Use a Link, Go to Prison
Remember those infamous SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) that were popular in the 1990s? They usually involved a developer trying to squash all public opposition to a project. Go to a public meeting and testify against a proposed development — or even write a letter to the editor — and the next thing you know, you’re being hauled into court by the developer.
These SLAPP suits never had any legal standing. They were almost always tossed out by the judge, sometimes with a fine for filing a frivolous lawsuit. But in the meantime, the defendant was facing huge legal expenses — maybe even bankruptcy or foreclosure — just for attending a meeting and speaking out.
And now, you don’t even have to speak out in public or write a letter to a newspaper to get sued by one of these 800-pound gorillas. All you have to do is link to them on your website or blog.
Here’s what happened: A real estate website, BlockShopper, had two different articles about the expensive real estate purchases of two lawyers (from the same law firm). Each article was properly linked to show where the information came from — the law firm’s own company biographies of both lawyers.
The law firm — Jones Day, with over 2,300 lawyers — sued BlockShopper for (better sit down for this) “trademark infringement.” Supposedly the public might mistakenly believe there’s a connection between Jones Day and BlockShopper. WTF???
There have already been some totally retarded lawsuits based on the loosest possible definition of “trademark infringement.” Intel sued a nonprofit organization called Yoga Inside (teaching yoga to prison inmates) because the public might get them mixed up with “Intel Inside.” Granny Goose sued a small second hand furniture store named Grammy Goose with the same “reasoning.” Let’s see, a chair, a potato chip — damn, I keep getting those two things mixed up.
And now this bullshit. Somebody from Public Citizen described Jones Day’s bullying lawsuit as “a new entry in the contest for ‘grossest abuse of trademark law to suppress speech the plaintiff doesn't like.’”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Citizen, Citizen Media Law Project, and Public Knowledge all tried to get this lawsuit dismissed. But the “judge” — using the term loosely — refused.
So, be careful who you link to.
cross-posted at Bring It On!