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Criticize Online, Get Fined

CmdrTaco posted more than 12 years ago | from the well-that's-just-plain-creapy dept.

Censorship 470

maxpublic writes "Yet another outspoken critic of corporate America has been SLAPP'ed - only this time, Dan Whatley didn't even know he'd been sued until he was presented with a $450,000 judgement. For those who don't know, SLAPP stands for 'Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation' and is used to silence people who openly criticize thin-skinned corporations." In this case the company doing to suing is Xybernaut, the makers of wearable computers mentioned here many times in the past. This article is a must read. And now Xybernaut has joined Amazon and others on my list of Must-Avoid companies. This is a creepy run around the 1st Ammendment, and you should be aware.

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12 Step Program to Quit $lashdot (-1)

RoboTroll (560160) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101081)

The Twelve Steps, originated by Alcoholics Anonymous, now applied to $lashdot. This is the spritual foundation for personal recovery from the effects of Slashaholism, not only for the slashaholic, but also for their friends and family.

Many members of 12-step recovery programs have found that these steps were not merely a way to stop commenting, reading, and retardedly clicking on every link (including all those Goatse links you fags like), but they became a guide toward a new way of life.

Step 1: Honesty
After many years of denial, recovery can begin when with one simple admission of being powerless over CmdrTaco -- for Slashaholics and their friends and family. The Goatse man also owns you, so you should admit that too.

Step 2: Faith
Have faith in the fact that if you stop now - you will be saved. Not only saved but you will never ever have to read or hear about Jon Katz again. Well, I take that back - you will hear about him again, on a legitimate news site where you read that he was finally caught and convicted to the Goatse Man chamber for raping kids.

Step 3: Surrender
A lifetime of $lashdot will destroy your soul. Keep in mind that $lashdot is worthless. It does you no good and it is hurting your family. Surrender to the temptation of posting a useful article to $lashdot. Surrender to the temptation of even visiting this disease.

Step 4: Soul Searching
Search your soul - why did you first come to $lashdot? WHY? What is here for you? These people are not your friends. They are disgusting dirties that give a general smell to themselves and everyone around you. You all probably notice it when you go places at people look at you funny. It's because you smell like shit.

Step 5: Integrity
Integrity. Not much more needs to be said here. Of course to have integrity one must not smell, and one must have a positive self image. This is also to say - you cannot be the dirty hippie you want to be. So, stop praying to your sun crystals and take a shower.

Step 6: Acceptance
Accept that you will never visit the $lashdot site again. Katz wants you around because you are most likely 14 and he digs little kids.

Step 7: Humility
Practice some humility in your life. Know your place - it is not being a bottom rung goatse link follower at $lashdot. The sooner you break the chains of $lashdot the sooner you can raise yourself out of the gutter.

Step 8: Willingness
Making a list of those harmed before coming into recovery may sound simple. Becoming willing to actually make those amends is the difficult part. Think of what your parents think about you...are they proud of their dirty anti-shower homosexual hippie child? What about your friends - and not your imaginary friends you fuck hippies. The trees are not alive.

Step 9: Forgiveness
Making amends may seem like a bitter pill to swallow, but for those serious about recovery it can be great medicine for the spirit and soul. Once you have stopped visiting $lashdot - you should take the steps to appologize to your friends (not your imaginary friends, fags) and your family about what an ass you have been over the past X months/years at $lashdot. Tell them you are sorry and you didn't know. Tell them you were sucked in my the Goatse Man's ass chamber.

Step 10: Maintenance
Nobody likes to admit to being wrong. But it is absolutely necessary to maintain spiritual progress in recovery. You've visited $lashdot and actively engaged in the $lashdot moderation system. While this makes you a complete flaming homosexual - there is still hope. You've done wrong in the past - let's make the future a brighter and better place, for everyone.

Step 11: Making Contact
Break the bonds of $lashdot that hold you prisoner. You can simply GO OUTSIDE! You fuck hippies could probably use the fresh air - at least it would give your parents a chance to clear out the old smelly air within your room.

Step 12: Service
As a community service. Stop using the internet for at least 1 year. Why you ask? You do this because you have committed sins against the internet community by actively being a part of $lashdot. This year off will give you time to reflect about what you have done and about who you have hurt. Also, keep in mind - by the time your year is up - there is no way in hell $lashdot will be online. For one, Jon Katz will surely have been found raping children in the $lashdot offices which will destroy the company. If not Katz then the website will fail with it's to be introduced subscription services. Not only will the temptation of $lashdot be gone - but the year off of the internet will give you a chance to meet real people - and actually make friends.

Follow these steps are your life will be rich and full.

Troll 87 of 91 from the annals of the Troll Library [slashdot.org] .

Calculus (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101082)

In the morning is really fun! I love partial integration!

Re:Calculus (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101157)

Improper integrals are my favorite!

Re:Calculus (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101184)

I differentiate you!!! I differentiate you!!!

How can you not know you have been sued? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101083)

An obvious question...

Re:How can you not know you have been sued? (3, Interesting)

WEFUNK (471506) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101110)

He claims not to have received the registered letter. The judge then made a default judgement against him since the court only heard one side of the case.

Although I'm not exactly sure about the legal implications, I hope that he is telling the truth that he did not receive the notice (rather than just ignoring it). I would imagine (and hope!) there would be some really good recourse to appeal in this case.

If not (if there is little recourse, or if he lied and should have responded), and the judgement is not overturned, I hope that it can't be used a a precedent (since it was won by default, not on the facts). Any lawyers in the room (I'm obviously not one)?

Re:How can you not know you have been sued? (1)

DzugZug (52149) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101234)

The story says that it was sent certified mail so the judge probably would have asked to see the reciept. (Certified mail must be signed for upon delivery) Most likely the summons was recieved and ignored. Also if you refuse to sign for certified mail then (in most states) after 30 days the sender can act "as if" it had been recieved.

Lawsuits - Chapter 1 - Notice (3, Insightful)

pcwhalen (230935) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101137)

Well, that's the basis for his over turning the default judgment against him. The US system of law is based on fair play and notice: you must know that you that you might be sued under certain laws. That is procedural matter jurisdiction.

But even more important is to know that you have been sued to give you a chance to fight. That's called subject matter jurisdiction and can only be conferred by good service of process [if they hand you a copy of the complaint, nail it to your door, etc.] He will argue that the company never served him. If he can show that, the original judgment against him is gone.

Of course none of this should be construed as creating a lawyer/client relationship and your mileage may vary.

1st amendment? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101089)

If your interpretation of the 1st amendment is that is guarantees no restrictions on speech, then you would have to allow libel & slander, as well as shouting "fire" in public places.

cancer curing eggs? (0, Offtopic)

freddyisthedevil (563349) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101093)

"Nora," ... "among several outspoken posters sued last year by Viragen, a small biotech firm in Florida that is trying to genetically engineer chickens to lay cancer-curing eggs" She deserves to be sued, speaking out against Mother Goose like that.

Re:cancer curing eggs? (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101144)

What I'd like to know is, how did Viagen make $780,000? SLAPP suits?

"Hey gang, I've got an idea, let's form a company with a preposterous product, like wearable eggs, and sue people who criticize us!"

first bird! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101095)

<0
( \
X
8=========D

Another SLAPP. (5, Informative)

dotderf (548723) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101096)

Mattel has been trying to kill this site [barbieslapp.com] . Now the guy turned around and is suing Mattel for $48 million for violating the ADA and some other laws. Glad to see the censorship by litigation people getting slapped back.

bullshit taco (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101100)

So this company is now on your list of "must avoid" companies? You mean, like the RIAA, MPAA and all the other products and companies you've encouraged everyone to avoid but then turn around and buy from and hand your cash to the instant they have something like an Akira DVD or an X-Box you want to buy?

Re:bullshit taco (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101152)

No, not "must avoid" as in Amazon, RIAA, MPAA, and subscription based web services. He means "must avoid" as in gif images.

harry potter (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101104)

You know, I haven't seen Slashdot come to the aid of the thousands of teens and pre-teens who have harry-potter oriented sites and have been recieving cease-and-desist orders left and right by JK Rowling and WB and whoever else.

I guess it's only important when the law is coming after adults. Screw helping the 12 year olds.

mod this post up! (3, Informative)

lysurgon (126252) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101190)

Excellent point. Here's a link [theregister.co.uk] that has some summary coverage. This is such corporate BS!

Re:harry potter (2, Insightful)

Flower (31351) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101205)

How about why don't the parents of these kids raise a ruckus and get some prime-time coverage? Something these cases will never receive. Unless Johnny is uploading copies of the books for everyone to read a fan site is going to be mostly fair-use.

Harry Potter + Internet + Kids being treated badly = story.

And how is /. coming to the aid of anyone here? Somebody tossed this place a link with some pithy commentary that an "editor" liked and it got posted so a bunch of us can comment on the issue. For most of the readership, this story will be old news and forgotten by Monday and not a single victim listed in that article is going to get an ounce of love from /.

If the Harry Potter story is so dear to your heart, find a link, come up with some pithy commentary that will generate lots of discussion and post it. Take those recent stories about raisethefist.org (iirc.) That was about a kid not an adult.

someone's lying, but who? (5, Insightful)

dirk (87083) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101107)

I think it's pretty obvious someone is lying, but I wonder who it is. They claim he got a letter by registered mail, which means he had to sign for it. He claims he never got it. Seems like a simple thing to go back and check the receipt of the letter (if there was one) and see if he signed for it. I have a feeling he really did get the letter, since even the dumbest lawyer would be smart enough not to lie about something that easily checked in court, especially when you know the guy will challenge it when he gets the judgment (of course I could be wrong and the lawyer really is that dumb). I think finding out about the registered letter will clear up pretty much the whole case.

Re:someone's lying, but who? (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101114)

Agreed.. Plus, does anybody know what this guy said on his website? I could have been something that's not protected by the 1st ammendment, like liable or slander or something like that..

Re:someone's lying, but who? (1)

G-funk (22712) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101121)

The amount of people who watch too much Ally McBeal but don't hear so good never ceases to amuse me. It's Libel not liable... What exactly are they suppost to be liable for?

Re:someone's lying, but who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101203)

...the NUMBER of people...

people don't come in amounts!

Re:someone's lying, but who? (2)

Ivan Raikov (521143) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101134)

Plus, does anybody know what this guy said on his website?

He said that the CEO and his brother (vice-chairman or something) are liars, and that the brother would've been working at a fast-food place, had it not been for his relatives. Shall we say, -1 Troll?

Re:someone's lying, but who? (5, Informative)

davecb (6526) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101147)

... the Xybernaut lawyer handling the case against Whatley, said Whatley had been served notice of the lawsuit by certified mail. Note that he said certified mail, not registered mail. That means different things in different jurisdictions: I once used (Canadian) certified mail to put my landlord on notice, only to find that it didn't guarantee delivery, or provide me notification of non-delivery. If the same is true in Virginia, the lawyer could technically be telling the truth, while actually telling what logicians consider a "lie of omission".

Re:someone's lying, but who? (5, Informative)

zmooc (33175) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101189)

Does it even matter at all if he got the letter, if he lied about it or even if he told the truth about this company? It's very VERY clear he's telling his opinion and the moment people get fined for telling their opinion is the moment the US can be considerd on par with China and many other countries they can't stand. Emigrate while you can!

Re:someone's lying, but who? (5, Insightful)

Jay L (74152) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101204)

Does it even matter at all if he got the letter, if he lied about it or even if he told the truth about this company? It's very VERY clear he's telling his opinion and the moment people get fined for telling their opinion is the moment the US can be considerd on par with China and many other countries they can't stand. Emigrate while you can!

To sum up: Do the facts even matter? PANIC!

Re:someone's lying, but who? (5, Funny)

ShaunC (203807) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101226)

>To sum up: Do the facts even matter? PANIC!

A perfect candidate for "New Slashdot Motto" if I ever saw one!

-s

Re:someone's lying, but who? (1)

jekk (15278) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101247)

Oh, to be able to spent 4 mod points on this one!

Re:someone's lying, but who? (3, Insightful)

zmooc (33175) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101235)

Exactly. The facts are a post on a web forum. This can hardly be considered a publication; it's a forum, it's meant for discussion and therefore should not be censored (I consider this censoring) at any time. The best moral thing this company could have done is reply on the forum and saying politely that this guy is wrong and why he is wrong (if he was wrong). The company was part of the discussion (they must have read it somehow...), remained silent, went to a lawyer and sued the guy. Childish. Imagine MS doing this to us poor /.ers....

Re:someone's lying, but who? (4, Interesting)

Reziac (43301) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101241)

As to whether or not this guy received the notice of suit:

In Montana, and doubtless in some other states, notice of suit is considered to be LEGALLY ACCEPTED BY YOU when it is recorded as having been mailed by the court clerk. Whether it was actually mailed or not is irrelevant -- and since there is no requirement that notice be done by trackable mail, there is no way to determine if it was ever actually mailed or not. If you don't show up because someone slipped the clerk a few bucks to "lose" the letter, too damned bad. (And yes, this IS the voice of firsthand experience.)

Sounds to me like both sides here are full of a variety of crap, but be aware that failure to receive notice can and does happen, and is (literally) no defense in a lawsuit.

Even so, no way in hell would I buy products from any company that files lawsuits over message board flames. That's the equivalent of jailing a 5 year old for a "hate crime" because the kid yelled "I hate you and I'm going to kill you!"

Re:someone's lying, but who? (2)

firewort (180062) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101254)

Check your facts- registered mail requires no signature at all.

Signature confirmation, does. There are two levels of signature confirmation, one where the recipient is simply required to sign for it, and the other where the sender actually gets a postcard with the signature on it returned to him.

Registered, Certified, and Insured all require no signatures at all, period. Geez, ask your postman!

This is probably the mail company's fault (1)

georgeb (472989) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101108)

There are three possibilities:

1) Murphy lies about not recieving the lawsuit notice
2) The Company(tm) provided false documents about the letter reciept
3) The mail company provided false documents about the letter reciept

I incline to believe the third one. Anyhow, if Murphy is being truthful, he has a case here ;)

Re:This is probably the mail company's fault (2, Informative)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101138)

3) The mail company provided false documents about the letter reciept

I incline to believe the third one.


Except that in the US, certified mail is specifically a service of the US Postal Service. It's not some sleazy company serving papers, it's the Mail Carrier knocking on the door saying "letter for mister such and such". They don't care about the company, the suit, or the defendant. They're civil servants who just want to keep their jobs. Not delivering certified mail and forginf the signature on the receipt is an easy way to get fired from your cushy government job.

Re:This is probably the mail company's fault (1)

georgeb (472989) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101207)

Except that in the US, certified mail is specifically a service of the US Postal Service.
...
Not delivering certified mail and forginf the signature on the receipt is an easy way to get fired from your cushy government job.


Yes, this is the case in other countries too. But believe me, I have heard worse...

My company once complained to one of the providers about a lost invoice only to find that the providers had sent to proforma and got the confirmation reciept. No postman came to our company's door though...

Well, that was easily solved, the accountants agreed for a second invoice to be emitted and that was it, but when it comes to lawsuits... what's worse -- some postman losing his job or some fellow learning about the lawsuit when it's too late?

Re:This is probably the mail company's fault (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101213)

you're confusing Certified mail With _registered_ mail. They could have served the summon to a relative (of the CEO) via 'certified' mail and as long as somone came to the door and signed the letter is handed over.
Registered mail is not delivered to your address. Instead a notice of registered mail is delivered to your address. You must now go to the post office show a valid picture id and sign for the letter. If you are not the person this letter was sent to you need to bring a waiver with their signature transferring the right to recieve the letter over to you.
With Certified mail you can send it with 'reciept requested' in this case you will be mailed back the signature of the person who accepted the package. It only guarentees that someone at the address listed signed for the letter, they do not do ID checks for 'certified' mail.

Must-Avoid ... what? (5, Funny)

Bowfinger (559430) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101109)

And now Xybernaut has joined Amazon and others on my list of Must-Avoid companies.

Does Xybernaut even have any products that I can avoid? Will they ever have any products, or are they going into the revenue-by-lawsuit business?

Sounds like someone needs to spend less time in chat rooms, more time at the drawing board.

too many lawyers (5, Insightful)

estes_grover (466087) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101111)

* Lawyers as a group are no more dedicated to justice or public service than a private public utility is dedicated to giving light.
--David Melinkoff, Professor of Law, UCLA

Here We Go (5, Insightful)

ScumBiker (64143) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101112)

Yet another symptom of the corporatizing of America. If you have money, you win. Isn't this country "by the people, for the people"? Obviously, Xybernaut is a company losing money. Trying to "protect" your companies interests by suing potential customers is a *real* good way to piss off most of the rest. Personally, I will never, ever buy anything from this company. I will also never recommend it's products to anyone I know. Hey Newman (I'm sure you or one of your storm troopers, er, lawyers will be reading this). I have people asking me every single day about what tech items to buy. From corporate upper management to home owners. I'd say if your weren't percieved as being so incompetent, you wouldn't draw comments like the ones you sued Whatley over. Comments like this:

"If Steve Newman was not a relative his job would consist of ... 'Would you like fries with that?'"

heh. Now, you are a big item here and I'm sure a bunch of other forums and blogs. Good luck trying to sell anything at all.

Re:Here We Go (1)

fire-eyes (522894) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101151)

Yet another symptom of the corporatizing of America. If you have money, you win. Isn't this country "by the people, for the people"?

No. Not anymore.

Trying to "protect" your companies interests by suing potential customers is a *real* good way to piss off most of the rest.

Not if they can make more money off the lawsuit then they can otherwise, especially if they know they're going to go out of business. Hey, this would be a great time, when they're ahead.

Re:Here We Go (1)

mofolotopo (458966) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101244)

Whoa! I think we may have finally figured out their business model! Make up for the lack of revenue by filing creative lawsuits.

Re:Here We Go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101196)

Wow, what a threat! Even the mightiest enterprise could not afford to lose the priceless "ScumBiker" endorsement! Are you sure such drastic measures are called for? After all, we've only heard one side of the story, and it's quite likely that this guy is just a nitwit who actually received the letter and then lost it under the couch.

Gee. (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101115)

They only give us one side of it, nobody tells us what he actually said... and he claims his certified mail was never received....

Well.. that should be fairly easy to show in court, eh? If he *signed* for his mail, and ignored it, and is now claiming he never received it... (if) ...

Freedom of speech? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101116)

How can you call USA "a democratic country" when you don't have freedom of speech?

Re:Freedom of speech? (2, Insightful)

Xamdam_us (524194) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101164)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. -- The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution The First Amendment is not about your "right" to slander other people. It's about the right of Americans to express disatifaction with the government without being silenced. It's not an open invite to say what ever you want about a person no matter how untrue it is.

Re:Freedom of speech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101211)

Why it is ok to express dissatisfaction with the government but not ok to express dissatisfaction with corporates?

Re:Freedom of speech? (1)

Xamdam_us (524194) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101270)

There is nothing wrong with expressing dissatisfaction with a corporation. However you do not have to right to make comments about a "person" that can be viewed as slanderous. From what the article said it sure looks like he may have.

Re:Freedom of speech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101194)

You can say whatever you like about the government (apart from direct forms of incitement to violence, maybe). But this is a *company*, a corporation doesn't have to abide by the US Constitution.

Re:Freedom of speech? (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101197)


How can you call USA "a democratic country" when you don't have freedom of speech?

Perhaps you should spend more time doing your homework and less time posting braindead drivel on slashdot.

1) The US is a democratic republic, not a democracy. A democracy is 2 wolves and one sheep voting on whats for dinner.

2) The first amendment prevents congress from passing laws abridging speech rights. It doesn't prevent individuals (or companies) from filing libel/slander lawsuits. In this particular case, the defendent was (allegedly) served with a summons to appear in court, but didn't show up. The judge found in favor of the plaintiff by default. The same way your 3rd grade teacher will give you an F when you don't do your homework.

Wrong. (-1)

Crapflooder (554043) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101269)

The US is not a republic, but a monarchy.

LONG LIVE HIS MOST EXALTED MAJESTY, HENGIST DUVAL, 15TH EMPEROR OF THE GALAXY AND OF MAN, FRIEND OF THE VICTIMS OF CRIME, HARD ON THE CAUSES OF CRIME.

Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page)

Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal.

Re:Freedom of speech? (2)

Performer Guy (69820) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101215)

The USA does have freedom of speech, and freedom from libel & slander, it's a wonderful system where if someone publishes a lot of rubbish about you can defend your reputation in court.

First Amendment (5, Insightful)

GMontag (42283) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101117)

This is a creepy run around the 1st Ammendment, and you should be aware.

The First Amendment is a restriction on government, not on you, your neighbor or a business.

This was a civil judgement not a criminal conviction, the First Amendment does not apply AT ALL.

Re:First Amendment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101163)

You know, I modded this up, but then I thought about something...

Of course it's a restriction of government. Anyone can bring up the suit against this guy. That's not what the first amendment is for. But it is to advise the government what to do with such a suit, and if judging in favor of Xybernaut would be violating the restriction of supporting the first amendment.

Re:First Amendment (1)

Floyd Turbo (84609) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101166)

The First Amendment is a restriction on government, not on you, your neighbor or a business.

This was a civil judgement not a criminal conviction, the First Amendment does not apply AT ALL.

No, that's wrong. The First Amendment absolutely does apply here. It is a restriction on government, that's right, but the courts are part of the government. If someone (like Xybernaut) tries to use the courts to prevent you from exercising your First Amendment rights, the First Amendment limits what the courts can do.

Re:First Amendment (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101253)

If there had been multi-national corporations in the day and age of the founding fathers, then yes they would have made certain there were exclusions on the power of a corporation right in the constitution. However america was entirely a cottage industry nation, and other than the british textile mills there was hardly anything resembling a modern corporation. So instead there are clauses saying that congress shall have the power to regulate interstate commerce etc.
Fortunately 19 states have anti SLAPP laws, including minnesota which allows for up to 3x punative damages. That company couldn't even afford to pay the punitive damages if they lost in a state like minnesota.
Minnesota's law is as yet untested, though but the california law has been and prevailed. Any company that is going to take me on for things I supposedly posted to a message board is going to have to pay me not just the cost but punitive damages if I have anything to say about it.

America is the best nation in the World! (0, Offtopic)

CAB (19473) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101118)

All Americans are free!

Uh Oh... (1)

Xamdam_us (524194) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101120)

I guess I should make sure I have "Personal Injury" coverage in my home owners policy before I post any more messages on /.

Freedom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101126)

To quote Rage Against the Machine:

"What the land of the free? Whoever told you that is your enenmy."

Freedom in the USA seems to be more about freedom to sue, than freedom of speach.

Re:Freedom? (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101209)

Freedom in the USA seems to be more about freedom to sue, than freedom of speach. Fortunately for you and CmdrTaco, there's also freedom of misspelling.

Criticize? (5, Interesting)

Ivan Raikov (521143) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101129)

Well, the article said that the guy who got the $450,000 fine claimed that one of the company's senior executives (and brother of the CEO), "if [...] was not a relative his job would consist of ... 'Would you like fries with that?'" He also called them liars.

Normally, I'm all for the little guy, but in this case, seems like the poster was a troll, not an "outspoken critic of corporate America."

Now, if he had provided a deep insight into the company's workings, and if he had some facts to prove that the company management is incompetent, that would've been a questionable case. On top of that, he claimed he never received a certified letter, when it's very, very easy to have USPS check whether such letter was delivered or not. I don't think we're getting the whole story here.

Re:Criticize? (5, Insightful)

Performer Guy (69820) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101192)

1) It's not a fine, it's a judgement, the money goes to the plaintif.

2) If he had provided deep insight they might have had a real case against him, as the article indicates, simple troll is not actionable in many states. The other issue here is living in a state where the law protects you vs an action in another state where there is no statutory protection. Online flames aside there are individual protections to protect individuals against getting sued remotely like this.

3) As for the letter, it's too late, he'll have to hire a lawyer to even raise the issue, but now he has no opportunity for a pretrial dismissal, this will get really expensive. He has to appeal this. If he ignored the letter it was the dumbest thing he ever did.

I agree (1)

modipodio (556587) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101218)

"3) As for the letter, it's too late, he'll have to hire a lawyer to even raise the issue, but now he has no opportunity for a pretrial dismissal, this will get really expensive. He has to appeal this. If he ignored the letter it was the dumbest thing he ever did. "

But Can they realy do that ?do they not have to prove that the guy got the letter and hence was aware of the trial ? And if he wins the appeal who pays the legal fee's for both sides?

Re:Criticize? (2)

Ivan Raikov (521143) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101225)

If he had provided deep insight they might have had a real case against him

Why would have they had a case? If you make a statement, and support it with undisputable facts, wouldn't it be a lot harder for the company to win any suits they might file against you?

As for the letter, it's too late,

I understand that; my point was that instead of him merely claiming he never received the letter, he could have checked with the postal service, found out whether they delivered such a letter to him, and either say, "I'm a dumbass, I must have thrown the letter out with all my junk mail," or "The USPS has no record of such letter being sent and/or delivered. I have a good reason to appeal."

Re:Criticize? (2)

Performer Guy (69820) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101232)

Why would have they had a case? If you make a statement, and support it with undisputable facts, wouldn't it be a lot harder for the company to win any suits they might file against you?

The distinction is between information presented as fact and simple rhetoric and opinion.

Re:Criticize? (1)

jyoull (512280) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101216)

Look, this company is acting ridiculously thin skinned, unnecessarily... The world knows what flamage is... I see no BUSINESS basis for this suit, and on that premise, my OPINION is that it could not have possibly been in the company's interests to go anywhere near court with this. They should put their heads down and work hard. If the product is good, nobody will care what anyone else says about them, especially if it looks like flamage. And if the product sucks, then maybe they earned it.

As for me, no Xybernaut products for myself or my clients. I really can't support this sort of conduct. People should be a little more resilient than this. My God, there are places in the world where you can't feed your kids, where your house is a tin sheet... On the scale of "really bad things" I don't even see how this rates. Running to the courts because someone wrote something critical and poorly phrased? Lawsuits for ranting and flamage? Cases like this are making a mess of our country. (no, it's not like this everywhere).

Note to Xybernaut: Please don't sue me. I don't think you've acted like jerks. Or, if it turns out that I do, I'm certainly not going to say so here.

Re:Criticize? (2)

Performer Guy (69820) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101240)

I agree, but I don't see how this has anything to do with my post. Feel free to take issue with something I've written, but please inform me whet points we disagree on. Do you really thing anyone reading this article would not arrive at similar conclusions by the end. As for firm opinions on this, we don't have the full facts, that's why we have courts.

Since I'm European ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101135)

... and companies don't have as much power over here as in the US, here goes:

Microsoft is going down the drain fast, installing a complete retard (check video footage) like Steve Ballmer as CEO.

AOL is single-handedly destroying the internet by getting millions upon millions of clueless idiots to surf the web. The internet will be destroyed as a result of Steve Case's actions, which in turn leads to his company going down the drain.

Steve Jobs' insistence to 'think different' even now that it has become obvious that PC's are the way to go is harming the stockholder value. This incompetent nincompoop wasn't fired for no reason.

Now come and get me.

I aint got no moneys. (1)

The Hollow Room (561885) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101155)

Hell, yes! Lets go to Sealand and flame every shonky CEO from Disney to Coke. Litigation don't scare you if you aint got no money. And it would be in Euros too. I dont think litigation lawyers can count that high.

Power , Money and Lawsuits: The Perfect Gag (1, Flamebait)

tunacanrana (250143) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101139)

This is business as usual, especially since January 2001. "If you don't have the money and time to pay for lawyers and sit in court, then it's not worth your while to even open your mouth to criticize."
Of course -- it needs to be said -- when our society allowed career white collar criminals to usurp the highest Executive office of our government, including an individual who responds to criticism of his less-than-pristine character with the statement,"there should be limits on freedom of speech," it's really no surprise that Corporations would take advantage of such an oppressive atmosphere.
A sad fate for the Bill of Rights and American democracy indeed.

Only in the USA (0, Insightful)

propstoalldeadhomiez (444303) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101141)

Welcome to the USA. This would never happen in Canada [slashdot.org] . The USA should take a look at that beacuse the ruling that comments posted to a message board are inherently opinions makes a lot of sense.

Where the hell is the 1st amendment?! (0, Redundant)

fire-eyes (522894) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101142)

What the hell is this shit?

Get scared by a lawsuit into revoking something you said? WHERE'S FREE SPEECH?

This country is going to shit, man, to shit.

And the way things are going, you can't expect the Supreme Court to handle these things. Unreal! And scary.

A Warning (1)

Vishniac (548699) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101145)

At first the thought of freedom of speech and the First Amendment came to mind when reading the article, but then I was reminded of my many class debates over what forms of speech are protected. You have the right to criticize and speak your mind, but you don't have the right to yell "fire!" in a crowded theater, nor throw slander and libel around casually in a flame against anyone, especially at a company with access to hefty legal resources.

It's entirely possible to create an argument against a company without resorting to speech that would be considered inflammatory and cause for a suit. Granted, they're not as much fun to read sometimes, but a well-reasoned post with thought and backup will be more endearing in the long run.

Take this as a warning that you are responsible for your speech on the Internet, as much as people may try to hide behind the shroud of digital anonymity.

Re:A Warning (2)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101174)

throw slander and libel around casually in a flame against anyone, especially at a company with access to hefty legal resources.

But what happened to the recent decision that postings were considered opinion, and hence are not libel?

Certified Mail? (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101149)

It seems like nobody ever asks the one organization that can provide proof of delivery in situations like this: the Post Office. Delivery of certified mail requires a signature. If that signature isn't his, service has not occured. Without service, there can't be due process (meaning you never had the option of confronting your accusers in court, not only a right but a constitutionally guaranteed right), and without due process, there can be no legitimate trial. Unfortunately, there's no way he can recoup his legal losses without a countersuit.

Screw Xybernaut and Viragen (0, Troll)

Dutch_Cap (532453) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101153)

Xybernaut has a bunch of morons in charge and all their products are lame and unreliable. Their hardware usually falls apart or stops working a few days after purchase. Did you know their devices are made through child-labour, by the way?

Viragen is a bunch of loonies too, especially management. I hear they actually pay people to have sex with the genetically engineered chickens, to create half-man half-chicken offspring.

I really hate Amazon too, did you know they use their profits to fund terrorism?

Are they going to sue me now?

Re:Screw Xybernaut and Viragen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101208)

Let's look at this....

Xybernaut has a bunch of morons in charge

This is an opinion.

all their products are lame and unreliable

This is probably an opinion as well.

Their hardware usually falls apart or stops working a few days after purchase.

But this could be slanderous. Unless it's true. I'm sure I could prove it to be true given rough enough treatment.

Did you know their devices are made through child-labour,

This is a question.

Viragen is a bunch of loonies too, especially management

Opinion again.

I hear they actually pay people to have sex with the genetically engineered chickens, to create half-man half-chicken offspring.

I have to wonder whether this would be libellous even. You may have heard this. It may be true that you did actually hear this.

Are they going to sue me now?

Probably. If you could email A good lawyer will probably prove its all opinion though.

Hypocrisy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101158)

Xybernaut has joined Amazon and others on my list of Must-Avoid companies.

But any time there's a new must-see movie, you've gotta be first in line, right? It seems clear in this story [slashdot.org] that you're going to continue supporting disney, and other stories (anything Star Wars related, or LotR) in the past clearly indicate you'll support the rest of MPAA. Probably the one organization in the US that is completely dead-set against computer users having any rights at all and you continue to support them, while boycotting Amazon et al for relatively minor things. How do you sleep at night?

Legal Options? (3, Interesting)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101160)

I wonder what the legal recourse is no something like this. There are a number of cases where someone won by default, such as the coed vs the wild party girls tape folks [austin360.com] . Since it is not a criminal case, as such, what are the legal options.

Obviously, IANAL

who is microsoft & why does everyone say they (0, Offtopic)

Benjiman McFree (321140) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101161)

hmm??

--he that be not ashamed shall have no source code to hide.

for a non usa-ian (2, Interesting)

richmultijoy (558695) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101162)

How would this affect someone outside of the US? If I were to write a scathing, bile filled statement of hatred for [insert favourite ceo here] below this post would I find myself subject to UK law or US law? If the US, how could they enforce it?

Re:for a non usa-ian (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101221)

I fear I may find out soon... I'm in the UK and have quoted certain comments about a particular big US tech corporation, the lawyers have only hounded me via e-mail so far, requesting for the offending quotations to be removed.

Re:for a non usa-ian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101228)

To clarify, I simply quoted a comment made publicly by the CEO, I haven't added any comments or defamation of my own.

do me now, and i shall spread me legs! (-1)

metrix007 (200091) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101178)

hi. i was born a male. but now i want to be a female.

i currently lust after bitches in tight spandex, but now i have a different urge, i want to BE one of those bitches in tight spandex, i want to be some hunks sex slave, i want to suck cock all day and all night long, who will pay for my sex change op? i can pay you with free sex for a decade! i just want to be a little obediant bimbo, please help make my wish cum true!

please, pay for my sex change, and impale untill it hurts!

after all what guy (guys have big penis's, yummy) would not want an attractiv model to spread her legs? which is what i will do if you help me.

Is this really Libel? (3, Insightful)

lysurgon (126252) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101179)

I think these SLAPP lawsuits are worrysome in that they create a chilling effect on peoples ability to candidly express their views. Now, if your view consist of "These guys are dicks!" then you might have some libel issues, unless you can be specific about what sort of dicks they are and back it up with evidence.

But honestly, we're talking about a day-trader message board here, right? I think this kind of "insider information" (accurate or not) is exactly what they should be facilitating. I used to live in Lower Manhattan, and if you go to any wall street bar you'll hear much more unvarnished and opinionated statements being made about potential investments. Of course, that's bar-talk and this is an online posting, but it seems to me that saying a company's management if full of it (even if you use creative langure) aught not to bring legal action.

Of course, when you bruise a wealthy, powerful executive's ego, especially if you do it by hitting a little too close to home, you're liable (no put intended) to see some blowback.

Re:Is this really Libel? (1)

Tony (765) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101261)

"These guys are dicks," is not libel. "These guys are dicks because they raped my sister," is possibly libel, though only if expressed as fact, and not in some flame-fest.

Libelous comments are those that are expressed as fact and not opinion. The more fact-like and objective the context, the more likely they will be judged as libelous. Oh, and they also must be designed to harm the reputation of the comment's subject.

Of course, IANAL. YMMV. Accept no subsitute.

Libel and slashdot (5, Interesting)

image (13487) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101182)

[Apologies for the slightly off-topic nature of this post. But it appears highly relevant because of the thread.]

How long before Taco or one of the other Slashdot editors is accused of and sued for libel by one of the individuals or corporations that is commented on (and perhaps defamed) on the site?

By the Lectric Law Library's definition [lectlaw.com] , libel is:

Published material meeting three conditions: The material is defamatory either on its face or indirectly; The defamatory statement is about someone who is identifiable to one or more persons; and, The material must be distributed to someone other than the offended party; i.e. published; distinguished from slander. [The 'Lectric Law Library]

By the CyberLibel definition [cyberlibel.com] :

A publication without justification or lawful excuse which is calculated to injure the reputation of another by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule. [CyberLibel]

I tried out the Libel Checklist [utsystem.edu] over at UTexas, and found that a good number of posts by slashdot editor's could at least be considered suspect of libel claims. However, I am anything but a lawyer, and would love to hear a lawyer comment on this.

For example, if an editor posts a comment in response to an article saying something to the effect of "so-and-so's marketing practices are highly suspect and should be avoided by all good slashdotters." If the statement is not provably true, is not a fair report of an official and public record, is not a matter of public concern, is not merely abusive, is not consentual, and is not clearly an opinion, then such statements could, I believe, be intrepreted as libel.

Furthermore, could the users of Slashdot also be sued for libel due to their comments?

Or worse, could I be sued for libel for raising this very question about Rob and Slashdot? Uh-oh. Nevermind...

1st amendment does not apply (1)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101187)

it is only a restriction on government, so it has nothing to do with a civil suit free speech and responsible speech are not the same thing...

Re:1st amendment does not apply (3, Insightful)

mikethegeek (257172) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101227)

" it is only a restriction on government, so it has nothing to do with a civil suit free speech and responsible speech are not the same thing..."

Wrong. Use of the courts is a GOVERNMENT function. A court MUST respect a defendant's Constitutional and other legal rights.

What you are thinking of is that a corporation isn't bound by the 1st amendment with respect to your employment, etc (ie, they can fire you for saying something they don't like). That is a different issue from using the government to punish someone for what they said. IMO, it shouldn't happen, except in cases of libel and slander.

BTW, it used to be virtually impossible to prove slander of a corporate entity, but now that we have has a decade of new court appointees coming from corporate lawfirms... Well, do the math.

An old story... (3, Insightful)

ChaoticCoyote (195677) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101188)

...for anyone who's been an activist of any stripe. SLAPP has long been used against environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and anyone else who spoke out for the rights of people over those of corporations. Simply put: Money is power, and when corporations pass a certain milestone financially, they have the resources to squelch anyone who opposes them.

I didn't see RMS, ESR, or any of these other "freedom" luminaries rise up for environmentalists or Native Americans or the homeless or anti-pollution activists, so I have little sympathy that they're whining in their (free?) beer now about how mean, nasty corporations are picking on poor techies. Too bad, guys -- you lost the war when you failed to fight for others. Now that the fight is in your backyard, you care -- but it may be too late, because the rights were eroded long before the DMCA became reality.

Freedom of speech isn't just about the GPL and software; it's about fundamental human rights and corporate control of government.

Re:An old story... (2, Insightful)

Maul (83993) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101217)

Just because the advocates of the GPL and Free Software in general are not advocates of every single
cause out there does not mean that they don't believe
in the rights of the advocates of causes that do not
pertain to software.

Re:An old story... (3)

rde (17364) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101252)

Freedom of speech isn't just about the GPL and software; it's about fundamental human rights and corporate control of government.
Absolutely. However, should we criticise the Red Cross for not standing up for Free software?

I don't know if you appreciate how much work goes into activism. If someone spends their days coding and fighting for what they see as the freedom to code, they've precious little time to fight other battles. When they do,they're critisised for sticking their noses into subjects where they don't belong.

Rights, as you say, were being eroded long before the advent of the DMCA. Would they be any less eroded if RMS went to a Nike factory? If ESR hosted a page on the plight of the Afghan civilians? Of course not.

The population of this planet is over six billion. The reason that we've come as far as we have (in many areas) is that many of those individuals fight injustices as they see it, and inspire others to join them. Billions aren't in a position to do this, most of the rest don't bother, so the world relies on those who do. Doesn't matter how many fights they miss, it's what they do in the ones in which they're involved that counts.

I've never written an open source accounting packaging. Are you wondering, then, how I have the temerity to describe myself as an open source advocate?

Every one is jumping to conclusions (2, Interesting)

modipodio (556587) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101195)

Wait and see if it is recorded that he signed for the letter ,(informing him of the slapp),before jumping on the corperate hate band wagon.No one here has posted the specifics of the case yet,as in if there was evidence or not that he recieved the letter.

""The postings (in question) are full of hyperbole, invective, short-hand phrases and language not generally found in fact-based documents, such as corporate press releases or SEC filings," Judge David O. Carter wrote.

That's a pretty good description of the postings Xybernaut sued Dan Whatley over, according to a copy of the suit. The suit lists posts in which Whatley berates Xybernaut chairman and CEO Edward Newman and his brother Steve Newman, who is the vice-chairman. "

Having said all that , what they seem to be suing the guy over seems to be ridiculus, basicly saying the managment of the company was incompetent and accusing the company of lying on a message board which every one knows are havens of 'truth and 'facts'.

She should have stuck to her guns (2)

cluge (114877) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101199)

If she did nothing illegal then she should have stuck to her guns. There are various free legal services she has access to, all she had to do was call her local public defenders office. IANAL BUT I do believe that she would have had the right to coutner sue (in her home state) for the company filing a false, misleading, or malicous (sp) suit.

FYI, if the company that filed suit in the article said they delivered a letter via certified post, they probably have a signature card with SOMEONE's signature on it. Most lawyers won't goto court unless they have some documentation that they have made a "valid effort" to inform the defendant, or that a summons was delivered.

The sad truth is that very few people wish to take the time to actually stand up for what they believe in. Hiding in the sand and ignoring a problem is more effective and less dangerous. If more people filed counter suits and fought these law suits they wouldn't exist.

Re:She should have stuck to her guns (1)

SirRichardPumpaloaf (563323) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101255)

If she did nothing illegal then she should have stuck to her guns. There are various free legal services she has access to, all she had to do was call her local public defenders office.

That, and travel to another state for the trial, and pay for lodging there, and take all that time off from work, etc. Plus she has three kids at home to take care of. It's easy to talk about what other people should have done, but your accusation that she just caved in is pretty unfair. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute.

who is microsoft & why does everyone say they_ (0, Offtopic)

Benjiman McFree (321140) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101201)

hmm??

using terrorism to control you with hidden code is certainley a better sell than piracy!,.. LOL..+6t

--he that be not ashamed shall have no source code to hide.

Certified Mail... (3, Interesting)

TraceProgram (171114) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101220)

It is entirely possible that Mr. Whatley did not recieve the certified mail. In a case like this it is up to the courts to serve the defendant with the notice of hearing. This is done with certified mail. The prosecution can only assume that the person receieved the letter. I have a friend who was doing much the same, except in his case he was suing a business. In his case the business did not show up and he won by forfeit. The company then came to the court claiming that the letter was not receieved. That was when the records were checked and found that indeed they had not recieved the letter. Of course it is also possible to refuse certified mail and by doing so make it appear as though you have not recieved it. Certified mail is no guarantee that a party will recieve a letter.

This is all speculation though, since there is a lot of information we do not know. We can only hope that this is resolved properly, on the side of justice. Besides, $450,000 is an extremely large judgement, and an appeal is still possible.

Re:Certified Mail... (3, Interesting)

Knobby (71829) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101237)

I thought the idea behind certified mail, was that the letter must be signed for upon delivery. That means, if he sign for it, then the US Postal Service still has the letter, and probably a receipt for it, somewhere.

This isn't the best example of SLAPP suits. (3, Informative)

thesolo (131008) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101229)

Unfortunately, this is not the best example of SLAPP suits; it could be argued that someone in the process is simply lying about the certified mail.

A much better example would be a few years back when a woman found out a business in her area was dumping waste behind a school. She notified the state agency to confirm it, and as a resident of that school's district, had a right to be on the property. As a result, she was SLAPP'ed, by the contractor who was hiding the waste. Now THAT is scary. What possible right could that contractor have for suing her, when he WAS guilty?? She was nothing more than a whistle-blower, I don't think any of us would argue with that.

Suing someone over a troll-like post on a messageboard is childlike, and shows a company to be immature. Suing because someone exposed you for poisoning the planet is just downright low, even lower than dumping waste materials behind an elementary school in the first place.

You can read more about SLAPP and that particular lawsuit here at ZeroWasteAmerica.org [zerowasteamerica.org]

Cold day in hell. (2)

Performer Guy (69820) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101250)

It'll be a cold day in hell before I boycott a company based on some flamebait kneejerk paragraph posted by CmdrTaco.

Oh, Taco (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3101251)

well-that's-just-plain-creapy dept.

It's *CREEPY* not creapy.

You know, creepy, like the concept of Taco breeding...

write them and complain... (2)

kevin lyda (4803) | more than 12 years ago | (#3101271)

off of the xybernaut contact page [xybernaut.com] there are a few addresses to complain to. i'm sure i'm not alone in being a person who has considered purchasing their stuff, perhaps they should know how much they've pissed us off.
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