Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Burnworth on Making a Constitutional "Son of Sam" Law: Netflix's Booming True Crime Business @UMassAmherst @hastingsclq

Justin Burnworth, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is publishing Making A Constitutional 'Son of Sam' Law: Netflix's Booming True Crime Business in volume 49 of the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly (2022). Here is the abstract.

We all heard the axiom "crime doesn't pay" growing up, but the ever growing true crime documentary market is proving otherwise. Giant media producers such as Netflix, HBO, and their competitors have made marketable crimes a worthwhile endeavor. Nearly 40 states have passed "Son of Sam" laws to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes. However, the Supreme Court struck down New York's "Son of Sam" law in 1991 when they ruled that it violated the First Amendment and would allow the government to prevent books by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other pioneers of social justice. New York altered their law in an attempt to remedy its constitutional issues and other states copied their structure. A First Amendment battle is primed to make its way to the Supreme Court once again as high profile criminals, such as the fake heiress Anna Sorokin, have New York's revamped law standing between them and their exorbitant paydays. The states have put up a worthwhile fight, but the First Amendment is a difficult foe to vanquish. It simply is not possible to narrowly tailor a "Son of Sam" law to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes without it potentially silencing key voices in invaluable social movements in the United States.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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