MagicJack Tries To Silence Boing Boing; Loses And Has To Pay $50,000
from the slapp-that dept
MagicJack, a VoIP-dongle solution that I’ve used in the past, has a reputation as a product that actually works pretty well, but the company behind it has some serious problems. It’s marketed aggressively on cable TV, has put misleading claims on its website, hides important things in the fine print and is not particularly good with customer service. Also, the software, once installed, is quite difficult to ever remove. In 2008, BoingBoing wrote a post detailing the shadier practices of MagicJack. Rather than doing the smart thing and improving those practices, MagicJack decided to sue BoingBoing. That was a mistake. It was a clear SLAPP case, and after MagicJack effectively had to admit that nothing in BoingBoing’s post was actually wrong, the judge dismissed the case and ordered MagicJack to pay BoingBoing $50,000 in legal fees.
Thankfully, BoingBoing was helped by the fact that California has a strong Anti-SLAPP law — something that the rest of the country could use. What’s more telling (and interesting) than the dismissal, however, is that MagicJack had originally agreed to settle the lawsuit, and pay BoingBoing’s legal costs (after the company’s CEO realized that the case was a lost cause and — he claimed — his own lawyers had failed to properly notify him of California law), but backed out when BoingBoing wouldn’t agree to keep the lawsuit and settlement confidential.
Again, that suggests a company that knows what it’s doing is shady, at best, but rather than having any interest in improving the way it goes about its business, wants to keep things hidden.
I have to admit, I really don’t understand why MagicJack feels the need to work this way. It’s a decent product that should be able to sell on its own merits, explaining openly what it does, rather than hiding stuff in the fine print and falsely claiming how many people are signing up to use the device. Imagine if, instead of suing and losing and getting all of this negative publicity, the company had just cleaned up its act, been open about things, apologized for its earlier mistakes and focused on building a better business?