Sued For Critiquing Maine's Tourism Campaign On A Blog

from the yeah,-that'll-reduce-the-attention dept

We've discussed in the past the concept of the Streisand Effect -- where someone sues someone to keep some action or information quiet, and the exact opposite happens. The act of suing helps generate much more attention. While the term has spread within certain circles since we first coined it (and there was even a newspaper that wrote an article about it last year), it's not surprising that many people still haven't heard of it. What is surprising, though, is that people still believe that suing someone for what they do on the internet is an effective way to get less attention on something. The latest situation takes place in Maine, where a blogger has been criticizing efforts being made by the state and an ad agency for a new tourism campaign. The agency has now sued the guy for his comments on a blog. They pull out the usual charges of copyright infringement (for showing some sketches that they, themselves, had put online) and defamation... for him giving his opinion that the state was wasting taxpayer money. However, the real kicker is the statement the head of the ad agency made to the Boston Globe: "I don't think his real mission here is to get answers for the taxpayers of the state. One of the things he wants to do is to get attention." So, he was upset that his ad agency was being called out for doing a bad job when it was on a blog, but he has no problem having a reporter print that fact in a major daily newspaper in a big city? It would seem that a lot more people now know that his firm has been accused of doing a dreadful job then when it was just some random blogger criticizing them.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Brien Lee, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 5:54pm

    One of the signs it's time to get another agency

    ... is when the agency acts as if there is only a limited supply of ideas. Or that they are infalllible.

    Good agencies make mistakes, learn from them, change this campaign or the next, and have a laugh while they're doing it. Constant improvement is an ok thing.

    Or is it the CLIENT that demanded this heavyhanded response?

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    chris mclain, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 7:22pm

    that is total BS

    how are they going to sue a guy for posting some clips and slandering a tourisim campaign when people post videos from sites all the time om sites such as myspace from other sites/companies?? And for further matters whatever happened to freedom of speach? I mean this is america and we have suposed fredom of speach or so we are led to belie till we see things like this going on. I guess it is just a part of the system in the government of ameriKKKa.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    temperance, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 9:16pm

    Re: One of the signs it's time to get another agen

    It's apparently the client, one Dann Lewis. His claim is that he's never heard of these people, that he had nothing to do with his, that he's never heard of the Mafia, etc.

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Attorney, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 10:06pm

    Re: that is total BS

    A few thoughts for Mr. McLain: (1) Something is legal because others do it "all the time"? Brilliant. (2) Copyright infringement is freedom of speech? "But judge, I was selling the latest Harry Potter on my site as SPEECH!" (3) Your use of "belie" instead of "believe" may belie your ignorance. (4) A lawsuit between private individuals MUST be the government's fault.

    On to Techdirt's comments: While I agree that such lawsuits may not be the wisest on the PR front, the agency may have a perfectly valid claim. You defend the blogger by arguing that the agency itself put the sketches online -- but if I am an artist, photographer, or blogger who posts online, does that give everyone else carte blanche permission to reprint my work? Certainly not. Secondly, he will only succeed in his defamation claim if he made a false statement of FACT -- not opinion. So to be found liable, he has to have lied. Again, it may not be the agency's wisest practical move, but they still may be on solid legal ground.

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 28th, 2006 @ 10:51pm

    Re: Re: that is total BS

    While I agree that such lawsuits may not be the wisest on the PR front, the agency may have a perfectly valid claim.

    Could be, but seems unlikely.

    You defend the blogger by arguing that the agency itself put the sketches online -- but if I am an artist, photographer, or blogger who posts online, does that give everyone else carte blanche permission to reprint my work? Certainly not.

    This could depend on how he did things. First, if he simply hotlinked them, then there would be no copyright infringement. Second, if these really were *gov't* images, then again, it's tough to see why the gov't should have a copyright on them. Remember, gov't documents usually public domain. Finally, if the purpose of putting these drafts online were for public comment and criticism, it's going to be tough for them to make the willful infringement claim stick.

    Also, they're chaging him with $150,000 in statutory damages for the use of each image... That's the max amount, and only for willful infringement. Willful infringement and the just amount of statutory damages may be in the hands of the court, but it certainly seems like a stretch... especially if the whole reason these were put online were for people to see them and comment on them.

    Secondly, he will only succeed in his defamation claim if he made a false statement of FACT -- not opinion. So to be found liable, he has to have lied. Again, it may not be the agency's wisest practical move, but they still may be on solid legal ground.

    Yup. Defamation would be if he made a false statement of fact. However, the article notes at least one of the defamation claims is based on: "the suit cites Dutson's claim that the advertising agency has been wasting Maine taxpayers' money in its work for the tourism department."

    That's clearly an opinion, not a factual piece of information. The article doesn't detail the other claims, but the fact that they'd even bother using what's obviously an opinion in a defamation claim makes me wonder how strong the rest of the suit is.

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Jeff Houser, Apr 29th, 2006 @ 7:18am

    Copyright

    mike, Second, if these really were *gov't* images, then again, it's tough to see why the gov't should have a copyright on them. Just to clarify, there is a difference between copyrighting something and registering the copyright. Once an item is in tangible form, you have a copyright on it. I can't envision an argument where the advertising campaign is not in tangible form. There must be videos, print brochures, computer-based backups, etc.. All would count as 'tangible form'. Whether they registered the 'content' with the copyright office is unknown. A registerable copyright is easier to enforce; and there are financial rewards if you can prove infringement.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    David Christy, Apr 29th, 2006 @ 7:46am

    Re: Copyright

    If the ads were made with public money how could they be copyrighted?

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Kevin, Apr 29th, 2006 @ 8:13am

    copyrights

    Is it really copyright infringement if the images were not used for the personal gain of the blogger? If the guy doesn't sell ads or t-shirts I'm under the impression that its not copyright infringement. Am I wrong?

    Also the Ad agency would not only have to show that he purposely and maliciously lied in order to defame them but that said defamation resulted in specific and concrete monetary damages. No loss of money means no legal standing.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Kilroy in Ottawa, Apr 29th, 2006 @ 8:13am

    Tourism & MAine

    Ah yes wonderful Maine the place where vacationing Canadian Psychos go to hunt ... I won't finish that in case I offend someone.

    But really, you cannot expect to get this kind of publicity any other way. The Boston Globe probably wouldn't have even cared about these ads or this agency if it had not been for the negative publicity spawned by the lawsuit. Imagine how much it would have cost to buy that much advertising space in the Globe.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Andrew Wilson, Apr 29th, 2006 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Re: that is total BS

    '(3) Your use of "belie" instead of "believe" may belie your ignorance'

    That's the second time this week I've seen someone who obviously doesn't know what belie means try to use it.

    Using the wrong word does not belie his ignorance, if anything it highlights his ignorance or maybe illustrates it. It most certainly does not lie about it or show it to be false. Using the word belie here belies your intelligence.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Kevin, Apr 30th, 2006 @ 2:37pm

    thread pwnd

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Roger, Apr 30th, 2006 @ 10:19pm

    Is it just me or has everyones spam emails suddenly stopped? Maybe paranoia?

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Zeroth404, May 1st, 2006 @ 11:36am

    Blogs are protected under freedom of speech and of the press.

    More of the press than anything. Its held up in past law suits, as it should.

    We love our freedom. (too bad we don't have more)

     

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

  14.  
    icon
    Gregory Kohs (profile), May 4th, 2006 @ 3:01pm

    Fair use

    Don't copyright holders lose some of their grounds to sue, if the unauthorized user is using the material for the purposes of criticism? I think that's one of the tenets of "fair use". But, that's just my gut feeling. You know, a twinge in my belie.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Linda Hutchins, Mar 17th, 2007 @ 4:10am

    Lance Dutson

    As always, there is so much more to this story than meets the eye. The ad agency sued in spite of protests of the MOT, but Dann Lewis took the hit for it.

    Lance Dutson is only a troll:

    http://bangorreports.blogspot.com

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Alex, Aug 4th, 2008 @ 5:07am

    I love your blog...
    It is very useful today.
    Many people like me, frequently use it for updates...
    As a citizen of Maine I really love this article...
    Keep updating...

    Thanks,
    ================
    AleX

    Maine Treatment Centers

     

    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