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Civil Case Against 'Girls Gone Wild' Founder Joe Francis Becomes A Test Of Free Speech

It looks like sometime Angeleno, blondsploitation artist and alleged "douche of the decade" Joe Francis might actually add a historic footnote to his Wikipedia entry: A man who inspired a serious free speech battle.

Of course, this case doesn't have to do with his right to film teen and twentysomething boobies for $50 and put the footage on his popular Girls Gone Wild DVDs. It has to do with newspapers' fight to reveal the names of four plaintiffs suing Francis for allegedly taping them when they were underage.

The foursome filed suit in Florida using only their initials. They're adults now. Media companies said, wait a second:

"The editorial process is based on access to openness," Jeffery Nobles, at attorney for a Florida newspapers association, said, according to the New York Times. "And the purpose of fact-checking is obscured and prevented when parties come to court anonymously."

The girls claimed to have been between the ages of 13 and 17 when they were filmed. They are all in their 20s now. The suit was brought in 2008.

Lawyers for the now grownups went to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week to argue that their names should remain under wraps since they were minors when the alleged shooting happened.

Courts often redact the names of minors in criminal matters involving children as victims. But this isn't a criminal matter.

In fact, Francis pleaded guilty to not keeping proper records on one of the females; he was convicted of prostitution for giving another $50 to appear in a Girls Gone Wild DVD.

Strangely, Francis himself doesn't exactly come off as free speech's biggest fan. He has sued a former cameraman in an attempt to prevent him from publishing a tell-all book tentatively titled Flash! Bars, Boobs and Busted: 5 Years on the Road With Girls Gone Wild.


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