Sueing Amazon

I am posting an article that I read on the news this morning that I find intriguing. As an author I am my brand, therefore I can be merchandised just like electronics or any other retail product. Since I have my books on Amazon this definitely caught my interest. I think in time some author along the way will find the right lawyer and all hell will  break loose even though a previous author wasn’t successful in a suit against a reviewer.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this article and do you think this will start a new trend?

The next time you write an online review, be careful. You might get sued.

That’s what could happen to a Florida man who left a negative review about an Internet router he purchased. According to his Tuesday post on Reddit, where he’s asking for legal advice, he received a letter from a law firm in Philadelphia threatening to sue him for an “illegal campaign to damage, discredit, defame, and libel” the company that makes the router.

“Your statements are false, defamatory, libelous, and slanderous, constitute trade libel and place Mediabridge and its products in a false light,” the verbose letter from the law firm reads in part.

In his review, which has since been edited, the man made several allegations, including that many of the positive reviews about the product on Amazon might be fake and that the router itself was “identical” to a router from a different company.

If the man doesn’t take down his review within three days, cease all Internet conversation about the product, and agrees to never buy the company’s products again, the law firm will sue him, according to the letter. But by going to Reddit and not keeping quiet, the man might have already sealed his fate.

Companies, it turns out, have every right to sue people who write reviews on websites that they may feel are libelous or defamatory.

While there is a level of legal protection that third-party websites (in this case, Amazon) have from being sued, which come from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—the same section that protects websites that show revenge porn—the authors of those reviews are not protected.

Neither the letter nor the user can be confirmed. Still, this isn’t the first time that someone has taken legal heat for online reviews.

In 2012, a Virginia court sided with a contractor who received a negative review from a woman on Yelp, claiming defamation. The woman who wrote the review said the service was poor and accused the contractor of stealing her jewelry. She was sued for $750,000.

In 2011, a book author sued a man, though unsuccessfully, who wrote negative reviews about his book on Amazon. And in 2006, a woman in Florida won $11.3 million in a lawsuit resulting from defamatory remarks on an Internet message board.

So while Amazon states in its terms of use that sellers “may not ask buyers to remove negative reviews,” these companies do have legal protections to go after comments they may deem libelous.

While the Internet allows users a certain amount of anonymity behind reviews on Amazon or Yelp—where a negative or positive review can determine a company’s success—there is still a danger that companies will take legal action against these reviews. For this Florida man, his gripes with this company will only grow.

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5 thoughts on “Sueing Amazon

  1. dvberkom says:

    Interesting. I’ve been following the legal ramifications of bad reviews closely. Ultimately, I think it might help to tone down the ugly, hateful rhetoric some reviewers subscribe to. Freedom of speech is one thing. Spouting defamatory and libelous vitriol (such as falsely accusing a contractor of theft) is quite another. No, I don’t think an author should be able to sue and win when someone says they didn’t like the book, and truly believe the author should just suck it up and move on. But, if said review contains personal attacks against the author, then I think it’s fair game (although personally, I still wouldn’t give the reviewer the time of day. These folks are looking for attention. Don’t give it to them.)

    • aronjoice says:

      I think we live in such a litigious society anything seems fair game. I agree, if the author doesn’t like the review just go about your day. We all get reviews that give us something to think about. Although if it is a personal attack that is something different. I remember my first experience with trolls and I never knew people could be so vicious just for enjoyment. When I withdrew, some poor other soul got pummeled. It will be interesting to see how far this will go.

  2. I think that as long as the review is about the book and contains language the suggests opinion about that book there should not be any problem. It is when we get into personal attacks and over the top statements that cannot be backed up that we may be in jeopardy – and rightly so. Our reviews must be about the book, and must be in civil language with a clear understanding that this is our opinion only. Then challenges might fall under the whole ‘freedom of speech’ issue. (which is another can of worms)

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