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The illegal t-shirt

Federal Legislation to Ban Certain  Anti-War Merchandise Targets Flagstaff Entrepreneur

 

Just months after legislators in Louisiana and Oklahoma voted to outlaw the unauthorized use of the names and images of U.S. soldiers on anti-war merchandise, representatives of those two states have separately introduced new legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would outlaw such use on merchandise across the nation.

 

Dan Frazier, the owner of CarryaBigSticker, says the legislation directly targets some of his merchandise. His Flagstaff, Ariz. company mostly sells anti-war and anti-Bush bumper stickers via the Internet. In June of 2005, his company introduced a T-shirt listing the names of about 1,700 U.S. troops who had died in Iraq. The list of names covers the front and the back of the shirt. Overlaid on the names of the fallen troops are the words “Bush Lied,” and on the back, “They Died.”  The company also sells a similar magnetic vehicle sign (discontinued). On July 12 U.S. Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, a Democrat known for his conservative leanings,  announced in a press release that he was introducing H.R. 5755, prohibiting the unauthorized use of the names or images of American service men and women. The U.S. Attorney General is granted the authority to seek an injunction in federal court against violators. 

On July 13 U.S. Rep. Charles W. Boustany, Jr. of Louisiana and U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis of Kentucky, both Republicans, jointly announced in a press release that they were introducing H.R. 5772 that would ban the unauthorized use of a deceased soldier’s name or image for a commercial or political purpose. 

 

The proposed federal legislation comes in the wake of new laws recently passed in Oklahoma and Louisiana.


On April 20 Oklahoma
Governor Brad Henry, a Democrat, signed into law HB2643, creating penalties for the commercial use of a soldier’s name or likeness without consent from the soldier or the soldier’s family.  Violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in prison. The law was the result of  lobbying efforts by the mother of the late Cpl. Scott Michael Vincent, whose name appears on Frazier’s merchandise. Vincent’s family also contacted Rep. Boren requesting federal legislation. The Oklahoma law is set to take effect Nov. 1, 2006.

On June 2 Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco [ed note: another Democrat] signed into law HB1304  making it a crime to use the name or likeness of a deceased soldier in advertising without the permission of the closest living relative. Violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to a year in prison. Meanwhile, in the Louisiana Senate a SB281 is awaiting a vote that would make unauthorized use of a soldier’s name on goods or clothing grounds for a lawsuit. Violators could be subject to the award of damages similar to those awarded in cases of the wrongful death of an injured person.

Sharon McLeese and Yvette Burridge, two mothers whose sons died in Iraq, pushed for the new Louisiana legislation. Lance Cpl. Justin D. McLeese, and Pfc. David Paul Burridge, appear on the “Bush Lied They Died” merchandise sold by Frazier’s company. In testimony before a committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives, Burridge specifically mentioned this merchandise.Despite the new laws and the pending federal legislation, Frazier plans to continue selling his controversial anti-war merchandise. He said he believed it was a free speech issue and that his merchandise deserved a place in the national dialogue on the merits of the war.

“I believe I have a moral obligation to do the right thing here,” said Frazier in a prepared statement. “To me, the right thing is to continue drawing attention to the horrific toll this war is taking in terms of the lives lost. If these legislators really cared about the families of the troops, they would stop their political posturing and pass legislation to bring the troops home.”

He says he will fight any new legislation in court if necessary. But with his supply of merchandise running low, he may run out of merchandise before the new legislation takes effect. He says his “Bush Lied-They Died” merchandise has sold poorly. He says he is unlikely to produce any more.

RELATED LINKS:March 6, 2006 news story from Louisiana.

Oklahoma Senator Jim Wilson’s April 12 press release about the then-pending Oklahoma bill.

____________________________________________
  Texas Could Become Third State to Outlaw Anti-War T-Shirt  Flagstaff, Ariz. Shirt Vendor Vows to Keep Selling

Texas could become the third state to pass legislation aimed at banning the sale of an anti-war T-shirt that lists the names of fallen soldiers. On Nov. 29, 2006, Texas State Representative Linda Harper-Brown filed House Bill 331. The bill would make it a misdemeanor to use the name or image of a fallen soldier in advertising without permission from the soldier’s family. In a press release, Harper-Brown said, “The families of fallen soldiers have gone through enough, and House Bill 331 will help protect them from additional grief.”

 If Texas passes HB 331, it would follow the lead of Oklahoma and Louisiana, which both passed similar legislation in 2006.  The proposed Texas law would take effect  Sept. 1, 2007. Violation of the law could be punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and/or a year in prison. The Texas legislature re-convenes on Jan. 9, 2007.

 The new legislation of the various states could be upstaged by proposed federal legislation. In July, two bills, HR 5755 and HR 5772 were introduced in Congress that would outlaw the unauthorized use of soldiers’ names. The federal legislation was introduced by legislators from Oklahoma and Louisiana. As of Jan. 1, 2007, HR 5755 had 106 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.  Meanwhile, HR 5772 had 42 co-sponsors.

 All of the new legislation targets a T-shirt sold by CarryaBigSticker.com. The latest version of the shirt includes the names of 2,803 fallen soldiers printed in tiny letters on the front and back of a black T-shirt. Overlaid on the list of names in large red letters are the words “Bush Lied,” and on the back, “They Died.”

 Dan R. Frazier, the owner of CarryaBigSticker.com, noted that the new legislation in Oklahoma and Louisiana has only helped to boost sales of his shirts. “It took me more than a year to sell the first batch of 100 shirts,” said Frazier. “Then the new laws started getting media attention and my sales took off. I have probably sold close to 500 shirts in the last six months.” 

 Frazier has no plans to discontinue sales of the shirts. “When they bring the last soldier home from Iraq, we’ll stop selling the shirts,” said Frazier in a prepared statement. The statement was released Jan. 1, the day after the death toll for soldiers killed in Iraq reached 3,000. “If legislators really cared about grieving families, they would stop their posturing and start working to bring the troops home,” added Frazier.

 Despite his vow to continue selling, Frazier has temporarily suspended sales to Oklahoma and Louisiana. He says he is not worried about being prosecuted by the new laws in those states because he lives in Arizona. Nonetheless, he wants to challenge the new laws. To challenge the new laws, Frazier needs to find individuals in Oklahoma and Louisiana who are interested in purchasing the shirts and who would be willing to participate in a legal challenge. Frazier said he has not yet decided whether or not he would continue selling his shirts in Texas if the law proposed by Representative Harper-Brown passes.

 On his Web site, where he has written extensively about the controversy surrounding his shirts, Frazier explains that he thinks that the new laws are unconstitutional. “If I agree with the idea that throughout history my fellow Americans have fought and died for my freedoms,” writes Frazier, “why would I be so cowardly as to give up these freedoms? Surely I should be exercising these freedoms, especially when the end result of doing so might be to prevent the deaths of more brave soldiers who may believe that they are fighting for democracy and all that it entails, including free speech.”

 Though Frazier now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, he grew up in San Antonio, graduating from Churchill High School. He still has family in Texas, including a sister who lives in Dallas. Representative Harper-Brown’s district encompasses a different area of Dallas.

 

For more information, contact:

Dan Frazier
dan (at) CarryaBigSticker (dot) com

 

For an updated list of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, as well as other coalition casualty data, visit http://icasualties.org/oif/ 

 

For statistics and information about Iraqis killed in the wake of the U.S. invasion, visit 

http://www.iraqbodycount.net/

One Response

  1. Sure like what I see. Great ideas and out of the box thinking. T-shirts are like songs. Just when you think t-shirts have peaked a great crazy over the top, fun t-shirt comes out. Keep them coming and remember Tee shirt growings, when a link out sites we bring more buyers to our sites and shoot us up the search engine mountain!

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