Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Channel 4 Wins Defamation By Fiction Claim

A U.S. judge has tossed a defamation by fiction claim, saying that no reasonable person could believe that the character "Ali G" (Sacha Baron Cohen) was discussing in an interview with novelist Gore Vidal was a real person, even though she shares a name with a real person. Channel 4, which controls the worldwide rights to broadcast Da Ali G Show, refused to settle the case after the woman whose "name's the same" as is that of "Ali G"'s fictional girlfriend had sued over the "nominal" similarity. Said Judge Terry Friedman,

No reasonable person could consider the statements made by Ali G on the program to be factual. To the contrary, it is obvious that the Ali G character is absurd, and all his statements are gibberish and intended as comedy. The actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, never strays from the Ali G character, who is dressed in a ridiculous outfit and speaks in the exaggerated manner of a rap artist. Ali G’s statements are similarly absurd. For example, prior to the reference to Plaintiff, while ‘interviewing’ the author Gore Vidal, Ali G refers to the Constitution of the United States as having been written on two tablets, clearly intended to confuse the Constitution with the Ten Commandments. Altogether, the program is obviously a spoof of a serious interview program. No reasonable person could think otherwise.

Here's more from the New York Times.

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