I'm not paying Ted Alvin Klaudt a damn penny

>> Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The New York Times is reporting that a former South Dakota state representative, Mr. Ted Alvin Klaudt, has come up with a new way to keep his name out of the press: he's claiming his name is copyrighted and trying to assess a half-million-dollar license fee for use of his name in news stories.

Mm-hmm. Sure.

And why might Mr. Klaudt be interested in keeping his name out of the press? He's a former state legislator--they love press, right? Even bad press is still publicity, right?

Well, maybe some publicity is just really, really bad. According to the Times:

Klaudt was convicted in 2007 on four counts of second-degree rape for touching his teenage foster daughters' breasts and genitals in phony examinations he said could help them sell their eggs to infertile couples. He was sentenced to 44 years in prison for rape and 10 more years after pleading guilty to two counts of witness tampering.

Naturally, this reminds me of last month's news about convicted German murderers Wolfgang Werlé and Manfred Lauber and their efforts to have information about their convictions removed from Wikipedia. Yet again, you have somebody I'd never heard of actually making themselves newsworthy by indulging in a misguided effort to keep themselves out of the news. I actually don't much care about Mr. Klaudt, for instance, but I care rather dearly about freedom of the press, intellectual property and Fair Use principles--and if a person were able to suppress potentially newsworthy or public information, such as the fact that a former lawmaker has been convicted of serious felonies--that would be a horrible blow to the basic principles of a free, post-Enlightenment, liberal society, and I'm not exaggerating the least bit--our democracy was founded on the idea that the public has a right to know certain things.

So, congratulations, Mr. Klaudt: you made yourself a matter of national, public interest through your effort to censor coverage of yourself, and turned yourself into an illustration of several legal principles, including the fact that names cannot be copyrighted and may only be protected as trademarks to the extent used in commerce, and that even if a name could be copyrighted, accurate reporting of newsworthy events would almost certainly have to be protected under the common law of Fair Use, not to mention the fact that the connection of a name with criminal convictions is also a matter of public record.

Speaking of which, by the way: South Dakota does not have online access to inmate records. Many states do (including North Carolina), but the South Dakota Department Of Corrections FAQ notes that there are conflicting laws about whether such information may be made available online, and that an attempt to clarify S. Dakota law was defeated in the SD legislature a number of years ago. That having been said, the SDDOC webpage lists two phone numbers--(605) 367-5190 and (605) 367-5140--which evidently may be called by anybody wanting to ask how Mr. Klaudt is doing (I haven't tried it myself, but you're welcome to see what happens, and I'd be curious as to what happens if you call and ask after Mr. Klaudt).

Furthermore, Mr. Klaudt, the facts of your case are set forth in the South Dakota State Supreme Court opinion State v. Klaudt (2009 SD 71; 772 N.W.2d 117; 2009 S.D. LEXIS 139) (2009), which I just got finished reading over at LexisONE, Lexis' free legal research site (registration required). As with all court opinions, the SDSC's unanimous opinion, including its recitation of the factual basis underlying their opinion, is a matter of public record.

And here is where I will wrap things up, actually; normally, I'd quote a few choice passages of a court opinion just to make the point that court opinions are in the public sphere, for all to know. But the factual basis in State v. Klaudt is actually pretty fucking vile and I really don't want to reprint the full factual basis here nor any substantial portion of it. (Regular readers will immediately recognize how bad something must be if I don't want to get into the details of it; having been duly warned, they're welcome to dig up the opinion themselves if they really must know more than what's in the summary from the Times excerpted above.) Suffice it to say: it's a public record, and I very much doubt the state of South Dakota is going to pay Mr. Klaudt a single thin dime for the privilege of reporting the official findings of their own legal system.

Mr. Klaudt, if you ever get around to reading this (do they give you internet access in prison?): you were just a horrible, horrible person prior to this latest stunt. Now you're a jackass, too. Well-played, sir. Goodnight.


Nathan Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 9:28:00 AM EST  

Oh, fine Eric. I haven't put anything on my blog in a couple of days now and I saw this story and I was going to write something all scathing and stuff and then I come here and see you've beat me to it.


(And I've gotta say how much I love this guy's chutzpah!)

Jim Wright Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 10:27:00 AM EST  

I've just copywritten "I'm not paying Ted Alvin Klaudt a damn penny!"

I'm gonna make a killin' on the bumperstickers.

cesoho = what Ted Alvin Klaudt rectum looks like after a couple years in prison as a child molester.

Janiece Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 10:27:00 AM EST  

Um, yeah. I expect it's pretty damn vile, and I really have no desire to delve any deeper into that particular pile of poo.

pologra = A pill that starts a pogram in your penis.

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