Another SPLC Show Trial?

The Blogosphere is all a-buzz with the latest news that the Southern Poverty Law Center is filing a federal law suit on behalf of a New Jersey gay couple whose engagement photograph was used in an anti-gay political flier, without their knowledge or consent.

By now, most people have seen the photo of Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere holding hands and kissing in a park overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, so we won’t reprint it here. Apparently, the photo was picked up by a group called Public Advocate of the United States, who replaced the Manhattan skyline and iconic bridge in the background with evergreens and snow, to be used in a political flier in Colorado.

Public Advocate did not obtain permission to use or alter the photo from Edwards and Privitere or the photographer, Kristina Hill, who holds the copyright to the photo. The flier was distributed in Colorado as part of a campaign against State Senator Jean White because of her support for upcoming gay marriage legislation in that state.

This much we know. What we don’t know is what this has to do with the Southern Poverty Law Center? What are the actual legal issues in this case?

Was the photographer’s copyright violated by the unauthorized use of the photo? Absolutely and without a doubt.

Was Messrs Edwards’ and Privitere’s privacy violated by the unauthorized use of the photo? Most likely, though no doubt a good scuzzy lawyer could water down that argument in court.

Did Sen. White lose her primary race because of the fliers? She says she did, but the gay union bill wasn’t a major issue in the campaign.

Does any of the above add up to a ‘hate crime” worthy of the attentions of “the nation’s leading civil rights group”? Not so much.

When you get right down to it, the actual crime here is a simple copyright infringement case. The SPLC could go through the motions of making claims of libel, since the couple’s image was used in a derogatory fashion that clearly goes against their core beliefs, but libel cases are notoriously difficult to win in this country.

Undoubtedly a sleazy ploy by Public Advocate, even by political campaign standards, but “hate” it ain’t.

Will the SPLC play up this simple copyright infringement case in their never-ending fundraising propaganda as “proof” that they are “fighting hate” by “bringing these anti-gay bigots to their knees”? You betcha!

Will this dubious claim prompt the SPLC’s self-described Liberal donor base to send in millions of donor dollars over the course of the case? It’s always worked in previous SPLC show trials. Why wouldn’t it work again?

Will the New Jersey couple see one red cent of that money? Not a dime. They may receive some damages from a finding against Public Advocate, as will photographer Hill, but it will pale in comparison to the huge, tax-free windfall the SPLC is likely to gull from their gullible donors.

Time will tell.

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