And here we go again. Apparently a few websites had posted some photos that allegedly showed actor Jake Gyllenhaal stretching in his underwear. Supposedly, the image is faked. However, that hasn't stopped Gyllenhaal's lawyers from trying a somewhat novel approach to it, demanding websites take it down
, because the image (among other things) could be seen as defamation
How is that possibly "defamation"? As Eriq Gardner notes in his writeup (the one linked above), if the image really is Photoshopped, then he isn't stretching, so that's perhaps something "false." But it really does seem like his lawyers are very much stretching. It's hard to see how this causes any "harm" to Gyllenhaal. In fact, it would seem that having lawyers send out silly takedown notices like this does more harm to his reputation than the photo in question.
Thankfully, it appears that some sites aren't backing down, with at least one noting that the takedown
itself now makes the photo newsworthy: "We're keeping the photo up, since it hasn't been proven fake and because their letter bumped it from 'funny and cute' to 'actually newsworthy.'" That site, Queerty, also explains why this isn't defamation:
Oh, really? Defaming him? Well, we don't like defaming anyone. You might even say that we are gays and lesbians allied against defamation.
But what exactly is the defamation here? Is is that people might think, wrongly, that Jake wears underpants? Or that his reputation is sullied by the idea that he allowed someone to photograph him without pants on? Or that he stayed in what looks like a cheap motel?
Simply calling something defamation doesn't make it so, as Howard Stern learned in 2009 when he tried -- and failed -- to sue someone for suggesting that he's gay. Is that what's going on here?
Jake's a public figure, and we can talk about him if we want to. We can even speculate about what he looks like in his underwear. We can't -- and won’t -- claim that this picture of him is definitely authentic, since we just don't know.
I wonder if these claims of "defamation by photoshop" will start to become more common. Perhaps it would be good to get some court rulings on the books that show this is a ridiculous claim.