Justin Bieber: tween heartthrob, questionable pop music talent, and now, Calvin Klein undies model.
Beebs’ CK campaign has just been released, featuring pictures of the star in his jocks, displaying his substantial tattoo collection and well- maintained eyebrows. Soon after the release, images were published on the internet claiming to be ‘unphotoshopped’ versions. They showed him with smaller muscles and one less sock down his pants.
His lawyers quickly informed the publisher that the unphotoshopped pics were fakes and demanded that they be taken down. And they were.
That got us thinking. Is it defamatory to suggest that a guy’s muscles or sock storage area are small? Or smaller than they actually are? Philosophically, it shouldn’t be. But legally, the position could be different.
A publication is defamatory if it causes people to think less of you. It’s also defamatory if it exposes you to ridicule. For Beebs, the context of the publication is likely to expose him to ridicule. That is, the comparison of the CK photos and the (allegedly) fake / (allegedly) unphotoshopped ones was an obvious mockery of him. And that’s probably going to be enough to get his defamation case off the ground.
If, say, only the skinnier picture was released and it was the one that CK used in its campaign, it might be a tougher call. Absent the obvious mocking context, we’d argue that the picture shouldn’t be defamatory even if Beebs’ form was digitally altered. There’s no inference that he’s the kind of guy who needs (or authorises) his pictures to be pumped up.
So Beebs wins this round. But he’s still not Marky Mark.