In This Post:
- Summary of Yelp defamation case;
- Discussion about how to win a Yelp reputation case;
- Contact information for an online defamation attorney;
Another Yelp! (“Yelp”) defamation case made headlines. In the latest installment of “Law and Order: Online Reputation Unit,” a California auto dealer is suing a client over a disparaging Yelp review.
Yelp Defamation Case Study: Business v. Reviewer
Plaintiff: Zeibak Auto Trading
Defendant: Zaki Ibrahim
Lawsuit Catalyst: Ibrahim bought a used car for his wife at Zeibak Auto Trading. According to an ABC News report, the car gave him problems after he drove it off the lot. So, according to Ibrahim, he returned to Zebiak’s with hopes of calmly discussing the matter. Allegedly, while there, staff ignored Ibrahim. Upset about the poor service, Ibrahim posted a negative review on Zebiak’s Yelp page, outlining the purported incident. In the words of Mr. Ibrahim:
“I described the experience as being a nightmare to say the least, and especially since I tried from my end to resolve the matter amicably.”
Who Will Most Likely Win This Yelp Reputation Case?
Few case details have made their way to the press, so it’s impossible to do a full – and fair – analysis. But what we can do is take a look at the basic requirements for winning an online defamation lawsuit in the United States, in relation to the facts of this Yelp reputation case.
What Constitutes Legal Defamation?
To win a slander (spoken defamation) or libel (written defamation) lawsuit in the United States, plaintiffs must, at the very least, satisfy four legal elements.
- Identity: The first thing defamation plaintiffs must prove is that the contested statements are about them. Slander and libel lawsuits are lost because the claimants couldn’t prove that the defendants were talking about them.
- Falsity: Due to the First Amendment and established case law, pure opinion and truth generally aren’t defamatory in a U.S. court of law. Plaintiffs almost always have to prove that their respective defendants made false and unprivileged statements of fact.
- Harm: Except for defamation per se cases, nearly all defamation plaintiffs must prove that the contested statement(s) caused them either material or reputational harm.
- Negligence: Plaintiffs must also demonstrate that the defendant acted negligently by publishing, speaking, or otherwise broadcasting the contested statement.
Mr. Ibrahim told ABC7 Los Angeles that he is ready to fight this Yelp defamation lawsuit, admonishing the auto dealer for “essentially trying to sue their customers into silence.”
In U.S. Defamation Cases, Plaintiffs Must Prove The Defendants Lied
Unless the auto dealer can somehow prove that Mr. Ibrahim is prevaricating, this lawsuit probably won’t go far. Why? Because under United States defamation law, it’s the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove that the defendant made an unprivileged, negligent, false statement of fact. In the context of this Yelp defamation case, Zeibak would need to demonstrate that Ibrahim’s visit didn’t unfold as he described, which – who knows – may be the case. We’ll just have to wait to see how this all turns out.
Got Questions? Speak With A Yelp Defamation Attorney
In the meantime, if you’re in search of a Yelp defamation lawyer to review a situation, get in touch with Kelly Warner. Our attorneys have helped countless individuals and businesses with various online reputation matters. A top-rated firm, our track record speaks for itself.
Programmer Buys Domain In The 1990s; Startup Wants It In 2014.
Sixteen years ago, a London-based programmer, Jason Kneen, purchased the domain workbetter.com.
Fast forward to 2014. According to reports, Kneen was contacted by Harsh Mehta, the entrepreneur behind OfficeLinks; he wants to buy workbetter.com. To promote his company, Mehta had already bought workbetter.us and was looking to obtain the higher-profile .com domain. The OfficeLinks co-founder offered Kneen $500, but for various reasons, the programmer ultimately turned down the deal.
After negotiations stalled, in April 2014, Mehta filed an intent-to-use trademark application for the phrase “Work Better.” Then, in June, Kneen caught wind that someone was trying to do a domain transfer on the URL. Turns out the would-be domain interloper was, as Mehta would later explain, one of his “over-zealous” employees. Whatever the case, at the time, Mehta and Kneen appeared to have “made up” on social media.
Startup Files Cybersquatting Lawsuit Over “Warehoused” Domains
Later in the same month, DomainNameWire contacted Kneen, which is allegedly how he learned OfficeLinks was suing him for cybersquatting. Apparently, as a result of the lawsuit, Kneen’s domain name provider locked the URL during proceedings.
In a public statement, Mehta explained his position:
“This is a dispute between a company that is trying to protect its trademark, and make genuine use of it, and an ideology that entitles individuals (and businesses, including Jason Kneen’s) to hijack existing and prospective trademark registrations for $18/year.”
Interesting Case; Tough Call
This domain dispute is worth following for a couple of reasons.
- Both parties are fairly well-known in the tech and startup communities.
- It’s easy to see both parties’ points.
As John Biggs on Tech Crunch eloquently explains:
Got Questions About Cybersquatting Cases? Consult A Domain Dispute Lawyer.
Kelly Warner is an Internet law firm that has successfully handled dozens of domain disputes and cybersquatting lawsuits. A top AV-rated firm, our attorneys enjoy a high success rate. To read more about cybersquatting case studies, head here. To learn more about Kelly / Warner’s Internet law practice, click here. If you’re ready to schedule a consultation, please head here.
Kelly Warner’s domain dispute lawyers have successfully handled all manners of cybersquatting cases. We’re aware of all the trap doors and potential sink holes parties can encounter when pursuing domain claims.
An Australian defamation ruling will probably affect how Australians’ tweet from here on out.
In this post we’ll review the case, and then examine the likelihood of a U.S. court delivering the same verdict.
The Tweets That Launched an Australian Defamation Lawsuit
Last May, Fairfax Media (an Aussie outlet) ran a story about Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey’s alleged complicity with, what sounds like, a modern-day political simony scheme. According to Fairfax Media, a Sydney business group supposedly bestowed inappropriate “access” on Hockey, presumably in exchange for political favors.
As part of efforts to promote the story, Fairfax released two tweets. One said, “Treasurer Hockey for sale,” followed by a link; the second tweet, which also included a micro-summary of the story, read, “Treasurer for Sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access.”
In response, Hockey filed an online defamation lawsuit.
Both sides presented their arguments, and Justice Richard White ruled:
A Fairfax Media spokesperson explained to the press:
So, what does this all mean? In the Fairfax Media Twitter defamation case, the court ruled that the investigative article, about Hockey, wasn’t defamatory, but the tweets were libelous because they lacked clarifying context.
Would Hockey Have Won This Twitter Defamation Case In A U.S. Court?
Two win a defamation lawsuit in the United States, at the very least, plaintiffs must meet the following requirements.
Falsity: Most statements aren’t defamatory if they’re true. Claimants must prove that the defendants made false declarations of fact.
Harm: It’s not enough to demonstrate falsity. Typically, plaintiffs must show that the speech caused material or reputational damage. (The exception to this rule is defamation per se, which you can read more about here, in the sidebar.)
Negligence or Actual Malice: Intention is a big part of defamation law. To win cases, plaintiffs must prove that the defendants either acted negligently or intentionally released the inaccurate information.
So, taking the parameters of U.S. defamation law into consideration, would Hockey have won this Twitter legal battle on American soil? Probably not. Especially since the court found that the article, which the tweets referenced, was not defamatory.
Differences Between U.S. and Australian Defamation Law
Like other Commonwealth nations, Australian defamation laws are more plaintiff-friendly than those in the United States, which is why some stateside clients file overseas, circumstances permitting. That said, so-called libel tourism is universally frowned upon; and though it has been done, getting any court to accept a foreign defamation case is no easy task, especially since the 2013 libel reforms.
Speak With An International Online Defamation Attorney
Our firm has successfully handled hundreds of Internet defamation and trade libel cases. A top firm with Av-rated attorneys, Kelly Warner lawyers are known for their attention to detail and creative solutions.
Occasionally, aggressive business competitors may cross legal lines when elbowing their way to #1 — and injunctions can come in handy. So, let’s review a few “injunction law” basics. If you still have questions when we’re done, get in touch.
Real Talk: Injunctions Are Tough To Get
Before you start the injunction process, it’s important to understand one thing: injunctions are tough to get. Why? Simply Stated: free speech and fair competition are are the philosophical cornerstones of the U.S. marketplace. Courts are exceptionally cautious about dolling out injunctions that could impede another party’s First Amendment rights or free market ambitions.
What You Must Prove To Get An Injunction
You may be thinking: “What must I prove to successfully motion for an injunction?”
The answer isn’t simple – because litigation strategies are largely dependent on the details. That said, we’ve outlined some “ballpark” parameters regarding the acquisition of either a temporary or permanent injunction related to unfair competition, defamation or unfair and deceptive marketing.
#1: Ongoing Damage
To get a content removal injunction, the requesting party must convince a judge that failing to remove the content will cause ongoing damage.
#2: Probability of Success
As stated above, judges don’t hand out court orders willy-nilly. Instead, to get an injunction, judges must be convinced that you will most likely win the lawsuit associated with the request.
#3: Keeping the Information Published Will Cause Great Harm “In the Absence of Preliminary Relief”
If a published statement is likely to cause long term harm if not removed, the statement may be a candidate for an injunction action (if the other tests are also met). To win this point, plaintiffs must demonstrate how the statement will cause actionable harm and why temporal concerns are likely to exacerbate said harm.
#4: The Public’s Interest Is Best Served by Granting an Injunction
Laws protect citizens’ interests. So, for a court or judge to grant an injunction, the potential impending harm must be detrimental to the public’s best interest in some capacity.
Questions? Speak With An Unfair Competition Lawyer About Your Chances Of Securing An Injunction
Do you have more questions about how to get an injunction? If yes, contact the online reputation and removal lawyers at Kelly Warner. We’ll review the details of your situation and provide potential solutions.
July 2015 Update: It’s the law. Arizona legislators approved the measure at the beginning of the month.
Arizona crowdfunding may become easier if state legislators push through a new Internet law.
Currently, AZ crowdfunding regulations are strict. Because of state finance regulations, Arizona project creators can’t offer investors a piece of the profit pie on sites like Kickstarter.com and GoFundMe.com. Instead, Grand Canyon State entrepreneurs can only accept pure donations or offer discounts or rewards to entice “investors.”
AZ Legislators Want to Eliminate Crowdfunding Restrictions
But Arizona legislators hope to weaken the crowdfunding restriction by loosening the regulation reigns.
Senate Bill 1450 and its House counterpart HB 2591 would allow small businesses in Arizona to sell securities in exchange for funding. Currently, in Arizona, it’s illegal to do so without first getting the blessing of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Catch: Only Arizonans Can Participate in Arizona Crowdfunding
But the bill has parameters. Perhaps most notably, it only applies to Arizona residents. In other words, project creators can only offer securities to other Arizonans. To wit, a Silicon Valley VC wouldn’t be able to “buy” securities, in an Arizona, online crowd-sourced initiative.
Why the border throttle?
Lawmakers are promoting the bill as one that will jump start local investment. The operative word being “local.” In the words of Arizona Sen. David Farnsworth:
“This gives people who would ordinarily not be investing the opportunity to invest in something they believe in; something that’s close to home.”
Despite the restrictions, if the Arizona crowdfunding bill passed, it could be a great tool for Arizona startups previously rejected for bank loans.
Speak with a Crowdfunding Lawyer
Currently, 15 states have crowdfunding laws. Kelly / Warner is an Internet law firm that works with businesses and entrepreneurs in all 50 states, Canada, Europe and Australia. To speak with a lawyer about your Arizona crowdfunding legal questions, contact us.
A couple of months ago, Mark Eichorn quietly posted a significant post on the Federal Trade Commission’s blog. In it, he gives an overview of how the FTC approaches breach and data security investigations.
The post advises:
In other words, when deciding on punitive measures in data security cases, the Federal Trade Commission is often more lenient with businesses that report breaches to the proper authorities promptly. Or, conversely, if you try to hide a data breach from authorities, and the FTC discovers your deception, the commissioners may – and are legally allowed to – dole out a larger fine.
Three Data Privacy Best Practices For SMBs
- Have a “privacy officer” on speed dial. Privacy officers are usually attorneys; they’re the people businesses can call in the wake of a data breach to determine their legal responsibilities based on the nature of the data attack. Your privacy officer, depending on the information you provide, will let you know what you need to do to satisfy local, state, federal, and international data breach regulations. On occasion, contingent on the circumstances, you may not have to report the incident.
- Don’t ignore security issues. Digital hacking is a serious reality. Laboring under the assumption that “it will never happen to you” or “only the big guys get hit” is erroneous. Implement certain data security measures at your office. Also, establish data security rules for employees – the most fundamental being that they’re forbidden from accessing files remotely without authorization and instruction.
- Have data security, maintenance and breach procedures in place. Moreover, companies should make a habit of corporate-wide password changes on regular intervals. Additionally, like a fire drill, businesses should establish a data breach drill. Not only will it be helpful in the event of an attack, but being able to prove that you did take precautions may mitigate eventual punishments handed down by the FTC or other government agencies.
Consult A Data Breach Lawyer
Lawyers at Internet law firm Kelly Warner act as the privacy officers for several startups and businesses. We’d be happy to help you establish a data security and / or data breach program or procedure that satisfies all state, federal, and international regulations.
When you’re ready to move forward with an online privacy and data security plan, contact Kelly Warner’s online privacy lawyers.
ATTENTION WEB DEVELOPERS & DESIGNERS: Scammers developed a new scheme targeting Web designers and developers. We’ve outlined the con below. Take 2 minutes to make sure you’re not a target.
Web-Designer-Scam Red Flags
Initial Contact: Perpetrators of the web-designer-scam usually initiate contact via an email originating outside the United States. The sender usually inquires about services and includes a link to an example website.
Air of Legitimacy: What makes this scam particularly lucrative is that the initial inquiry seems legitimate.
Poor Grammar: Though the emails may seem valid, people who’ve been duped noted that the emails were grammatically questionable.
No Direct Response: One of the biggest red flags is the inquirers’ refusals to return your emails or address any questions. They’ll only initiate emails, dictating parameters. This is probably because it’s a semi-automated scam.
Inquirer Controls Terms: They may tell you a money order is coming as a deposit and that they’ll pay the balance on completion.
Large Money Order Arrives: Money orders do arrive. And here’s the rub: they’re usually for more than agreed upon.
Asks You To Refund: The way the scammers make money is by getting you to Western Union money to them. So, the “closer” is almost always a request to send the overage amount to a) them or b) some specified intermediary in the U.S.
Generally speaking, all web developers and designers should be wary of inquiries that ask them to send money to someone else – especially if you’re being paid by credit card or money order.
Speak With A Design and Developer Attorney
Kelly Warner is an Internet law firm that represents Web developers and graphic designers. To learn more about our firm, click here. To get in touch, please use one of the methods presented on our contact page. We look forward to speaking with you soon.
You’ve come up with a million-dollar-idea. Eager to act, you draft and polish a mission statement, create a project outline, determine contribution awards, gather graphics, and voila! – 7 days later, you’re up and running on Kickstarter or GoFundMe.
And you do a great job – because within a few weeks, your project is funded! Time to start producing what you promised. Right? But what happens if you don’t deliver?
Collected Crowdsourced Funds, But Didn’t Deliver
Life doesn’t always work out as planned. Sometimes, good intentions become shelved aspirations. So what happens when you set up a Kickstarter, get funded, and then don’t follow through on promises to backers? Can you abscond with their money and no explanation?
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission recently announced its first “crowdsourced project abandonment bust”.
Who did the FTC investigate for possible crowdsource marketing violations?
Erik Chevalier, who came up with the idea for “The Doom That Came to Atlantic City,” which he described as a “Lovecraftian” board game about “urban destruction.”
What did Chevalier promise potential backers on his Kickstarter page?
According to Chevalier’s Kickstarter page, people who invested in the project, depending on their level of commitment, would receive either a t-shirt or “a copy of the game with pewter figurines made by well-known sculptor Paul Komoda.”
How much did Chevalier raise with his crowdsourcing efforts?
The board game developer’s initial goal was $35,000, which he surpassed by raising a little over $122,000 from more than 1,000 supporters.
Why did the FTC launch an investigation into Chevalier’s Kickstarter project?
According to a group of the game’s backers, Chevalier allegedly didn’t deliver on promises. As a result, a group of “The Doom’s” investors filed an FTC complaint against Chevalier to get their money back.
What did the FTC conclude in its first crowdfunding investigation?
Ultimately, the Federal Trade Commission found evidence that Chevalier may not have used backers’ funds to work on the game. According to the commission’s statement about the case (via NPR):
“He represented in a number of updates that he was making progress on the game. But after 14 months, Chevalier announced that he was cancelling the project and refunding his backers’ money.
“Despite Chevalier’s promises he did not provide the rewards, nor did he provide refunds to his backers. In fact, according to the FTC’s complaint, Chevalier spent most of the money on unrelated personal expenses such as rent, moving himself to Oregon, personal equipment, and licenses for a different project.”
Did the FTC fine Chevalier for not using the money he raised on Kickstarter for the stated purpose?
The commission issued a $111,793.71 judgment against Chevalier but suspended it because of his “inability to pay.”
Besides the fine, what other penalties did the FTC impose?
In addition to the suspended fine, Chevalier is also barred from “making misrepresentations about any crowdfunding campaign” and he must honor any stated refund policies.
Speak With A Crowdsource Lawyer
NPR spoke to one of Chevalier’s backers who explained:
“I really don’t care about the money that is gone at this point, nor the game. I pledged $75 to get the [board game] figures, which I’m sure I’ll never see. Now I just want to see this guy put in prison.”
As a first offense, prison is probably a little drastic. But Chevalier’s run-in with the Federal Trade Commission should serve as a cautionary reminder that regulations govern the crowdsourcing process.
Before you start a project, make sure you understand what laws and regulations you must follow. If you don’t know them, consult with an Internet lawyer at Kelly Warner to ensure you have all your legal ducks in a row.
Your revenge porn problems may be over sooner than you thought possible!
State legislators have been feverishly passing regional anti-revenge porn laws; several social media platforms have also taken public stands against the practice, and now the mother of all search engines, Google, has declared itself amenable to revenge porn de-indexing.
The Google Revenge Porn Link Removal Service
Google announced it will gladly consider de-indexing legitimate incidents of revenge porn if contacted by the damaged party. According to the company’s announcement:
Some pundits believe Google’s intentions are admirable, but ultimately predict a Pyrrhic victory. Tech Dirt explained the potential negative consequences:
Google’s newest policy measure to help stamp out revenge porn is admirable on an ethical level. The company’s intentions are genuine and commendable. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see if Google’s compassion play will be used to further any questionable censorship goals.
Speak With An Internet Lawyer About Getting Information De-Indexed From Google & Other Search Engines
Is there something you’d like removed from either a revenge porn website or Google’s search engine? Kelly Warner’s online removal lawyers can review your situation. Based on the details, we’ll recommend the best course of action for you. Get in touch today to begin the conversation.
Media chatter suggests that the Federal Trade Commission has turned its gaze towards “native ads” – a.k.a., sponsored content. At an industry conference, FTC director Mary Engle outlined the agency’s core apprehension regarding native advertising. She explained:
“For us [the FTC], the concern is whether consumers recognize what they’re seeing is advertising or not.”
Is It Enough To Use A “Sponsored” Label?
A lot of websites demarcate promotional sections with a “Sponsored Stories” headline. Does that satisfy FTC guidelines? Not anymore.
Some marketers label native advertising in fine print. Think: sponsored (don’t worry, you’re not the only one who can’t read it). At the event, FTC’s Engle reminded attendees that the commission had won cases in which the word “advertorial” was so small the average person didn’t notice it.
If It Misleads, Your Business May Bleed
A journalism axiom instructs: “If it bleeds, it leads!” In other words, gory stories get front-page coverage. Call it “rubbernecking syndrome.” As a variation on the theme, native advertisers should remember: “If it misleads, a business may bleed!”
And remember: Advertisers, designers, and even marketers can all be held responsible in a “native advertising” sting.
Native Advertising and Marketing Audits: A Business’ Best Friend
U.S. brands courting overseas customers must adhere to both domestic and foreign advertising laws.
Are you positive you understand – and follow – every state, federal, and international marking law, regulation, and guideline? Ask yourself:
- Do you know how EU and UK privacy laws affect digital marketing campaigns?
- How about California’s strict online privacy statutes?
- Do you allow people in the UK to purchase your product? If yes, are you up-to-date on the latest European Union disclosure requirements?
- Do you fully understand the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and how it affects marketing efforts?
- What about Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Dot Com Disclosures?
A marketing review may cost a couple of hundred dollars; a censure from the Federal Trade Commission could set you back millions.
For five or so years, the business community has hotly debated Ripoff Report’s (ripoffreport.com) removal policy. The consumer review website has earned a reputation among some entrepreneurs for not removing any postings – even defamatory ones.
In the past, people who wanted to challenge claims were welcome to publish rebuttals. But the site has always maintained a strict hands-off policy with regards to redacting posts.
And here’s the important thing to understand: Ripoff Report’s removal position was (and still is) supported by federal and state laws.
Did Ripoff Report Change Its Removal Policy?
Recently, Ripoff Report has made significant changes to its redaction policies. Not: the arbitration program and corporate advocacy programs still exist.
According to a Ripoff Report executive, the consumer review website is still developing a new procedure in which it would voluntarily honor certain court orders, under very specific, limited, circumstances. The executive said the policy change was prompted by “respect for the courts and the judicial process.”
This is a significant change for Ripoff Report. We hope it proves helpful to small business owners.
Ripoff Report Will Not Honor All “Removal” Court Orders
Must Mention Defamation
At the very least, for Ripoff Report to even consider honoring a court order, it must mention which claims or statements are defamatory or libelous. Even then, it’s unlikely that site administrators will remove the whole report.
According to Ripoff Report, the site will give court orders “special prominence” on the relevant pages, and will “redact the information specifically identified as false” under extreme enough circumstances.
We can confirm that Ripoff Report will, indeed, in very limited circumstances, redact content. In fact, we recently obtained a favorable result for a client who was dealing with a defamatory post. But since every case is different, you shouldn’t assume the same results.
Ripoff Report’s new removal policy only applies in cases where both sides have presented arguments in court – and the court ruled against the author of the posting. Default judgments probably won’t not be accepted. Still, the change is a step forward for people and businesses that have been defamed on ripoffreport.com.
Speak To A Ripoff Report Removal Lawyer
Is a false posting on Ripoff Report causing your business hardship? The attorneys at Kelly Warner have worked with hundreds of businesses to mitigate the crushing effects of defamatory online consumer reviews. If you’ve been “hit,” contact our ripoffreport.com removal attorneys; they’ll be able to review the specifics of your situation and, depending on the circumstances, may be able to guide you towards an effective outcome.
Arrange a consultation with a Ripoff Report Removal Lawyer.