SW Legal Educational Publishing

Book That Advertised How to "Beat the Market" Was Protected Noncommercial Speech
Description A book that relates the story of an investment group that claimed to have consistently earned above-normal rates of return on investments was held to be noncommercial speech due strong First Amendment protection. Hence, the publisher could not be subject to suit for deceptive advertising.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words First Amendment; Noncommercial Speech; Deceptive Advertising
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A consumer class action suit was filed on behalf of all persons who purchased a book called "The Beardstown Ladies' Common-Sense Investment Guide." The complaint stated that the book violated New York law regarding deceptive advertising because it promotes a claim that the Beardstown Ladies earned a "23.4% annual return" on investments using investment methods described in the book; so the readers could learn "how to" beat investment professionals. Defendant publisher moved to have the suit dismissed.
Decision Motion granted. The book is noncommercial speech for purposes of First Amendment, even though the book sold for a profit. Its main purpose was to tell the story of an investment group, to educate about investment clubs and investment strategy, and to entertain. The advertising for the book, which focused on "how to" earn high rates of return, came directly from the book and hence was protected noncommercial speech and could not form the basis of a suit for deceptive advertising.
Citation Lacoff v. Buena Vista Publishing, Inc., 705 NYS2d 183 (Sup. Ct., N.Y., 2000)

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