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House Select Committee on Preventing Unjust Profiteering From Crime

House Select Committee on Preventing Unjust Profiteering From Crime

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Excerpt from House Select Committee on Preventing Unjust Profiteering From Crime: Report to the 2004 General Assembly of North Carolina, 2003 Session

In 1977, David Berkowitz, who was dubbed the Son of Sam, committed a series of murders in New York creating a media frenzy. Before the investigation was even complete, publishers were offering to pay huge sums of money for the rights to his story. In a hasty response, the New York State Legislature enacted a law prohibiting criminals from using their notoriety for profit. This became known as the Son of Sam law. Interestingly, this law never actually applied to Berkowitz. He was found incompetent to stand trial, which exempted him from the law. In addition, Berkowitz voluntarily donated the royalties he received from a book chronicling his criminal activity to his victims and their estates.

New York's law provided that when any person entered into a contract with a person accused or convicted of committing a crime, and the contract involved the reenactment or recounting of the crime in a book, movie, television show, magazine article, or other similar media outlet, the contracting party had to submit a copy of the contract and pay over to the state all profits that would otherwise be paid to the offender. These funds would be held for the benefit of the offender's victims, or in some cases, contributed to the state victim compensation fund. Following New York's lead.

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