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Member wants to Sue Forum Owner!?!? Possible!?

surfsup

Well-known member
#1
I know anyone can sue anyone these days, but seriously......

1) Can a member on the forum be sued just because 'someone' else talked about his business?

2) Can a member on the forum sue the forum owner just because people are trash talking him!?

These are actually legit questions, my business is located in USA but hosted out of the country......

I wish I would have never let people know I own the forum argh.....

They all have to agree to the TOS while signing up....

But seriously, what do you do when threads sometimes get out of hand and you just dont care?
 

Pereira

Well-known member
#2
I know a couple of websites that have been sued for defamatory comments. If they were "trashing taking" the guy by posting their publicly identifiable name or address/business then perhaps they might have some ground to sue depending on the specifics of the case (especially in the EU).

EDIT: Nine times out of ten, these are merely just threats. I don't know the specifics of the case but it sounds more serious when you mention they're talking about their business.

Try posting on some law forums (such as > http://www.thelaw.com/forums/) and see what you come up with. Outside that, try to seek free local legal advice.
 

Coop1979

Well-known member
#3
I have a feeling that unless he sent you a formal C&D letter that you have ignored, he'll have a hard time taking you to a trial.

If he's like anyone that I've come across over the years who has threatened me, he's just full of hot air. My TOS are very explicit that my LLC can't be held liable for any content on the site.
 

craigiri

Well-known member
#4
I'd say more than 9 times out of 10 they are empty.
It costs many thousands of dollars to get a lawsuit really underway.

Over the years there have been many such cases. In general, the courts have said that forum owners are NOT responsible for user-submitted content. However, it's always good if you, as the admin, have clearly shown that you don't approve of such things by moderation (comments, locking of threads, deleting of threads, warning about behaviors).

Obviously a forum owner cannot be required to read everything on their board.
 

0xym0r0n

Well-known member
#5
I get threats all the time for any sort of comments about players who don't want to be talked about. I've only had one instance where one's reputation and career were brought into the matter and for the sake of not having to deal with the trouble, I removed the posts.

That was only after receiving a nice formal letter from the 'victim'. I've only ever had one C&D and that was when i was hosting sites. Nothing happened to me or the site owner but apparently he was stealing copyrighted content from his competitor. I just suspended the account until he contacted me and said he agreed to stop.

I assume that's the worst case scenario for you.
 
#6
Suing forum members is highly possible. There was a discussion board/news board in the early 2000s that had select members sued over the course of two years for defamation of an pet store company i.e. members complaining about poor customer service on the bulletin boards.

In this case, the Pet company went on a mission to go after the members individually and actually took some to court.

Here's a good read for anyone interested.

http://www.fishkeepingbanter.com/showthread.php?t=8307

Suing the forum owner is less likely I would think if you have a TOS policy in place.
 

MGSteve

Well-known member
#7
Incidentally there's changes to the UK law in this regard going through the system at the moment: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/websites-forced-identify-trolls-033754759.html

Basically as long as the website owners help track down the 'trolls' as they put it, the website owners won't be liable as long as they help authorities identify who actually posted the defamatory comments.

We've had our fair share of threats over the last 10 years, only once did I get a solicitor's letter and by the time it arrived, the OP had removed the post anyway.

Its amazing how many threats you as the website owner gets though, either from companies who have had a slating on the forum or by members who have just been banned and threaten to sue you for being an ***hole. ;)

Thankfully the latter isn't illegal, so they'd have a job to sue me for that. ;)
 

steven s

Well-known member
#8
I had someone threaten me with legal action if I didn't delete a thread between a seller and buyer.
I soft deleted the thread until I read it in full.
Didn't see anything wrong.
An upset buyer was complaining about a seller.
Seller threatened to send me a cease and desist.
I told him have his lawyer send it to me and I would discuss it with my attorney.
He let the whole thing go and the thread just dropped off the page.
 

Dodgeboard

Well-known member
#10
I get two or three legal threats per month. Perhaps because our board is centered around complaining about people/businesses/products. I would say, in the past 8 years, I've probably gotten 50-100 take-down demands. Zero of these were official (from the courts). The most important thing to consider when operating a board that might be sued, is for the forum owner to remain anonymous. I have managed to do that for the most part. It protects me and it protects my members.

Take this most recent complaint for example (from last week):




Derogatory Comments about XADO


Dear Sirs,

Am the attorney representing XADO Tech LLC. Please delete derogatory negative comments about my client from your forum. These unsubstantiated allegations hurt our business reputation. We now place you on notice regarding the same

Thank you

Eugene Klein
Attorney
(773) 714-1648
I know this guy was simply working for his client and entered "Xado scam" into Google and simply went after all the top search results (my forum is like #3). He probably sent take down notices to each and every hit on the first couple of pages. I've received 4 now from him. When I reviewed the thread, there were no derogatory comments, at all! Everything was very positive about the product.

This is what you have to deal with when you have a high page rank. I have gotten used to it. Unless you get something from the courts, don't pay too much attention to it.

If you feel obliged to respond, answer them back with something like this:

Reporting Posts

When reporting posts for review, please use the "report post" icon within each post. This allows us to quickly identify which post(s) you are reporting. Please also review our Terms Of Use under the help section. Then clearly explain, for each reported post, what part of our terms of use the post violates. Simply mentioning a name of a person or product negatively does not constitute removal. Please also note that discussion concerning local, county and political officials is often granted a greater degree of latitude. Most of these individuals know and understand this when they run for office. The same goes for public establishments and products for sale on the open market. That is what these forums are about- the discussion, both good and bad, about public people, products and establishments that we all come to know in our daily lives. Broad request such as "take down everything about me (or my product)," or requests to delete entire threads or topics will often be ignored for lack of a valid argument for removal. LEGAL THREATS: If, in your communications with us, you threaten us with legal action or use legal jargon that insinuates impending legal action, then be prepared to continue down that route, as that will be the last opportunity for amicable discussion regarding your take-down request, because you will not hear any more from us. In short, you should follow this path to completing your removal request: Register, then use the report post link in the post you are reporting. Be concise and to the point when explaining what part of our Terms Of Use the post violates. Only registered members can report posts for removal.
99% of the time, they never sign up to report the post - problem solved.

But if they do jump through your hoops, review the thread. Then give it a fair decision on whether it should be removed. For me, I think I've only removed 2 threads (stemming from take-down demands) in the past 8 years, when it involved a prominent local person being accused of murder that turned out to be innocent. Everyone said he did it, but as it turned out, he didn't.
 

Fred Sherman

Well-known member
#11
1) Can a member on the forum be sued just because 'someone' else talked about his business?
Yes.

2) Can a member on the forum sue the forum owner just because people are trash talking him!?
Also yes.

TOS are no protection against legitimate suites for slander, liable and defamation. You best protection is to remove anything someone has a legitimate complaint about.

You also have the right to deny service to anyone who threatens to sue after you remove whatever they found objectionable, as in "I have removed the material requested, but for threatening to sue, you are hereby banned for life. Any attempt to circumvent this ban using another IP or account will lead to a lawsuit against you instead."
 

BGL

Well-known member
#12
Any attempt to circumvent this ban using another IP or account will lead to a lawsuit against you instead."
I would not say that since it's not true. You don't want to appear ignorant of the law. I would not even tell them I was banning them, just do it. Don't communicate with them once they threaten you with legal action. Refer them to your lawyer if they contact you, even if you don't have one. Most case law, Cubby v. CompuServe being the main precedent, do not hold the forum operators liable for libel, just the poster of the libelous remarks. If you are asked to remove them and don't you can get involved. Key, as I remember, was that you don't moderate the content, review it before posting and only edit for profanity, personal attacks (name calling) etc.
 

Adam Howard

Well-known member
#13
Socially Uncensored officially has 100 owners all in different countries. So we all own 1% of the site. You'd have to sue us all and officially, if one of us was sued for Socially Uncensored, we'd be obligated to sell that 1% to someone else.

With this said, we have been threatened dozens upon dozens of times. More commonly from 1 particular member who keeps re-joining, violating the rules, and then threatens to sue us when things don't go his way. We had 1 official attempt that was dismissed, which responded with a counter filling of our own and we won.

So out of the 500+ threats, only 1 became of anything and it was surprisingly over with fast.
 

Fred Sherman

Well-known member
#14
Socially Uncensored officially has 100 owners all in different countries. So we all own 1% of the site. You'd have to sue us all and officially, if one of us was sued for Socially Uncensored, we'd be obligated to sell that 1% to someone else.

With this said, we have been threatened dozens upon dozens of times. More commonly from 1 particular member who keeps re-joining, violating the rules, and then threatens to sue us when things don't go his way. We had 1 official attempt that was dismissed, which responded with a counter filling of our own and we won.

So out of the 500+ threats, only 1 became of anything and it was surprisingly over with fast.
No, thats not true. Ownership isn't what opened one up to a lawsuit. Its having personal knowledge that libelous material has been posted and then failing to do anything about it. A PM from a libeled user to you opens you up by not your other 49 co-owners.
 
#15
Socially Uncensored officially has 100 owners all in different countries. So we all own 1% of the site. You'd have to sue us all and officially, if one of us was sued for Socially Uncensored, we'd be obligated to sell that 1% to someone else.

With this said, we have been threatened dozens upon dozens of times. More commonly from 1 particular member who keeps re-joining, violating the rules, and then threatens to sue us when things don't go his way. We had 1 official attempt that was dismissed, which responded with a counter filling of our own and we won.

So out of the 500+ threats, only 1 became of anything and it was surprisingly over with fast.
Sometimes I wonder whether you're serious or not.
 

Adam Howard

Well-known member
#17
No, thats not true. Ownership isn't what opened one up to a lawsuit. Its having personal knowledge that libelous material has been posted and then failing to do anything about it. A PM from a libeled user to you opens you up by not your other 99 co-owners.
Depends on location and what is in question