Lawyers Who Tried To Get Into The Mass 'Pre-Settlement' Game Threaten Wordpress

from the let-me-explain-safe-harbors dept

Lots of attention has been paid to Davenport Lyons and ACS:Law as two UK law firms that have sent out thousands of "pre-settlement" threat letters, demanding payment to avoid a lawsuit over copyright infringement. There was a third firm in the UK that briefly popped up trying to do the same thing: Tilly Bailey & Irvine (TBI). A ton of complaints were filed against TBI and even members of the House of Lords in the UK called them the "new entrants to the hall of infamy." After that, TBI "reluctantly agreed" to stop these kinds of campaigns, due to "the amount of adverse publicity" that came with it. Apparently TBI is a big law firm that's been around for nearly two centuries, and it realized that smearing its name this way probably wasn't a good idea.

However, since then, it's tried pretty much everything possible to pretend that it never did anything. Its latest move is to threaten Wordpress.com for hosting a blog that was critical of TBI. The ACSBore blog has been following the law firms involved in these types of actions and uncovering all sorts of embarrassing stuff at times.

However, in one post, the blogger behind the site put up a "wanted" poster of a TBI lawyer who had been involved in the pre-settlement letter campaign along with a blog post quite critical of the firm. Rather than go after him directly, TBI is using a bit of third party liability trickery, claiming first that using the image of one of its lawyers in a "wanted poster" is copyright infringement, and secondly, that the nature of the wanted poster was defamatory. TBI claimed that Automattic, the company behind Wordpress.com would be liable for defamation.

Of course, Automattic is a US-based company, and it almost certainly would not be liable under either issue. On the defamation claim, it's clearly protected by Section 230. On the copyright claim... well... just a year ago we wrote about an almost identical situation, with some company execs suing a guy who created "Wanted" posters out of their corporate photos. The company claimed copyright infringement, but the court noted it was fair use. Unfortunately, Automattic accepted the complaint as a DMCA takedown and removed the content to avoid liability. Perhaps the ACSBore owner will file a counternotice and get the image put back up.

TBI is also trying to find out the identity of who is behind the ACSBore blog. Wordpress is standing behind its user on that front, though, saying: "We will not, under any circumstance, disclose any contact/personal/private details of our bloggers without a U.S. Court Order, and this has not been presented to us."

For a company that was worried about its reputation, you would think it would learn that trying to intimidate critics is probably going to backfire badly and give you an even worse reputation than whatever it was you did in the first place. If TBI is really worried about bad publicity, it should ignore the critics -- not try to bully them legally into shutting up.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    The other way...

    "...trying to intimidate critics is probably going to backfire badly and give you an even worse reputation than whatever it was you did in the first place."
    Yes, it was so much easier when you could just quietly assassinate them.
    ; P


    Also:
    "TBI claimed that Automattic, the company behind Wordpress.com wold be liable for defamation."
    Wold?

     

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    identicon
    Another User, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 12:53pm

    wold
    –noun
    1.an elevated tract of open country.

     

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    william (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 12:56pm

    hey look, "Internet never forgets".

    Just more fodder from TBI for the Internet to remember.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 1:35pm

    Mike, expect a lawsuit from them soon :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

    Creative spelling

    I always claimed to be a "creative speller." Spelling everything the same way all the time is for boring, mundane people.

     

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    tom, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 2:37pm

    stow sue cots for copyright infringement

    and family tolkien hold their breath

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 2:42pm

    How about ethical Behavior

    Don't want your name tarnished, then don't go slumming. This company did not have to dip into the cesspool of "pre-settlement" agreements. What ever happened to responsible behavior. Maybe TBI could make amends by going after Davenport Lyons and ACS:Law. After all the law isn't supposed to be about extortion.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    Here's a great way to scare off law firm from these types of suits, as well as the Hurt Locker and Far Cry suits: Contact the law firms' clients and state you object to what the law firm is doing, and therefore you will boycott the Client as a result.

    This will send shivers down the spine of any law firm. Trust me on this. They will GLADLY drop one client in order to keep their regular revenue.

     

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    Pixelation, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 3:24pm

    It appears that TBI , besides being money grubbing whores are bullies as well. Nice to see another law firm with such high morals. NOT!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 4:34pm

    This is business as usual for old geezer corporations. BP is a unshiney example of stupid behavior.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 9:39pm

    another somewhat misleading headline. they arent threatening wordpress (the product, which most people would assume you are talking about) but rather they are threatening legal action against automattic, operators of wordpress.com. wordpress as a product was moved into a seperate non-profit setup a while back, and thus is not threatened.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 11:19pm

      Re:

      Not even semantics, here. Your argument holds no weight, as going after the operators of a 'product' for what is published on the 'product' IS going after the 'product.' In a situation such as this you cannot separate the two.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 12th, 2010 @ 12:16am

      Re:

      That's all you've got this time? Pathetic, even by your standards.

       

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