ATTN DENTISTS: If you’re using a patient contract that asserts copyright ownership of online reviews, it’s time to get it updated. Why? Because those types of agreements are no longer enforceable.
Doctor and Dentist Patient Contract That Confer Copyrights of Online Reviews
In the not too distant past, in an effort to curtail negative online reviews, many dentists used patient contracts with an online copyright clauses. Essentially, patients signed away their copyrights to online reviews about the dentist’s performance – good or bad.
Because if someone posted a negative review, the dentist could simply submit a DMCA take down request to get the bad evaluation removed from the Web. Some contracts even included a clause asserting a fee for every day the negative review remained online.
Used To Work, But Judges Caught On
Once patients clued in to the parameters of these “patient copyright contracts,” they rang the caveat emptor alarms. Quickly, and due to lawsuits, judges were able to weigh in on the validity of these contracts.
The overwhelming verdict? These types of patient contracts are not enforceable because, in the United States, you can’t preemptively extinguish someone’s free speech rights.
Patient: 1; Dentist: 0
Recently, a new York court heard a patient v. dentist online review case. Ultimately, the judge ruled that the contract – which claimed copyrights and forbade future negative reviews – was unconstitutional and unenforceable.
In the judge’s exact words:
“[Online copyright control contracts] constitute breaches of fiduciary duty and violations of dental ethics and are subject to the equitable defenses of unclean hands, and, as to such assignment and assertion, constitute copyright misuse.”
In this case, however, no money will likely exchange hands because three years ago the dentist vanished; never to be heard from again.
Speak With A Dentist Defamation Lawyer
Kelly / Warner Law works with both doctors and patients. We’ve helped medical professionals get negative reviews removed from the Internet, and we’ve also assisted patients who’ve been unfairly sued for online defamation over a less-than-glowing missives.
To learn more about our online defamation practice, click here. If you’re ready to speak with one of our experienced lawyers with patient contract drafting experience, set up a consultation. Contact us.