I heard about someone who had to do with recording a Jerry Garcia solo album but he died right before it came out and this guy made TONS of money off of it. The Beatles also got a lot of attention when some paranoid guy decided Paul was dead. So my question is: would it be legal for someone to fake their own death (like through press releases and fake information sent to newspapers) to sell their records but then reveal it was fake a bit later?

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    I saw the title and immediately thought "You should ask Paul." LOL.
    – hszmv
    Oct 2, 2018 at 19:51
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    @hszmv lol I thought of this because the Beatles probably made a lot off of people buying their records to look for “clues” Oct 2, 2018 at 23:13

1 Answer 1


would it be legal for someone to fake their own death (like through press releases and fake information sent to newspapers) to sell their records but then reveal it was fake a bit later?

It is unethical and immoral, although not actionable.

The faking of a musician's death for the purpose of selling more records cannot by itself meet the prima facie elements of fraud, where

the plaintiff must prove that the defendant made a false representation intending thereby to induce [the] plaintiff to rely thereon and that the plaintiff justifiably relied thereon to his or her damage.

McNulty v. Chip, 116 A.3d 173, 182-83 (R.I. 2015) (brackets in original, emphasis added).

In the context you outline, it would be untenable for consumers to allege that their reliance on the fake news led to (or justifies) their decision to purchase the musician's album.

For it to be actionable, there would have to be additional and very specific (~unlikely) consequences. For instance, that the fake news prompted Law Enforcement to investigate the circumstances of the death.

As a more intricate example, suppose that (1) the fake news is that the "dead" musician was exposed to chemical substance or radioactive material in his home, and (2) that fake news causes disorderly conduct, panic, and/or hearth attack among his neighbors (for neighbors' concerns that the neighborhood might be contaminated as well). Even if the musician argues that the legislative intent of MCL 750.200l is not the prosecution of fake news devised to boost sales of records, he could be liable for any consequences (medical and otherwise) that his intentional misrepresentation caused.

  • I agree with most of what you have said - except the first bit - it may be appropriate to remove the opinion on its morality and whether it is ethical. I could certainly set out a counter argument to show it is not unethical. (and Morality is none of anyones business other then the person who does it)
    – davidgo
    Sep 3, 2018 at 6:07
  • @davidgo Thanks for your comment. The OP's question has the tag professional-ethics. The tag was not added by me, but I deem it appropriate for this question. I did not get into details (I would certainly do so if asked) as to why that fake news would be immoral & unethical, yet morality and ethics are explicitly listed as elements in many enacted laws and legal precedents. Ultimately, to avoid misconceptions of the sort of "leniency means entitlement", it is important to highlight that some acts are wrong even if they are not statutorily sanctioned. Sep 3, 2018 at 10:22
  • So I COULD make money off of that without being sued by people tricked into buying my nonexistent album but it wouldn’t be worth it and I could get sued for causing panic? @Iñaki Sep 3, 2018 at 14:37
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    @CorvoAttano "people tricked into buying my nonexistent album" That's a different question, which would have to start by explaining how is it that people by a "nonexisting" album ;) But regarding your actual question, the decisive aspects in court are that of people's justifiable reliance, and whether or not the fake news of someone's death is a reasonable motive for buying that person's album. "I could get sued for causing panic?" It's not because of the panic itself, but because of any medical & other costs derived from it ... and provided that the other intricate assumptions hold. Sep 3, 2018 at 19:13

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