Planking and the Law

Post date: Jun 3, 2011 1:53:43 AM

*Guest post by John Bowen*“Planking” is a new fad where you lie face down in an odd place and have someone take a picture. Apparently it is another term for the “lying down game” which the British have been playing for about a decade. Then some Aussie coined “planking” and it has made its way to the U.S.

Sounds harmless, right? Well last month a 20 year-old Australian man died while planking (or failing to plank) from the seventh story of a building. This has caused quite a stir. South Australia’s legislature is now considering passing a law that would make planking a criminal offense, as well as “related behaviour” (they can’t spell). Some South Australian citizens approve of the law, while some think natural selection should be allowed to take its course.

Regardless of whether the law is a good idea, if passed it would be difficult to enforce. How do you know if someone is planking? I planked for about 6 hours last night in my bed, would that be a crime? Does a police officer need to catch you in the act, or does a picture on Facebook adequately prove your guilt? Is planking in a completely safe place a crime, or just in a dangerous one? These questions just scratch the surface showing how tough attempting to enforce a ban on such a broad activity would be.

There is also no need to pass such a law. Planking itself is not dangerous; and it almost never poses a danger to someone other than the planker. It is already against the law to endanger someone else, to plank on private property without permission (trespass), or to plank on a moving vehicle (traffic violation). To pass a law that criminalizes planking just because it is not always safe for the planker goes too far. What would they ban next? Perhaps mountain climbing, bike riding, eating cheeseburgers or driving a car? All of these activities put the user at risk but it would be unreasonable to outright ban them. When people do stupid things and others do get hurt, sue them for negligence. But if Gareth wants to hang off a ledge and have his picture taken, it should not be a crime, unless he is breaking a different law.

BONUS: After researching and writing this blog entry, I felt inclined to do some primary field research. On the left is my attempt at planking a rock wall. Elevated planking definitely isn't easy as it takes a decent amount of balance and core strength. Also, my boss made me include this legal disclaimer: please do not try this at home.

Additional sources: Crikey