The incident involving Community Trade Mark Filing Service and defamation threats has been thought provoking on many levels.
Only recently I wrote an article on online reputation monitoring for the Society of Computers and Law magazine. (The article is accessible to members, and at £50 per annum, membership is excellent value).
In the article I discussed how web 2.0 technologies like blogs and forums which allow ordinary people with no HTML skills to post content online are the beginning of a massive sea change in society. Ironically, in that article I also mentioned how a heavy handed legal approach could sometimes backfire dramatically and have the very opposite effect to that intended. I gave the example of Usmanov and Craig Murray. (I am not aware of the ins and outs of the case, so mentioning it is not intended as a criticism of Schilling’s approach so much as an illustration of how the internet is turning the old rules on their head).
So we are rapidly seeing the need to adopt a different style in this new connected web environment. I suggest that strong threatening defamation letters should be reserved for really serious and clear cut defamation cases. A more softly softly approach is sensible initially in all other cases.
For example, CTMFS’ director Mr Evans, went over the top in sending me such a strong letter threatening legal proceedings, and demanding an apology, damages, correction etc. That is why I published it on this blog. It is a good example of what not to do. It also illustrates the dangers of non lawyers using standard legal precedents in non standard situations. Rather than asking a lawyer to send me a letter, he chose to fire off his standard template to me. I am sure if he had sought legal advice first, the letter I would have received would have been more proportionate, and therefore might have achieved a better outcome.
Blogging on the hazards of blogging – using a Californian server
Which leads me to the main purpose of this article, and that is to say that following this CTMFS experience which has been unpleasant, and negative, I have decided I need a US based location for any blogging that becomes controversial. On an everyday level I will be using it to write about the hazards of blogging.
The legal rules that UK web hosts are subject to, means that if you write anything controversial which others want to force you to take down, then your web host risks liability for the content if it continues to host the objectionable material. However, US hosts are subject to more favourable laws. For example, Blogger.com is hosted by Google in the USA, so you would not have to worry about having your voice cut off by your host if you said something someone wanted to have removed. I will be writing more about the liability of hosts in future blog posts.
For now I just want to say that I am now also blogging via http://www.shireensmith.com. This is being hosted in California, and now contains all the blog posts that Mr Evans might want removed from our IP Brands blog. The reason for choosing California is that it is that I like the sound of its favourable environment for bloggers, with its anti-SLAPP laws – a topic I will be looking into more closely in future blog posts. This is not directly relevant to me personally of course as I am a UK based individual and therefore subject to UK defamation laws, but its significance sounds like an interesting topic to explore in future blogs.