California bans impressions

The former Spanish colony of California has decided that it would be a nifty idea to ban people from pretending to be someone else online.

California’s SB 1411, promise to fine you $1,000, and toss you in jail for a year if you pretend you are Google CEO Eric Schmidt on Facebook.

Basically the state has created a new crime, and a new section is being added to the penal code. To be inacted you have to have the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten, or defraud another person.

So far the law has not mentioned free speech issues, including satire and parody and it appears that will be up to the courts to sort out.

Techcrunch’s supremo Michael Arrington hopes that it will not be sorted out by a clever hack being dragged into court.  However we think it unlikely.

The danger is that a company might use it to shut some of the smaller satire sites up. The Real Steve Jobs clones could be silenced under the law simply because the law gives the Jobs’ Mob legal team a reason to file a complaint.

It might not ever succeed but by the time the legal dust has settled it will cost the defendant a pretty penny. The good side is that it would cost nothing for a company or individual to make a complaint. In short it could be used as a free criminal defamation law.