Winemaker Charles Smith Sues Over Anonymous Blog Comments

from the hello-ms.-streisand dept

Venkat Balasubramani sends over a link to Felix Salmon's story about winemaker Charles Smith's decision to sue some anonymous blog commenters for libel. The comments in question were in response to a blog post by W. Blake Gray, describing an evening with Smith, who one could describe as "a character." In the comments to Gray's post, many anonymous commenters were pretty critical of Smith, claiming that he was more of a promoter than a winemaker, and multiple people discussed a specific alleged episode where they claimed Smith was... well... what you might (charitably) say was especially rude to someone. An employee of Smith's at K Vinters did respond in the middle of the comments, defending Smith vehemently (while also complaining about Gray). As Salmon notes, the entire 29 comment thread died out within a week, and most people would go on with their lives hardly knowing a thing about it or about the claims concerning Charles Smith.

Instead, Smith decided to sue the anonymous commenters for libel, and since Gray's blog is hosted by Google, it received the subpoena, and has agreed to hand over the names, unless Gray tries to quash the subpoena -- something he does not appear to be interested in doing. Now, reading through the original comments, there might be stuff in there that's defamatory -- though, it seems like a long shot. For the most part, it's clearly just people venting, and I would imagine that anyone reading those comments would take it as such. However, by filing the lawsuit, and calling that much more attention to the issue and the lawsuit, just in an attempt to "out" the commenters, it seems that Smith is now calling a lot more attention to what people think of him and (at the same time) making it clear that he also reacts in a legalistic way when someone doesn't like him. It would seem that Smith comes out looking less favorable in filing the lawsuit than in just letting it go. As multiple people noted "this suit is a prime example of how not to handle criticism."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 4th, 2010 @ 1:15pm

    Just left this comment on his/their blog....

    "Mr. Smith:

    I'm a wine drinker, and while I prefer French/West Coast wines, I'm always on the look out for good producers in the Midwest, since I'm from Chicago. You look like a charasmatic person, but....

    Seriously, suing anonymous commentors is pretty disheartening. Even if what they said was wrong, even if it might be actionable, it's still usually not the right thing to do. For instance, the only reason I even came across your winery and this site is because of the story on your lawsuit (at techdirt.com of all places), including to Google, to out anonymous commentors. I'm a huge first amendment supporter, so you can imagine the light this type of thing casts for me, and others, on you and your business.

    I hope you'll reconsider, for the sake not only of our national traditions, but for yourself as well.

    Sincerely,

    Timothy Geigner"

    Site is: http://kvintners.blogspot.com

    Then I got the lovely response: Your comment will be posted pending moderation.

    Yeah, right....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), Oct 4th, 2010 @ 2:02pm

    Re: Just left this comment on his/their blog....

    Don't forget to write to Gray and ask him to fight this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 4th, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Re: Just left this comment on his/their blog....

    Meh. I'm not going to waste a whole lot of time on a "winery" in Wisconsin. It'd be one thing if he were trying to sell mostly fruit wines (apples, peaches, apricots, etc.) as opposed to the traditional red grape wines he's pitching.

    A good Syrah from the North Midwest? Please....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2010 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Just left this comment on his/their blog....

    Of all the posts dating back to 1/13/2010, I can count the number of "approved" comments on 1 hand. I wouldn't get your hopes up. Sadly, Mr. Smith is also unlikely to ever see your comment; I doubt he's the one moderating them...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 4th, 2010 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Re: Just left this comment on his/their blog....

    We'll see. I specifically pointed him back to Techdirt. Perhaps he'll stop by, though I'll refrain from holding my breath....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 4th, 2010 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just left this comment on his/their blog....

    Ugh, misread the area code. Northern Washington, not midwest. Better for red wines, but not really. Even Oregon is usually too far north....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Oct 4th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    Lawsuit as proof

    For some of the comments, such as "And, a king kong jerk to boot." it seems like the filing of the lawsuit might in itself prove that some of the allegations are correct, and the truth is a defense against libel.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    cc (profile), Oct 4th, 2010 @ 2:49pm

    My attitude towards anyone suing anonymous commenters for libel:

    "If they're suing for it, then it's most likely true."

    People don't usually care to deny gross exaggerations. They usually try to hide things about their past that they *have* done but are ashamed of.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    TS, Oct 4th, 2010 @ 8:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just left this comment on his/their blog....

    Sir,

    Washington State. Not Wisconsin.
    WA is the second largest producer of Quality wine in America.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 5:40am

    Charles Smith is a jerkwad. His company makes horrible wine and it and he have questionable hygiene. Sue me sucker, I need the publicity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 6:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Just left this comment on his/their blog....

    Sir,

    You get no points for correcting me after I already corrected myself.

    That is all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Sohbet, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Just left this comment on his/their blog....

    Don't forget to write to Gray and ask him to fight this!!.. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This