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. icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), 15 Apr 2011 @ 2:53am

    The thought process is:

    I'd rather be a successful doctor than a good doctor? How did the business of health become such a secretive society? If you suck at your job, people should know about it especially if you're entrusted with the health and well-being of others.

    "Why should people care how well we do our jobs? It's not like we're saving lives or something."

    Not only that, but what the fuck is up with medical records? Why does the medical field feel the need to charge you for the "inconvenience" of compiling what is most likely already compiled (assuming competence) and printing it out. Whatever minimal clerical overhead is needed can just be built into the charge of an office visit. Or maybe they could act like they give a shit and give you your records for free.

    Let's face it: if I wasn't seeing Dr. X, he wouldn't even have these precious medical records that he feels the need to charge $15 (or whatever) to put together for me. I shouldn't even need to ask for them. I honestly don't see why I couldn't opt in to an email list for updates on my medical records.

    ATTN: medical community. Those aren't your medical records. Don't make your patients (customers) jump through so many hoops to see their own records. /rant

    (This excludes the Mayo Clinic, who mailed my wife's medical records directly to her without her even having to ask. And it was thorough. Of course, as the pinnacle of the medical field, one would expect that sort of caring and professionalism. But that doesn't excuse everyone further down the ladder.)

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