How Far Should Protection for Photoshop Images Extend?

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The concept of altering and retouching images on magazine covers, advertisements, and television, is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, it is over a century old. However, with technological advancements and digitization of photographs, it has become so prevalent that there seldom is an image in the media that has not been retouched. As a result, what ends up in the media is a completely exaggerated version of reality where the end result depicts a woman’s head to be bigger than her waist size. Though the desire to imitate the look of such models is not limited to women, the issue affects women the most and has caused them to develop many psychological problems as a result. After looking at these manipulated images, women and young girls feel worse about their own body images and decide to try to achieve the “model look” they see, and develop eating disorders as a result.

While the concept of photoshopping is not evil in itself, the extent to which it has been taken can be proven to be dangerous. For example, in Yanowitz v. L’Oreal USA, Inc, a woman was fired by her male boss because he did not deem her to be “sexually attractive.” Society’s concept of beauty not only impacts individuals in the work place, but also in schools, in relationships, and in their general lives.

Although advertisements and photoshopped images are protected under commercial speech under the First Amendment, laws can be made in order to ensure that there are warning labels on the images to warn the public that what they are seeing is a distorted version of reality. Commercial speech has been given protection, but misleading or false speech has not, and according to the Federal Trade Commission Act, photoshopped images can be considered false and misleading. Though the definition of what is considered a deceptive image has yet to be carved out, there is a necessity for it, especially now that the ages of models has become as young as ten years old. While there is a strong argument for the First Amendment protections of these photoshopped images, there is also a strong government interest in instilling some regulation for the sake of protecting the healthy body images of women and especially young girls.

Advertisers could argue that it is a well-known fact that almost every image is photoshopped. However, there is an argument on the side of regulation that everyday consumers do not understand the implications of how extensive the photoshopped images are, and as a result, they try to emulate what they see in the image. As with any regulation of First Amendment rights, this one must be viewed with strict scrutiny. However, photoshopped images seem to fall within the exception of false and misleading commercial speech. The line between what image is considered false and how much photoshopping is too much, is extremely blurred but there is a severe need for the line to be clarified and defined.

Posted by Minisha B. Patel on Sun. January 27, 2013 11:53 AM
Categories: Freedom of Speech

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