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Is this libel or defamation

  1. I have a blog dealing with a rather small genre of music. A software program is widely used in that genre and I posted about it, asking for other user's opinions and experiences with the program. One comment concerning the software was rather negative about their experience with the program company's customer support. Since that time, a representative of that company has contacted me at first asking, then telling me to remove the negative comment, telling me it is "slander, libelous, and defamation". When I politely refused, they have threatened to turn me into WordPress as a violator of the TOS. I don't think it is, but I'm looking for others' opinions. The comment in question is below.

    "No, it is not compatible with MAC machines and there are no plans to make it so. Another thought is regarding the “support” that is (not) provided with the ********** program. I have sent at least ten emails since I have had my system and have never received an answer to any of them. If you try to call, you have to pay $1.85 per minute for the privilege of talking to someone who still will not provide the assistance you need – no matter how trivial. Right now my system is down due to a hard drive failure and I cannot get any assistance throuigh the support system at all. The software is a good system but the support is non-existent. Think about it before you lay out a lot of money. This is pricey software."

    So, is the above quoted comment libel/slander/defamation?

    The blog I need help with is

  2. Look, as smart as we here in the forum all think we are, none of us are lawyers. Contact a lawyer to get a competent legal opinion.

    WordPress HAS lawyers, and they will look at it if the complaint is made. While you're waiting, export a copy of your blog with all the comments so you have it in case it gets taken down and, as I said above, consult a lawyer.

    My (utterly unprofessional) opinion is that you should post the email the company sent you, along with all the contact data and ask your commenters what they think it says about the company.

  3. It looks like a rebuttal has been provided in the comments of your specific blog post so I think you are probably safe. You cannot stop people having opinions or voicing them and anyone reading the comments in full will be allowed to make up their own mind. I'm no legal professional though so make of my opinion what you will.

  4. Thank for the replies so far. I realize this doesn't replace the advice of a lawyer. I'm just trying to get more opinions before I make my final decision.

    I have thought about deleting the original post and making a new post talking about the situation. What is so sad about this situation is that the genre of music this concerns is a genre of Christian music.

  5. The issue isn't your post at all; it's the comment.

    This is why I reiterate my advice to copy the whole blog via Export and then wait it out. I mean, if they really DO contact you have nothing to lose but a bit of downtime. If Wp's lawyers say it is defamation, you could be suspended till you delete that one comment. If they say it isn't, then nothing will happen and you're safe. As bets go, it's not a bad one. WP probably won't do anything even if they think it IS defamation until they get a court order.

  6. Why does everyone get all shaky as soon as the lawyers show up?

    Your response to this clown should be: "Please, please, sue me."

  7. The thing is, the comment belongs to the commenter. If wordpress gets a complaint, the worst they would ask you to do is take the comment down, but quite truthfully I don't see anything in the comment to worry about. I've seen worse in the reviews for some cellphones at my wireless carrier's site quite truthfully, and some of the recent stuff on the iPhone antenna issues have been far worse.

    As others have stated though, I'm not a lawyer either.

  8. luridtalesofdoom

    You could technically be held responsible for libellous comments on your blog, especially seeing as you have the ability to moderate and edit those comments before publishing them. Publishing comments on a blog is, in terms of potential circulation, like publishing the same comments to on the correspondence page of every national newspaper in the world. This means that you're vulnerable to claims from any country, many of which may have harsher libel laws than your home nation.Anyone writing a blog should also be aware of their responsibilities as hosts of discussions where comment is invited.

    However, the comment doesn't seem that bad to me(not a lawyer), it's almost certainly just an attempt at bullying away bad press from the search engine results on behalf of the company's marketing department - threatening legal action is almost standard practice for reputation management.

    If it worried you very much then perhaps you could add a disclaimer page on your blog to avoid it happening again in the future? there are many templates available out there.

  9. To "soften" the criticism, you might want to offer to the software company in your response on the blog, how the firm could improve.

    ie. have a toll-free phone number, etc.

    Unfortunately the firm, especially an IT / software (!) firm needs to understand that it is what the age of social media is about: far greater transparency with customers who will sing praises and criticize one's products elsewhere on the Internet.

    You might quietly do a search and see if others felt the same thing too about certain features of software..just to see if anything exists.

    The choice is yours on whether or not you keep the comment, but beware.

  10. @luridtales, what you've said is NOT in accordance with the most recent US precedents, which have decided that the legal responsibility for comments lies with the commenter, not the blogger.

  11. luridtalesofdoom

    Yep, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides a degree of protection against liability for those who provide or republish speech by others on the internet. Settled law, through decisions at a state level to the contrary being overturned in the supreme courts, precludes liability in many contexts, but if the claimant could prove a number of conditions like malice of selective editing then the blogger could be seen as developing that content rather than being a mere intermediary. General tone of the publication/blog and the readerships' according expectations of the content's factuality could also play a part. But generally yes, US law does seem to debar liability from bloggers for others' comments.

    But I was trying to point out that the problem with this is that as the perceived libel is being published internationally you're vulnerable to claims from any country, many of which may have harsher libel laws than your home nation. Sorry if I didn't communicate that adequately raincoaster, like I said 'not a lawyer' just listened to too many lectures on the subject. :)

  12. Well, I just have a visceral reaction to anything that tends to increase fear of lawyers. In the vast majority of these cases, nobody ever contacts a lawyer in the first place, they just huff and puff. We should not be intimidated into covering up all speech critical of companies, which is what the companies would like.

    And god knows, all of us could be sued in the UK for anything at any time. You can't let it stop you.

  13. "Is this libel or defamation"

    Only if a Court decides so.
    Simple as that.
    You can add Slander there too.
    So they pay for a lawyer, they pay for the case to keep moving forward and they hope the Court decides in their favour.

    You are not violating the tos from what you have said so ignore their threats.

  14. Technical point: if it's libel, it's not slander. Slander is the verbal form of libel. If the blogger reads out the comment at Speaker's Corner, then slander MAY have taken place. Until that time, if it's defamatory it may be libel but not slander.

    That's one thing I DO know.

  15. This is one of the problems with big business today. Too many corporations will build a half-finished or poorly engineered product and foist it on an unsuspecting public, and then when someone says something about it on the net or in print, out come the threats and suits to bully people into retracting or deleting the (in most cases deserved) "bad" press, and there are too many that just roll over and take it without even a whimper. Big business knows how to wield the fear stick effectively, and especially against the peasants.

    If that comment on the OP's blog had been left on Techcrunch or All Things D, there would never have been threats made - or if there had, TC or ATD would have simply told them to piss off. It is much easier to bully and browbeat the little guy, the single blogger or reviewer.

    The comment wasn't flattering to the product, but liable or defamation? Not even close.

    If you don't want sucky reviews or comments about your product, don't build sucky products. Simple.

  16. "Apple rip people off at the iTunes store"
    is probably something they could take issue with if they really wanted,

    "I think Apple rip people off at the iTunes store"
    is something they simply cannot touch.

    There are many ways to say just what you want.


    Stupidest lawyer in my 5 years here was one that said "Close that blog. It's obvious why". Seriously, that's all he said. He was asked to give very great line by line detail of what was wrong and why it was wrong. In the end the blogger was (I think) asked to change one sentence. We have had others that do go into fantastic detail but in the end it's an opinion they are fighting and you cannot contest an opinion (or at least the ones they were).

    If someone says they will sue / get lawyers on you / get you shut down then just wait. If needed then we would be in touch (you'd see a notice inside the blog) and we would take it from there.

  17. That IS a stupid lawyer. Since they charge by the hour, he should have gabbed for hours running up the tab. He's probably washing dishes for a living now.

  18. Some of the statements go past opinion, and into factual statements about the product and company. If you clearly state the comments are other people's opinions, and that they can not be verified this should put you in the clear, and them.

  19. In fairness, we don't know how many hours that lawyer billed his client for. Knocked off a 20 second email and then billed them for 6 hours work.

  20. I'm no lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night....

    I have run into similar circumstances on my blog with my Blue Plate Special restaurant critiques. Some people do not like to hear honest opinions when it's not in their favor.

    IMO, as long as you speak your opinion, not stating it as fact, I believe you are safe.

  21. pornstarbabylon

    **I have thought about deleting the original post and making a new post talking about the situation.**

    Never delete anything! Unless you yourself decide to. But I always tell everyone to contact WordPress and tell them to delete it. They never do, as far as I know. But if you delete this, then everyone and their grandmother will start emailing you threatening you to delete a post or a comment. And you didn't even write it. Tell them to get a backbone!

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