AZ Law Could Outlaw Parodies

OldArizonaStateFlag AZ Law Could Outlaw ParodiesCyber bullying is a big problem. It’s a problem that we’ve addressed on this site. We've also talked a lot about cyber squatting via cheap hosting sites. In a sort of mix of both forms of cyber crime, the state of Arizona has made an interesting move.

Amendments to Arizona House Bill 2004 were introduced in December 2012, making the act of impersonating another online, even on a social media site, a ‘Class 5’ felony. The sentence associated with this level of felony? More than one year in prison.

AZ Law Could Outlaw Parodies: The Bill

Introduced by Representative Michelle Ugenti, the bill aims to limit cyber bullying. Although it's a real issue that needs to be addressed, does it go too far? Does this bill go against freedom of speech?

A deeper probe into the subject reveals that Ugenti may have had person reasons for implementing this bill. As it turns out, there are various Twitter accounts that impersonate Ugenti.

What are the terms of this bill? Anyone that tries to impersonate another “…without obtaining the other person's consent and with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten any person, uses the name of persona of another person to…(1) create a web page on a commercial social networking site or other Internet website; (2)post or send one or more messages [on these sites]” is deemed guilty in the state of Arizona – an already controversial state.

AZ Law Could Outlaw Parodies: The Issue Will “Only…Get Bigger”

When bringing the bill forward, Ugenti said it won't be the last time citizens see a bill that tries to put a stop to cyber bullying. “It's an issue that's only going to get bigger,” Ugenti said to the Arizona Republic. “The Internet has gone from a novelty to having a position of credibility, and it's appropriate to have statutes that address it specifically.”

AZ Law Could Outlaw Parodies: The Other Side Of The Issue

Some are concerned about the lack of freedom of speech involved in this new bill. Ugenti wants to make it illegal for anyone to create a cheap hosting webpage or social media account that impersonates another. Where does it end?

“The concern is whether overzealous prosecutors would use this language to intimidate somebody,” said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to the LA Times. “The concern is that this would have a chilling effect.”

Marie-Andree Weiss, New York intellectual property, privacy, and social media attorney, had this to say on the matter: “…there is a particular concern with [the bill] that it would be applied to constitutionally protected parodies or caricatures of public officials and figures. Protection for parody, even crude parody that causes emotional injury, is clearly within the protection of the First Amendment.”

Do you feel this bill is important, or does it go too far? Shouldn't politicians expect a little parody now and then as, you know, a form of opinion?

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