Monthly Archives: July 2015

Yelp Reputation Law: The Case of the Auto-Dealer & Unsatisfied Customer

Yelp reputation lawyer
Yelp Defamation Case Study: Business v. Unsatisfied Customer

In This Post:

  • Summary and analysis of Yelp defamation case;
  • Explanation of what business owners need to prove to win a Yelp reputation case
  • Contact information for an online defamation attorney;

Another Yelp! (“Yelp”) defamation case has 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. Yelp Reviewer

The Basics

Plaintiff: Zeibak Auto Trading

Defendant: Zaki Ibrahim

Lawsuit Catalyst: Ibrahim had bought a used car for his wife at Zeibak Auto Trading. According to a report by ABC News affiliate in California, the car started giving him problems soon after he brought it home. So, according to Ibrahim, he returned to Zebiak’s to calmly discuss 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 details have made their way to the press about this suit, so it’s impossible to do a full – and fair – case 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 have been 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 cannot be deemed defamatory in a U.S. court of law. Plaintiffs almost always have to prove that their respective defendants made a false and unprivileged statement of fact.
  • Harm: Except for defamation per se cases (which you can read about here), nearly all defamation plaintiffs must prove that the contested statement(s) caused them either material or reputational harm.
  • Negligence: It’s not enough to prove that the defendants made a false statement of fact; to win, plaintiffs must also demonstrate that the defendant acted negligently by publishing, speaking or otherwise broadcasting the contested statement. (Note: The rules are a little different for celebrities and public figures; click here to find out why.)

Mr. Ibrahim told ABC7 Los Angeles that he is ready to fight this Yelp defamation lawsuit, and admonished that the auto dealer is “essentially trying to sue their customers into silence.”

In U.S. Defamation Cases, The Plaintiffs Have To Prove That The Defendants Lied

Unless the auto dealer can somehow prove that Mr. Ibrahim is not telling the truth, there is a chance this lawsuit 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 are 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.

To learn more about Kelly Warner Law, please click here. If you’re ready to set up a consultation, please head here to schedule an appointment – we look forward to speaking with you soon.

Internet Law FAQs: Top Five

Internet law FAQ
A top-rated attorney answers 5 frequently asked Internet law questions posed by startups.

5 Internet Law FAQs

As a website operator, am I accountable for untrue statements posted by users on my website? Can I be held responsible for users’ defamatory acts?

Under United States law, Internet service providers, Web hosts and interactive computer services are federally protected from third-party defamation liability via Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Case law is strong on the matter, and even though a couple of such cases have won in trial court (i.e., Sarah Jones v. TheDirty.com), they were overturned on appeal.

My site sells products geared for adults. How do I protect my company from liability if minors lie about their age and purchases an item from my site?

Age verification has always presented an obstacle to businesses with an online commercial presence. Operators worry: “How is it possible to keep minors off a site? If I fail, will I be held responsible for something I tried to prevent?”

Thankfully, lawmakers do understand the predicament faced by websites that don’t want to cater to users under the ages of 13, 16, 18 or 21 because they don’t want to worry about various age-related federal online privacy regulations. That said, websites that truly don’t want minors interacting or making purchases via their platforms must have certain elements in place to convince a legal body that they took precautions to limit their sites’ appeal to minors.

Online venues that want to discourage underage use of their sites should:

age restrictions for websites laws
Be careful not to make your site attractive to minors if you don’t want them using your website.
  • Be aware of design considerations. The Federal Trade Commission considers a website’s aesthetics when investigating “unfair and deceptive” marketing cases. If your site uses graphics that would appeal to a younger audience, it could be – and has, in the past been – considered an underhanded method to attract minors.
  • Make sure your disclosures are clear and conspicuous. If you genuinely don’t want people under a certain age making purchases from, or interacting with, your site, implement an acknowledgement step. Before any security or check-out process, make sure there is a page in the checkout process that users must acknowledge via an “I agree” click, which clearly states the age policies of the site.
  • Use policies that conspicuously dictate the platform’s age rules. Many website terms of use agreements that are available for free all over the Internet don’t include age provisions. That is why it’s wise to hire an Internet law attorney to draft policies and terms specific to your business and target demographic.

How can I get rid of inaccurate,misleading online posts about my business? Are there actions I can take against the person making the false posts?

fake review lawyer and legalities
There are several legal options for combating online reviews.

As digital-dependency grows, online reputation attacks are also growing more prevalent. To gain a competitive edge, some businesses hire smear trolls to bad-mouth competitors across the Internet. But doing so is a violation of civil law. Hiring reputation assassins who spread false statements of fact, about either a person or business, with the intention of driving clients to themselves, is defamatory, and pecuniary redress is achievable in some cases. But, to win a business defamation or trade libel lawsuit, in a United States court, plaintiffs, at the very least, must prove:

  • That the Defendants made a negligent, false, unprivileged statement of fact that caused material or reputational harm.
  • That the statements were about the plaintiffs.
  • The defendants’ actions can’t be deemed defamatory unless claimants can prove that their detractors acted at least, negligently, or at best, with actual malice.

Another common tactic used to mitigate the effects of false and negative online press is to get pages de-indexed from search engines.

Am I obligated to provide information on my site about me? I’ve been told that all websites must provide personal information about the owner.

Rules and regulations regarding required website policies is a field of law in a constant state of flux. As such, there are many caveats and exceptions. The best thing to do – especially if you run a commercial website – is to have a contract drafted, by an Internet lawyer, specific to your operation. Because remember, not only do you have to worry about state and federal laws, but if you allow users in Europe to makes purchases from – or interact with – your platform, you must adhere to E.U. regulations, too.

website terms and conditions required
Make sure your website has the proper terms of service, privacy and user agreements.

That said, at a minimum, here’s a list of contracts and policies you should probably have on your website.

  • Privacy Policy. If you run a commercial website, a privacy policy is a must. It should outline how and when personal data is collected, plus clearly describe how and if personal data is stored, shared, sold or otherwise transmitted to a third-party. Additionally, language – and features – associated with various U.K. and E.U. online privacy laws should be addressed in the privacy policy of any website that collects user data and allows people overseas to interact with the site.
  • Legal Disclaimer. It’s a good idea to include a legal disclaimer on your website – especially if you’re marketing or selling a product or service via your website. To learn what types of marketing disclosures you need to add to your online privacy policies, consult the links below.
    • Dot Com Disclosures: This link will take you to a list of blog posts about the Federal Trade Commission’s online marketing bible – the Dot Com Disclosures.
    • COPPA: The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is the only U.S. Federal online privacy law. It’s important that marketers understand COPPA parameters, as they do have an effect on how digital marketing campaigns are structured and distributed.
    • Gramm-Leech-Bliley: Regulations regarding banking records and any other monetary data must always be respected. E-commerce websites – a.k.a., “commercial websites” – should consult with an Internet law attorney, before launch, to ensure that the site’s policies are correct.

I have installed the latest encryption systems into my site to protect visitors when they make a purchase. If my site is hacked, and personal information is stolen despite the implemented protections, will my company be held liable?

data breach lawyer
In the wake of a data breach, businesses are required to follow certain notification regulations.

Over the past two decades, federal legislators have passed several regulations regarding the collection of personal and financial digital data. They’ve also green lit measures designed to curb online hacking and Internet espionage.

The two main federal laws affecting hacks and their aftermaths are:

  • The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: Amongst other things, this is the main law used to prosecute people involved in unauthorized digital breaches – a.k.a., hacking incidents.
  • The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA): Also called the Financial Modernization Act, the GLBA includes a section about safeguarding personal financial data. In the event of a hack, certain GLBA provisions may apply. Consult with an Internet lawyer who understands legal breach parameters, and can walk you step-by-step through the post-hack notification process.

In addition to the federal statutes, states have various laws governing digital security breaches and their aftermaths. For example, click here to read about Arizona’s data breach notification law. Best practice advice: have a privacy officer in your corner before anything happens. Establish legal counsel you can contact in the wake of discovering a data security breach. There’s a good chance that having a privacy officer on your side may mitigate resulting government penalties.

Contact Kelly Warner’s Internet Law Attorneys

Internet law attorneys
Kelly Warner was one of the first law firms in the country to focus on cyber law.

Since hanging up the shingle, Kelly Warner has concentrated on Internet law. And we didn’t jump on the tech bandwagon because it was the “in thing” to do.

Instead, we grew up with computers and started programming before we learned to drive.

Like you, we’re wired entrepreneurs and we have invaluable insight into how the e-commerce ecosystem operates.

Contact Kelly Warner about any of your Internet law questions.

Cybersquatting Case Law: Warehousing Domains

cybersquatting cases
Cybersquatting Cases: OfficeLinks v. Kneen

Enterprising 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 is contacted by Harsh Mehta, the entrepreneur behind OfficeLinks, who wants to buy workbetter.com. To promote his company, Mehta had already bought workbetter.us and was looking to obtain the higher-profile workbetter.com. The OfficeLinks co-founder offered Kneen $500, but for various reasons, the programmer ultimately turned down the deal.

After negotiations had fallen through, 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

But later in the same month, DomainNameWire contacted Kneen, which is allegedly how he found out about that OfficeLinks was suing him for cybersquatting in a New York Federal Court. According to reports, as a result of the lawsuit, Kneen’s domain name provider locked the URL during proceedings – presumably until the legal matter resolved.

In a public statement, Mehta explained his position thusly:

“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:

At this point, on July 3, the domain is still in limbo with Kneen refusing to sell and Mehta’s lawsuit hanging over Kneen. The unfortunate thing about the case is that both parties are Internet natives and, Mehta especially, part of the startup ecosystem. While cybersquatting situations are frustrating, this is not the case of someone trying to grab Sony.com in the early days of the Internet. Kneen decided he didn’t want to sell and Mehta, in short, is using the legal system to ensure an outcome beneficial to himself.

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.

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Kelly Warner’s domain dispute lawyers have successfully handled all manners of cybersquatting cases. Our experience with these types of cases means we’re aware of all the proverbial trap doors and potential sink holes. We also understand how to best leverage the law on behalf of our clients’ interests.
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Australian Defamation Case Study: The Hockey Incident

Australian defamation law
A surprising decision in an Australian Twitter defamation case further defines Internet libel laws in the Antipodes.

An Australian defamation ruling will probably affect how Australians’ tweets 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. If you’ve landed on this page in search of an international online defamation lawyer, click here.

The Tweets That Launched an Australian Defamation Lawsuit

In May of last year, Fairfax Media (an Aussie media 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 ultimately decided:

“There would have been a large number of persons, perhaps in the tens of thousands, who read the bare tweets and who did not read further.”

After the ruling, a Fairfax Media spokesperson explained to the press:

“The Court upheld Fairfax’s defense of the articles and found them not to be defamatory. Mr Hockey’s claims were only upheld in respect to the publication of the SMH [Sydney Morning Herald] poster and two tweets by The Age because they lacked the context of the full articles.”

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: A statement isn’t defamatory if it’s true. Claimants must prove that the defendants made false declarations of fact.

Harm: It’s not enough to demonstrate that a statement was false. 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 a case, 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

Slander and libel laws in the United States and Australia are a lot different than some people may think. Like other British Commonwealth nations, Australian defamation laws are more plaintiff-friendly than those in the United States,  which is why some stateside clients choose to 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.

Pick up the phone – or Skype – to begin the conversation.

 

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Legal Lessons 101: Can I Get An Injunction?

get an injunction lawyer
Just how difficult is it to get an injunction?

Business competition can get ugly. And occasionally, aggressive opponents may cross legal lines when elbowing their way to #1. Our law firm works  with startups, entrepreneurs and businesses who face egregious acts of disruptive marketing, and they all ask: “Can I get an injunction against [insert name of competitor]?”

So, due to popular demand, 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 major thing: injunctions are tough to get. Why? Simply Stated: Because free speech and fair competition are two 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

injunction lawyer
Injunctions are as difficult to get as VIP tickets to a high-profile premier.

You may be thinking: “What must I prove to successfully motion for an injunction?”

Like most legal questions, 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 disruptive marketing that crosses the legal line.

#1: Ongoing Damage

To get an injunction to remove content from the Internet, the requesting party must convince a judge that letting the content stay will cause ongoing damage, at the hands of another party, who is acting contrary to laws or regulations.

injunction law attorney
To win an injunction, the petitioning party must demonstrate a likelihood of lawsuit success.

#2: Probability of Success

As stated above, judges don’t hand out orders willy-nilly. Instead, to get an injunction, judges must be convinced that, based on statutes and case law, 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 quickly 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

Philosophically speaking, laws are meant to protect citizens’ interests. So, for a court or judge to grant an injunction, the potentially 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.

Contact us today to begin the conversation.

Arizona Crowdfunding Law and Lawyer

Arizona crowdfunding lawyer
A change in AZ crowdfunding laws may be in the works.

July 2015 Update: It’s the law. Arizona legislators approved the measure at the beginning of the month.

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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-based 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 wall 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.

FTC Favors Companies With Data Breach Contingency Plans

data breach contingency plan
Having a data breach contingency plan may mitigate penalties in the event of an incident.

A couple of months ago, Mark Eichorn posted a quietly significant post on the Federal Trade Commission’s blog. In it, Eichorn gives an overview of how the FTC approaches breach and data security investigations.

In the post, Eichorn advises:

“We’ll also consider the steps the company took to help affected consumers, and whether it cooperated with criminal and other law enforcement agencies in their efforts to apprehend the people responsible for the intrusion. In our eyes, a company that has reported a breach to the appropriate law enforcers and cooperated with them has taken an important step to reduce the harm from the breach. Therefore, in the course of conducting an investigation, it’s likely we’d view that company more favorably than a company that hasn’t cooperated.”

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 or hack. 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 amongst your 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 to officials that you did take precautions may mitigate eventual punishments handed down by the FTC or other government agencies.
data breach law
Kelly Warner Law can create a comprehensive data breach contingency plan for your business.

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. If you’re not yet ready for a consultation, you may want to read through these blog posts [will be linked to online privacy blog]. They will give a better idea of the types of online privacy and data security laws that businesses must follow. When you’re ready to move forward with an online privacy and data security plan, contact Kelly Warner’s online privacy lawyers.

Scam Targeting Web Designers and Developers

wed developer scam
There’s A New Scam Targeting Web Developers and Designers

ATTENTION WEB DEVELOPERS & DESIGNERS: Scammers have developed a new scheme targeting Web designers and developers. We’ve outlined the con below. Take 2 minutes to read it through; doing so could save you lots of money, headaches and time.

Web-Designer-Scam Red Flags

Initial Contact: Perpetrators of the web-designer-scam usually initiate contact via an email originating outside the United States. People who’ve been hit reported that the sender inquired about services and included 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 taken in by this scam noted that the emails did contain poor grammar.

No Direct Response: One of the biggest red flags in this scam is the inquirers’ refusals to return your emails or address any of your questions. They’ll only initiate emails, dictating parameters. This is probably because it’s a semi-automated scam.

Inquirer Controls Terms: Another similarity that targeted designers and developers mention is the inquirers’ propensity to dictate the terms of the deal. They may tell you that a money order is coming as a deposit and that they’ll pay the balance on completion.

Large Money Order Arrives: One of the more interesting aspects of this scam is that 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.

Crowdsource Lawyer Explains Abandoned Project Legalities

crowdsource lawyer
Crowdsource Lawyer Talks About Legalities of Abandoned Projects

You’ve finally figured out 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?

Collected Crowdsourced Funds, But Didn’t Deliver

Well, 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 with no explanation? Absolutely not. And to ensure that entrepreneurs get this message, 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?

Yes, the commission did issue 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 on the “Kickstarter absconder”?

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 there are regulations tied to 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 a crowdsource lawyer at Kelly Warner to ensure you have all your legal ducks in a row.

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Google Revenge Porn Link Removal

Google revenge porn link removal
Google Revenge Porn Link Removal System

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:

“Our philosophy has always been that Search should reflect the whole web. But revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victims—predominantly women. So going forward, we’ll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results. This is a narrow and limited policy, similar to how we treat removal requests for other highly sensitive personal information, such as bank account numbers and signatures, that may surface in our search results.”

“In the coming weeks we’ll put up a web form people can use to submit these requests to us, and we’ll update this blog post with the link.

“We know this won’t solve the problem of revenge porn—we aren’t able, of course, to remove these images from the websites themselves—but we hope that honoring people’s requests to remove such imagery from our search results can help.

“Our philosophy has always been that Search should reflect the whole web. But revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victims.

“will require people to complete a form along with the URL from the offending website. It’s unclear if the form, which Google says will become available in coming weeks, can be used only by those who appear in the pictures, or if family or guardians will be able to make such requests as well.”

Some pundits believe Google’s intentions are admirable, but ultimately predict a Pyrrhic victory. Tech Dirt explained the potential negative consequences thusly:

I hope I’m wrong. But for too long we’ve seen too many people looking to find ways to censor all sorts of content they dislike, and to find cracks in the dam to try to push censorship agendas. And thus, while I’m fully supportive of coming up with plans to actually end revenge porn, I’m nervous that wading into this territory will only open up a path to greater censorship and dangerous unintended 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 to 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, and based on the details, recommend the best course of action for you. Get in touch today to begin the conversation.

Source Articles:

Fortune

TechDirt

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Native Advertising Law: The Consequences of Small Print “Sponsored”

native advertising law picture: words on blackboard with doodles

Media chatter suggests the Federal Trade Commission is turning its gaze towards “native ads” – a.k.a., sponsored content. At an industry conference, Mary Engle, an FTC director, explained 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 Just Use A “Sponsored” Label?

A lot of websites demarcate promotional sections with a “Sponsored Stories” headline. Does that satisfy FTC guidelines?

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, against brands and marketers, 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!” Meaning: gory stories get front-page coverage because no matter how civilized, our ancient gladiator genes still crave grisly and gruesome. Call it “rubbernecking syndrome.”

As a variation on the theme, native advertisers should remember: “If it misleads, a business may bleed!”

If native advertising materials mislead “a significant percentage of consumers,” then the FTC can take fiduciary action against advertisers, designers, third-party promoters — and sometimes even payment processors.

Native Advertising and Marketing Audits Can Be a Business’ Best Friend

U.S. brands courting customers in other countries need to follow domestic and foreign advertising laws.

Are you positive you understand – and follow – every state, federal, and international marking law, regulation and guideline? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know how European and UK privacy laws affect digital marketing campaigns?
  • How about California’s strict digital privacy statute?
  • Do you allow people in the UK to purchase your product? If yes, are you sure you’re 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 your marketing efforts?
  • What about Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Dot Com Disclosures?

A marketing legal review may cost a couple of hundred dollars; a censure from the Federal Trade Commission could set you back millions.

Contact Kelly Warner’s online marketing lawyers and e-commerce attorneys to schedule a native advertising audit or full online marketing review, to ensure compliance.

Ripoff Report Updates Long-Standing Removal Policy

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 post rebuttals, but the site has always maintained a strict hands-off policy with regards to redacting posts.

Regardless of peoples’ opinions, Ripoff Report’s removal position was (and still is) solid and supported by numerous federal and state laws.

Did Ripoff Report Change Its Removal Policy?

Recently, Ripoff Report has made some significant changes to its redaction policies. Although the arbitration program and corporate advocacy programs still exist, Ripoff Report has made a change regarding the redaction of information found to be defamatory by a court.

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.

In fact, we recently obtained a favorable result for a client who was dealing with a defamatory post.

Mandatory Court

Ripoff Report’s new removal policy only applies in cases where both sides have presented arguments in court – and then the court found against the author of the contested posting. Default judgments will probably 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 Law have worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and businesses in mitigating 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.

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