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Mimicking the Sacred: Advertising Parody, Religion and Freedom of Expression in the United States and France
Communication Law and Policy  (IF),  Pub Date : 2020-04-02, DOI: 10.1080/10811680.2020.1735191
Lyombe Eko

International controversies involving mass-mediated caricatures and parodies of religion provided an opportunity to compare and contrast how courts in the United States and France manage the tensions between advertising parody of religion, defamation, and freedom of expression. This article carried out a comparative analysis of the regulation of advertising parodies of religion under American and French law, using as a comparative case study two landmark cases, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, and Association Croyances et Libértés v. Marithé et François Girbaud, decided by the Supreme Courts of the United States and France. Advertising parodies of religious icons are permissible under the copyright and free speech regimes of both countries. However, parody is not always a laughing matter. Although the legal systems of the United States and France are different in a number of respects, the outcomes of the legal disputes over advertising parodies of religion demonstrate a “similarity in difference” comparative model that explains the workings of both systems and is useful for promoting freedom of expression at the international level.