Monday, February 01, 2010

Xiu Xiu Camel suit stubbed

Back at the end of 2007, Rolling Stone ran a piece about indie bands which looked oddly like a Camel cigarettes advert. There was an angry letter at the time, but Xiu Xiu and Fucked Up decided to take it further by launching a class action lawsuit.

Somewhat surprisingly, the case has been dismissed by Justice Robert Dondero on the grounds that he's apparently never heard of advertorials:

The justices found no evidence that R.J. Reynolds, Camel's parent company, influenced Rolling Stone's editorial content or decisions. What's more, the justices wrote, Rolling Stone's main purpose is publishing a magazine -- noncommercial speech -- not selling cigarettes.

"Simply put, there is no legal precedent for converting noncommercial speech into commercial speech merely based on its proximity to the latter," Justice Robert Dondero wrote. "There is also no precedent for converting a noncommercial speaker into a commercial speaker in the absence of any direct interest in the product or service being sold."

So, legally and in the US at least, slapping a load of text in a heavily-sponsored stand alone pull-out isn't meant to use the value of the subjects of the "non-commercial" text to add lustre to the sponsor.

Presumably, Justice Dondero would therefore be incredibly laid-back if someone ran a magazine about him sponsored entirely by massage parlours and escort agencies.

The complaint, surely, wasn't about 'being near some ads', it was about 'being in a sponsored section'; the judge seems to have failed to grasp the difference.

Still, it's handy for Rolling Stone to be reminded that its main purpose is the articles it runs, and not the adverts it carries. Let's hope that news gets back to Rolling Stone.