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Law Prof Characterizes Yahoo Suit as Extortion

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the one-person's-opinion dept.

90

netbuzz writes "Fair comment or libel? A law prof/blogger calls those behind the class-action suit against Yahoo 'extortionists.' The targeted lawyers, who include spyware/adware expert Ben Edelman, are not amused." From the article: "Goldman, who according to his blog 'holds leadership positions in the American Bar Association and the Computer Law Association,' addresses the merits of the suit in a generally academic fashion before winding up for the big finish: 'I think these lawsuits are nothing more than a shakedown for cash,' he concludes. 'Even unmeritorious class action lawsuits are expensive to defend, so the plaintiffs' lawyers can exploit those defense costs for their personal largesse. They can make this argument to defendants: settle with me for a fraction of your total expected defense costs, and we're both better off (defendants save some defense costs, plaintiffs' lawyers grab some personal loot).'"

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90 comments

*FORMER* lawyer, please (1, Funny)

overshoot (39700) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319329)

I'm sure the various Bar Associations will backdate his disbarment.

Whoever modded this funny (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319589)

It certainly wasn't meant to be funny.

Re:Whoever modded this funny (1)

Arandir (19206) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320289)

The comment was too stupid to be anything other than funny.

p.s. Disbarments are wholly unrelated to the article.

p.p.s. Bar associations do not backdate disbarments.

That ain't no joke (1)

sweetnjguy29 (880256) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321257)

Rule 8.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct state that in order to maintain the integrity of of the legal profession, it is considered professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice or engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

Furthermore, if this professor truely believes that this is extortion, he needs to report the lawyers to the appropriate legal authorities. Rule 8.3 states that a lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority. Not reporting this behavior is in itself a violation of the law.

Re:That ain't no joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15322022)

Exactly which lawyer do you think will prosecute for this kind of offense?

Re:That ain't no joke (1)

sweetnjguy29 (880256) | more than 7 years ago | (#15322124)

The Ethics Board. The people who take away your license.

Yahoo! is run by yahoos? (3, Informative)

fragmentate (908035) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319334)

I don't think of Yahoo! as a technology company having worked with their "development team". They're a second-rate hack, at best. We have submitted YSS feeds [slashdot.org] to them and had them rejected with various problems. We would then wait 2 hours, and resubmit the feed, unchanged...

The feed is then accepted.

We also manage keyword buys. We'll submit a list of keywords, for example, "baby jump suits" -- to have it rejected (without notifying us -- we have to discover it after-the-fact). The word that actually goes in is "baby jump suit". The next time we submit, "baby jump suits" goes in... Clearly subjective, depending on which hack approved the submission.

One can deduce that their approval process is manual. That means they probably have a bunch of $10/hr. hacks doing the grunt work. It's inconsistant.

I digress...

My point is that if you have people instead of systems, algorithms, and/or applications to do the tedious work, you have:

  • Human error.
  • Human cheating.
  • Disinterest.

I don't think Yahoo! the corporate entity is aware of these goings-on. But given the clear inconsistancies that make Yahoo! difficult to work with, I think they're accountable nonetheless.

At the same time, if someone on a boat isn't helping keep it affloat, you don't sink the boat. So, in spite of Yahoo! needing to be slapped -- I'd rather see them slapped with a dose of "hey your products suck" than a bunch of lawsuits by money-grubbing lawyers.

Re:Yahoo! is run by yahoos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15319750)

Just wait until there is a Yahoo sub-site that does exactly what your site does. Your Search Submit Pro listings will get closer and closer scrutiny from the editorial team until you are no longer allowed to submit anything the Yahoo site dominates "properly". At least that is what happened here.

Luckly Yahoo is revamping their bidding system to be exactly like Google Adwords. I just don't want to think about how painful they are going to make the migration process. Its going to suck that you won't be able see other's bids anymore. And its going to suck that you have to structure your keywords into campaigns and ad groups. However, they say they won't reject keywords anymore.

Re:Yahoo! is run by yahoos? (1)

kawika (87069) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320266)

No doubt there is some component of incompetence involved, but it's more than that. For example, Overture has a long history of "melting pot" ad placement, even before they Yahoo acquisition. Their advertisers are told about the good neighborhoods where the ads will be seen (Yahoo Search, for example) but not the bad ones (spyware, warez sites). Overture advertisers have no way to "opt out" of any segment of advertising.

Re:Yahoo! is run by yahoos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15321115)

Why don't you look up "disinterested" in the dictionary? The word you want is "uninterested".

Amusing given that one of your complaints seems to be concern that the employees are not disinterested!

I guess you're just a "second-rate hack"!

Re:Yahoo! is run by yahoos? (1)

fragmentate (908035) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321914)

2. Lack of interest; indifference.

There you go. Hack. If your grasp on the english language was as good as your grasp on weak attacks, you would have noticed the difference between "disinterested" (an adjective) and "disinterest" (a noun). At least parse the correct word. That aside, "disinterested" still works since "indifference" was the context.

For the hackish little text parser that you are, did you catch any misspellings?

Seriously, if you're going to stoop to parsing my grammar, don't leave out the misspellings. Don't do anything half-assed... Be a full ass.

Re:Yahoo! is run by yahoos? (1)

LandruBek (792512) | more than 8 years ago | (#15333207)

It's worse than that. "Indifferent" means "unconcerned," but "disinterested" means something else [princeton.edu] . In fact the word is a complement. It's the opposite of Halliburton-style conflicts of interest.

yahoos (0, Offtopic)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319339)

No kidding. All those damned yahoos in suits are extortionists...

yahoo is teh sux (1)

Dragoonkain (704719) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319344)

nothing is better

The Horror (3, Interesting)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319369)

Lawsuits filed solely to make money, banish the thought. Who would do such a despicable thing? Seriously though, I am glad someone is speaking out about this practice in the yahoo case, but really something should be done within the legal system to fix the problem as a whole, not just this symptom. One possible solution would be to have lawyers on both sides be paid a fixed rate by the state, which would fix some inequalities, although admittedly individual people might still be motivated by money to sue.

Re:The Horror (1)

stillmatic (874559) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319465)

When it's individuals making lawsuits against big companies, it's extortion. When it's **AA filing the same lawsuits against individuals, it's business as usual.

Class-action fix (4, Insightful)

overshoot (39700) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319476)

One possible solution would be to have lawyers on both sides be paid a fixed rate by the state, which would fix some inequalities, although admittedly individual people might still be motivated by money to sue.
If you want to see some real panic in the class-action racket, try this:

Counsel for the plaintiffs in a class-action suit may not receive any more than is actually distributed to the plaintiffs.

That's the classic scam: the defendents settle for $100 million, the plaintiffs' law firm get $95 million of it, $5 million is offered to the plaintiff class if they respond to request 20 pages of paperwork to apply for their $0.75 payout; a total of $120 thousand is actually distributed to the plaintiff class members and "their" lawyers pocket the balance.

Suggest it to your Congresscritters. The ABA and Trial Lawyers' Association will hate it, but if it ever sees daylight nobody will dare vote against it because (unlike a lot of tort reform) it doesn't take a dime from plaintiffs -- the ones they ABA and TLA use to justify their normal way of doing business.

Re:Class-action fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15319624)

"Counsel for the plaintiffs in a class-action suit may not receive any more than is actually distributed to the plaintiffs."

Good idea! The only people who make money in class-action suits are the lawyers. The "injured" parties get virtually nothing. It's probably the worst abuse in a system full of abuse.

Re:Class-action fix (2, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319843)

Good luck! Most Congressmen are lawyers!

Re:Class-action fix (2, Informative)

brusk (135896) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320047)

A plurality, but not a majority. See http://www.ranknfile-ue.org/cap_st07.html#What [ranknfile-ue.org] .

Re:Class-action fix (1)

emmons (94632) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320660)

And even then there's a big difference between trial lawyer scum like these guys and your typical attorney. Most congressmen that are attorneys aren't trial lawyers.

Re:Class-action fix (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320864)

OK, then, most Senators are lawyers, and an awful lot of Reps are too!

Good idea! (2, Insightful)

gknoy (899301) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319898)

Wow. That seems like a stunningly good idea. Wish I still had points to mod you up.

My only question is ... could it have any down sides? If the class of people to distribute to is large enough, would the lawyers be able to fund themselves properly? (Probably ;))

Re:Good idea! (1)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320319)

I'm sure they make enough to get by when they pick-pocket future clients as they're being loaded into the ambulance.

Re:Class-action fix (1)

Snorklefish (639711) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320411)

[In the classic scam] defendents settle for $100 million, the plaintiffs' law firm get $95 million of it, $5 million is offered to the plaintiff class if they respond to request 20 pages of paperwork to apply for their $0.75 payout; a total of $120 thousand is actually distributed to the plaintiff class members and "their" lawyers pocket the balance.


If I recall, this is precisely what happened in the case of Strawargument v. UrbanLegend. Or to be more blunt, I think your engaging in ridiculous hyperbole to make a point that is distinguishable from the overwhelming majority of class-action lawsuits.

Re:Class-action fix (1)

blibbler (15793) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320764)

As with all law, and much of the rest of the world, there are legitimate uses, and illegitimate uses. Limiting a lawyers payout to what an individual plaintiff would get is ludicrous. Consider the lawsuit against the RIAA over price fixing. The individual payout was in the order of $20 or so. It would be silly to expect anyone to work hundreds of hours, win tens of millions of dollars for the community, and only be paid $20 (There might be some who are willing to donate their time for such a cause, but to expect people to donate their time is something else.)
On the other hand, I am aware of a number of class action suits where lawyers acting on behalf of a class settled the suit for an amount that only covered their expenses, leaving nothing for the plaintiffs. This is also clearly ludicrous.
There isn't a perfect solution, but perhaps the solution some way to limit the percent of a settlement that the representing lawyer can claim.

Re:Class-action fix (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321021)

Limiting a lawyers payout to what an individual plaintiff would get is ludicrous.
Not an individual plaintiff, the plaintiff class as a whole.

The point being to put a stop to cases where the lawyers are the only ones who get paid.

Re:doesn't take a dime from plaintiffs (1)

RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321767)

I'm more cynical on that. If this idea ever got critical mass & got sponsored *, you'd start seeing massive PSAs and a sudden saturation of anti-reform talking points in the media.

The "doesn't take a dime from plaintiffs" fact would be lost in the FUD. Everyone would have a vague sense of how a few bad, mean, greedy people were trying to "create roadblocks," "slash the quality of legal representation" and generally "make it harder" for them should they ever need to join forces with other victims of big, reckless theiving corporate interests & take legal action.

I'd be happy if I were proven wrong here, of course.

Re:Class-action fix (1)

Maxmin (921568) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321833)

I thought lawyers in civil actions were limited to one-third of the total payout, no? Is it different for class actions?

Re:Class-action fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15323331)

Class Action Settlements have to be court-approved and are limited. Any reasonably educated person who actually appreciates and understands the legal system we have would understand that point.

Or you'd rather return to the days where NO ONE would take up a lawsuit for consumers who have been hurt by big company products?

Wow, and lawyers making money!! I mean, for what they have to learn in law school, and sitting through the Bar, it really doesn't make sense that they should make money right?

The (human) food chain (was:The Horror) (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319610)

I've often thought that lawyers are at the top of human food chain (at least in the US,) since no one is immune to lawsuits. To even defend oneself against such, one needs a lawyer. Regardless of merit or outcome, lawyers win, always.

Been there, done that... (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319984)

You're not the only one to notice this. It's not even a new phenomenon.

Charles Dickens wrote a book that's arguably a gigantic illustration of that point: people fight, but the lawyers always win. (I'm talking about Bleak House here, and for those who haven't read it, it's basically about a probate dispute over a large estate that drives a family apart; the punchline is at the end when one guy wins, he does so only to have the entire estate seized and sold off to pay the lawyers and court fees.)

Re:The Horror (1)

kabloom (755503) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320102)

How about the loser pays the legal costs of both sides? Nobody would sue unless they were willing to bet a lot of money that their case was merited.

That wont work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15320316)

That wont work because only rich people would be able to sue if they were harmed.

If someone was poor enough, a rich person or company could fark them left and right and get away with it.

Also what if the other side wants to have like 100 lawyers and 100 experts and whatnot... does the looser pay for that also? No? What if that is what it takes to prove their case?

Sure there are problems with the current situation but all of the obvious "soultions" are worse.

Re:The Horror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15320247)

That's a terrible idea. All it would do is up the volume of cases pushed into the system by lawyers. What is needed is a means of discouraging people and lawyers from bringing suits that have no merit.

My suggestion is if you're on a legal team that brings a suit, that is later judged to be without merit, then you are disbarred. Period, no appeal, finito.

This would not only cut down on spurious garbage lawsuits, it would reduce the count of lawyers -- make them go out and get real jobs. Of course, it would only be the stupidest ones that got themselves disbarred.

Re:The Horror (1)

LaCosaNostradamus (630659) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321167)

The system's out-of-control expenses runs on near-limitless "lawyering".

So, put a limit on the lawyering. We can even make it voluntary, to wit: there can be two levels of suit.

Simple Level: State the facts during your filing and let judge/jury decide case. No motions, changes of venue, retractions, or any of that crap. File it (note: the side that fails to file automatically loses) and wait. You barely see a judge/jury, it happens so fast; all the time taken is behind the scenes with clerks shuffling paper, judges reading cases, and juries deliberating. You get 1 free appeal; after that, you can try to get into the Complex Level system for more appeals.

Complex Level: Post a bond as a fraction of yearly income, etc., so you gain access to the "old" system of unlimited lawyering. File as many motions as you want; the sky's the limit (like now). Hire Cochran to defend your speeding ticket for all I care.

The catch here is that BOTH parties must agree to the level, or it devolves to "simple". So, if a corporation wants to drag a poor citizen through court, all the citizen has to do is refuse to post the Complex Level bond. The case will then be thrown into Simple Level mode, and the corporation will have to "file and smile" and leave it up to the court to decide. Note this will control the appeals, too, since a failed appeal can't go to the Complex Level if one of the sides doesn't agree to it; it must remain at the Simple Level, and you've already spent your 1 appeal, sorry.

Of course, some little guy might try to drag some company through the Simple Level system and use the simplicity to snow a judge/jury into granting him a judgment. Obviously I don't give a shit about that. The law has been completely corrupted by the lawyer class, to have made it possible to have a case too complex for the Simple Level. The existence of the Simple Level can only force the legal system to avoid overcomplication.

The lawyer class will never let the Simple Level be implemented, since it will relegate them to clerks for many cases. Lawyers want everything to be complicated since they can (1) spend more time (or at least claim they did), hence charge more money, and (2) find loophole after loophole to get their criminal scum rich clients off the hook.

Re:The Horror (1)

darthgnu (866920) | more than 8 years ago | (#15322841)

That would make a lot of sense, now you just need to convince the politicians ;).

Our lands current business model ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15319386)

I love this show! I think what makes it the show that it is is that the sections They do i.e. Buzzsaw, Word of the Week and the best; upgrade/downgrade. The panelists are hysterical. Modern Humorist and Chuck Nice are the funniest people on vh1. As for it not having Mike Black or Hal Sparks, I can understand the dissapointment. But, this show is different than i love the 80's, its more upbeat, those guys arent a good fit. The only other guy who is on best week ever that was routinely on love the 80's is mo recca and he isnt even funny. The new people are funnier and they do something no other show on vh1 does, recognize there on vh1! My favorite line from the entire show(and i have seen every one) is when Paul F. Thomkins said " Next on VH1, I love variety shows, where you'll hear Michael Ian Black talk about Mo Recca." Also, on Upgrade/ Downgrade, it was coversong week, one of the Modern Humorist(John)said of Joss Stone covering White Stripes, "It was to soon, that would be like making jokes that happened in say, the past week." Stuff like that is what makes this show by far the best show on VH1.

Huh? (5, Funny)

Coleco (41062) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319390)

Oh I though that's how lawsuits worked. Always.

RIAA/MPAA logic--somewhat off topic (0, Redundant)

D'Eyncourt (237843) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319392)

'Even unmeritorious class action lawsuits are expensive to defend, so the plaintiffs' lawyers can exploit those defense costs for their personal largesse. They can make this argument to defendants: settle with me for a fraction of your total expected defense costs, and we're both better off (defendants save some defense costs, plaintiffs' lawyers grab some personal loot).'

Doesn't this sum up the logic behind the RIAA/MPAA lawsuits?

Well? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15319403)

Isn't being a lawyer simply a license to carry out extorsion legally? :)

Lawyers suck the life out of everything (1, Flamebait)

SirLanse (625210) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319406)

So what else is new. They see a pile of money and want it. It is easier to sue than it is to make a product. Maybe if there are enough suits everyone will go out of business. But nobody will be harming anyone else. If Yahoo! is not putting in keywords, it is their own profits that are harmed.

Shrill Criticism (-1, Flamebait)

JehCt (879940) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319420)

The shrillness of the Professor's criticism exposes the weakness of his arguments. If he had a killer argument, he could make an "Aw Shucks," Columbo-style delivery with devastating effect.

Re:Shrill Criticism (1)

CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319963)

So any aggressive arguement is by default flawed?

I think your own "Aw Shucks" G Dubya-syle thinking could have a devastating effect.

Re:Shrill Criticism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15320177)

Uh, I don't get what you're saying. The Professor ought to say the suit is without merit and that it deserves sanctions. Calling it "extortion" is unprofessional and inaccurate because lawsuits are never extortion. Lawsuits can be frivolous, but that's not extortion. Who's uncle are you? You're taking a huge person interest in this story, ain'tcha?

Re:Shrill Criticism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15320789)

lawsuits are never extortion

There are MANY definitions and uses of the word, but the most basic would be: "to obtain by force, threats, or other unfair means" You seriously think a lawsuit can never meet any of those thersholds? Or even if we look at a more legal use of the word, wouldn't filing a lawsuit against a company say for say finding a severed finger in the chili even though you put it there be considered extortion? Fraud certainly, but extortion also seems quite fitting.

Re:Shrill Criticism (2, Informative)

CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320961)

What I'm saying is just because you make your arguement in a somewhat aggressive fashion, it doesn't mean your argument is automatically flawed.

Also, here [findlaw.com] is a link to an article discussing a Supreme Court desision pretty much on point where Justice Scalia calls it extortion.

Justice (3, Insightful)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319435)

It's seem that justice is no more a thing to keep society to a certain standard and give everybody a nice and predictable place to live. It's just a bussiness now, like fast food and diaper manufacturing.

Re:Justice (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#15323154)

>It's seem that justice is no more a thing to keep society to a certain standard and give everybody a nice and predictable place to live.

Which is not nothing. Ponder Rwanda or Zimbabwe as examples of what happens when you lose the approximation of justice the US has.

Be careful what you blog (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319437)

"The legal issue would likely be whether the statements were actual imputations of a crime, or were 'rhetorical hyperbole,' essentially a statement of opinion, not of fact. The former could be considered libelous, while the latter could not."

Of course, being it's in a blog, the author, Eric Goldman, wiil no doubt stand up in court and claim it's just his opinion, no matter how vehement the statements were. This should prove a cautionary tale: just because you blog does not necessarily mean you can say anything you like. The standard restrictions apply, and if you step over the line, you're just as culpable as a newspaper editor or reporter.

He has phrased it as an opinion (3, Insightful)

Bourbon Man (76846) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319620)

He made sure he could claim this as opinion. "I think these lawsuits are...." "I see this lawsuit as..." "I see that process as..." These are fairly obvious opinion statements, not statements of fact. If they were meant as statements of fact, he would not have prefaced them with "I think" and "I see". Instead they would read "These are..." "That is..." etc.

Re:He has phrased it as an opinion (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320344)

Even if he didn't, it would still be statements of opinion not fact.

Re:He has phrased it as an opinion (1)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320892)

You are factually incorrect. Fortunately, that is just your opinion :)

Re:He has phrased it as an opinion (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 8 years ago | (#15323272)

That is your opinion.

Re:He has phrased it as an opinion (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321096)

I don't believe that putting "I think ..." in front of a statement automatically gives you carte blanche to make whatever kind of accusation that you want. If I were to state, "I think Bourbon Man likes to fondle little boys", I could probably still get in some trouble.

I think there is a grey area in the law when stating an "opinion" on something that is really either true or not and not just a matter of personal view. I didn't RTFA and don't mean to imply that this applies here, but thought is was worth pointing out.

Re:He has phrased it as an opinion (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 8 years ago | (#15328046)

If I were to state, "I think Bourbon Man likes to fondle little boys", I could probably still get in some trouble.

That is actually covered in the law surrounding libel. Firstly, it is divided into two classes. If a statement is made as fact, the statements being true is an adequate defense. Adequate reason to believe it true may suffice.

If a statement is an opinion, the standard is simply that a reasonable person knowing what you know might hold that same opinion.

Value judgements fall into the opinion category since they cannot be proven or disproven as a 'fact' can.

Given the general opinion of lawyers in the first place, I have no trouble whatsoever believing that a 'reasonable person' might hold those opinions.

Re:Be careful what you blog (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319947)

This should prove a cautionary tale: just because you blog does not necessarily mean you can say anything you like.

Why not? There's no obligation that you believe what you read. No sir, the responsibility lies with how you react. Action has consequences. Speech is just that, speech.

Re:Be careful what you blog (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320424)

Speech is just that, speech.

And if your speech is yelling "Fire!" in a crowded movie theatre, or calling someone "monkey butt" on TV, you can bet your speech will be met with a citation in the former case and a slander suit in the latter. Just because we have the right to say what we want in the US, does not mean that all speech is in fact allowable or even desired, and there are standards.

Re:Be careful what you blog (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320704)

Calling someone "monkey butt" isn't slander; it's simply an insult. You can insult someone all day long without defaming them. Accusing someone of extortion, though, could be libel.

Re:Be careful what you blog (1)

Archangel_Azazel (707030) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321244)

Or stuff like:

Wearing shirts that speak out against a popular (unpopular?) war : http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.c gi/48/17374 [truthout.org]
http://www.albany.edu/~mg2300/doc/news/TU_Marchers -protest-arrest-of-man-for-wearing-peace-Tshirt-at -Crossgates_03-05-2003.html [albany.edu]

The issue about free speech is that (in my opinion) it only REALLY counts when someone's view is unpopular. Yes, yelling fire in a crowded movie theater is illegal. Why? Because people can be trampled to death by the stampede. Somehow I don't think wearing a T-shirt that says "Give peace a chance" is likely to do the same thing.

"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all."

    --H. L. Mencken

"I have fought censorship all of my adult life. To me, the most precious of all rights in this marvelous country called the United States of America is the freedom to think, write and say whatever is on your mind... That freedom also extends to thoughts that are stupid, ignorant or incendiary. No one needs a First Amendment to write about how cute newborn babies are or to publish a recipe for stawberry shortcake. Nobody needs a First Amendment for innocuous or popular points of view. That's point one. Point two is that the majority-you and I-must always protect the right of a minority-even a minority of one-to express the most outrageous and offensive ideas. Only then is total freedom of expression guaranteed." Lyle Stuart

Just some food for thought.

My 2 cents...
-A.A

Re:Be careful what you blog (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321892)

First, you were applying your first post to blogs, not crowded theaters. So, that argument doesn't apply. Second, as far as libel and slander are concerned, and I know the law doesn't agree, but it up to the listener/reader to believe or not believe and to verify what was said. You're blaming the gun, when it's the shooter's fault. A gun doesn't work if nobody pulls the trigger. Speech is meaningless without action. And those who perform the action should be held responsible, no matter what was said. Don't blame me for "inciting" a riot. Blame the rioters. Otherwise you are claiming that the rioters have no free will. Feel free to blame the actors. Leave the speakers alone.

Wii (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320357)

"wiil no doubt stand up in court"

What is that? Sublimimal advertisement?

Yesterday's Libel As Today's Hyperbole (1)

cmholm (69081) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320602)

When NetworkWorld's McNamara asks an opinion from an attorney, the guy quickly digs up two libel verdicts (1903, 1940) and one dismissal (1999).

The legal issue would likely be whether the statements were actual imputations of a crime, or were 'rhetorical hyperbole,' essentially a statement of opinion, not of fact. The former could be considered libelous, while the latter could not.

Of course, hyperbole is the eye of the beholder ... or juror.

In my opinion, today's average juror would look at Prof. Goldman's statement, the facts surrounding the class action suit, and conclude that a) it's a rhetorical hyperbole in common use, much like saying "I could just kill that kid", or b) that the attorneys suing Yahoo are in fact engaging in barratry [wikipedia.org] for the sake of squeezing cash out of the defendant. This assumes no existing Yahoo advertisers slip into the jury box.

link to the blog post in question (2, Informative)

DrSbaitso (93553) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319453)

for some reason, it's not in the headline.

Technology & Marketing Law Blog [ericgoldman.org]

Why? (1)

gid13 (620803) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319463)

"Even unmeritorious class action lawsuits are expensive to defend"
Assuming for a second that the quoted individual isn't full of it, why are any unmeritorious lawsuits expensive to defend? Don't courts do things like order one party to pay the other's legal fees in cases like that?

Re:Why? (4, Informative)

overshoot (39700) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319569)

Assuming for a second that the quoted individual isn't full of it, why are any unmeritorious lawsuits expensive to defend? Don't courts do things like order one party to pay the other's legal fees in cases like that?
He's not, they are, and the court's don't.

The main reason is that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure #10 is basically a dead letter.

  • "Professional courtesy" means that other lawyers won't accuse an abuser of being abusive because the rest of the legal community will retaliate. Nobody likes a snitch.
  • The Court won't because it just means more work, and they're too busy as it is. Besides, the Court of Appeals will probably reverse anyway.
  • For a suit to be legally frivolous requires that a whole bunch of lawyers decide that there was no conceivable way that there was the slightest shred of argument to support it. Gimme a break! These are lawyers -- their training, their whole point in existence, is finding something to argue about.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

dfl (808355) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319915)

Though rare, courts do order the loser to pay fees when the suit is deemed frivilous. A famous (but extreme) case forced Mattel to pay $1.8M to an artist whose lawyer argued the whole case for free. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/2004-06-2 9-barbie-trial_x.htm [usatoday.com]

If the case is truly frivilous, it will cost as much to prosecute as to defend, so there is no way to "extort" money. Moreover, a billion-dollar company can afford to pay $20K to get a case dismissed. A lawyer so desperate for work that he is bringing frivilous class-action cases can't afford to drop $20K of his own money on a hopeless case.

Loser pays should be the way (3, Interesting)

vodkamattvt (819309) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319537)

This is another reason why we need reform in litigation, especially in a litigation prone society such as the US. Loser pays attorney fees for the winner, problem solved.

Yes, I am aware there are problems with this also (loser can't pay, etc). But it is definately a start.

Re:Loser pays should be the way (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319956)

I agree. There needs to be some protection for the little guy (like he shouldn't have to pay for the defendents [i]team[/i] of lawyers when a [i]team[/i] was clearly not necessary), but overall a loser pays system would do a lot of good for our legal system. We just need to make sure it doesn't do any bad for people who can't afford some big companies $10M legal team.

Re:Loser pays should be the way (1)

DarthChris (960471) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320070)

And what about, for example, if you lose a 6 month long case against, say, the RIAA?

Re:Loser pays should be the way (1)

TekGoNos (748138) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320379)

Agreed.

I'd limit it to his own attorney costs to avoid people engaging frivolent huge lawyer armies.

E.g. :
- I engage one 50k lawyer
- the other engages a team of 10 100k lawyers
- I loose
- I pay 50k for my lawyer and 50k for the other lawyers
- the other 950k are paid by the other team

This way, everybody (whos confident to win) can afford a legal defense as good as the guy sueing him. If you want a better defense, you have to pay it yourself.

Still needs some rules to consider variable costs (e.g. an attorney that get paid nothing if you loose and 500M if you win the 1G claim, but most likely will get 1M out of a settlement) and pro bono attorneys.

Also needs some rules to consider outcomes that are no clear win/loss situation. (e.g. the RIAA sues me for 350M, offers a settlement for 14k. I engage a lawyer, defend myself and end up paying 3500; plus 20k attorney costs. Did I just loose, win or what?) As a rule of thumb I propose : a party wins if it has proposed a settlement and ends up as good or better than the settlement. If the outcome ends up being between the proposed settlements, everybody pays his own attorney costs.

Re:Loser pays should be the way (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320718)

That's WAAAY too complicated. Sounds like somethng a lawyer would dream up ...

Shakespeare said it best:

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

-- Shakespeare, King Henry VI

Here's a bunch more lawyer quotes http://www.power-of-attorneys.com/funny_lawyer_jok es.asp?type_ID=2&page=1 [power-of-attorneys.com]

If lawyers have such a bad reputation, its because they are not willing to clean up the act of those around them. Bar associations are, by and large, a joke. Sanctions? More like "Sue me!" A better plan would be to ban professional lawyers for all cases under, say, $500,000.00, Make it like some small-claims courts, where both sides have to represent themselves w/o legal counsel, and lawyers are not allowed to represent either side. Both sides tell their beef to the judge, and the judge decides.

Re:Loser pays should be the way (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321408)

The problem with this approach is that it favours the more articulate participant. When you explain the situation, you will put a spin on it that paints you in a positive light. When the other party presents the situation, they will do the same. If one of you is more intelligent, literate, or has had the benefit of more education, then they have an immediate advantage. Lawyers were introduced to help counter this.

The problem now is that the same advantage exists, it is just reserved for the richer participant (who can hire a more articulate lawyer), rather than the more articulate. Placing caps on legal spending might help prevent this. For example, if both parties proposed a legal spending limit and the lower was taken. Another option is to move away from the adversarial system although this is rarely a popular choice. Perhaps the best option is to have state-appointed representatives for all cases, who are paid a fixed amount. These would help their clients present the facts, but do little more. Their salaries would, in part or in full, be covered by court fees, which would be levied on the loser of the case.

Re:Loser pays should be the way (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15323302)

Judges are smart enough to sort through the smarmy eloquence and get to the truth. Lawyers actually interfere with this process by tapdancing around the truth. Just look at the crapflood from SCO and their lawyers. Does anyone believe Darl could have lasted more than a day in court by himself?

Re:Loser pays should be the way (1)

martian265 (156352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321367)

That is definitely not a start. That's an inane idea.

This would literally give large corporations the ability to drive smaller businesses and individuals into the poorhouse. They could exploit tiny loopholes in the law to "win" a case that right now would carry no financial gain. But under your system, they just tack on 100-200 lawyers and legal aides (not uncommon) to their side of the case and voila, the small guy who just lost a silly case has to pay a large corporation millions of dollars. Companies could use the courts as a means to bankrupt competition.

Yes, the legal system needs some work, but your idea is bad. Very bad.

What we really need is a way to protect 10-year old kids and their grandmothers from morons like the RIAA/MPAA

Re:Loser pays should be the way (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 7 years ago | (#15322216)

Bring back trial by combat, I say. I want to see Ringo Starr versus Steve Jobs. With broadswords.

I'd pay 99c to download THAT!

TWW

Classic error (1)

WebfishUK (249858) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319570)

Typically of the kind of problem that arises when you rely on automated spell checking. This guy actually wanted to call them 'contortionists' not 'extortionists'. All very innocent you see.

Pass Bar Exam - Collect $200 - Extort without Jail (0, Flamebait)

aisnota (98420) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319578)

Look, anyone with a financial interest in the law business http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070509/ [imdb.com] figures out that EXTORTION IS LAW!
  • The logic is clear,
    you accept our bargain and pay us or we take you to court so settlement talks go here
    or you obey the law or we take away your freedom in the criminal justice system.

EXTORTION IS LAW! Did you expect to hear the word fair? Bah - you need to think like a lawyer!

and the courts waste time on this bullshit? (0)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319673)

I'm sorry, I think there are lots of things the different branches of the government should do. Trying to adjudicate puerile squabbles between lawyers isn't one of them. Neither is resolving disputes about on-line advertising, unless they have something to do with anti-trust enforcement or blatant trademark infringement.

Lawyers in Neverland (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 7 years ago | (#15319822)

They can make this argument to defendants: settle with me for a fraction of your total expected defense.

This is otherwise known as the Michael Jackson defense.

democracy cleptocracy (0)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320057)

Why is this news? Most institutions set up in the US to protect business participate in making the US a cleptocracy. So what if a lawyer takes a big piece on the pie when a company gets big enough to be a target for a class action? How is this any different from patent holding companies, business lobbies, government, unions, various associations, or anyone else who wants a cut?

The class action bogey man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15320069)

They can make this argument to defendants: settle with me for a fraction of your total expected defense costs, and we're both better off

Perhaps the RIAA, or any large organization trying to pick on small fry, should try this tactic.

Seriously, why attribute this to class action attorneys? It's an old tactic used by every corporate attorney. When they get such an offer from class action attorneys, you can believe they are very familiar with it.

Also, the amount of the settlement depends on the strength of the case. If you have no case, you get no settlement.

At least class action attorneys aren't picking on single mothers whose kids downloaded a Metallica song.

a chef salary is not proportional to volumes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15320134)

A cook will be paid according the reputation and standards of a restaurant.
  And that is a very long way from the business model of game dev and publishing...

so nobody cares that Yahoo use spyware ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15320407)


this looks like a good excuse to dig out Yahoo's dodgy spyware shenannigans , throw a bit of light on what they really get up to to make money

Ben has well documented what they do, i think its good that somebody is getting them in court to explain wtf they are doing to help put adware and spyware crap on peoples computers (costing industry billions) , sure they might not be actually dropping the trojans hbut if their ads are used in (ad/spy)ware then they are profiting from it (to the tune of rather a lot $)
this suit aint so much about money but wether some advertising company can damage someones computer (like a hacker) and get away with it!

the Mafia boss doesn't do the killing himself, he always got his minions to do the dirty work, he didnt care as long as he just took the cash at the end of the day thats all that mattered (like yahoo's exploits in China)

So lets see what Yahoo are up to, they want to profit from spyware then expect some heat.

but then im just an AC who isnt in with the "whaa lawyers are abusing the law, leave Yahoo alone to profit from helping to distribute shite on peoples computers" crowd

Class action "law" suits are extortion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15320560)

The articles says "They can make this argument to defendants: settle with me for a fraction of your total expected defense costs, and we're both better off (defendants save some defense costs, plaintiffs' lawyers grab some personal loot).'""

Somehow that reminds me of the story about the (Yougarian) who moved from (Kasnia) to (Elbonia) and raised the IQ in each country. (Insert your own names of ethnicities and nantionalities to be insulted.)

"Fair comment or libel?" (2, Informative)

Jeian (409916) | more than 7 years ago | (#15320707)

Fair comment or libel?

I think in order to be libellous, it has to be untrue.

He's got a point (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321129)

I wonder if he's heard of the RIAA or MPAA?

"They can make this argument to defendants: settle with me for a fraction of your total expected defense costs, and we're both better off (defendants save some defense costs, plaintiffs' lawyers grab some personal loot).'"

Largesse? (2, Funny)

mooncaine (778422) | more than 7 years ago | (#15321732)

"Even unmeritorious class action lawsuits are expensive to defend, so the plaintiffs' lawyers can exploit those defense costs for their personal largesse."

That sentence doesn't make sense. What do you think is meant by "for their personal largesse"? Largesse doesn't make sense here. The plaintiff's lawyers can exploit those defense costs for their personal generosity? More likely, the writer meant "personal benefit".

Writing is like code that runs in your readers' heads. This code is buggy.

CqUM (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15322917)

at least.' Nobody yes, I work fo1r
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