TV Station Tells Blogger To Delete Twitter Message Or Face Legal Action
from the uh,-that's-not-how-it-works dept
Tragically, over the years, we’ve been on the receiving end of an unfair share of totally bogus legal threats from angry individuals and companies. In fact, just last week we got two such threats. We’ve almost never posted any details about the threats, as I prefer to give the threatener (usually someone enraged by something said in the comments, rather than by us directly) the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they wrote the threat in a moment of emotional anger. I hope that when they realize that there is no legal basis for the threat, they’ll back down. So far, no one has gone further than sending a threat. Some ignore our responses, some agree that they have no real intention of suing. But it still amazes me how quickly and how frequently people break out the “we’ll sue you!” with no legal basis whatsoever. Luckily, in our case, we’re pretty sure when we’re in the clear, and (this is important) we have relationships with smart lawyers who do an excellent job representing us when we receive such threats. Not everyone is so lucky, and no matter how “safe” you are, being on the receiving end of a legal threat is never fun, especially if you are a small business or just an individual.
davebarnes alerts us to a story of just such a situation involving an anonymous blogger in Oregon, who had heard about some “embarrassing” videos involving some local TV anchors. In looking for the videos, the blogger discovered the YouTube account in question had been closed, and sent out a Twitter message asking if anyone had seen the videos before the account was closed. In response, the blogger received a legal threat from the news director of the TV station demanding the removal of the Twitter message (which simply asked if anyone had seen the video and linked to a shuttered YouTube account).
There was absolutely no legal basis for the threat, but the blogger admitted:
Her legal threat told me she was unpredictable, and she was the only one in the conversation with the resources to go to court. It didn’t matter that I had done nothing wrong; I would have no way to deal with a lawsuit, frivolous or not, while still finding time to operate my website and work at my paying job.
So, even though the blogger knew the threat was frivolous, he was still in the position of worrying about whether or not it would still be brought to court. That’s a huge problem. Even worse is that the news director of the TV station broke out the ridiculous threat in the first place — especially stunning that a professional reporter would make such a threat. In followup emails, the news director tried to suggest that the lawsuit would have been against the original poster of the video, but that’s not what the original letter said:
The “kointastic behind the scenes video” lifted by one of your followers from YouTube, was stolen. That is the property of KOIN Local 6. Kindly remove that posting and link so that we don’t have to pursue legal action.
That certainly implies that the “legal action” would be against the blogger for posting the Twitter message. We live in a litigious age, obviously. But pulling out the big guns of threatening legal action on no legitimate basis is becoming way too common. Unfortunately, the reason why it’s so common is that it’s quite scary to receive a legal threat (even one with no basis), and many people quickly cave and give in. Hopefully, as more people are educated concerning their own rights, they’ll push back — but I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Filed Under: legal threats