What is the Use in Suing for Libel/Slander/etc.

This is something that I’ve wondered about often: What good does suing for libel or slander or defamation of character or whatever? The human mind seems to prefer to think the worst of people at all times and papers know it will sell, no matter what the cost to other people. If someone can afford to take them on, the results are probably fairly uninspiring: a small note in far back in the paper, and the knowledge that the paper’s readers won’t think for a moment that it wasn’t all true in the first place but no one can prove it.

Well that’s how it often seems to me. Which then leads on to the recent discovery that made me consider this. Sonic Youth’s latest long player (one I have thoroughly enjoyed) contains a track called [i]Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream.[/i] It’s a good title and one of my favourites off the album, but when we saw them live it was announced as [i]Mariah Carey and the…[/i]. At first I took this to be a joke, but the set lists on their site all showed this to be the name it went under. A quick google brought up this article:

[url=http://www.ottawaxpress.ca/music/music.aspx?iIDArticle=3802]Ottowa Express from 5th August 2004 by Cam Lindsay:[/url]
[quote]However, the album isn’t without its controversies and Moore seems prepared to tackle them. One track received an instantaneous name change after legal problems arose. Formerly known as Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream, the song couldn’t remain the same. “Mariah called us up and said, ‘If you use my name in that song I will destroy you … with every penny I have.’ And she has lots of pennies,” he explains tongue in cheek. “At first we thought it would be kind of cool to be sued by Mariah. It would’ve given us free publicity, but then we decided that it would’ve been lame.”[/quote]

I guess my thoughts here are: Why? They can still call the song by its original title on tour; people can still write articles about it like that one (and like this one); Mariah now looks like even more of a bitch than I might have first taken her for. Really I can’t see that she achieved anything. One might say that all this will be quickly forgotten and the album will remain without her name. But by the same token exactly how many fans of Sonic Youth does Mariah Carey really think that much of her? And how many people does she imagine will hear the track, let alone tune into the lyrics who could be changed in their thinking. I guess maybe she finds it personally insulting, but in that case probably a simple request would have worked better, though I’m not really convinced she can have listened that hard to the lyrics if it was the case.

So the bottom line is does it achieve anything, whether you’re as big as Mariah or just an average person? And I suppose also, is there anything that could ever be done about it?

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4 Responses to What is the Use in Suing for Libel/Slander/etc.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, it sucks. Libel was supposed to be about rich men bribing judges to bankrupt newspapers who suggested they were homosexual, even though they were also fucking the judge. But instead it’s now about rich people shutting up anybody they like with vague threats of legal action. Pffft.

    If Sonic Youth had any balls they’d record a song called “Mariah Carey isn’t worth our time, really” and allow her to contest that in court.

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