A potential end to free speech on the internet?
2Clix has sued the owner of the Australia based Whirlpool chat forums for $150,000.00 and requested the permanent removal of two threads criticizing the 2Clix software.
2Clix, a less than reputable software company, has filed suit against the founder of the Whirlpool forums, because of negative comments made about 2Clix software by Whirlpool forum participants.
The Statement of Claim in the action can be seen here. The basic premise of the 2Clix's suit is that the comments cited are "false and malicious". The comments are not made by Whirlpool's owners, or controllers, but rather by members of the forum.
The lawsuit says that Whirlpool "as a matter of law was and is responsible for the publication of the statements to users of the internet who access the website ("the publication"), but, inconveniently, does not expand on the specifics of this "matter of law". I've been trawling through Austlii trying to find what they may be referring to, but it's a needle in a haystack. It may be that by labelling the forums a "publication" they are trying to draw a comparison between the forums and professional tomes such as newspapers.
There are currently three threads devoted to the lawsuit:
Despite the seriousness of the situation, I couldn't help but laugh at the comment posted by one user "We have this thing called deflamation"...
The story is already sitting at 633 diggs... and is on slashdot.
The statement of claim filed by 2Clix is unimpressive... lots of quoting of nasty things said by unhappy 2Clix users... looking at the comments in question, and without the benefit of backend data such as IP addresses (to rule out one vindictive troll posting under numerous names) it sure does look like 2Clix has a lot of unhappy customers. 2Clix claims to have suffered a substantial loss in clients and sales since January 2007, which they blame on the Whirlpool threads.. but y'know what? 2Clix needs to come to terms with the reality that if you piss off enough people word is going to get around, And thanks to services such as Google negative press can have a pretty much permanent life.. .once the genie is out of the bottle there is no putting it back.
Traditionally we cannot be sued for *honest* opinion. We can all think and say whatever we damn well please about any software company, good or bad, **as long as what we say is our honest, heartfelt opinion**. Things can get muddy if a conversation gets too heated or vindictive, but in the end, you can't be sued for honest personal beliefs. You can't be sued for telling the world that Software Company X screwed you over when that is what has happened, and companies generally can't use the courts to muzzle honest complainants.
Fingers crossed this particular suit will be thrown out sooner rather than later.