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Is It Now Illegal To Pretend You're A Celebrity Online?

Christopher Walken
Brad Barket/Getty Images

A new year means new laws. Particularly interesting to showbiz is California's § 528.5, which makes it a crime to maliciously impersonate another person. Specifically:

"any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a public offense."

It sounds like a new spin on cybersquatting, perhaps broadening protection beyond trademark in the cases of bad intent. Does this mean that the guy who is currently impersonating Christopher Walken on Twitter is in trouble? What about that guy who blogged as director Michael Bay? Are they harming these celebrity's images or expressing free speech?


Penalties for violations are up to $1000 and one year in prison.