that she had a very low self image because of her skin colour, a very real issue in that day and age; an issue which affected me as well. And the outside latrine argument doesn't convince me either. Can someone be sues soley on the grounds that a character is modelled on her, or does the depiction have to be negative, to account for the offence taken?

djf881
02-18-2011, 11:54 PM
How much does it matter if the portrayal of her was negative, or not? The two examples cited don't convince me. In one of my early novels a black character decribed herself as "the colour of mud". It was deliberately negative, showing that she had a very low self image because of her skin colour, a very real issue in that day and age; an issue which affected me as well. And the outside latrine argument doesn't convince me either. Can someone be sues soley on the grounds that a character is modelled on her, or does the depiction have to be negative, to account for the offence taken?

There is no legal cause of action for insult, ridicule or mockery. The First Amendment to the US Constitution provides broad protections to speech and press, and those rights and the case law that develops them are clearly intended to prevent people from using litigation to try to silence or suppress speech and art that they find offensive.

IceCreamEmpress
02-19-2011, 03:43 AM
There is a concept in US intellectual property law called "life story rights". It's more commonly an issue with film and television, but it's also relevant to publishing.

Attorney Mark Litwak writes about it here (http://www.marklitwak.com/faq/life_story_rights.html), with an emphasis on film and television issues.

Here's the thing. If the character of Aibilene is actually based on Ablene Cooper, and if The Help includes stories based on events from Ms. Cooper's life (and this is what Ms. Cooper will have to document)--

--and if Ms. Cooper wanted to write her own book now, presenting her own story of her life as a maid during the Civil Rights struggle

--she may be forestalled from profiting from her own experiences and character because Ms. Stockett had beat her to the market.

Now, it's hard to prove these cases, but people have won them. And the idea makes sense, yes? People who are private citizens should have the right to tell their own stories, or to decide who gets to tell their story.

As for the "why did many black Americans dislike this book intensely?" question, some views are highlighted in this New York Times piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/books/03help.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2).

For myself, as a white New Englander, I found Stockett's choice to render the black characters' dialogue in dialect and the white characters' dialogue in Standard English an awfully poor one.

djf881
02-19-2011, 04:46 AM
IceCreamEmpress,

Life story rights are not a kind of intellectual property. That article refers to a kind of deal you make to authorize or assist in the creation of a biography or a movie about your life. But you cannot exclude people from telling a true story.

If you could, Lindsay Lohan could invoke intellectual property rights to prevent tabloids from writing about her drug addiction.

There are issues about appropriating another person's image for purposes of publicity, particularly where you make it appear as though that person is endorsing your product. But true events are not owned by anyone.

artemis31386
02-19-2011, 05:50 AM
I've never read the book, but if Ms. Cooper can prove the similarities in court (which just looking at the facts thus far--are a lot) then she has a case and might just win.

aruna
02-19-2011, 12:05 PM
But as far as I know, the story itself is fiction. Did the real Abelene write a book together with Stocket to show up the terrible treatment of black maids? Because that is the story. If she only used the maid's stories as examples of that ill treatment, I wonder if this counts as "life story".
I thought that using the maid's speech as dialect was because these stories were told orally.
Anyway, it's an interesting case to watch.

aruna
02-19-2011, 12:22 PM
From the NYT article linked above:

The first voice to come to her was that of Demetrie, the African-American maid who worked for Ms. Stockett’s grandmother in Jackson in the 1970s and ’80s. “She came out in the voice of Aibileen,” Ms. Stockett said in a telephone interview from her home in Atlanta. “Then a few months later I came back to it and I found that Aibileen had a few things to say that were not in character, and that’s how Minny got started.”

So, according to Stocket, it was Demetrie, not Abelene, who was the model for the maid.

shaldna
02-19-2011, 01:03 PM
From the NYT article linked above:


So, according to Stocket, it was Demetrie, not Abelene, who was the model for the maid.

but then, if you knew that you had painted someone in an unflattering light, would you not say this too?

aruna
02-19-2011, 01:07 PM
The article was written in 2009, before all this hoo-ha, so it is probably the truth. And none of the maids was written in an unflattering light. It was the white female employers who were horrible.

gothicangel
02-19-2011, 01:42 PM
As a English Lit student the fact that she used a dialect for black characters, and RP for white characters is loaded.

MarkEsq
02-19-2011, 06:17 PM
I've never read the book, but if Ms. Cooper can prove the similarities in court (which just looking at the facts thus far--are a lot) then she has a case and might just win.


I don't mean to be argumentative, but this is simply not the way it works. Start with the sad but eternal truth that to bring a lawsuit you don't need to have a case, you merely need a lawyer.
To win, she'd have to show she was identifiable within the pages of the book, and that her reputation suffered as a result. In other words, the elements of defamation. Pointing out some similarities ain't gonna cut it.

Alitriona
02-19-2011, 06:27 PM
http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/novel-t-shirt.jpg



It can 't always be presumed the writer is the injured party and the person bringing the case is purely out for money. Sometimes people feel so strongly hurt about something that they have no recourse but to take action. As far as I can see both sides have good points.

artemis31386
02-19-2011, 07:03 PM
As a English Lit student the fact that she used a dialect for black characters, and RP for white characters is loaded.

It is pretty loaded, especially since America already has so many issues with race relations. Its fair to say that whites in the south have a dialect just as blacks, but being one sided about it can be very offensive--especially if the dialect makes it appear that the blacks somehow are more ignorant.

Not saying this is how it was used in the book (never read it), but just offering two cents on how the characters could be seen as unflattering or offensive.

aruna
02-19-2011, 07:36 PM
Its fair to say that whites in the south have a dialect just as blacks, but being one sided about it can be very offensive--especially if the dialect makes it appear that the blacks somehow are more ignorant.

Not ignorant, but less educated, which is not the same thing.

Again, if I remember rightly, the black maids were telling their stories orally to Skeeter, which was why she reproduced their dialect.
It's always tricky to try and reproduce dialect. If you don't get it right people are going to object. It's usually enough just to drop a letter here and there, which is what I do.

I enjoyed the book immensely and didn't for a moment get any racist undertones. Yes, there were horribly racist characters in the book and their behaviour was despicable -- but wasn't that the whole point? And the revenge the maids got - in particular Milly -- was so wonderful, so over-the-top amazing and satisfactory I'm still grinning.
But then, in my world the underdog is almost automatically in the stonger position.

I read the bad reviews after I had finished, and tried to objectively see their point, which I do get. I remember being pissed off by one Australian writer who wrote a book set in Guyana; all the Guyanese characters were more or less idiots and the white foreigners were the heroes. It's always cringeworthy when outsiders try to write about you, and make themselves the centre of attention. So I do get the subjective annoyance of black southerners. I still think it was a great story, a real page-turner.

I just don't think the maid has a case. She is the hero of this story; a good, admirable person.

gothicangel
02-19-2011, 07:43 PM
I'm not going to even try an predict how this will pan out.

I do predict English Lit lecturers pulling this one out when discussing representations of race, though.

I'm waiting for the fall out after reading an article this morning in which The King James Bible was described as have been written in 'the vulgar vernacular of Scots.'

happywritermom
02-19-2011, 08:02 PM
It was really non-intelligent (refraining from using the word "stupid") to use the same name, even if it was spelled differently. Why do that? Why not change it? Heck, I'm changing a name in my WIP because it's the same as my niece's and it's a good, inspiring character. I just want to avoid any possible mess in the future.
I am a white northern, but I have to admit that I wondered about the reaction of the black community as I read the book, particularly in the south, and thought that they might have reason to be offended. Though Ablene was a hero, she was still led by the white journalist and portrayed as incapable of such bravery on her own. The maid characters felt a bit false to me, too, though I might have been biased by the fact that I already knew the main character was white.
I don't think that woman has a chance at winning the lawsuit, but I'm guessing she's accomplishing what she set out to do: calling attention to what she considers racist in the novel.

aruna
02-19-2011, 08:26 PM
It was really non-intelligent (refraining from using the word "stupid") to use the same name, even if it was spelled differently. Why do that? Why not change it? Heck, I'm changing a name in my WIP because it's the same as my niece's and it's a good, inspiring character. I just want to avoid any possible mess in the future..

Or, so just plain naive, never suspecting a mess. If she didn't base the character on the real maid, she might simply have cast around in her mind for "typical" maid's names and settled on this one. I've done this. Looking for names in my novel set in India, I thought of people in similar situations and took their names.
There would only have been the need to change it if she were guilty as charged, and we don't know that

gothicangel
02-19-2011, 09:05 PM
Or, so just plain naive, never suspecting a mess. If she didn't base the character on the real maid, she might simply have cast around in her mind for "typical" maid's names and settled on this one.

Well that would leave her open to accusations of Essentialism.

Academics really are going to have a field day with this one.

djf881
02-19-2011, 09:11 PM
It can 't always be presumed the writer is the injured party and the person bringing the case is purely out for money. Sometimes people feel so strongly hurt about something that they have no recourse but to take action. As far as I can see both sides have good points.

Goddamnit.

You don't have a legitimate lawsuit because someone hurts your feelings or makes you feel bad.

Unfortunately, MarkEsq is right that pretty much anyone who can find a lawyer with no scruples can go into court and stir up some shit for any reason, or no reason at all. Some judges are willing to let these bullshit claims get past early dispositive motions and then the process of litigating can become very exhausting and expensive.

I'll say again that in the United States, free speech means you can write about anything and anyone. Defamation is such a narrow exemption that it is almost irrelevant, especially to fiction. Rights to publicity are generally inapplicable, even if they are frequently bases for bullshit lawsuits by money-grubbing assholes who are angling for pieces of things they didn't make and don't deserve.

If you become a bestseller and you make a lot of money, people will come after you, because people are just awful. Every bestselling author or rock-star or lottery winner is shocked to discover how many of their friends and family members are shitty human beings.

Very likely, your shitty friends and family will find some shitty lawyer who will draft some shitty complaint. And if they can find a shitty-enough judge, they can get a shitty opinion denying your motion to dismiss, and then you will have a whole bunch of shit to deal with.

When these people come after you, hopefully you will find the equivalent of a feral wolverine wrapped in Hugo Boss to defend you, and you'll hire a small army of private investigators to dig up every humiliating aspect of these people's lives. Hopefully you will drag their shit into the sunshine, and you will destroy these people in ways that they can't imagine. But, more likely, you'll be mortified, and you'll want to resolve the matter quickly and quietly.

Your lawyer will probably tell you that paying these people off will be easier than fighting them, and that a quick settlement will be cheaper than a hard-won victory. On this point, he will probably be correct. Shitty people thrive on the fact that justice is economically prohibitive.

JK Rowling got sued by the author of a shitty unpublished pamphlet called "Willy The Wizard," on the theory that, having spoken the word "wizard" one time, the motherfucker thereby owned the idea of wizards forever. She has a billion dollars, so she fucked his shit up. I think he is dead now.

Stieg Larsson's estate is the subject of a shitty dispute between his shitty family and his long-time girlfriend, who may, herself, be shitty.

Kathryn Stockett is getting squeezed by this shitty maid who seems to be backed by her even-shittier family members who are really just pissed that she wrote a book about how they're a bunch of racist assholes, and that she has a lot of money and won't give them any.

The asshole who ran Stephen King over with his car probably consulted a lawyer to see if he could get a piece of the action on "Christine."

There is nothing you can do to protect yourself from this kind of shit. Shitty people exist to smear shit all over everything around them, and unfortunately, sanctions against lawyers and plaintiffs for bringing shitty suits are not severe enough to deter shitty people from trying to get their shitty hands on shit that doesn't belong to them.

So you can tiptoe around it and try to figure out what the limitations are. No matter what you do, people will probably try to come after you if you're successful enough. The fact is, there's no standard, or the standard doesn't really matter after the Haywood Smith "Red Hat Club" case; it's just a question of whether your enemies can find a dumb-enough judge to buy their bullshit.

Personally, what I am going to do is write whatever the fuck I want.

gothicangel
02-19-2011, 09:14 PM
And the AWer getting sued for defamation is . . .

djf881
02-19-2011, 10:43 PM
And the AWer getting sued for defamation is . . .

I've been on this board, on and off, for over three years, since around the time I started writing my book.

There are always a couple of threads where someone is asking "Can I get sued for..."

What I'd like to tell these people is that they should write whatever they want. I write whatever I want and I believe everybody should do the same. Free speech is about writing whatever you want. It's a fundamental American value, and it's supposed to trump pretty much everything else. The technical exemptions are really too insignificant to be worth mentioning.

Except that, in a realist analysis, the answer to "Can I get sued for..." is pretty much always "Conceivably, yes," regardless of whatever follows the ellipsis. And it's not a good idea to talk law to strangers on the Internet anyway, so I don't even respond to those threads, and I let other people provide the "Conceivably, yes" answers.

The flip-side of "Conceivably, yes" is "probably not," in most cases. Most of the people asking the questions will never get published for reasons entirely unrelated to the issues they're asking about. But the truth is that, no matter what you do, regardless of any particular facts, somebody who wants to sue you can come up with a pretense to do so. "Can I be sued?" is a different question from "Do I have a right to do this?" "Can I be sued" is a different question from "Can I be sued successfully?"

The fact that our legal system gives everyone a right to a fair hearing and due process means that unscrupulous people can use the mechanisms of the court to run shakedowns and extortion rackets. "Conceivably, yes" means that assholes who want to fuck with you can find a way to do it. Haters, as the philospher said, gonna hate.

That doesn't mean free speech isn't a real thing, though. All those "Conceivably, yes" answers give rise to a grotesque perception that there are a bunch of ways that the telling of stories and the creation of art can be regulated, and that there are a bunch of expansive and legitimate rights that a storyteller or an artist can inadvertently tread upon. This simply isn't true.

It makes me very angry that people here believe that your "life's story" is a thing you can own and exclude others from. It makes me very angry that people here believe that an author is liable for a wrong because someone finds her book "offensive." It makes me very angry that the bullshit decision of some state-court judge in Georgia, an opinion that carries no authority and that runs contra to 200 years of First Amendment case law, can make all the authors in the worlds afraid to mine their life-experiences to create art.

It makes me feel that rights that are very precious are poorly-understood, and that these very precious rights are on shaky ground.

Alitriona
02-19-2011, 11:45 PM
Goddamnit.

You don't have a legitimate lawsuit because someone hurts your feelings or makes you feel bad.





Mkay, well the thing is someone with a legitimate lawsuit may let something slide if they feel somewhat emotionally unaffected by whatever the issue is. I personally know this to be true, it doesn' make it any less legitimate if it isn't acted on. Especially in the case of it being someone they know as the lady in question claims, since part of her suit is that Ms Stockett was acquainted with her enough to base a character on her.

However, sometimes the emotional trauma caused by the issue will push someone to act on a legitimate claim they wouldn't have otherwise if they can not deal with it to their satisfaction any other way other than legally.

Alitriona
02-19-2011, 11:57 PM
I've been on this board, on and off, for over three years, since around the time I started writing my book.

There are always a couple of threads where someone is asking "Can I get sued for..."

What I'd like to tell these people is that they should write whatever they want. I write whatever I want and I believe everybody should do the same. Free speech is about writing whatever you want. It's a fundamental American value, and it's supposed to trump pretty much everything else. The technical exemptions are really too insignificant to be worth mentioning.




If you have been here 3 years you may have noticed that not everyone here is American or lives or works solely in American and so are not governed by American law or the first amendment or American values. Publishing is a big wide world. Some live in the US and publish elsewhere, I live in Ireland and publish in the US. I'm sure I've talked to people from Australia and elsewhere in Europe.

So "Can I get sued for..." seems like a perfectly reasonable question.

gothicangel
02-20-2011, 12:06 AM
What I'd like to tell these people is that they should write whatever they want. I write whatever I want and I believe everybody should do the same. Free speech is about writing whatever you want. It's a fundamental American value, and it's supposed to trump pretty much everything else. The technical exemptions are really too insignificant to be worth mentioning.


Just to point out that freedom of speech/freedom of expression was a European idea.

Also:

"According to the Freedom Forum Organization, legal systems, and society at large, recognize limits on the freedom of speech, particularly when freedom of speech conflicts with other values or rights.[32] (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/#cite_note-31) Limitations to freedom of speech may follow the "harm principle (http://absolutewrite.com/wiki/Harm_principle)" or the "offense principle", for example in the case of pornography (http://absolutewrite.com/wiki/Pornography) or hate speech (http://absolutewrite.com/wiki/Hate_speech).[33] (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/#cite_note-32) Limitations to freedom of speech may occur through legal sanction or social disapprobation, or both.[34] (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/#cite_note-leeds1-33)

In 1985 Joel Feinberg (http://absolutewrite.com/wiki/Joel_Feinberg) introduced what is known as the "offence principle", arguing that Mill's harm principle does not provide sufficient protection against the wrongful behaviours of others. Feinberg wrote "It is always a good reason in support of a proposed criminal prohibition that it would probably be an effective way of preventing serious offense (as opposed to injury or harm) to persons other than the actor, and that it is probably a necessary means to that end."[36] (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/#cite_note-ref1-35) Hence Feinberg argues that the harm principle sets the bar too high and that some forms of expression can be legitimately prohibited by law because they are very offensive. But, as offending someone is less serious than harming someone, the penalties imposed should be higher for causing harm.[36] (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/#cite_note-ref1-35) In contrast Mill does not support legal penalties unless they are based on the harm principle.[34] (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/#cite_note-leeds1-33) Because the degree to which people may take offense varies, or may be the result of unjustified prejudice, Feinberg suggests that a number of factors need to be taken into account when applying the offense principle, including: the extent, duration and social value of the speech, the ease with which it can be avoided, the motives of the speaker, the number of people offended, the intensity of the offense, and the general interest of the community at large."

shadowwalker
02-20-2011, 12:26 AM
Just to point out that freedom of speech/freedom of expression was a European idea.

Also:

In 1985 Joel Feinberg (http://absolutewrite.com/wiki/Joel_Feinberg) introduced what is known as the "offence principle", arguing that Mill's harm principle does not provide sufficient protection against the wrongful behaviours of others.

Whether it was European or Martian, it's still a fundamental American value. ;)

As to Mr Feinberg, he's entitled to his opinion. That doesn't make it law (thank God).

gothicangel
02-20-2011, 01:31 AM
Whether it was European or Martian, it's still a fundamental American value. ;)

As to Mr Feinberg, he's entitled to his opinion. That doesn't make it law (thank God).

My point is, that freedom of speech comes with responsibilities and limitations. One person's human right, can easily violate the human rights of another.

IceCreamEmpress
02-20-2011, 05:51 AM
If you could, Lindsay Lohan could invoke intellectual property rights to prevent tabloids from writing about her drug addiction.

Public figures have different privacy rights protections.

You are correct that the "right to publicity" (or "right to exploitation" in some states) is not actually intellectual property--that was a sloppy statement on my part.

But you can't write a novel that appropriates the story of a private individual whom you render recognizably in the text. Another entertainment attorney's comments on it here (http://lemoineentertainmentlaw.com/?p=249), with specific reference to novels.

I am surprised that nobody at the publishing house asked Stockett if she knew anyone named "Aibilene" who was a maid before the book was published; I have always gotten detailed queries from publishers about distinctive character names. ("Aibilene" and "Ablene" are very unusual names, and really similar.)

IceCreamEmpress
02-20-2011, 05:56 AM
I thought that using the maid's speech as dialect was because these stories were told orally.

I don't own a copy of the book, but my recollection is that white characters' dialogue is in Standard English and black characters' dialogue is in dialect no matter which character's point of view is being depicted.

djf881
02-20-2011, 06:44 AM
Public figures have different privacy rights protections.

You are correct that the "right to publicity" (or "right to exploitation" in some states) is not actually intellectual property--that was a sloppy statement on my part.

But you can't write a novel that appropriates the story of a private individual whom you render recognizably in the text. Another entertainment attorney's comments on it here (http://lemoineentertainmentlaw.com/?p=249), with specific reference to novels.




Privacy rights are the same for everyone and they're trumped pretty goddamn hard by free speech. Almost everything short of defamation and obscenity is protected by the First Amendment, and the First Amendment trumps pretty much everything. That's why it's the First Amendment.

There is a different standard for defamation of private individuals than for public figures; If you publish a false statement of fact that harms the reputation of a private person negligently, then you have satisfied the elements of libel. If the person is a public figure, negligence isn't good enough; it requires "actual malice" or "reckless disregard for the truth."

You do not need a waiver to include real people in your story. Mark Zuckerberg didn't give any waivers to the author of "The Accidental Billionaire" or the producers of "The Social Network." Charlie Sheen doesn't give waivers to TMZ. And the newspaper doesn't give waivers to any of the private and public people who become the subject of news stories every day. Donald Rumsfeld didn't give McSweeney's a waiver to publish a satire about him the same day his memoir came out.

Do you think journalists tiptoe around asking people for permission to report about them? Jesus Christ.

The fact that someone has no basis to prevail in a lawsuit, and the fact that you are within your clearly-defined legal rights may not prevent that person from filing a baseless lawsuit to try to get a settlement or just cause you trouble.

A waiver is nothing but a promise not to be a pain-in-the-ass when you do something you had every right to do without anybody's goddamn permission. Also, if you buy the right to do so, you can call your book "official" or "authorized" as opposed to the numerous unauthorized books about living people that were written without waivers or permission.

You cannot lift text from another source because the copyright is a right to exclude people from copying the work. You can appropriate stories about real people, because real events are not something anyone can own.

The right to publicity generally applies to advertisements. There's a little bit more regulation permitted for certain kinds of commercial speech. You cannot make it appear that a person endorses a product that they do not endorse. You cannot make your unauthorized biography appear to have been authorized by or created with the assistance of the subject. This is really a very narrow right, and it ends where the First Amendment begins.

As it happens, Ablene the maid is alleging a privacy invasion or an appropriation of her image for commercial purposes. That does not mean she has a proper legal basis to make this claim. Someone who wants to sue you really bad will come up with some pretense to do so, and will find a lawyer with no scruples. Kathryn Stockett's family apparently wants to sue her really bad, if they're seriously willing to put up this weak shit.

There is no legal cudgel anyone can successfully wield to stop you from talking shit about them. Talking shit about motherfuckers is the whole point of the First Amendment. In the end, free speech wins, at least in America.

happywritermom
02-20-2011, 06:56 AM
While journalists don't have to "ask permission" to write about someone, they do have to be careful that sources understand that they are being interviewed and that they are capable of that kind of consent. And there were many, many times when my stories, in my journalism days, were reviewed by the newspaper's lawyers before publication to ensure that, if we were sued, we had the evidence to back up the stories.

I am not arguing that this woman has a case, but to say "There is no legal cudgel anyone can wield to stop you from talking shit about them. Talking shit about motherfuckers is the whole point of the First Amendment" is just laughable. It's also dangerous advice. Try writing a novel in which you portray your innocent neighbor, using his real name, as a child molestor and you're likely to find out just how far your Freedom of Speech argument will take you.

djf881
02-20-2011, 07:07 AM
While journalists don't have to "ask permission" to write about someone, they do have to be careful that sources understand that they are being interviewed and that they are capable of that kind of consent. And there were many, many times when my stories, in my journalism days, were reviewed by the newspaper's lawyers before publication to ensure that, if we were sued, we had the evidence to back up the stories.

I am not arguing that this woman has a case, but to say "There is no legal cudgel anyone can wield to stop you from talking shit about them. Talking shit about motherfuckers is the whole point of the First Amendment" is just laughable. It's also dangerous advice. Try writing a novel in which you portray your innocent neighbor, using his real name, as a child molestor and you're likely to find out just how far your Freedom of Speech argument will take you.

I was being glib; I've been very clear that the very narrow subset of defamatory speech is not protected.

As I said, the publication of a false and defamatory statement of fact is libel, and against a private person, the elements can be satisfied by negligence.

Libel in fiction occurs where, despite the fig-leaf claim that the work is fictional, a reasonable reader would understand the statement to be a false and defamatory statement of fact. As I said, the law was improperly applied in the "Red Hat Club" case, which had an egregious and wrong outcome.

Despite the incorrect outcome in the "Red Hat Club" case, authors should be able to composite stories about real people into fictional characters. I would very much like to see that case overturned on appeal, because it has the effect of chilling a lot of protected speech. Unfortunately, I suspect it will settle.

Outside the very narrow exemption of presenting false and damaging statements as facts, you can talk shit about people. Anything true is protected. Insults and mockery are protected. Derision is protected. Satire is protected.

aruna
02-20-2011, 11:56 AM
I am surprised that nobody at the publishing house asked Stockett if she knew anyone named "Aibilene" who was a maid before the book was published; I have always gotten detailed queries from publishers about distinctive character names. ("Aibilene" and "Ablene" are very unusual names, and really similar.)

But again I have to question: why should they, if the character in question was not in any way at all portrayed in a negative light? How could they anticipate this person's subjective hurt and the subsequent lawsuit? Do publishers have to pick out every single character in a novel (positive as well as negative!) to ask if the author knows someone with a similar name who might sue? Certainly, nobody in my publishing company asked me about any of the characters. It would be a ridiculous notion. I have characters with unusual names; nobody asked me if I ever knew someone with this name who might object. WHy should they pick on Aibilene in particular?

In fact, I would have thought that some of the white characters were more blatantly defamed. I'd think a more logical question, from the part of the publishers, was whether Stockett knew any employers with a similar name to the villain of the story (forgotten her name) because she really was nasty. Considering what happened to her, now there was cause to sue.

It seems to me that the main problem is that of the dialect; it wasn't a good idea and the book would have worked just as well without it.


I don't own a copy of the book, but my recollection is that white characters' dialogue is in Standard English and black characters' dialogue is in dialect no matter which character's point of view is being depicted.
You are probably right. I read quite some time ago and the details escape me.

The fact is, this is a story that has you rooting for the maids. And it's a story that needs to be told. I remember when I was a young reader: how I longed for the stories of racism and abuse to be told. I knew so many. I wanted stories from that side of life; I was sick of all the books about white people who had just no idea how much discrimination hurt. This was a story I'd have loved to tell, but I would have dropped the Skeeter character altogether if I'd done so. And I'd have told it regardless of which wounds were reopened in the process. As a writer you can't know who is going to be hurt or offended by your stories. You cannot walk on eggshells. My way is to walk straight into the core of that wound and expose it, face it. In myself for myself, and through fiction.

I think the fact that it was a white person invading this territory of deep hurt, that it takes a white character to save the day, that is the cause of the whole hullabaloo. If a black person had told this story, if there were no white heroine to it, I don't think there would have been a lawsuit.

Which all just goes to show that the wounds are still very much there, unhealed. Racism might be superficially over, but it has left an ugly wake behind it.

Mac H.
02-20-2011, 01:10 PM
In reply to "Public figures have different privacy rights protections."


Privacy rights are the same for everyone..Not really.

Here's an interesting publication from the law department at Vanderbilt on the subject: This article (http://law.vanderbilt.edu/publications/journal-entertainment-technology-law/archive/download.aspx?id=1712):


.. one’s characterization as a public or private figure affects her expectations of privacy. Additionally, the limited-purpose public figure should be recognized indetermining newsworthiness, as some classes of people, like reality television participants, do not fall neatly within the private or public figure category.

... Personal facts about public figures typically need to be of a higher level of offensiveness than personal facts about private figures in order to satisfy the first prong, as public figures lose much of their right to privacy.

(The bit about 'the prong' is about the three-prong test. This test considers:
(1) the social value of the published facts;
(2) the extent of the intrusion into private areas; and
(3) the extent to which the complaining party has voluntarily placed himself/herself in the public eye.)

It is clear that, in practise, public figures (especially those who voluntarily place themselves in the public eye) really do have have different privacy rights protections than private figures.

Mac

Alitriona
02-20-2011, 06:00 PM
Privacy rights are the same for everyone and they're trumped pretty goddamn hard by free speech. Almost everything short of defamation and obscenity is protected by the First Amendment, and the First Amendment trumps pretty much everything. That's why it's the First Amendment.



There is no legal cudgel anyone can successfully wield to stop you from talking shit about them. Talking shit about ************* is the whole point of the First Amendment. In the end, free speech wins, at least in America.

Once again, the entire world and publishing is not American. By repeatedly quoting the first amendment you aren't using a convincing argument for everyone to write about anything they want.

While the first Amendment does cover this case, the limitations have been repeatedly pointed out.

I find this all very interesting. Just a few days ago someone I work with ask me if I was 'changing' him much when I included him in my next book. I jokingly said. "On no, you are in the other book". Although this conversation was in jest on both sides, I realize now I should refrain from hinting to anyone there may be a character based on them. The lesson learned is someone may take a casual off hand comment seriously.

KathleenD
02-20-2011, 07:39 PM
The lesson learned is someone may take a casual off hand comment seriously.

Yes... and the question raised for me is "why is that always my problem?"

I have a dear friend who believes in fairies, the healing power of crystals, etc. In one of my books, there is a character that believes in those things. The other characters indulge in a bit of eyerolling, but in the end she's the one who solves the problem. She - the character - is ultimately vindicated and proven the hero.

My friend is absolutely convinced I put her in my novel AND I'm poking fun at her. (She knows that given illness, I want antibiotics, not shiny rocks. I've made such "off hand comments" before. So she's projecting my personal beliefs into my fiction.)

I wasn't even thinking of my friend when I wrote the story, the character has nothing in common with my friend beyond this common belief system, and as above, there's no mocking at all except from characters without possession of all the facts.

If she were meaner, richer, sillier, or had access to a big time lawyer...

So why is someone taking things too seriously my problem as an author? Rhetorical question, I guess. This is why I barely tell anyone in meatspace that I'm writing.

djf881
02-20-2011, 09:38 PM
Once again, the entire world and publishing is not American. By repeatedly quoting the first amendment you aren't using a convincing argument for everyone to write about anything they want.

While the first Amendment does cover this case, the limitations have been repeatedly pointed out.

I find this all very interesting. Just a few days ago someone I work with ask me if I was 'changing' him much when I included him in my next book. I jokingly said. "On no, you are in the other book". Although this conversation was in jest on both sides, I realize now I should refrain from hinting to anyone there may be a character based on them. The lesson learned is someone may take a casual off hand comment seriously.

No, the limitations have been repeatedly misunderstood here. I started out sort of trying to be funny about this, but the depth of ignorance and passivity on these crucial issues demonstrated here by writers is appalling and reprehensible.

First Amendment rights don't get weighed against privacy rights. Where there's a significant speech value, the First Amendment just wins.

You people seem to have an idea that free speech means that people can say what they want, as long as everyone remains civil. That's not what it means. The First Amendment is intended to protect the speech that people want to silence and the speech that people want to punish. It protects the speech that people find outrageous and offensive and disgusting and harmful. It stops powerful people from suppressing mockery and insults and embarrassing truths. It protects hate speech and pornography. If your right to speak was balanced against other people's desire to silence you, then the entire thing would be meaningless.

The development of First Amendment law over the second half of the twentieth century really expanded the category. Flag burning was protected. The unprotected category of obscenity was restricted until the most graphic filmed depictions of sex acts were protected from state prohibition by the First Amendment. The government was prevented from suppressing the publication of sensitive state secrets. Regulations on strip clubs were struck down because topless dancing is a form of expression.

There are limitations to First Amendment rights, but they mostly occur where speech meets action, and they're very hard to test with the written word, and especially with fiction. The whole point of free speech is that it creates an inviolable and ironclad right for you to tell stories that other people have strong and even compelling personal reasons for wanting to keep untold.

Constitutional privacy protections limit invasions into personal liberty by the state. Privacy protections against private citizens emerge from tort law, and you cannot use tort law to chill constitutional free speech (defamatory speech is a special class that is not considered First Amendment speech). Whenever rights of privacy clash with the First Amendment, the First Amendment wins.

That's why the publication of private facts tort is basically irrelevant. The invasion would have to be so gross, and the speech component would have to be vanishingly slight. For example, publication of private facts is inapplicable to the publication of the names of rape victims. I can see this tort being applied to something like the publication of photos from a hidden camera in a bathroom, but short of that, it is not the place of the courts to tell the Constitutionally-protected free press what is and is not of public concern. That's why publication of private facts cases almost never get past dispositive motions

Unfortunately, these are areas where the very high bar to prevailing on a claim or even a summary judgment motion are substantially undercut by the very low bar for filing a lawsuit. Being right doesn't protect you from getting sued. Pretty much nothing protects you from getting sued.

That is, incidentally, why we need a strong bench-slap in the Stockett case against vile, opportunistic plaintiffs who are trying to impinge on sacred freedoms using frivolous litigation. It's why we need subsequent judges dealing with libel-by-fiction to set clear boundaries and repudiate the mess the Georgia court made in the "Red Hat Club" case. It's why we need clear standards and clear case law, so that harassing claims against fiction writers made under theories of privacy invasion and right-of-publicity will be quickly disposed of through motions to dismiss.

Terie
02-20-2011, 10:12 PM
For those who wish to keep harping on the US Constitution's First Amendment, here is the actual text:


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That is, the government cannot make laws prohibiting free speech.

The US Constitution's First Amendment does not say anything at all, whatsoever, about whether someone can or cannot sue someone in civil court for the consequences of exercising their right of free speech.

It says THE GOVERNMENT CANNOT MAKE LAWS PROHIBITING IT. PERIOD.

The plaintiff in this case is not the government, and therefore, the US Constitution's First Amendment is irrelevant to this case.

Now, can the rhetoric be dialled back a bit, please?

Libbie
02-20-2011, 10:18 PM
I agree with djf881 that we need stronger protections for fiction authors. I don't like any creeping toward the First Amendment (or any similar free-expression protection in other countries' constitutions). And as a writer, I don't want to have to worry about defending myself from opportunistic dweebs if I become successful.

But Terie is also correct that the Constitution prevents law-making that abridges free expression, and doesn't prevent a party that feels injured from suing over free expression.

With all that being said, I disliked The Help because of its awful historical anachronisms. Maybe this makes me a nerdo, but I couldn't get past the fact that the historical research it lacked could have been remedied by a few seconds spent on Google to actually enjoy the story. In fact, I didn't finish it.

Terie
02-20-2011, 10:24 PM
I agree with djf881 that we need stronger protections for fiction authors. I don't like any creeping toward the First Amendment (or any similar free-expression protection in other countries' constitutions). And as a writer, I don't want to have to worry about defending myself from opportunistic dweebs if I become successful.

Sure, I agree with this, too. What I'd like to see is laws made that require anyone who brings a lawsuit that's deemed to be frivilous to pay the defendant's legal costs. That would prevent a lot of expensive silliness across the board, not just for authors.

There is absolutely room for appropriate laws to be made to protect people from whackjob lawsuits. (And I don't know enough about this particular one to opine whether it's a whackjob suit or not.) It's just that it's not a First Amendment issue.

djf881
02-20-2011, 10:37 PM
For those who wish to keep harping on the US Constitution's First Amendment, here is the actual text:



That is, the government cannot make laws prohibiting free speech.

The US Constitution's First Amendment does not say anything at all, whatsoever, about whether someone can or cannot sue someone in civil court for the consequences of exercising their right of free speech.

It says THE GOVERNMENT CANNOT MAKE LAWS PROHIBITING IT. PERIOD.

The plaintiff in this case is not the government, and therefore, the US Constitution's First Amendment is irrelevant to this case.

Now, can the rhetoric be dialled back a bit, please?

It is a common fallacy, first of all, that the text of the language or your interpretation of what it means is conclusive. For example, in its original construction, the Constitution only applied to the powers of federal government, and later it was applied to the states.

The courts are an organ of the state, and, as fundamental constitutional freedoms are applicable to all state powers. A tort is something that the state has deemed to be a wrong, and which it will allow another person to seek redress against you for. Fundamental freedom from the exertion of state power wouldn't be very good if people could use the mechanisms of the state to limit the application of those freedoms.

Judicial opinions are also a form of law in the English and American systems and other common law jurisdictions. So the First Amendment means what the US Supreme Court says it means, not what you say it means. That's called binding authority. If you're not familiar with First Amendment case law, you really don't know what you're talking about.

djf881
02-20-2011, 10:48 PM
Sure, I agree with this, too. What I'd like to see is laws made that require anyone who brings a lawsuit that's deemed to be frivilous to pay the defendant's legal costs. That would prevent a lot of expensive silliness across the board, not just for authors.

There is absolutely room for appropriate laws to be made to protect people from whackjob lawsuits. (And I don't know enough about this particular one to opine whether it's a whackjob suit or not.) It's just that it's not a First Amendment issue.

There is something called a motion to dismiss, which is an early motion that throws out a lawsuit, when the complaint fails to state a claim upon which the law permits recovery.

There are other non-substantive motions that can dispose of the matter, but, for simplicity's sake, the next chance to dispose of the matter on its substance is a summary judgment motion, or a judgment as a matter of law.

In the US system, the jury is deemed to be the decider of factual disputes, while the court decides questions of law. The summary judgment is an argument that there is no significant fact dispute requiring a jury trial to decide the matter; essentially, the moving party claims that even if the court assumes the most favorable construction of the facts for the opposing party, the case must still be decided in the moving party's behalf on the law.

If the case can't be decided by summary judgment, then there's a trial.

When a case survives a motion to dismiss, then the burdensome and expensive process of civil discovery begins. As such, many plaintiffs' lawyers really only need a good enough case to survive a motion to dismiss in order to have a good shot at a settlement.

If they survive summary judgment, then settlement is virtually assured. Almost nobody goes to trial.

Alitriona
02-21-2011, 12:56 AM
Yes... and the question raised for me is "why is that always my problem?"



We shouldn't have to watch ourselves around others, but until the law is clarified we do. The law is currently not clarified because judges can and do still take these case seriously.

As for djf881, clearly life outside the US doesn't exist for them so explaining publishing happens elsewhere in the world seems to be the equivalent of beating a dead horse.

Celia Cyanide
02-21-2011, 12:58 AM
I have never read this book, but now I'm quite curious after reading what you all have to say about it. The only thing I'd heard was that James Franco's girlfriend was in the movie, and now I'm curious to know more.

dangerousbill
02-21-2011, 01:47 AM
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1358079/The-Help-Woman-sues-author-claims-black-servant-character.html

There's a high bar to suing for defamation or slander in the US. For one thing, she'll likely have to prove that she was held up to ridicule or otherwise damaged as a result of the book. Hurt feelings don't count.

In cases like this, the usual resolution is to make a settlement for some fraction of the claim, because the legal costs on both sides will certain come to many $10s of thousands if it goes to trial. Chances are that Ablene's lawyer is working on contingency, and he'll campaign for a settlement rather than risk walking away from a trial with nothing.

backslashbaby
02-21-2011, 07:44 AM
We shouldn't have to watch ourselves around others, but until the law is clarified we do. The law is currently not clarified because judges can and do still take these case seriously.

As for djf881, clearly life outside the US doesn't exist for them so explaining publishing happens elsewhere in the world seems to be the equivalent of beating a dead horse.

Well, it's a US case. And law is complicated to discuss in the first place. If there are some relevant Irish or Scottish laws that bear on this case, please do enlighten us ;)

I agree with djf881's views of the laws, generally speaking. Of course case law makes it hard to completely agree with anyone on 1st Amendment-related issues, but until we get more cases going all the way up, I'll stick with what I've learned in classes.

I didn't see anything that seemed off, except I agree that there does seem to be a different standard for celebrity, although I don't know whether that's just common law, so to speak. It's still worth heeding if it isn't written up as law, imho.

This sort of thing is considered 1st Amendment stuff, btw. I suppose because the folks ruling on these things are judges and all. Thus, part of the government :) [eta: I know djf881 explained that. Mine's quicker :D]

The overal topic certainly isn't just an American thing! I do agree, really. But we're bumbling through understanding this one case, so I won't be any help on laws in other countries, that's for sure!

mscelina
02-21-2011, 08:00 AM
We shouldn't have to watch ourselves around others, but until the law is clarified we do. The law is currently not clarified because judges can and do still take these case seriously.

As for djf881, clearly life outside the US doesn't exist for them so explaining publishing happens elsewhere in the world seems to be the equivalent of beating a dead horse.

*sigh*

This case is under US jurisdiction. Last time I checked, Irish laws don't cover court cases in Mississippi.

That being said, this will be an interesting case to watch. The similarities between the character and the plaintiff are compelling--it's hard for me, at least, to believe that those similarities are incidental. The writer hasn't libelled the plaintiff. In fact, I'm not sure exactly what the plaintiff is really complaining about. My best guess is that the court will take a look at this briefly and toss it. Unless something different happens, I don't think there's much here for most writers to worry about.

The best way to avoid being sued for portraying someone in a book? Don't portray someone you know in a book. Problem solved.

Bookewyrme
02-21-2011, 08:09 AM
The best way to avoid being sued for portraying someone in a book? Don't portray someone you know in a book. Problem solved.

While that does seem like the simple solution, and is certainly good advice, I think Kathleen's point makes it not entirely a fix. I mean, chances are someone who knows you vaguely will read your book, recognize some general trait in a character, and then decide that character was based on them. This is particularly true if the person is rather self-centered in the first place.

That situation makes me think of the Anne of Green Gables books. In later ones, Anne becomes a writer and thereafter everyone she meets or befriends (except a sensible few) become immediately convinced that she will put them in one of her stories. Some are hoping for it, some are afraid of it, and some have a peculiar mix of the two reactions. It is kinda funny when it happens to a fictional character, but not so much IRL.

Anyway. I agree, interesting case. I wonder how it'll be resolved.

aruna
02-21-2011, 12:34 PM
With all that being said, I disliked The Help because of its awful historical anachronisms. Maybe this makes me a nerdo, but I couldn't get past the fact that the historical research it lacked could have been remedied by a few seconds spent on Google to actually enjoy the story. In fact, I didn't finish it.

You mean, you didn't get to Minnie's revenge?




*sigh*



That being said, this will be an interesting case to watch. The similarities between the character and the plaintiff are compelling--it's hard for me, at least, to believe that those similarities are incidental. The writer hasn't libelled the plaintiff. In fact, I'm not sure exactly what the plaintiff is really complaining about. My best guess is that the court will take a look at this briefly and toss it. Unless something different happens, I don't think there's much here for most writers to worry about.


The OP DM article didn't convince me of any similarities; the following Guardian article does name some, but they aren't too compelling in my book, not even considering the added similarity of the name:


Now 60-year-old Ablene Cooper has filed a lawsuit claiming that the character of Aibileen Clark is based on her, against her wishes, and asking for damages. Both Cooper and the fictional Clark had adult sons who died just before the birth of their white employer's first child, and both possess a gold tooth. The lawsuit says the fictional portrait is offensive to Cooper, citing in particular a passage where Aibileen compares her own black skin colour to that of a cockroach.

Have you access to other similarities? Those three, even taken together, can't convince me.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/18/the-help-author-sued-by-maid

gothicangel
02-21-2011, 01:31 PM
*sigh*

This case is under US jurisdiction. Last time I checked, Irish laws don't cover court cases in Mississippi.



I think Altriona's issue with what's been said is the same as mine. DJF881 has several times said 'I will write what I want, about whom I want' which is piss poor advice in my opinion.

What might be acceptable in one territory, may not be acceptable in another. Anyway, I don't believe that it is acceptable to write 'what I want, and about whom I want.' I am also certain that, that is an oversimplification of US law.

aruna
02-21-2011, 01:49 PM
All the same, we cannot write fiction all the time wondering and fearing who might identify with, and be offended by, the characters in our novels. I do believe, though, that if I've used someone as a model for a character, I should change the name and many of the details so as to conform with the copyright page message: ".... any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental." I don't want some doctor I might be acquainted with, named David, with a limp, to come suing me because of a certain character in my book.
In this case (and in most cases regardless of who is white or black) I'm on the side of the author. Characters are not real people, and readers who don't understand the writing of fiction shouldn't be going around looking for themselves in novels. I remember when my first book came out; all kinds of people were asking me, who is Trixie? Who is Saroj? Who is this and that person? It was all nonsense.

seun
02-21-2011, 05:03 PM
I think Altriona's issue with what's been said is the same as mine. DJF881 has several times said 'I will write what I want, about whom I want' which is piss poor advice in my opinion.

What might be acceptable in one territory, may not be acceptable in another.

Mine too. While this is a case for American courts, American law - and American publishing - isn't global.

gothicangel
02-21-2011, 05:08 PM
All the same, we cannot write fiction all the time wondering and fearing who might identify with, and be offended by, the characters in our novels. I do believe, though, that if I've used someone as a model for a character, I should change the name and many of the details so as to conform with the copyright page message: ".... any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental."

That message doesn't actually have any legal weight.

There is a quite identifiable line between being inspired by a person we know and using them as a model. I'm not convinced that this author hasn't crossed that line.

aruna
02-21-2011, 05:40 PM
Well, I guess that is for the courts to decide. Based on the evidence given to date, all I see are a two or three parallels, which -- purely based on my writer's sense of right and wrong -- do not add up to using her as a model -- particularly seeing as the writer herself has amitted to using a completely different maid as a model.

I am the most polite person on earth; I would never, ever say anything deliberately to hurt anybody -- I'd rather cut off my right hand. I'm the very opposite of outspoken -- I hold my mouth if there's even an off-chance that someone listening might be even slightly hurt. But fiction is, for me, a different matter. My characters go where they want to go, and if somebody out there is offended by one of them, well, I'm very sorry, but I do think a bit of thicker skin might be appropriate. I'm not responsible for someone else's hurt!

gothicangel
02-21-2011, 06:49 PM
My characters go where they want to go, and if somebody out there is offended by one of them, well, I'm very sorry, but I do think a bit of thicker skin might be appropriate. I'm not responsible for someone else's hurt!

This is where things get iffy. Publisher's won't print something they consider homophobic, racist, sexist . . .

Where does the line between 'I'm not responsible for someone else's hurt' and prejudice lie? Which seems to be the real issue with this case [the 'cockroach' reference.]

I think this is more to do with racial issues than anything else.

aruna
02-21-2011, 07:09 PM
Well, I would never, ever write something that is homophobic, racist or sexist. Because I am not.
I might write a character who is those things, but that's a different matter as we all know.

aruna
02-21-2011, 07:23 PM
This is where things get iffy. Publisher's won't print something they consider homophobic, racist, sexist . . .

Where does the line between 'I'm not responsible for someone else's hurt' and prejudice lie? Which seems to be the real issue with this case [the 'cockroach' reference.]
.

A propos the cockroach issue. I honestly don't see what is wrong with it. I have known black people with abyssmal self esteem. I myself had terrible self esteem in my teens. I thought all kinds of things about myself because of my skin colour. Honest writing is writing that can say those thoughts honestly becuase they exist. It's not racist. And a racist character can say all kinds of racist things. That's what uncovering society's ills is all about. Instead, these things are swept under the carpet where they fester and then they come our inadvertently and somebody is hurt.

I've been hurt by racism more times than I can tell (my kids, too). Each time, I've taken it as an opportunity to grow nearer to my own inner strength, and to know that the person hurting me is in the wrong, not I myself. And so I've grown just a little bit more, healed that wound just a little bit more. I'd never dream of suing someone for a racist slur. I know I can't tell others how to react to perceptions of racism, but neither can I be held accountable if, when I deal wirth racism in my novels, they are hurt. And I do deal with it. In fact, it's one of the issues I most want to deal with in my books, because it's so much in my past. Guyana of my youth was extremely racist, though in a very different way to America's south. But to deal with the issues you have to talk about the most hurtful things, and you have to have racist characters saying racist things or doing racist deeds. Like the outside latrine thing in the book. I don't get someone being offended by that. These things happened. Talking or writing about them is not racism. And feeling insulted because someone writes about them, to me, is just weird. The characters in the book felt insulted, too. That was the whole point of the story!

KathleenD
02-22-2011, 12:05 AM
This is where things get iffy. Publisher's won't print something they consider homophobic, racist, sexist . . .



This is perhaps one of those regional differences we've been warned to watch for, but I know I can go into my local Barnes and Noble (near Baltimore, MD) and buy entire cartfuls of the above. "Playing to prejudice" is one of the most dependable ways to make money... ever.

The reeeeeeally hardcore stuff, the stuff that gets sold at white power festivals? No, B&N doesn't carry it. But the far more damaging (because it's not immediately recognizable as ludicrous) and insidious material is widely available. And that's as it should be, of course, because it means I'm free to write material that repudiates the nonsense. You protect the unpopular so that you are protected when it's your turn to be unpopular.

Alitriona
02-22-2011, 02:08 AM
Mine too. While this is a case for American courts, American law - and American publishing - isn't global.

Gothicangel got it right. Thank you.

Seun, your point is exactly what I was pointing out. The advice in question was for writers to write what they want and to hell with everything because the first amendment protects writers. I think it's very poor advice on an international site. I was simply pointing out that the laws that will decide this particular case do not cover all writers or of us here.

I'm well aware this is a US case.

djf881
02-22-2011, 05:49 AM
This is perhaps one of those regional differences we've been warned to watch for, but I know I can go into my local Barnes and Noble (near Baltimore, MD) and buy entire cartfuls of the above. "Playing to prejudice" is one of the most dependable ways to make money... ever.

The reeeeeeally hardcore stuff, the stuff that gets sold at white power festivals? No, B&N doesn't carry it. But the far more damaging (because it's not immediately recognizable as ludicrous) and insidious material is widely available. And that's as it should be, of course, because it means I'm free to write material that repudiates the nonsense. You protect the unpopular so that you are protected when it's your turn to be unpopular.

I continue to reiterate that you should write whatever you want. If you are going to write something crazy, it won't get published, so it doesn't matter.

I am aware that hate speech is criminalized in some European countries, and libel law in England is slightly different from the US standard. I really don't have any expertise in the details of foreign law.

Libel is the publication of a false statement of fact that causes harm to someone's reputation as a consequence of people believing that the lie is true.

If reasonable people would not believe the statement is true, then it fails to satisfy the elements which must be proven to establish liability. If there is not a proven harm to the person's reputation as a consequence of the statement, then it fails to satisfy the elements.

The idea that someone can be libeled through fiction is to prevent people from protecting themselves with fig-leaf disclaimers that their work is fiction while publishing libels which are clearly intended by the authors and interpreted by the readers as statements of fact about identified individuals.

Any US case in which a libel plaintiff suing an author of fiction survives a summary judgment motion in circumstances other than those described above is a wrong decision, an unconstitutional decision and a decision that chills constitutionally protected speech and illegally suppresses art.

aruna
02-22-2011, 11:59 AM
I don't even know what the first amendment is, or the second, or the fifth, and I'm not terribly interested in the theories of "writing what you want".

I do know that this was not a racist book, even though some of the characters were racist. That is the point. There is absolutely no iffyness here.

A racist book is one in which the racist speech and behaviour of the protagonists is set out to be the correct one. This is not the case with this particular book. The black maids are very clearly the heroes of this story, and win out in the end. Every novel manipulates the reader to some extent, and in this book the reader is manipulated to take the side of the maids; some of the stuff is cringeworthy, yes, but cringeworthy on their behalf. This is moral truth, even if some of the details (dialect, historical facts etc) are not quite right. You root for them, and want them to win; that's what an anti-racism book should do.

I've no doubt that the author meant this is an anti-racism book. She made the mistake on being a bit sloppy on the research, and invading into territory that southern blacks feel she has no right to tread upon; because of the colour of her skin. I find that rather sad.

gothicangel
02-22-2011, 12:50 PM
I don't even know what the first amendment is, or the second, or the fifth, and I'm not terribly interested in the theories of "writing what you want".



Amen.

BlackBriar
02-23-2011, 04:07 AM
Wow, this thread is messed up.

1. The maid in the character's book is Aibileen Clark. The name of the author's maid is Ablene Cooper. Edit: Didn't mean to post that part.

2. The maid compares her skin to that of a cockroach. I'm sorry, but I never heard that type of comparison ever in my life from any black person, but I have heard similar and they have only come from a racist mind. And yes, this is recognizing that a lot of black or dark people hate their own skin. But I know the insults for that.

3. The maid is the one who's going after money? Her name and position was basically taken for the purposes of what seems to be a pitiful character and the already rich author will become even richer after selling the film rights, and it's the maid who's in the wrong. She is humiliated, as she should be. And she has every right to sue, and I hope she wins.

But let's not go into racist and stick the obvious facts, regardless of who will win because our judgements are pointless.

The maid in this book has a similar name to the author's maid. The maid in this book says at least one stupid and racist thing. In my book, that means the real life maid has every right to sue, and shouldn't be afraid.

BlackBriar
02-23-2011, 04:11 AM
I don't even know what the first amendment is, or the second, or the fifth, and I'm not terribly interested in the theories of "writing what you want".

I do know that this was not a racist book, even though some of the characters were racist. That is the point. There is absolutely no iffyness here.

A racist book is one in which the racist speech and behaviour of the protagonists is set out to be the correct one. This is not the case with this particular book. The black maids are very clearly the heroes of this story, and win out in the end. Every novel manipulates the reader to some extent, and in this book the reader is manipulated to take the side of the maids; some of the stuff is cringeworthy, yes, but cringeworthy on their behalf. This is moral truth, even if some of the details (dialect, historical facts etc) are not quite right. You root for them, and want them to win; that's what an anti-racism book should do.

I've no doubt that the author meant this is an anti-racism book. She made the mistake on being a bit sloppy on the research, and invading into territory that southern blacks feel she has no right to tread upon; because of the colour of her skin. I find that rather sad.

So the book isn't racist. OK. Do you believe that people should be OK with their portrayals in any and all situations? That they don't have any rights, regardless of how lopsided the situation is?

BlackBriar
02-23-2011, 04:47 AM
I've been hurt by racism more times than I can tell (my kids, too). Each time, I've taken it as an opportunity to grow nearer to my own inner strength, and to know that the person hurting me is in the wrong, not I myself. And so I've grown just a little bit more, healed that wound just a little bit more. I'd never dream of suing someone for a racist slur. I know I can't tell others how to react to perceptions of racism, but neither can I be held accountable if, when I deal wirth racism in my novels, they are hurt. And I do deal with it. In fact, it's one of the issues I most want to deal with in my books, because it's so much in my past. Guyana of my youth was extremely racist, though in a very different way to America's south. But to deal with the issues you have to talk about the most hurtful things, and you have to have racist characters saying racist things or doing racist deeds. Like the outside latrine thing in the book. I don't get someone being offended by that. These things happened. Talking or writing about them is not racism. And feeling insulted because someone writes about them, to me, is just weird. The characters in the book felt insulted, too. That was the whole point of the story!

And this is the problem. Every region on this planet has its own histories of hatred. You as a Guyanese cannot tell Ablene Cooper anything about what old Southern racism means to her, just like I, a young southern Black man, cannot tell Ablene Cooper that she shouldn't be offended by the use of her likeness for what seems an ignorant character. And neither of us can tell you anything about racism in Guyana. The idea that Ablene Cooper should be happy because the character based on her is made the subject of sympathy is ridiculous and condescending.

Now let's make it clear. I do believe the author of this book is ignorant based on that one excerpt. But I don't believe that makes her or her book inherently racist. I do believe that she based this character on her maid, and I do believe that maid has every right to sue. I also know that it is up for the courts to decide in the end. And I do find the idea that you think she either should or shouldn't be insulted to be weird. I don't care if you don't see what's wrong with it. That's not the problem here. My point is you don't understand that it's not your job to find something wrong with it.

The rest is directed at anyone who disagrees:

The different expressions of racism around the world are only similar in the fact that each have a situation and history that are different. To compare one racist environment to another is racist in and of itself, and no different than saying that all blacks or *insert any racial or ethnic group* are alike, that they all faced the same struggles, and that they should all think the same when it comes to being offended. This is a belief that is caused by racism and xenophobia, more specifically, the idea that certain people aren't people, but are instead a monolithic group with a hive mentality. So unless you have lived the life of a black maid in the deep south for a rich white family who can afford maids, you might want to keep your opinions to yourself on whether or not she should be offended when her former masters, I mean employees, use her likeness to make money.

And I will practice what I preach by shutting up.

Edit: I regret the 'former masters' comment because of something I read that may or may not be true and so the comment may be unfair.

Edit 2: Here is a much better article (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/lawsuit-black-maid-ablene-cooper-sues-author-kathryn/story?id=12968562&page=2).

djf881
02-23-2011, 06:26 AM
So the book isn't racist. OK. Do you believe that people should be OK with their portrayals in any and all situations? That they don't have any rights, regardless of how lopsided the situation is?

People do not have any rights whatsoever against authors of fiction, unless the fiction rises to the level of being a defamatory statement of fact that harms someone's reputation.

You can base a fictional character on one other person or a composite of several other people. You can write about things that happen in your life in your fiction. When you plumb the personal lives of the people you know for material, they may not love you for it, but speech is protected and art is protected and the courts offer them no recourse.

There is no recourse against criticism. There is no recourse against insult. There is no mechanism available for people who don't like particular art or speech to suppress it, because art and speech are sacred. Even hate speech is entirely protected in the US.

I don't know why this is so hard to understand.

BlackBriar
02-23-2011, 07:08 AM
People do not have any rights whatsoever against authors of fiction, unless the fiction rises to the level of being a defamatory statement of fact that harms someone's reputation.

You can base a fictional character on one other person or a composite of several other people. You can write about things that happen in your life in your fiction. When you plumb the personal lives of the people you know for material, they may not love you for it, but speech is protected and art is protected and the courts offer them no recourse.

There is no recourse against criticism. There is no recourse against insult. There is no mechanism available for people who don't like particular art or speech to suppress it, because art and speech are sacred. Even hate speech is entirely protected in the US.

I don't know why this is so hard to understand.

In the US, right? What about other countries where the book is being published? And please make no mistake, I am more concerned with the things aruna said than any lawsuit, which to be honest, was more of a emotional statement than musing on the American law system.

She's suing. I'm happy for her. I hope she wins. See? Now show me the law where I can't have those thoughts.

Edit: If you want a debate on law, go find someone else. I say that as nicely as possible, I truly do, because I neither have the knowledge nor desire to care about that small statement I said within a much more wordy and important statement. :)

djf881
02-23-2011, 07:19 AM
And this is the problem. Every region on this planet has its own histories of hatred. You as a Guyanese cannot tell Ablene Cooper anything about what old Southern racism means to her, just like I, a young southern Black man, cannot tell Ablene Cooper that she shouldn't be offended by the use of her likeness for what seems an ignorant character. And neither of us can tell you anything about racism in Guyana. The idea that Ablene Cooper should be happy because the character based on her is made the subject of sympathy is ridiculous and condescending.


It's perfectly legitimate for this woman to be offended by anything she wants to find offensive. It is absolutely catastrophic to the very survival of a free and open society if people are able to use the courts to suppress speech that offends them.

Also, it's disputed that the character is based on Ablene Cooper, who was ten years old in 1962, when the book takes place. Stockett says it was based on the woman who was a maid for her family when she was a child (and was working as a maid during segregation). The entire argument that this character is based on this woman is the similar name.

BlackBriar
02-23-2011, 07:36 AM
It's perfectly legitimate for this woman to be offended by anything she wants to find offensive. It is absolutely catastrophic to the very survival of a free and open society if people are able to use the courts to suppress speech that offends them.

Also, it's disputed that the character is based on Ablene Cooper, who was ten years old in 1962, when the book takes place. Stockett says it was based on the woman who was a maid for her family when she was a child (and was working as a maid during segregation). The entire argument that this character is based on this woman is the similar name.

Your first part is pointless. Go tell Western Europeans their societies aren't more free and open than the US. And like I said, no debate on law from me.

Can I have the link for where Stockett says that? Also it is not just the similar name. It is the son that died of cancer too. Read here (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/lawsuit-black-maid-ablene-cooper-sues-author-kathryn/story?id=12968562&page=1).

And are you seriously trying to debate allegations against allegations? We might as well try to bomb each other with paper airplanes. They're all allegations. I choose to believe Ablene Cooper, her name, gold tooth, and the child she lost to cancer until her allegations are proven to be false to me.

Yes, I said just that. But even focusing on that misses my whole point.

So I'm done talking with you. Feel free to post the link though because everything I came across said that Stockett hasn't released any statement.

Edit: Just a note, I'm done with this thread. I don't believe in beating a dead horse. I argued my point (which wasn't of the legal nature someone kept thinking it was), I'm sticking to it (no one has the right to decide how offended someone else should be, regardless of their own life experiences, and just because a portrayal is 'sympathetic' doesn't mean it's not demeaning, condescending or ignorant) and if aruna wants to respond to my posts above by PM, she's welcome.

djf881
02-23-2011, 08:21 AM
Your first part is pointless. Go tell Western Europeans their societies aren't more free and open than the US. And like I said, no debate on law from me.



The UK's libel laws are a national embarrassment, and the hate-speech codes in continental Europe haven't done anything to prevent those countries from being phenomenally racist.

The thing about shitty rules is that it's not just people you don't like who have to follow them. Authors of fiction can and should use stories to expose injustice and corruption in the world, and they cannot do that if the unjust and corrupt can suppress their work. The grounds for litigation the basis of fiction should properly be very narrow.

If you could establish libel by counting similarities between characters and real people, William Randolph Hearst could have suppressed "Citizen Kane," and the socialites eviscerated by Fitzgerald's work could have suppressed "Gatsby."

Free speech and artistic liberty are among a handful of fundamental rights that are worth killing for or dying for. Anyone who doesn't understand how precious they are is an idiot, and anyone who poses a serious threat to them is my mortal enemy. The position you're arguing for (poorly) is disgusting and immoral.

gothicangel
02-23-2011, 01:38 PM
The UK's libel laws are a national embarrassment, and the hate-speech codes in continental Europe haven't done anything to prevent those countries from being phenomenally racist.



I chose them any day.

Because the US has a spotless human rights record doesn't it?

Alitriona
02-23-2011, 10:03 PM
The UK's libel laws are a national embarrassment, and the hate-speech codes in continental Europe haven't done anything to prevent those countries from being phenomenally racist.

The thing about shitty rules is that it's not just people you don't like who have to follow them. Authors of fiction can and should use stories to expose injustice and corruption in the world, and they cannot do that if the unjust and corrupt can suppress their work. The grounds for litigation the basis of fiction should properly be very narrow.

If you could establish libel by counting similarities between characters and real people, William Randolph Hearst could have suppressed "Citizen Kane," and the socialites eviscerated by Fitzgerald's work could have suppressed "Gatsby."

Free speech and artistic liberty are among a handful of fundamental rights that are worth killing for or dying for. Anyone who doesn't understand how precious they are is an idiot, and anyone who poses a serious threat to them is my mortal enemy. The position you're arguing for (poorly) is disgusting and immoral.

Wow, you are all kinds of offensive. Since you've entered the thread you've used offensive language and now anyone who doesn't agree with you is called an idiot. The above is your opinion. You are all about free speech, I guess that means everyone is entitled to an opinion as long as it's yours.

Regardless of if you agree with this case or not. It's irrelevant, the case is going before the courts and a judge will decide it based on law. You can shout that there is no case all you want. I can shout there is no moon. It doesn't make it so.

At the end of the day we are only voicing an opinion on our perception of what is going on here and what we feel the outcome could be. In reality the only opinion that will matter will be the judge.

I'm also done with this thread but will keep an eye on the case as it progresses.

Sirion
03-03-2011, 09:06 AM
Just to point out that freedom of speech/freedom of expression was a European idea.


He wasn't saying that other nations don't value free speech, or that Americans invented it, he was saying that Americans value it too.

Don't be a snob.

gothicangel
03-03-2011, 02:22 PM
Don't be a snob.

How is making a point about European politics being a snob?

Go forth to a dictionary, my dear.

shaldna
03-03-2011, 03:13 PM
If you could establish libel by counting similarities between characters and real people, William Randolph Hearst could have suppressed "Citizen Kane," and the socialites eviscerated by Fitzgerald's work could have suppressed "Gatsby."

and rightly so, if those similarities are such that they damage a person or a person's reputation. free speech is all well and good, but bullying is not.


Free speech and artistic liberty are among a handful of fundamental rights that are worth killing for or dying for.

No. They really aren't. There are very few things worth killing or dying for, and personally, all the rights to free speech is not going to make someone listen.


Anyone who doesn't understand how precious they are is an idiot, and anyone who poses a serious threat to them is my mortal enemy. The position you're arguing for (poorly) is disgusting and immoral.

Then I will quite happily be your mortal enemy. The issue here is not about free speech, it's about what happens when a real person is shown in a way that could be considered to be negative to the extent that it impacts on them and their lives, reputations and careers. If a person wrote something about me in that way, I would sue. Free speech is all well and good, but when that is abused it's nothing more than bullying and hiding behind 'freedom of speech' is cowardly.

shaldna
03-03-2011, 03:16 PM
He wasn't saying that other nations don't value free speech, or that Americans invented it, he was saying that Americans value it too.

Don't be a snob.

I don't think 'snob' is the right word. gothicangel was responding to a statement that the European libel laws were a joke by making a valid point that freedom of speech was a European concept. She added a good point to the discussion of regional laws.

Soccer Mom
03-03-2011, 06:11 PM
Oh, good grief. This has sat quietly for the last week. Why revive it for this? No milk and cookies.