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."

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  1. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 4 Oct 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 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.


    Timothy Geigner"

    Site is:

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

    Yeah, right....

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