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Etta James Not Dead: TMZ May Sue Over Death Hoax, Fake Article

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 04, 2011 12:58 PM

Contrary to a recent rumor, R&B singer Etta James is not dead. The "news," which has been debunked by James' son, appeared on a size that looked suspiciously like celebrity gossip site TMZ. The hoax may have set off death rumors, but it may also be the starting point of a lawsuit.

TMZ has now said that it is investigating the fake article on the website, posted on August 3rd, which claimed James was dead, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The fake TMZ article looks very similar to the real TMZ website. Much of the layout has been copied and pasted over, with graphics and headings that look almost identical to the real TMZ site's look.

For her part, despite the rumors, James' son says that his mother is alive and well. James, 73, has faced medical problems in the past, battling leukemia earlier this year. In 2009, she was also diagnosed with dementia.

James has spent the last two years in and out of hospitals, and is still being taken care of at her home in California, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Whoever created the fake TMZ site, however, may end up feeling the ire of TMZ. Completely copying and pasting TMZ's layout and posting a fake news story may have lent the story an air of credibility, but in the end they are likely infringing on TMZ's property rights with respect to their website. Plus, they are misusing TMZ's "good" name.

After all, it seems that the little rumor, spurred on by the TMZ hoax, has led many media outlets to debunk the story and declare that Etta James is not dead. Would the rumor really have taken hold if the perpetrator of the hoax didn't use TMZ's name and graphics?

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