Today the multihyphenate creative genius, otherwise known as Kanye Omari West, graced the world with the release of his new music video, “Bound 2.” The video features a hodgepodge of images ranging from motorcycles and mountains to libidinous displays of affection between the rapper and his latest obsession, Kim Kardashian.
Within seconds of the video’s release, countless people took to Twitter and Facebook, posting their disparaging, yet witty, thoughts and comments on the video (myself included). Kanye would probably argue that most of us had too low of an SAT score to fully comprehend the brilliance behind the video. But, what would a court say? Would our harsh words constitute defamation?
Defamation is legally defined as the act of harming the reputation of another by publishing a false statement to a third person. It is also important to note that posting something on a social media platform often fulfills the requirement for ‘publishing.’ Luckily, however, it is unlikely that Kanye or very few other celebrities would ever be able to meet the threshold of what is required to actually file a defamation lawsuit against you. One of the most important requirements that would have to be proved is that a celebrities’ reputation was damaged by the false statement. Luckily for many of you, your comments don’t carry enough weight to harm Kanye’s reputation or career (no offense).
It should also be noted that some courts would hold that Kanye’s reputation is already too damaged to qualify for a defamation suit. Many courts have held that some artist’s reputations are so badly tarnished that they cannot legally be defamed. As Kanye so aptly states in Bound 2, “I know I got a bad reputation, walking around, always mad reputation.” If a celebrity already has a certain reputation, a falsehood simply enforcing that reputation would likely not be deemed defamation in a court of law.
It is also important to note that celebrities are afforded less legal protection from defamatory statements and also face a higher burden when attempting win a defamation suit. The law affords greater freedom and flexibility in regards to the types of comments that can be made against celebrities and other public figures. Very rarely can a celebrity meet these additional burdens. So, while many of your comments regarding Kanye and his new video may constitute defamation in a court of opinion, they most likely would not constitute defamation in a court of law. Uh huh, honey.
Jaia A. Thomas is a bi-coastal sports and entertainment attorney. She is a graduate of UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, The George Washington University Law School and Colgate University. For more information: www.jathomaslaw.com or @jaiathomaslaw.