It isn’t often that First Amendment cases find their way to Rhode Island, but last week one did.
The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the Rhode Island Press Association and Beacon Communications (editor’s note: PBN Editor Mark S. Murphy is the president of RIPA), filed a lawsuit challenging a state law cited by Warwick City Council President Bruce Place in communications with Warwick Beacon Publisher John Howell.
The Beacon printed advertisements using images of Place and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian in protest of the city’s car tax.
The law in question allows “any person” to bring suit against any other person who uses an image or name for “advertising purposes,” making no distinction between political ads or ones whose purpose is to support the sale of a product or service. Nor does the law make a distinction between public figures (such as the president of city council) or private citizens.
For anyone who believes that freedom of speech is one of our country’s most cherished rights, the issue is a simple one, and the law must be struck down. •