IN WHAT is believed to be a world first, David Jones begins a legal case tomorrow in which it is suing the left-leaning think tank the Australia Institute and its executive director, Clive Hamilton, over claims the giant retailer’s advertising eroticised and sexually exploited children.
The case, in the Federal Court in Sydney, is thought to be the first time a court will consider the sexualisation of children in advertising.
The retailer is suing under the Trade Practices Act, claiming the institute engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. The avenue of suing for defamation was closed to big companies after the introduction of uniform defamation laws in January 2006.
The Australia Institute’s report “Corporate Paedophilia: Sexualisation of Children in Australia” was widely publicised amid much controversy last October. The main thesis of the report is that the increased sexualisation of all advertising in the last decades has led to a creeping normalisation of portraying young female models in poses that are inappropriately sexualised for their age, and that the fashions marketed to young girls are becoming more and more sexualised as well. Many people agreed, while others thought that people perceiving sexualisation of children in advertising were either prudes or perverts. (A long and nasty discussion ensued in my crosspost to Larvatus Prodeo.) I’ve been getting intermittent comments telling me I’m dreaming on this related post as recently as last week.
The David Jones action (and a similiar suit by Australian Wool Innovation against PETA regarding PETA’s campaign against mulesing) have been brought under Section 52, outlawing misleading or deceptive conduct, which is the part of the act dealing with consumer protection. There are raised eybrows from some legal commentors at these attempts to use Section 52 in these suits, as it has generally been considered to apply to commercial competitors acting to enhance their own profits at the expense of a rival rather than non-profit organisations making commentary and criticism of a corporation.
The SMH article quotes Australia Institute director Clive Hamilton defending the report, Sydney academic Catharine Lumby criticising the title “Corporate Paedophilia” as irresponsible, and Brian Walters, SC, the author of Slapping on the Writs and vice-president of Free Speech Victoria, who said:
it was becoming more common for powerful corporations to sue people who criticised them, which was distorting the democratic system.
Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo