Supreme Court of Atlasia
Scott v. The Northeast
Opinion of the Court.
(Senior Associate Justice Oakvale delivered the opinion of the Court.)
After consideration of the submitted briefs and the facts of the case, the Court has come to a unanimous, but qualified, decision in favour of the petitioner, Governor Scott, in regards to the Northeast region's ban on the song Happy
At question in this case is the power of the regional government to censor media if it is judged to be in the public interest. The Constitution of Atlasia of course, in Art. VI c.1, guarantees all citizens
the rights to free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government to address problems.
The question before the Court then, is the power of regional governments to reconcile this constitutional guarantee of free speech and expression - in this case, personal preferences expressed through playing or listening to a morally objectionable piece of music - and the desire to maintain the general public welfare.
Perhaps the most obvious comparison to Pharrell William's Happy
is Andre Serrano's Piss Christ
. This extremely controversial 1987 artwork consisted of photograph depicting a crucifix contained in a jar of human urine. Despite some popularity among critics and aritstically-minded audiences, in an inverse of the way that Happy
is popular among a certain segment of listeners of dubious taste, Piss Christ
proved hugely controversial, with Christian activists and politicians expressing outrage and disgust at the perceived blasphemy. One can imagine that local governments considered the implications of banning or censoring this obscene artwork in, of course, the public interest.Happy
, any reasonably impartial observer would agree, lacks artistic merit almost entirely. Contrary to Piss Christ
's intriguing commentary on societal ills and the rejection of Christ's supposed message, Happy
contains very little that could conceivably be argued to add anything of worth to society. The lyrics are vapid, the music grating and intolerable, and the near-constant repetition in virtually all public places throughout Atlasia is tantamount to noise pollution or, indeed, a form of mild audio torture.
But the Court must concede that a lack of artistic merit even more blatant than that argued by opponents of Piss Christ
does not reasonably give the regional government grounds to legislate on the basis of taste, no matter how objective the question of taste in this instance may seem. Happy
is clearly not by any measure a 'good' song. It may even be morally offensive and plausibly damaging to some notion of cultural integrity. But, like Piss Christ
, the public must be allowed to display and enjoy art, no matter the content, as the right to free expression remains sacrosanct.
While no one can doubt Governor Dallasfan's noble intentions, and indeed the laudable efforts by the former regional justice, Averroes Nix, in their fight against this distasteful cultural artefact, the constitutional conflict is clear. As we stated in the slightly more significant Snowstalker vs. The Midwest
, speech, no matter how distasteful, offensive or lacking in artistic merit (as in this case) is protected. If you will pardon the pun, the Court has little choice but to strike down the ban, allowing Happy
to be once again foisted on the Northeast region's radio stations by judicial... ph
However, the Court must reject entirely the petitoner's request for monetary restitution to the supposedly injured parties in this case. Crucially, the law in question provided for no enforcement mechanism whatsoever, and there is no reason to suggest the ban ever actually took effect. Indeed, it is entirely possible that Happy
received a significant increase in airplay and sales as a result of both the increased publicity surrounding the ban and the subsequent litigation, and indeed as a form of protest against the perceived injustice. We cite in evidence of this citizen A Person's request that protestors blare the song outside the Northeast capitol as a result of the ban.
§2, c. 2 of the Northeast Recognition Omnibus Act
is in violation of the Constitution of Atlasia and is hereby struck down. However, no fines or monetary penalties shall be levied on the Northeast government, the federal government, or former Governor Dallasfan as a result of this case.