Why Doctors Shouldn't Abuse Copyright Law To Stop Patient Reviews

from the it's-bad-for-business dept

Two years ago, we wrote about a very sketchy operation, called Medical Justice, that was pushing a highly questionable plan to use the DMCA to stop patients from rating their doctors on online ratings sites. The plan works as follows: as part of your visit to the doctor, the doctor makes you sign a "waiver" provided by Medical Justice, which assigns the copyright on any review you might write to the doctor. Then, if you write a bad review, the doctor can claim copyright infringement, and use the DMCA takedown process to remove the bad review.

As we noted at the time, this is clearly not what copyright law was designed for.

We've also pointed out that it's not clear that this process is actually legal, and many reviews might not have any actual copyright anyway -- and in cases where there is copyright, a very strong fair use defense can be made. Still, Medical Justice has continued to convince doctors that this is a good idea, and two well-respected law professors have decided to begin educating doctors and patients about why they should be wary. Professors Eric Goldman and Jason Schultz have launched a new site called Doctored Reviews: Why Medical Justice's Anti-Review Contracts are a Poison Pill, hoping to convince doctors to stay away.

In the announcement, Goldman notes that if the website still fails to stop these kinds of practices, they may need to get more aggressive. Hopefully doctors realize that this is a bad idea. And, seriously, if your doctor made you sign one of these, wouldn't you go find a new doctor? If my doctor is trying to stifle bad reviews, then that makes me a lot more worried than any bad review. As Schultz notes in the press release:
"Doctors who use these gag-order contracts are essentially telling patients 'if you want medical care, you must sign away your right to free speech,' ... "More speech is the answer [to reviews]," he said, "not censorship and copyright abuse."

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2011 @ 11:43pm

    I'd hand the Doc a "waiver" that triples any settlement I might get for any failing on their part.

    Then I'd ask how HIPAA would affect the Doctor revealing they were my caregiver in legal filings.

    I'd then file a complaint with the State pointing out that by trying to force me to sign a document designed to protect the Doctor from a possible "bad review", calls into question the type of care they give if they feel they have to go this far to hide that information.

    Can I expect less care if I refuse to give up my free speech rights in this way?

    Then I would find a new Doctor to use while I sued the old one.

    Its the American way.

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