Editors Note: During the 1980's, Jem was a big cartoon show. Hollywood - true to form - released a live action film thirty years later based on the popular series. The film has gathered many negative reviews, so our writer imagined what legal resources Jem could use to keep her secret identity. Or something like that...
I’ve heard rumors through music circles you’re worried about the new movie “Jem and the Holograms” loosely based on your life. While you’re excited about the positive attention your Starlight Music Company will receive, you’re worried that it’ll shed light on the secret you’ve managed to hide for more than 30 years. You also heard your rival, the Misfits, are about to expose you in a tell-all post on Youtube.
As someone who rocked out to all Jem’s songs back in the ’80—and because the Misfits totally suck — I thought I’d reach out to you and offer some advice.
Can You Sue the Misfits for Defamation?
When someone writes or speaks something false and damaging to another business person’s reputation, it’s bad. However, when this individual makes these statements available to a third party, she is liable for commercial defamation. Now, for a successful commercial defamation claim, you have to show four elements:
- There was communication to a third party.
The entire Misfits band is planning to tell your secret. This will damage your label’s reputation and yours—sorry—Jem’s reputation too. OK, let’s say the band posts their communication online. This means there was a communication to a third party.
- That communication was false.
Here’s the sticky part. Brace yourself, it may be as bad as the time you wrote “The Day the Music Died” after the band broke up. The statements communicated to a third party must be false. Whether you have a claim totally depends on how much the Misfits know about Synergy. I won’t say how I know about the supercomputer built by your father. I won’t tell the remote micro-projectors are located inside your earrings and once activated you become “Jem.” No way.
Let’s say the Misfits don’t know anything about Synergy. Maybe their post is about you killing your father to inherit half of the record label. They may also claim you’ve “offed” a couple of groups you signed because they didn’t sell enough units. That’s false and you may have a defamation claim because you meet the second element.
- The damaging statement concerned your professional or business reputation.
The things the Misfits plan to say must concern your professional or business reputation. Statements like you killed your father and signed bands will definitely harm your business reputation. Every undiscovered Los Angeles band would run away from you.
Yes, your secret will definitely hurt your professional reputation and the record label too. That point actually leads to the fourth element of defamation:
- The statement was communicated to the third party as true.
If they tell your secret, don’t bother having your lawyers file a defamation claim. The statements communicated were true. Breathe. Don’t panic. Let’s say the Misfits, who spend most of their time being clueless and writing bad lyrics, totally tell lies, you’ll probably meet this element. Of course, there’s something to watch out for: actual malice.
As a public figure, you have to prove the Misfits knowingly and purposely made false statements about you. This is called actual malice and it’s based on a U.S. Supreme Case called New York Times v. Sullivan. Hopefully, the Misfits are totally lying about you and doing it on purpose. You’ll have a much easier time proving your defamation claim.
If your secret remains safe, you’ll have a slam dunk defamation case. If the Misfits expose your secret, well, you’re in trouble.
Contract Law May Allow You to Sue for the Misfits Interfering with Your Deal
Let’s say the Misfits aren’t trying to tell your secret to defame Jem. Their real target is to interfere with a future deal you have with some great talent in the Southern California area. The upcoming movie has generated a lot of interest in your record label. Your business partner did sign the Misfits to Starlight Records and they’re scared of competition. You can use the business tort to sue the Misfits.
Interference with a Prospective Advantage occurs when a business is working on a deal with someone. The deal hadn’t move to the contract phase when a third party cause it to fall through. This business tort allows you to receive business losses when this happens. Assuming you can show all the following facts, you may want to contact your legal team:
- You’re able to show expectancy.
Every state requires you to show a solid possibility of some sort of monetary gain based on your business dealings. It doesn’t matter if you had a contract or not. You can have a solid verbal agreement between your company and a hot band. At the last minute, the Misfits post their Youtube video about Jem and the band is no longer interested in signing.
- Misfits Intentionally Interfered
To show an intentional interference, you have to show the Misfits actually intended to interfere with the deal. For example, they knew about you signing the band and wanted to kill the deal.
- Show knowledge of expectancy
To win, the last element requires showing the Misfits knew you would profit from the deal with the unsigned band. This is usually done out of spite and the Misfits are definitely a spiteful, no talented bunch.
My real advice to you is do what you always did to protect your true identity—after talking with your lawyers. Have Kimber, Aja, Raya, and Shana distract everyone while you think of some savvy thing to stop the Misfits. It’s not that hard. They aren’t as popular as Jem for a reason.
Authored by Taelonnda Sewell, LegalMatch Legal Writer