Scholarly Kitchen Reposts Blog Post That Resulted In Legal Threat, But Removed Comment
from the no-need-to-do-that dept
Yesterday, the Board of Directors of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) unanimously decided to restore the posts by Scholarly Kitchen chef Rick Anderson that had been removed after the Kitchen and SSP received correspondence from a publisher that didn't like the content.I can understand why a blog might pull such a post after getting such a letter. It's no fun to be the target of a legal nastygram, no matter how sure you may be that you're right. Even if you know with 100% certainty that you would win any such lawsuit, just the very threat of one could be attention, time and money draining. This is why such legal nastygrams can often be so effective in creating chilling effects around speech.
The posts (“When Sellers and Buyers Disagree” and “One Down, One to Go: Edwin Mellen Press Blinks One Eye“) have been restored without the comment quoted in the letter.
For many reasons I won't go into the ingredients of the sausage by explaining why the posts came down and why they went back up. I will say that the Board and the Scholarly Kitchen volunteers stand behind Rick's posts. The Board also stands behind the business and editorial decisions to take them down last week, until we could gather our busy volunteer leaders to fully evaluate the situation.
That said, I also think it's important for people to recognize the value of standing up for their rights in the face of such threats. Otherwise those rights get eaten away. On that note, I think that SSP could have and should have also reposted the "comment" which they say they took down. As we discussed in our initial article, Kristine Hunt's comments (which were actually mostly supportive of Edwin Mellen) seemed unlikely to reach the level of defamation -- but, much more importantly, this has no bearing on SSP's liability. Section 230 of the CDA is pretty clear that, as the service provider, they are not liable for such comments, even if they are aware of them and leave them up. It is, of course, SSP's decision as to whether or not to remove any comments (or posts) on its site, but I'm a bit surprised they'd remove that comment when the caselaw on Section 230 is pretty clear. Some courts have even ruled that sites have no obligation to remove such content even after the statements have been judged to be defamatory (though that's not agreed upon across the board). But, at this stage, merely on accusation, SSP is clearly protected by Section 230, so it's unfortunate that they still chose to remove that comment.