It’s Not About the Book

This story is directly in the purview of my profession(s) — oh, how I’d love to be the attorney here (representing the publisher). In a class action suit filed in California, readers of Lance Armstrong’s autobiographies are suing Armstrong and Random House, his publisher, claiming that he tricked readers into buying his books based on a false advertising campaign. While arguably the books are protected by the First Amendment and Armstrong thus had a constitutional right to lie in them (“People don’t always tell the truth in their books,” said his lawyer*), false commercial speech is not protected by the First Amendment. So the issue is: in publicizing his books, did Armstrong engage in unprotected commercial speech?

To which I say to the plaintiffs (who are asking for $5 million in refunds and damages): come on. Are you really that upset that you want your $25.99 back? Arguably it is pretty reprehensible that Armstrong became so wealthy because of his deceit, but to take it to court?

*See, e.g., the “5 Most Ridiculous Lies Ever Published as Non-Fiction.”

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Filed under Copyright, IP Law, Publishing

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