In 1997, Alternative Tentacles were landed with a 2.2 million dollar lawsuit, for distributing a Crucifucks album. Fortunately, that has now been overturned. Here are some of the details.
Rules label head and Crucifucks band didn't defame anyone with controversial cover of 1992 LP.
As the final days of 1997 were drawing to a close, the pioneering punk-rock label Alternative Tentacles Records found itself the recipient of good news when a federal judge dismissed a $2.2 million lawsuit filed against the label, owner Jello Biafra and the Crucifucks band by the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and police sergeant John Whalen.
"Of all the legal harassment I've been through, this has to be the most groundless, mean-spirited and ridiculous," Biafra said on Monday of the ruling that came down Dec. 29.
The suit, filed in 1996, revolved around cover art for the Crucifucks' Our Will Be Done album from 1992. The FOP took exception to the "misappropriation" of a posed image of Whalen, which showed the officer gunned down in the line of duty.
"Our work in question is clearly a commentary about the widespread problem of police brutality in America," Biafra said.
Alternative Tentacles' lawyer, Richard Stott, said that the judge in the case concurred with the defendants that the grounds for dismissal were twofold: First, that the FOP is an organization, not a person, and is thus not an entity subject to invasion of privacy and defamation; and second, that no reasonable person could know that the officer in the picture was Whalen.
A default judgment against Alternative Tentacles, Biafra and the Crucifucks was issued last April after the defendants failed to report for trial. At the time, Biafra, the label and the band said they were never properly served with notice for the case. December's ruling sets that default judgment aside.
The FOP was unavailable for comment. Stott said the organization filed for appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals last week.
In 1986, Biafra and his hard-core punk outfit the Dead Kennedys were charged with distributing pornography to minors when they included a graphic poster in their Frankenchrist album. That lawsuit resulted in a hung jury and was dismissed. -- Chris Nelson [Mon., Jan. 12, 1998, 3 p.m. PST]